Sennheiser Shapes Artistic Perspectives for ‘Hopscotch’ Opera for Cars
October 31 saw the world premiere of Hopscotch, the world’s first opera for cars and the latest project of experimental opera company The Industry. Using the city of Los Angeles as its backdrop, Hopscotch allows for the audience to experience the opera inside and outside 24 limousines and along three separate routes. Running until November 22, the project used audio technology from Sennheiser to vividly convey the storyline.
Hopscotch doesn’t mark the first time The Industry has collaborated with Sennheiser to realize its artistic vision. Two years ago, the LA-based opera company made international news with Invisible Cities — the first large-scale opera for wireless headphones, a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music and the subject of an Emmy-winning documentary.
The Industry’s Artistic Director Yuval Sharon is featured in Sennheiser’s MOMENTUM project which introduces exceptional and talented artists from all over the world who push the boundaries of sound. With his new project Hopscotch, Sharon reaches for a daunting scale. The opera, which consists of 36 chapters or ‘scenes’, sees performances of over 100 singers, actors, and dancers both inside outside the vehicles, all spread across the city of Los Angeles and connected to each other and audience members using Sennheiser audio technology.
Four core audio technology elements from Sennheiser have made Hopscotch possible: these include its MOMENTUM headphones and its guidePORT wireless audio guide system; Sennheiser’s AVX digital wireless microphone systems and its 2000 series wireless microphones and wireless monitoring systems, in addition to dozens of headset and lavalier microphones. All of the wireless audio for the production is being transmitted to and from any of the 24 limousines, which are each provisioned with either camera microphone systems in the interior and/or professional rackmount wireless systems hidden in the trunk. Additionally, in one scene, there are three rooftops, which transmit and receive audio up to a quarter mile away from one another.
While audience members could purchase tickets to experience Hopscotch inside and outside the limousines along one of the routes, a larger audience gets to follow the performances at the Central Hub — an interactive pop-up technology sculpture located in the parking lot of Southern California Institute of Architecture in downtown Los Angeles (SCI-Arc). At the Central Hub, audience members are able to ‘dial in’ via Sennheiser’s guidePORT system and MOMENTUM 2 headphones and listen to any of 24 giant monitors for the duration of the opera, each transmitting audio and video from a different limousine scene in real-time. The live-stream of the performances creates a dizzying panorama of life in Los Angeles, allowing each audience member in the Hub to experience the work their own way, sharing a personal slice of the huge shared journey. The ultimate terminus of the 24 journeys, all limousines drive towards the Central Hub and one by one, each enter the Hub as artists and audiences emerge from the car.
Limousine Interior: Relax, It’s an AVX
The A/V ‘star’ of Hopscotch was Sennheiser’s new AVX digital wireless microphone system, which discreetly captured ambient audio in ten different limousines and sent this back to the Central Hub. Typically, lavalier microphones are ‘planted’ in the limousine’s ceiling, under a table, or beside a seat and plugged into an AVX wireless belt pack transmitter. This transmitter then sends the signal to a nearby receiver, which is plugged into a smartphone/camera. The smartphone then sends the A/V signal, including the Sennheiser digital wireless audio, to the Central Hub via carrier signal using the Livestream broadcast application.
“Hopscotch challenges our traditional notion of the operatic art form, enabling audience members to become active participants,” commented Achim Gleissner, Head of Commercial Management, Broadcast & Media at Sennheiser. “The Sennheiser AVX system — which is extremely easy to operate — is a key enabling technology, heightening the artistic experience for audience members and delivering pristine wireless audio to the Central Hub.”
Trunks and Rooftops: 2000 and Evolution Wireless G3 Series
Three of the limousines – one for each route – featured Sennheiser 2000 series multi-channel rack units, consisting of six channels of EM 2050 receivers and four channels of SR 2050 IEM wireless transmitters for wireless monitoring. On the three limos with the 2000 Series wireless system in the trunks, Sennheiser A 1031 U passive, omni-directional antennas were mounted to the roof of the limos to facilitate transmitting audio to and from the vehicle to performers and production staff. In Chapter 33 of the ‘Red’ route, Sennheiser 2000 series and G3 Series wireless equipment transmitted and received audio across three different rooftops in downtown LA, as performers interacted with each other at a range of up to a quarter of a mile away.
“Los Angeles is a very challenging RF environment with a lot of DTV broadcasting and interference throughout the city,” said Dave Missall, Manager Customer Development & Application Engineering at Sennheiser. “The Industry’s Artistic Director, Yuval Sharon, wanted to be able to have performers interacting with audience members inside and outside each car across various parts of the city. We opted to go with the Sennheiser 2000 wireless series because the transmitter has 100 mW of output, giving us the ability to boost output power to get the coverage we needed.”
“It really came down to identifying who needed to be mic’ed, and who needed to hear what, when and where,” Missall continued. “We worked with The Industry’s Audio Advisor Brett Jarvis, sketched out all the requirements on paper and made a detailed plan.”
The Central Hub: Choose Your Own Narrative with guidePORT
Once the AVX audio was received at the Central Hub, it was fed into an HDMI matrix, which routed each of the 24 A/V signals to the appropriate large screen television monitor. The audio output of each monitor was fed into the Sennheiser guidePORT system, which then broadcasted each respective audio signal to one of 24 channels. Audience members at the Central Hub were supplied with a guidePORT receiver with a keypad, on which they were able to enter the corresponding number of the monitor they would like to watch and listen to.
“Because of the circular nature of the Central Hub installation, we decided to provide audience members with the ability to key in the screen number of their choice,” said Robert Genereux, Business Director System Design at Sennheiser. “The Sennheiser guidePORT system is the perfect technology for this application given its reliability and ability to handle so many simultaneous audio streams.”
The Central Hub: Find your own MOMENTUM
Finally, each audience member at the Central Hub was outfitted with a pair of Sennheiser MOMENTUM headphones, which plugged directly into the guidePORT receiver and ensures a comfortable listening experience for the entire duration of the performance. The MOMENTUM headphones provided crisp, detailed sound for audience members, offering a fully immersive Hopscotch experience — no matter what channel they were tuned in to or what perspective of the production they were following.
“Both art and technology can imbue everyday life with a sense of undiscovered potential,” said Yuval Sharon, Artistic Director at The Industry. “When the two work hand in hand, the awe and wonder it can inspire asks us to consider reality in a new way. It has been a tremendous adventure to work with Sennheiser to erase the boundary of inside and outside a car, and to make the whole city feel more connected than ever.”