Published in March 2004

A Grand Design
By Dawn Allcot

The world's largest passenger liner, Queen Mary 2, features extensive AV systems on every deck.

      Queen Mary 2 measures 1132 feet long and 236 feet high, with 10 dining venues, 22 elevators, 1310 cabins and 1394 specially designed JBL ceiling speakers. These statistics alone are quite impressive, not to mention the price tag of $800 million. When it departed from Southampton, England, on January 12th for its maiden voyage, Cunard Line’s newest ship set records as the largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive passenger vessel ever to ride the seas.
      It is also one of the classiest ships recently commissioned, according to those who’ve worked on its systems. “It’s very grand,” said Alan Edwards of Nautilus Entertainment Design (NED). “Its style goes back to the old days. It was designed to be a passenger liner, not a cruise ship.”
Despite its classic style, Queen Mary 2 boasts breakthroughs in audiovisual gear throughout. Public rooms, with advanced integrated systems including a multi-purpose auditorium that also serves as the first-ever planetarium onboard a cruise ship; a main lounge suitable for live performances; an outdoor movie theater, the ship’s college at sea, Cunard ConneXions.

Starting From ‘Scratch’
      Nautilus Entertainment Design, the California-based systems integration, design and consulting firm responsible for the sound, lighting, video and broadcast systems on Queen Mary 2, is no stranger to nautical installations. The contractor has consulted on ships’ systems for Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Crociere, among others.
      Edwards said the size of QM2 posed no unique challenges. “We went with the same basis that we do with any of the other ships. We always start out with concepts.” Due to different phases in shipbuilding, the AV contractor often designs the systems without a clear idea of how the completed rooms will look. “Before we even get drawings of the ship, we’re creating equipment lists just to get an idea of what the room’s going to be used for and what type of equipment can go in there,” Edwards said.
      Queen Mary 2, however, was unique because it was the first ship built by Cunard Line in 30 years. Usually, system designs are simply modified from an older ship in the fleet. “We had to start from scratch on this one,” Edwards said.

Multi-purpose Auditorium
      Edwards said that the centerpiece of most ships is the main lounge, a place where passengers gather for multimedia presentations, musical performances and other shows. Although QM2’s Main Lounge does offer a high-class, high-tech gathering place, the auditorium/planetarium stands out as the shining star among the ship’s 50 different venues. “It’s one of my favorites,” he said. “It’s an auditorium, a planetarium, a lecture hall, a concert hall and a movie theater.”
      The room started with basic sound equipment, which was included in the planetarium’s systems, but the ship’s designers wanted concert-quality sound for the variety of events. The designers added a Renkus-Heinz SR61 high-definition, full-range surround sound system in the dome-shaped ceiling and a Meyer self-powered main center cluster.
      “We didn’t really need delays,” Edwards said. The Meyer system includes full-range near-throw powered CQ1s, full-range far-throw CQ2s and USW-1 P subwoofers.
      Ironically, although the ship is the largest of its kind, space for AV equipment was at a premium. By using self-powered speakers and cutting down on the number of amplifiers required, Edwards was able to reduce the number of equipment racks.
      One might think it would be difficult to create a room that would sound good for so many different types of events. Edwards said they were able to achieve a full sound by placing the speakers so nearly everyone in the venue would sit within the direct sound field.
      To meet the variety of mixing needs in the auditorium, Edwards selected a Yamaha DM2000 house mixing console. He said the ability to do system recalls was the main selling point of the digital mixing system. “The console is not meant to mix the show for you,” he said. “However, it is meant to take the some of the concentration off the cueing and keep most of the concentration on the mixing.” By setting scenes for each event, and recalling those scenes as needed, the engineer is free to make the necessary adjustments without worrying about cueing the console.
External effect processors, such as the Lexicon PCM91 reverb processors, were added to supplement the DM2000 onboard effect engines. These units were connected via AES/EBU to keep the audio in the digital domain.

