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Meyer Sound M'elodie Brings the Sound of "La Academia" to Latin America
From its first season, reality show "La Academia" ("The Academy") has captivated the Latin American public with its star-in-the-making concept, and regularly dominates its time slot. For the show's fifth season, TV Azteca, the powerhouse Mexican television network that produces and airs "La Academia," recently installed a new in-studio sound system starring the Meyer Sound M'elodie ultracompact high-power curvilinear array loudspeaker.
The format of the show bears some resemblance to the U.S.'s "American Idol," in that judges select a small group out of thousands of hopefuls to compete in a series of contests and rehearsals, and in the final rounds of competition, public voting determines the winner. Unlike "American Idol," though, on "La Academia," experts in singing, dance, and choreography coach the "students" while the panel of judges scrutinizes their moves. The weekly competitions culminate with a concert taped in front of a live audience at Churubusco Studios, one of Latin America's largest and most prestigious film studios.
This season, TV Azteca executives and producers decided to put in a dedicated sound system that could faithfully reproduce the voices of "La Academia" in Churubusco's Studio A, to be transmitted via satellite to the rest of the country and throughout Latin America.
"We needed a speaker that would perfectly fit the studio's stage in terms of size, appearance, ease of setup, and transportation, and that would offer uniform sound pressure without having an impact on the results of the TV mix," says engineer Carlos Hugo Martinez Quintero, sound manager of TV Azteca and leader of the ambitious project. "For almost six years, we rented a PA for these events, which was a big expense for the company. This time, we decided to buy the majority of the equipment, and the priority was to get a high-quality system for the audience inside the studio." TV Azteca chose a M'elodie system to meet their exacting requirements.
Martinez and team installed the system in a way that would not interfere with the program's aesthetics. For the main system, 12 M'elodie cabinets were hung on each side of the stage, placed near the walls and as high as possible, while four MSL-4 horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers were placed in the center to ensure sound was delivered uniformly to each of the 650 audience members. An acoustic white mesh was installed to cover the equipment so that the loudspeakers would blend with the stage background. For low-frequency support, the production team set six 650-P high-power subwoofers under the stage. A UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeaker was hung for delay coverage, and another hung for effects. For monitoring on the 183-foot by 215-foot stage, the team incorporated 17 MSL-4 cabinets and four 650-P subwoofers.
"We were impressed by the power and adaptability of M'elodie," says Martinez. "Its size is ideal for a television stage, and, no matter where you sit, the sound is impeccable."
System setup presented some challenges. Beyond aesthetics and sonics, TV Azteca had to keep camera shots in mind, which meant more than one change in location for the Meyer Sound system.
Meyer Sound's MAPP Online Pro acoustical prediction program offered invaluable assistance in completing the system design before the setup date. The program also proved essential to getting the best results when it became necessary to change the system's location to accommodate camera angles.
The SIM 3 audio analyzer was a key tool in aligning the system. "Being in the hands of an experienced user, SIM 3 was a great help in solving some cancellation problems in the main mix," says Martinez.
During the season, the contestants of "La Academia" faced the double hurdle of learning how to simultaneously sound good live and on television. The production team faced essentially the same challenge, but, with the help of their Meyer Sound system, they gave the show the excitement and "electricity" it needed. As Martinez concludes, "For a speaker of this size, we got more than we expected from M'elodie."