Circus of the Sun, the highly theatrical and acrobatic touring shows are known worldwide for their dramatic creativity, imaginative storylines and audience engagement are also recognized for their uncompromising production values: from sound and lighting to costumes and to the scenography.
Evaluate and test
In March 2020, Cirque’s touring operations were abruptly halted with the onset of the pandemic. Despite this most unwelcome break from the live performance, the time out granted Cirque du Soleil production team the opportunity to test, evaluate and check out their entire arsenal of equipment for their tours. “When all the shows closed, most of the equipment that was in North America was trucked back to our warehouse and just put on a shelf,” said Matthew Steuart, sound specialist at Circus of the Sun. “But in May 2021, we started a show called KOOZA and came up with a list of projects for that show.” Steuart said that after testing and assessing their equipment needs for the show, which combines the two classic circus traditions of clowning and acrobatics, they switched to Sennheiser. Digital 6000 Wireless. “Upgrading to Digital 6000 was a no-brainer, there were so many benefits,” he said.
For sun circus, the recent long break allowed the sound team to take a close look at every part of the signal chain: “We were able to take a closer look at everything, including the RF,” Steuart said. “You can have what seems like a working system, but if you’re able to improve two or three links in an audio chain, you can get better performance in the end. While we’re on tour, we don’t have usually only one day in each city to do all our maintenance.In the case of the Sennheiser Digital 6000 wireless system which was already used in Alegria, which opened in Houston in November 2021, the team didn’t have to do anything except perform a recommended firmware update. “We tested it and everything worked.”
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Overcome a cluttered RF environment
One of the reasons Cirque du Soleil chose the Digital 6000 system was its ability to identify and lock in frequencies in an increasingly crowded RF environment: “The spectrum is getting more and more crowded,” observes Steuart , which appreciates routine firmware from Sennheiser. updates. “When we sent Alegria to Miami a year and a half ago, if we didn’t have the Digital 6000, we just couldn’t have done the show – there was just no RF space . Now with the latest firmware updates, including the new Link Density mode, it’s so much easier. Sometimes we have to fit all of our wireless channels into a 6 or 8 MHz block if we’re lucky, so being able to work in such a narrow bandwidth has been key.
Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cirque du Soleil the touring operation had over a dozen active shows, each with its own set of artistic and technical challenges. Now, in the midst of its relaunch period, the Company is rapidly climbing back to its pre-pandemic level of performance: “Before COVID, we were at 12 shows, which was a lot. Now with Alegria and at least four other productions including KOOZA, LUZIA, KURIOS—Cabinet of Curiosities and OVO coming in 2022, we are on the right track. There are a lot more shows in the works,” he said.
All systems go with Sennheiser Digital 6000
At Alegria, for which rehearsals took place in Houston, 18 channels of the Digital 6000 system were deployed, along with several bodypack transmitters and a pair of SKM-6000 portable transmitters. “The pocket transmitters are hidden and fairly well protected in the suits,” says Steuart. “Our wardrobe department is fantastic – they’ll add these little pouches anywhere in the costume that works best for the performer – inside the thigh, lower back, behind the neck or under the arm.” Steuart appreciates the small size of the SK 6212 pocket transmitter: “Having these very small transmitters is amazing and we can install them anywhere. In addition, the comments that come up in our Head of Sennheiser Wireless Systems (WSM) – including battery levels, sound clips and other information – is awesome. »
On KOOZA, slated to open in Punta Cana later this year, the Circus of the Sun The production team uses 10 channels of the Digital 6000 system, including unorthodox and challenging stage applications: “We have a guy in a big fuzzy dog suit wearing a wireless microphone, and in another scene we have a big confetti blower that also has a wireless mic to pick up fan noise,” said Steuart. Whatever the application, the team expects both reliability and pristine audio quality: ” Everything we run with the Digital 6000 Wireless is super clear and sounds great,” added Steuart. “It’s also really easy to plug instruments into our pocket-size enclosures, and it always sounds great. With other brands, we haven’t had as much success with that kind of flexibility with instruments and microphones,” he said.
While Steuart is delighted with the relaunch of Cirque du Soleil touring productions, he is grateful for the training and support Sennheiser has provided over the past 20 months: “When the pandemic started, Jamie [Criswell, Business Development Manager at Sennheiser] was on the phone with us the next day to offer training courses,” recalls Steuart. “It was fantastic – Sennheiser made it clear that they wanted us to know what was going on and have what we needed to keep the shows going. This level of support was invaluable and appreciated by everyone on our team. “