Blue Man Group tours US with L-ISA
Tuesday, 17 March 2020
l-isaFOH Engineer Justice Bigler manning the L-ISA Controller and DiGiCo SD10T console (photo: Doug Gifford)
USA - The award-winning Blue Man Group has taken to the road, and is taking immersive sound along with it for the first time. The group’s current North American Tour officially opened this past September at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, after developing the production at Fayetteville, Arkansas’ Walton Arts Centre. The Pantages show marked the first of more than 50 cities across the continent that will ultimately welcome the tour in its first season.
Showgoers will also experience L-ISA, L-Acoustics’ immersive-sound technology which Blue Man Group North American Tour sound designer Tony Pittsley says literally puts the audience onstage with the show’s three ironically comic and palpably percussive performers. “With L-ISA, the sounds of the show can move around the stage and the room and appear to come from where they’re supposed to originate from, which engages the audience way more deeply,” he explains. “You don’t feel as though you’re sitting there watching a show as much as you’re feeling enveloped by the experience.”
With L-ISA, audio elements are now literal objects that can seamlessly move throughout the performance space along with the performers and the narrative. The L-ISA Controller provides key parameters for each object: Pan (horizontal location), Elevation (vertical location), Width (the size of an object), and Distance (perceived proximity and reverberation), and L-ISA can manage up to 96 objects and up to 64 physical speaker outputs at a sample rate of 96 kHz.
To bring this to life, L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound utilises a specialised configuration of speakers in order to achieve precise localisation within three dimensions.
For Blue Man Group’s trek, the system comprises five hangs of 10 Kara for the frontal system, with two hangs of four SB18 subs each deployed in cardioid configuration flanking the central Kara cluster, as well as eight X8 coaxials as front-fills, eight more X8 as under-balcony speakers, and four ARCS as out-fills. Twelve LA4X amplified controllers power the main hangs and front-fills, while eight LA8 drive the under-balcony speakers and subs.
Pittsley, who programmed the L-ISA technology, says it’s incredibly intuitive, and that that’s what makes L-ISA such a pleasure for both the engineers who operate it and the audiences who enjoy it. “With L-ISA, the sound isn’t dependent on speaker location; it’s moving around in the entire space. So it’s connected to what’s taking place onstage as that action moves, and not to the speakers.”
The combination of the L-Acoustics Kara PA system and the DiGiCo SD10T mixing console creates a powerful and flexible ecosystem for the tour, one that can translate to any performance location. The show at Blue Man Group’s original venue, Manhattan’s Astor Place Theatre, where the group debuted in 1987 and where that production has been ever since, uses a DiGiCo SD12 console. Pittsley notes that the show’s settings were able to be transferred from that desk to the touring SD10T seamlessly, adding another level of authenticity, something that touring versions of shows strive for.
The Blue Man Group North American Tour is a new show, with mostly new music. Pittsley adds: “Blue Man Group really changed theatre three decades ago, so it’s fitting to pair it with L-ISA, the next generation of live sound.”
(Jim Evans)

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