‘Engineering Feat’
      In spite of its straightforward audio system, Edwards called the auditorium/planetarium an “amazing engineering feat.” The room features high-backed planetarium-style seats, which remain stationary. There’s a small stage, and a large dome placed at a 45° viewing angle above and in front of the audience. When the room is being used as a planetarium, a second, larger dome drops down to partially obscure the stage. “This way, the seating configuration of the room doesn’t have to change,” Edwards said.
      The planetarium’s projection system includes a Barco I-Dome DLP system, which was delivered by Sky-Skan, a New Hampshire-based contractor specializing in planetarium technology. The I-Dome uses six Barco SIM4 projectors for high-definition projection on the spherical screen.
      As with the flexible audio system and the versatile seating configuration, the video and broadcast systems in the room, too, are designed for multiple purposes. “The video is really centered around multiple displays,” said Michael Lindauer, the NED design consultant who worked on most of the ship’s video, broadcast and lighting systems.
      Video systems include a self-contained 35mm film projector and four Christie DLP projectors: one 12,000 lumens, one 10,000 lumens and two 6000 lumens. A permanent projection screen on the upstage wall of the stage covers one whole side of the room.
Additionally, a roll-down screen sits at stage left and is used primarily for PowerPoint presentations during business meetings. “We can put a podium on stage right, and the screen comes down stage left,” Lindauer said. “It’s a close-support video screen for lectures and presentations.”
      Lindauer said the elliptical room was actually “quite nicely laid out,” with a very steep rake. “It presented us with some challenges in terms of projection,” he said, “because the projection booth is actually higher than the top of the screen. We had to angle down a bit and do some keystone corrections and some custom-mounts.”
      The side screens sit at a 45° angle to the audience. “We cross-shoot the projectors so they’re a three-side video if you’re looking at the front of the stage. The sight lines are quite good.”
The auditorium is also used as a live broadcast arena. In fact, the ship’s broadcast room is situated adjacent to the auditorium. The auditorium includes 10 triax drops, Lindauer said, “to allow different cameras to be placed at different locations and angles. Broadcasts can be routed within the rooms, or to any room within the ship, or sent to the broadcast center for recording and distribution on the TV network.” He continued, “The main systems in the main lounge, auditorium, and the broadcast center are tied together with individual routers.”
      Technical personnel can do production from virtually every location on the ship. Additionally, audio and video for any location can be pre-programmed from a central point in the broadcast room through Pesa routers. The ship employs one lead technician and two assistants in the broadcast room, with a separate entertainment crew in the main lounge. The Pesa system reduces the amount of work for each technician because, on a ship this large, it wouldn’t be practical for staff members to run from venue to venue for each event.

Video in the Main Lounge
      With a project this large, the system designers also wanted to maintain consistency within the different venues. “We tried to keep the systems, processing and source gear and switching almost identical from room to room, so the operators can go from one room to another and not have to learn custom systems,” Lindauer explained.
      The Main Lounge, which is used primarily for live shows as well as business meetings, features a 12,000 lumen DLP main projector and two 6000 lumen projectors for the side screens. Lindauer noted the irony of how little space was available for AV systems on a ship this large. “Space is always a real commodity on ships. It’s all compromise and coordination to try and get what you need in there because there are six other people trying to use the same space,” he said.
      To save space and maintain the aesthetics of the room, the center projector was recessed in the balcony underneath the seats. “We had to coordinate with the shipyard to make removable panels for service spaces, so we could get to the projector and change lamps and things.”
      The room will be used for dramatic productions and, although the stage is one of the largest at sea, there isn’t a lot of space to store scenery. NED was able to solve this problem with the addition of a 35-cube Clarity videowall. The Wildcat rear-projection displays are mounted on a moving truss so they can drop down on the stage or be raised for storage. “It’s located just about the proscenium line, so it gives them a changeable backdrop, another tool to use,” Edwards said. The video wall offers a wide viewing angle, which was necessary because of the poor sight lines in this very wide but relatively shallow venue.

