Issue 25

Meyer Sound At TED2022

System design extends living room intimacy to theatre


28 April 2022

The annual TED Conference returned to Vancouver, British Columbia April 10–14 for the first in-person gathering of the flagship event since 2019. The TED2022 theme of ‘A New Era’ recognised the changed post-pandemic global landscape, with 80 presenters offering bold ideas and inspiration for a better future. The production team built on the solid foundation of the technology from the prior event, implementing updates to Meyer Sound audio reinforcement systems for the 1,200-seat TED Theatre and other smaller venues clustered inside the Vancouver Convention Centre. 

“In terms of audio, it is my responsibility to make sure everything sounds great not only in the theatre but also in the broadcast streams and edit rooms,” says Mina Sabet, head of production for TED Conferences. “Audio is extremely important in what we do and it’s probably the most complicated element. Fortunately, I have backup from the experience of our lead audio engineer, Michael Nunan, and the entire talented audio team, as well as our continuing collaboration with Meyer Sound.”

The TED Theatre is a custom-built combination of a broadcast studio and large event auditorium, a pairing that creates challenges for a format that relies on a direct, person-to-person communication style. Keeping all amplified room-sound out of presenter mics while making sure all 1,200 seats are blanketed with clear audio has proven no easy task.

“Before Meyer Sound came on board in 2019, we were struggling with sound in the first few rows,” says Sabet. “In that first system, Meyer Sound introduced the MM-4XP miniature floor loudspeakers, which worked beautifully and changed the whole audible experience. The only change this year was adding some delay speakers for the very back rows to give a greater sense of intimacy for the furthest seats.” 

The 2022 TED Theatre update was designed by Meyer Sound technical support specialist David Vincent. The flown system is anchored by twin hangs of 12-each LEOPARD line array loudspeakers with three 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements for deep bass extension. Four UPQ-1P and two UPQ-2P loudspeakers provide front and side fill, with two rings of 11 total UPQ-1P delay loudspeakers for even dispersion throughout the space. The floor system comprises nine UPM-1P loudspeakers for front fill along with — to enhance the sense of close-up immediacy — 34 MM-4XP miniature self-powered loudspeakers. 

“The clarity and the uniform coverage of the system really is extraordinary,” adds Sabet, “and this year I noticed how well it helped us deal with soft-spoken presenters. Making sure our audience can clearly hear a soft-spoken speaker has been a significant recurring issue, but this year — with the new microphones and the Meyer Sound PA — the need to take compensating measures has dropped dramatically.” Although most presentations focus on the spoken word, music was woven throughout the conference. “We had musicians on stage every day, including a personal favourite of mine, Duckwrth for the Audacity session,” recalls Sabet. “The sound of his voice and the live instrumentation just blew away the audience.”

The smaller Community Theatre, also inside the Convention Centre, was outfitted with a 54-loudspeaker Meyer Sound system — including 12 900-LFC elements to ensure ample deep bass for the conference’s closing party. Additional Meyer Sound UPJ-1P and UPM-1P loudspeakers provided audio at more than 50 small simulcast locations spaced around a loop outside the theatre. All Meyer Sound systems were supplied by the Los Angeles location of PRG, with installation under the direction of Audio Project Manager Randall Knight.

“There’s no question that our partnership with Meyer Sound has benefited TED Conferences,” summarises Sabet. “They take a collaborative approach, they listen closely to our needs, and their system designers have the expertise to develop solutions with the best possible audio quality.” The 80 presenters at TED2022 spanned the full spectrum of creative endeavours in science, technology, the arts, and humanities. Although TED considers all of equal importance, three of the better-known speakers at TED2022 were Al Gore, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk. A scaled-down version of the TED Conference took place in Monterey, California in 2021.

Photo credit: Ryan Lash / TED

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