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Meyer Sound MILOs Make Movies Majestic for Princess Passengers
"It's an experience like no other — one that you just can't have on any other cruise ship." That's how veteran cruise journalist Alan Wilson, owner/editor of Cruise News Daily, sums up "Movies Under the Stars" on the Caribbean Princess, a newly launched Grand-class vessel from Princess Cruises.
On-board theaters, of course, have been around for decades, but not like this. Fifteen decks above the waterline, caressed by warm Caribbean breezes, "Movies Under the Stars" audiences find themselves in a unique setting for cinema, surrounded not only by sea and sky but also by state-of-the-art sound and picture. Combining a stunning 300-square-foot Panasonic Astrovision LED video display with rich, clear loudspeaker arrays from Meyer Sound, the "Movies Under the Stars" presentation system is wowing Princess's pampered passengers.
"Our 'Movies Under the Stars' system is already a huge hit," says Martin Hall, Princess' vice president of entertainment. "The viewing experience is quite spectacular, and this feature certainly adds significantly to the fun, tropical atmosphere onboard." In fact, just a week after the launch of the Caribbean Princess the company announced that it would be adding "Movies Under the Stars" systems to all of its Grand-class ships, including Grand Princess, Golden Princess and Star Princess.
The Caribbean Princess system was designed and installed by Thomas Gregor and Associates (TGA). Having handled projects on more than 15 ships in the Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruises fleets, TGA drew on extensive experience with shipboard audiovisual systems. The company's mandate for this job was not simply to enable movie playback outside the controlled conditions of a theater, but to do so at Princess's standard of quality.
The most challenging aspect of audio system design was the wind. "The system is facing into the wind on the top deck," says TGA principal and CTO Christian Hugener. "The ship cruises at 24 knots and can easily face an additional 20-knot headwind. So the most important issue in selecting the PA system was maintaining intelligibility, particularly for dialog."
Based on TGA's extensive successful experience with Meyer Sound products, the core question was simply which Meyer Sound loudspeakers would perform best in the deck-top setting. "We ultimately built the system around MILO curvilinear arrays," Hugener says, "because we all believed that they would provide the best possible intelligibility in this environment. We've been very impressed with the fidelity and power of the MILOs, particularly the strength and throw of the high frequencies. And we knew that was something we were going to need from a system operating in the heat and the humidity of the Caribbean."
Not only is the performance of the MILO loudspeakers unfazed by the climate, but their long-term durability benefits from weather protection techniques based on Meyer Sound's long experience with exterior installations around the globe. And built-in amplification makes them an ideal fit for shipboard settings, where room is at a premium. "We were able to achieve considerable space-saving in terms of amplifier racks by using self-powered speakers," Hugener says. "And we also avoided running massive amounts of cable. The cable we did run was connected with Meyer Sound's VEAM all-in-one connectors (which put audio, remote monitoring, and AC power on a single connector), which made the system very easy to install and terminate."
The MILO cabinets are hung in two arrays of six each, one on either side of the screen. Two M3D-Sub directional subwoofers hanging at the top of each array provide low-end extension. "The M3D-Subs," Hugener says, "array perfectly with the MILOs. They give us plenty of power, and their cardioid dispersion pattern keeps the bass focused toward the audience and away from other areas of the ship."
To mitigate the effect of wind on presence toward the rear of the 125-foot long viewing area, TGA used a small delay system about 85 feet back from the screen. "On each side," Hugener says, "we paired one UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeaker with one USW-1P compact subwoofer. The UPAs are flown very wide to help spread the stereo image."
With top-notch components and intelligent design, TGA successfully addressed the challenges of the outdoor setting, creating the viewing experience required to support Princess's goals for the project. One sign of the system's value, Hugener says, is that "with each new cruise, Princess is finding more events and functions that can benefit from using the system." So far, that includes entertainment such as family cinema, major sporting events, late-night movies, and live coverage of on-ship doings from portable and wireless cameras via the ship's broadcast facility on Deck 6.
Even as the system's uses expand, "Movies Under the Stars" is likely to remain a big draw. Describing a screening of Tina Turner's "One Last Time in Concert," Wilson reports that "not only were the colors vibrant, but the sound matched. The screen was so clear and brilliant that you could see every piece of fringe shimmy and every drop of sweat fly. And when the fireworks went off at the finale of 'Proud Mary,' it sounded like you were right there. The experience is so real that at the end of the film, the audience erupted into applause just like it was a live concert."
Wilson's enthusiastic response is apparently the norm among those lucky enough to have shared the "Movies Under the Stars "experience. "The comments from the passengers have all been positive," Hugener says. "And my client is very, very happy."