Rigging at Sea
      The elliptical shape of the venue also created a challenge where the audio systems were concerned. “Getting the audio to reach all the particular points was very challenging,” Edwards noted. “It’s a matter of trying to get everybody in the direct sound field as much as possible.”
Edwards accomplished this through Meyer self-powered main center clusters and under-balcony and over-balcony delays. When Edwards reached the work site, however, he was in for a surprise. The speakers had been mounted in a fixed position. The system had been designed to rotate, in order to achieve sound saturation for a wide variety of events. Edwards had to re-install the speakers, putting them on single swivel points and then locking them down with side braces.
The constant vibrations on a moving ship had to be considered. “We’d be swinging everywhere with chain motors,” Edwards said. “Shock-mounting the speaker to the struts allows us to maneuver the speaker, but also allows us to lock it down so it does not move. Otherwise, any ship movement, over time, would weaken the mounting points and the speaker would swivel out into another world somewhere!”

Digital Mixing
      When it came to a mixing system, there was little question in Edwards’ mind that he would go with Yamaha’s PM1D digital mixer. In fact, NED was the first to put a PM1D on a ship, where the system was designed around the PM1D. Prior to QM2’s launch, a vessel from another cruise line had been retrofitted with the mixer.
      Edwards likes many of the features on the product, but was especially impressed by the convenience of the presets. “[The ability to recall scene settings] could mean the difference between a sound technician having dinner, or not,” Edwards said.
      The main lounge is used for a variety of events, from business meetings to Broadway-type shows. With an analog system, sound engineers would have to re-patch and re-route the entire console between performances. “In the past, being on ships myself at one point,” Edwards said, “there wouldn’t be time to do that and then do a sound check on top of that. Basically, I would miss dinner.”
      With the digital mixer, the sound engineer simply plugs in the appropriate memory card with the correct presets, does a sound check, tweaks the settings and is ready to go.
The digital mixer also means that other engineers are able to fill in if something happens to the main sound technician. “I’ve been called onto several ships because the guy broke his foot going up the gangway,” Edwards said. “I’d have to jump on, and it wasn’t easy.” With a digital mixing console, the replacement engineer starts with a preset and just has to make fine adjustments by ear.
      Edwards pointed out that the system is completely digital. “There aren’t two or three analog-to-digital conversions going on anywhere,” he explained. The sound goes through the microphones to the PM1D and then into a DME32, which handles the routing, EQ, room delay and limiting functions. Edwards added a Lexicon 960L as supplement to the effects engines in the console. “Keeping the system entirely digital reduces system latency and increases system quality,” he said.
      Edwards tries to keep system latency under 20 milliseconds for any project, but prefers to keep it under 10 mil-liseconds when possible. He accomplished this on QM2 by choosing the PM1D, which has a low, 7-millisecond delay out of the box, and avoiding a-to-d conversions throughout. “The a-to-d conversions is where most of your system latency comes from,” he noted.

Movies Under the Stars
      If 50 different indoor venues of entertainment, edu-tainment and fine dining aren’t enough for cruise passengers, they can enjoy movies, nightly, (weather permitting, of course) on the outside, upper deck of the ship. Queen Mary 2 features the first “drive-in movie theatre” of its kind, where viewers relax in lounge chairs rather than cars. The concept is growing in popularity among ships in Cunard’s fleet, according to video designer Lindauer, who called it “a fun place.” A Christie DLP 10,000 lumen projector is housed permanently in a weatherproof casing, and images are projected onto the side of the superstructure. The area, also called the Outdoor Lido, Deck 12, uses JBL Control 29 AV outdoor loudspeakers with 5.1 surround sound.
      The speakers are mounted on bulkheads, fore and aft. That wasn’t the original plan, though, according to Edwards. “At first, we were going to put up poles to mount the side-surrounds. [But] we didn’t want to change the profile of the ship, whatsoever.”
Reiterating that, in spite of its high-tech AV systems, the ship maintains a classic style, he said, “If they could have, they would have hidden every speaker.”
      Even though the equipment remains hidden, the AV systems onboard allow QM2 to claim yet another title: In addition to being the largest, most expensive passenger liner to date, Queen Mary 2 may also be the most modern ship of its kind.

