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Arts

BLACKBOX have worked extensively and collaboratively with arts organisations to deliver their vision, from working with Jack Morton Worldwide to audition 15000 people for the opening ceremony of the commonwealth games in Glasgow to working with Angus Farquar of NVA on the ground-breaking Hinterland project…

Background

Widely considered to be one of the most important examples of modernist architecture in Scotland, St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross, near Helensburgh was designed by architects Gillespie, Kidd & Coia for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow. Employees Isi Metzstein and Andy McMillan developed a radical new design to provide new facilities for theology students. Construction of this brutalist masterpiece began in 1961 and was completed in 1966. The building was category A listed by Historic Scotland in 1992, and continues to be recognised by architecture publications and organisations as a building of special architectural significance. The building was last in use as a seminary in 1980, after which the original Kilmahew House, now a ruin in the grounds of the seminary, was used as a rehabilitation centre until the end of the decade. The buildings have been empty and unused ever since. In 1995 Kilmahew House was demolished after a fire left it in an unsafe condition. In 2009 Glasgow based environmental arts group NVA were awarded a grant by the Scottish Arts Council to develop temporary and permanent artworks as part of the redevelopment of the building and surrounding woodlands. Recently the site has been cleared and made safe for the public and the first of many art projects that will bring the buildings and grounds to life. In March 2016, over 7,500 visitors have the opportunity to witness this amazing structure being brought to life once again with a major sound, light and projection installation - "Hinterland". Hinterland is also the official launch event of Scotland’s Festival of Architecture 2016, and is a key highlight in the Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design.

Technical

BLACKBOX are providing a large multi-zone playback system consisting of eighteen d&b audiotechnik Y7P loudspeakers, deployed over three floors and the full length of the building. The audio soundtrack to Hinterland was composed by Rory Boyle, and recorded and mixed by Alistair MacDonald from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It was presented to us as three stereo stems in each of the three movements of the piece, with each stereo stem routed to multiple loudspeakers in different zones in the main building. A BLACKBOX Q-Lab system on Mac Mini was chosen for audio playback and timecode generation for video and lighting playback, and provided easy routing and mix automation via an Allen & Heath QU24 mixing console within the digital domain, using the console’s USB connection to provide 24 inputs and 24 outputs, which fed the loudspeaker zones, and our Sennheiser EW300 In-Ear Monitors for verbal cues for performers who play a physical role in the performance piece. Some last minute adjustments were required for cueing the actors, but thanks to the power and flexibility of the systems, we were easily able to record on site and insert verbal audio playback cues into Q-Lab, which were routed via the console only to the actor’s discreet IEM systems so as not to be heard by the public. Our choice of our standard 12 way analogue signal distribution system proved to be a valuable addition to the job, as we were able to quickly change physical routing as required, as well as providing audio monitoring and timecode feeds into the main building while lights and video were being programmed at night. We utilised Q-Lab remote on iPad to allow the programmers to control playback to suit their programming needs – far more convenient than working through radio contact to the control room. The audio feed provided the programmers with local monitoring via a small self-powered loudspeaker so the main system wasn’t causing a nuisance to local residents and wildlife late at night Each loudspeaker zone was powered by one of 4 d&b audiotechnik D80 4-channel amplifiers on an OCA control network using d&b’s R1 control software for remote monitoring of amplifier functions and temperatures, and overnight standby. This meant that the operator could easily monitor all aspects of the playback and the status of all of the equipment from a central location, while being able to easily see if any issues arose. This winning combination of d&b's latest products delivered the fantastic composition with the power and detail it deserves.

Challenges

Working in a derelict building obviously has it's own challenges and NVA along with construction partners Reigart had strict health and safety policies in place during the build and public phases. This along with the brief that no cabling should be visible to the public meant that the install had to be planned with meticulous detail and care. As with all building projects of this nature, especially in the occasionally unfriendly outdoor environment of winter in the west of Scotland, it was not possible to finish all of the intended work to make the building safe within the time frame allowed, so once we arrived on site there were some extra challenges to overcome in terms of the areas that were, or were not accessible to the public. However, due to some careful advance planning and a rather large cable stock we were easily able to adapt the design on site to suit the new conditions. Projection mapping video content has been designed and provided by award winning Newcastle – based NOVAK Studio, and lighting was designed for the project by outdoor project specialist Phil Supple. Both are regular collaborators with NVA on their many successful past projects.