With the reopening of spaces dedicated to entertainment, the demand for Line Array equipment is on the rise again, but it must adjust to the technical and logistical challenges, typical of the dynamics that the pandemic inherited from this sector.
By Iris Alejandra Montoya
The social costs of the pandemic have implied great challenges for latin America's economic growth. However, a great advantage is the progress in the immunization of the population. According to Our World in Data, 63.11% of the world's population has received at least one dose of the vaccine for Covid 19, where South America stands out with a rate of 70.36% vaccinated with the complete initial scheme (that is, without a booster vaccine), while North America reaches 61.63%. Data as of February 28, 2022.
So, if we take into account these vaccination rates and the agenda of events scheduled this 2022 in Latin America; where there are concerts by several soloists, at least 4 bands and more than 6 festivals of international stature, which have already confirmed dates, it is consistent to ask what are the challenges that the Line Array sector will face, the technological novelties and the updated recommendations to acquire a new equipment.
Therefore, in AVI Latin America we consulted with representatives of some of the manufacturers and representatives of these systems, who spoke to us from their experience and market projections.
Diana Patricia Quintero, Territory Manager for Exports in Latin America of Bose Profesional, said that "one of the most affected sectors globally among all industries was entertainment, due to the restrictions imposed by the health authorities, but also by the inherent dynamics of this sector, where the form of contracting stands out; a large part of the backstage staff, sound engineers, consoles and monitors, among others, usually have contracts for the provision of services, freelance model or the so-called outsourcing. This is why, in many cases, they were left out of business or government support to face the pandemic. Fortunately, several Latin American countries are already in the process of recovery and opening," which has meant finding job opportunities again and facing a new reconfigured industry, after so many changes."
How do you perceive the recovery after the pandemic of the Line Array sector?
In the words of César Cruz, Sales Manager Retail, Tour, Broadcast & Cinema at Harman - JBL, the recovery has not been as expected. "We would like to return as quickly as possible to concerts, because recovering the industry means work for technicians, transporters and other employees, but also the return on investment for entrepreneurs who spend a lot of money when they bring an artist. Being able to make this chain allows you to take resources to various areas. It has not been the recovery we needed, however, we see it with good eyes. It seems to me that we still need more regulation of everything that has to do with this industry on the governmental side in order to give it more openness. It is clear that we are still far from a full recovery, in which all the permits, the human talent, and the equipment are operating, which is where we do our bit."
Is the activation of events and spaces where Line Array systems are used at an early, moderate or advanced stage?
According to Hernán Rame, sales director for Latin America at QSC, activation is "moderate to advanced, although it depends on the country. There are places where everything is open. I hope that by the end of this year we will be at 90% of what is called normality in Latin America."
In the same line of ideas, Sebastián Velandia, in charge of Market Development at Yamaki, responded that "we are in a moderate stage because events are already taking place. For example, for the next few months in Colombia we will have the Stereo Picnic, a massive event where there will be 3 stages that will involve these types of large format sound reinforcement systems. Also the carnival of Barranquilla, which consists of events, concerts, parades and comparsas. That moderate activation will allow us to lead to normality."
What are the new challenges facing technology that supports the post-pandemic entertainment industry?
Antonio Manzo, sales director for Mexico at Meyer Sound, is emphatic that "the problem that all manufacturers are experiencing now is the delay in components such as microchips, metals and cables. Issue that affects the supply chain and greatly impacts delivery times. This has had a direct impact on the costs of finished products and the development of new products."
In that sense, Sebastián Velandia (Yamaki) added that the lack of components is added that the import price of the equipment "has increased from 40% to 60%, which in turn increases the final cost. A factor that is also affected by the inflation of the current currency in the country where the purchase is made." And he was emphatic that, although there are many companies in Latin America that already have these systems, as events are reactivated, more equipment is required and that is where the lack arises.
For Harman - JBL a challenge is the current need for products that are very flexible and multifaceted, that can be used for a small auditorium and in a stadium of thousands of people. For Luis Alfonso, Pre-Sales Engineer for Mexico and the Caribbean, Line Array systems have goals that will never be achieved, in the sense they will always seek greater power, flexibility, which are lighter and easier to use. And he adds that the other great challenge, prior to the pandemic, that was already being developed are the linear arrangements, because "in their nature they have physical characteristics and based on the physical movement of the product there are some changes. Now they are looking to make that same change, but in an electronic way."