Equipment
Note: This project was so extensive in its use of audiovisual equipment, we can only offer a small portion here. This is representative of the level of sophistication in this installation.

Main Dining Room
ADC patch bays, accessories
1 Allen & Heath WZ16:2DX audio mixer
1 AMX NXI-ME Netlinx master integrated controller
1 AMX AXT-CA10 10" color touchpanel
1 AMX PSN4.2 power supply
2 Anchor AN1000X powered personal monitor speakers
2 C-Ducer CPS/8P stereo piano pick-up mics
2 JBL Z32S speaker processors
313 JBL 24CT/Micro Ned ceiling speakers
1 QSC CX404 4-channel power amp
4 QSC CX1202V constant voltage amps
1 Raxxess Elite Converta ECR-10/16 portable rolling rack
6 Renkus-Heinz SR61K hi-def full range
4 Sennheiser MKE2-4-3-C/MZ2 lavaliere mics
2 Shure U24D/BETA58 dual-channel UHF receivers
4 Shure U1L UHF wireless bodypack transmitters
1 Shure UA830A active powered antenna
4 Shure BETA 58A mics
1 Shure SM58S mic
2 Shure SM57-LC mics
1 TASCAM CD-A630 CD/cassette player
1 TASCAM MD 350 mini-disc recorder
Whirlwind cables
1 Yamaha DME32 digital mixing engine
2 Yamaha MY8-AD824 8 24-bit line-level analog inputs cards
1 Yamaha MLA7 8-channel mic line amp
2 Yamaha MY8-DA96 8 line-level analog outputs cards

Auditorium
Main Audio Mixing
2 AKG C480B/CK61ULS combination podium mics
1 AKG D 112 studio dynamic mic
2 AKG C-414 B/ULS studio condenser mics
1 C-Ducer CPS/8P stereo piano pick-up mic
6 Countryman Type 85 direct inject boxes
4 Crown PCC160 cardioid surface-mounted boundary mics
1 Electro-Voice RE 20 studio dynamic mic
2 Lexicon PCM 91 digital multi-effects generators
4 Neuman KM 184 studio condenser instrument mics
8 Sennheiser MKE2-4-3-C/MZ lavaliere mics
4 Sennheiser MD 421U4 studio dynamic instrument mics
4 Sennheiser MD 441U studio dynamic instrument mics
4 Shure U24D/BETA58 dual-channel, UHF wireless receivers
8 Shure U1L UHF wireless bodypack transmitters
2 Shure UA870A active powered antennas w/amp
4 Shure SM81-LC condenser instrument mics
6 Shure SM57-LC dynamic mics
6 Shure BETA 58A dynamic vocal mics
1 Yamaha DM2000 house mixing console w/meter bridge
5 Yamaha MY8-AE 8-channel AES/EBU digital format I/O cards
1 Yamaha MY8-TD 8-channel T-DIF Digital format I/O card
8 Yamaha AD824 8-channel line-level digit outputs D/A converters
2 Yamaha DME32 digital mixing engines
17 Yamaha MY8-AE 8-channel AES/EBU digital format I/O cards
8 Yamaha DA824 8-channel line-level analog outputs D/A converters

Cinema Audio
2 Macpherson Monolith full-range ‘’flat panel’’
bi-amplified speakers
1 Macpherson Black Box speaker processor
4 Meyer CQ-2 powered speakers
2 QSC Powerlight 3.8X stereo power amps

Surround Effects
5 QSC CX404 4-channel power amps
2 Renkus-Heinz SR61K hi-def full range

