The Magic of L-Acoustics L-ISA and Harry Potter live in Australia

The live spatial audio revolution came to audiences for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere at Adelaide’s Entertainment Centre on November 10, as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra performed the score to ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ live with the film.

With assistance from L-Acoustics, their Australian distributor Jands, and production provider Novatech Creative Event Technology, the crowd of 3,000 was immersed in a sound-field that could almost be touched, as the L-ISA processor created perfect three-dimensional imaging across every seat in the house.

With seven hangs of 12 KARA, two hangs of 12 KIVA, 12 KIVA as in-fill, and eight SB28 subwoofers, all powered by L-Acoustics amplifiers, FOH engineer Charles Gagnon, aided by L-Acoustics L-ISA Applications Engineer Carlos Mosquera, conjured a sound field that perfectly rendered the natural acoustic image of the mass orchestral forces assembled on stage, including a choir of 70. Soloists could be pinpointed exactly where they sat, and at the other end of L-ISA’s creative capabilities, the enveloping choir seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

“The sound is seamless,” says one audience member. “Normally you can hear the speakers. With this you can’t.”

“L-ISA affords me the luxury of doing some things I can’t normally do,” comments Charles Gagnon, who tours with the film in the employ of the show’s producer. It was not only his first time mixing the ASO, but also his first time mixing with L-ISA. “It’s very beneficent for dialogue, and allows a more refined soundstage because of the source positioning capabilities, creating a multi-dimensional sound. I’m mixing at the same level, but the system is filling the room differently, and I’m using less overall EQ.”

L-Acoustics and Jands used the occasion to launch L-ISA and demonstrate its capabilities to the Australian pro audio community, hosting a group influential mix engineers, acoustic consultants, and venue technicians. With pre-show presentations from L-Acoustic’s Tony Szabo, Head of Application – Touring, Tim McCall, Sales Manager, and Jands’ Scott Harrison, Technical Representative - Installed Systems, the group was treated to insights into L-ISA’s design philosophy, practical tips for L-ISA system design, and a stunning orchestral multitrack demonstration using five SYVA systems. The group demonstrated the differences between traditional stereo reproduction and L-ISA’s frontal hyperreal sound technology, adding new layers of dimension and depth into the reinforcement, resulting in a reconnection between the audience, the artists, and the art.

Jands and L-Acoustics then provided the group with an insight into the the loudspeaker system utilised for the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban concert, taking them on a unique behind-the-scenes tour to the front of house mixing position, where they were guided through the mixing system by L-Acoustics’ Carlos Mosquera.

One of the audio professionals present was James ‘Oysters’ Kilpatrick, a mix engineer with decades of experience and a roll-call of Australian music royalty in his CV, including Midnight Oil, Eskimo Joe, and Delta Goodrem. “I thought the orchestral multitrack demo sounded amazing, with a level of mix separation and spatial depth I hadn’t heard previously,” he observes. “I love image as an engineer, especially on an orchestral show. Listening to the Harry Potter movie with the ASO, I could always pick where a single orchestral instrument was at any point in the show from listening to it; you could look at the direction of the source and instantly see the player. It seemed to have a great level of stage depth to it as well. I think immersive audio is definitely something worth pursuing and I will definitely be wanting to give this a try in the near future.”

Also present was Mark Hanson, principal of consultancy Hanson Associates, a company at the forefront of acoustic, electroacoustic, and audio visual design in Australasia. “I thought L-ISA was very effective,” he offers. “Even though I was sitting at the back of the auditorium, I could certainly hear sources appearing to come from where they were. The system was replicating what you’d expect in a recital hall. What the system was trying to do in some cases was separate the instruments out for effect, which is the opposite of the blending you’d hear acoustically in a concert hall, but the overall effect is different – it produced a nice, wide sound stage that reminded you that you were listening to a live orchestra. It’s exciting for us as acoustic engineers when you can see a system emulating what would happen with the acoustics of a room. You can relate to it, and it’s not just an effect running in a black box.”

Novatech Creative Technology’s Managing Director, Leko Novakovic, was thrilled to be part of the system’s Australian debut, with his company providing not just the L-Acoustics PA, but a lighting package and the DiGiCo SD10 mixing desk that interfaced directly with L-ISA. “Spatially, L-ISA made everything sound like it was coming from where it should,” he says. “The system had a lot of headroom and almost sounded like it was idling; sometimes orchestras can get a bit heavy in the big epic moments and choke the PA, but that didn’t happen. Charles pulled a great mix; I was particularly impressed when the choir was came in and sounded like it was everywhere.”

After the show, Vincent Ciccarello, Managing Director of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra was thrilled with the result. “L-ISA provided a more immersive, natural sound, which lead greater audience engagement than previous cine-concerts. The audience was actually applauding after small musical cameos, and we’ve never seen that before. The greater apparent musical appreciation by the audience was obvious, as evidenced by the standing ovation. Nearly the whole audience stayed until the end of the credits, and we’ve never seen that before, either!”

Over two million audience members globally have experienced L-ISA at over 600 events so far. More acts using L-ISA’s Immersive Hyperreal Sound technology are slated to come to Australia’s shores in the near future, with globally respected artists including Lorde, Alt-J, Bon Iver, and Deadmau5 all employing L-ISA’s spatialisation capabilities to deliver revolutionary live shows at the cutting edge of modern touring.