What are the technological trends in the Line Array sector?
The trend is the manufacture of high-powered, compact and self-powered boxes, with ease of assembly, according to QSC. For its part, Harman - JBL indicates that, in the wake of the pandemic, many productions choose, and will continue to choose, to do live and remote concerts, because the public pays for the concert, but also for access to the transmission.
Now, according to Yamaki, the teams are taking a type of technology called Totally Directional Line Array Systems, where its main and differential feature is that they radiate the sound waves absolutely towards the audience, generating greater projection, but towards the part of the stage it generates a sound cancellation, to clean that workspace that involves musicians and artists. "One of our allied manufacturers, the German brand D&B audiotechnik already manufactures them. On the other hand, there is the Array processing software that acts to 'give steroids to the equipment' and make it work with better performance and fidelity, as well as offering greater shot of the sound range in the space of the audience. " Additionally, Sebastián Velandia indicated that today many brands have positioned themselves in the 'immersive audio' for live audio, using Line Array systems combined with conventional speakers.
What recommendations would you give when choosing a team?
Diana Patricia Quintero says that "in the case of companies that provide the service of rent-sound of spaces, they must choose multifunctional-multipurpose systems". But if it is a Line Array for a defined space, she suggests obtaining a previous design based on the AutoCAD plane, but also the acoustic materials, the potential noise and the application that will be given to it. Another aspect that stands out important is rigging (hanging hardware). "This is a weak link in the chain because sometimes its costs are not taken into account at the beginning of the project. It is important that the rigging is certified by the factory, in addition, there are more accessible and flexible factory solutions for different configurations and installations."
In relation to that, Antonio Manzo said that "ideally you have to listen and know the systems, in conditions similar to those that will be used. With this we will be able to have more reference of the performance of the system in real conditions, as well as the additional equipment necessary to deploy the system and consider the final investment amount." But I also add that it is relevant that customers know more deeply how manufacturers make measurements of the data they place in the marketing information of products.
On the other hand, in the words of Hernán Rame, "the main thing is to do the acoustic modeling to choose the correct equipment and, as a second, take into account the acoustic treatment of the place, because many times the indicated equipment is put on, but the clients do not invest in said treatment, then it is not heard well because it is not used correctly".
Another approach is usability, which is the most crucial factor for Luis Alfonso (Harman - JBL), "the main thing is to know what use that product will have, if the weight will be permanently installed and the calibration will not be decisive, but if it will be moving you should look for fast assembly products, which are lightweight, but in both cases it must have power and coverage. Line Arrays exist for one purpose and that is to provide highly controlled coverage."
Finally, César Cruz (Harman - JBL) said that to the usability must be added the factor of who is going to operate the equipment "in a place like a church could be the same pastor, or someone without a technical training, then you have to look for a simple interface, which is easy and intuitive to operate. But if we want to bring a very recognized rock band, then we need an operator with a lot of experience and there if it is worth investing in more sophisticated products, where you need a huge staff to operate them. Taking into account the application and who is going to operate it helps the learning curve to be met as quickly as possible, so that you do not have to invest more money or wait a long time for the product to already be operating and being profitable, to have a healthy return on investment, which is what we all want."
Big concerts: the entertainment industry has scheduled 2022
This year's international artist tours set the pace for the entertainment industry's rebound. The band Maroon 5, will have presentations on 10 dates, starting in Santo Domingo and closing in Punta Cana on April 16. Metallica will give 6 concerts, start in Santiago on April 27 and close in Belo Horizonte on May 12.
The participation of British musicians stands out. Coldplay, with a total of 17 concerts scheduled throughout the year, will begin its tour in San José and culminate in Buenos Aires. Dua Lipa, rescheduled her tour of the album Future Nostalgia, which had been delayed by the pandemic, with 6 performances in the month of September. Lous Tomlinson, former member of One Direction, will have his debut tour starting in Santiago on May 15 and closing in Mexico City on June 17, with a total of 18 performances throughout the continent.
Finally, as for the festivals, the versions of Lollapalooza are expected in March in Chile, Argentina and Brazil; the Stereo Picnic Festival of Bogotá; mexico City's Vive Latino and Asunciónico, known as Paraguay's largest music festival. In April it will be the Tecate Pal Norte de Monterrey. September will feature the Rock In Rio of Brazil. Likewise, other major events and rescheduling of concerts by artists of international stature, such as Kiss, which have not yet confirmed a date.