Intercom
2 Telex US2000A 2-channel party-line user stations
1 Telex SPS2000A 2-channel power supply w/built-in speaker
2 Telex ES4000A 4-channel party-line expansion stations
2 Telex XP-ES4000 15-pin to 8 XLR connectors
2 Telex TW-5W channel splitters
2 Telex PS2000L 2-channel power supplies
2 Telex IC6SX 6-channel manual matrix units
3 Telex SS1000 single-channel wall stations
1 Telex SS2000 dual-channel wall station
7 Telex BP2000 portable 2-channel switch-selectable belt packs
14 Telex PH-1 single-sided headsets
14 Telex PH-2 dual-sided headsets
4 Telex HS-6A phone-type handsets
1 Telex SPK 2000 program monitor speaker
Telex ME Series cables

Show Relay Audio
8 JBL 24CT/Micro Ned ceiling speakers
1 QSC CX302V constant-voltage amp
2 RDL ST-VCA1 voltage-controlled amps
2 RDL RCL10K remote level controls
3 Sennheiser ME66/K6 hypercardioid polarized condenser mics
3 Sennheiser K6 mic power modules

Band Monitoring
6 Anchor AN1000X self-powered personal monitor speakers
4 Meyer UM-1P full-range monitor speakers

Hearing Assistance/Multi-language Translation
5 Sennheiser HDI 1029 PLL 8 headphones
1 Sennheiser SI-29-5/NT29 IR modulator
1 Sennheiser NT29 power supply
4 Sennheiser SZI-1029-10-EU-B IR transmitters

Backstage Mixing
1 Allen & Heath WZ12:2DX audio mixer
1 TASCAM CD-A630 CD/cassette player

Amp Control
1 KVM AV2 for switching between MediaMatrix, Meyer RMS
1 Lexicon DC2 w/AC-3, DTS surround processor
1 Meyer RMS Net software, network interface card
14 Meyer RMS RMS modules

Projection/Audio
1 Christie Roadie S12 DLP 12,000 lumen projector
1 Christie Roadie X10 DLP 10,000 lumen projector
2 Christie Roadster X6 DLP 6000 lumen projectors
1 Dolby Laboratories CP-650 digital decoder

Audio/Video Routing Matrix
ADC video patch bays, cords
1 Fostex 6301BX (pair) audio monitors
4 Mosses & Mitchell Flexipatch-JAF01801 audio patch 2x48 TT with EDAC/prewired
  Mosses & Mitchell 45-212 OU45-211 normalling modules
1 NEC Multisync LCD1530V-BK 15" LCD monitor
1 Pesa Ocelot 16x16 RGBHV 400MHz
2 Pesa rotary XY controls
1 Snell & Wilcox Magic Dave 8D(OE) 8-input video switcher w/effects
9 Sony PVM-9L2 8" color monitors w/component input
1 Sony PVM-14L2 14" color monitor w/SDI input
2 Teletest OZR 3580 3x LCD monitors 16:9 PAL/NTSC 5.8"

Video Playback Source Equipment
2 Alcorn McBride DVM 2 MPEG 2 players
2 Panasonic DVD-RP91 SDI DVDs
2 Samsung SV-5000W multi-system VHS VCRs
2 Sony SVO 5800P S-VHS Professional
2 Sony TU-1041 CATV tuners
1 Sony DSR 1800 DVCAM edit machine
Nautilus Entertainment Design was founded in 1990 by Emmy-award winning lighting designer Jim Tetlow. The California-based systems designer and consultant specializes in technical facility design for permanent installations, as well as innovative lighting design solutions. Projects include television studios, hotel interiors and exteriors, cruise ships and themed attractions throughout the world.
     With a list of nautical clients such as Cunard Ltd., Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa and Holland America, the company boasts expertise in systems design on land and at sea.
     The company consulted on the audio, lighting, video and special effects system in the Vista Lounge, onboard Holland America’s ms Zuiderdam. It designed the entertainment systems for spaces onboard Fortuna, the flagship of the Costa Corciere line. The company also recently served as the design consultant for all audio, video, surveillance and security systems for the new Cruise Terminal at Long Beach CA, situated adjacent to the original Queen Mary vessel.



Freelance journalist Dawn Allcot covers the AV and music industries.

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