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DiGiCo SD7T Sets Sail on the Costa Favolosa


With a role that included AV consulting, theatre consulting, and project management for all entertainment systems on board Costa Cruise’s new flagship, the Costa Favolosa, Nautilus Entertainment of San Diego specified the systems shipwide, with a DiGiCo SD7T chosen for its impressive theatre.

Following a three-day July vernissage cruise from Venice, the Costa Favolosa (114,500 gross tonnage and 3,800 total guests) began offering Eastern Mediterranean cruises, before being positioned in Dubai for 8-day Arabian Nights cruises in the UAE and Oman for the winter 2011/2012 season.

With its 13 passenger decks, the Favolosa, built entirely in Italy by Fincantieri, is the largest ship flying the Italian flag and offers guests an incredible range of leisure and entertainment amenities, the latter including the three-deck Hortensia theatre, featuring a concentrate of cutting edge AV technology and several interesting firsts.

Whilst Nautilus specified the system, with the exception of a few owner-supplied products, the majority of the actual installation work was done by specialist marine system integration firm HMS (Harbour Marine Systems).

Paolo Campanelli, consultant and Executive Technical-Artistic Specialist with Costa’s Cruise Operations Department, Entertainment, had the job of making certain the technical resources installed ensured all on-board entertainment and related events were as spectacular as possible.

“As far as theatre audio is concerned, the important new feature is the DiGiCo console,” states Campanelli. “Following the D5s installed on the Costa Luminosa, Deliziosa and Pacifica, we chose an SD7T for the Favolosa.”

The DiGiCo desk used for the highly automated main production shows Vibration and Enchanted Castle, plus various other events staged in the theatre, is manned by sound engineer Danilo Amato, also responsible for ensuring passengers top grade sound in the other 25 onboard locations with performing artists.

Amato, who has worked with DiGiCo consoles for years (particularly the D5), explains, “Compared with land shows, as well as the advantage of the system being permanently installed, another big pro of working on the Favolosa is in the automation and the console’s use of time code, which greatly facilitates work for sound engineers. The cast changes periodically, but the shows runs for a year, and everything must always be exactly the same. These facilities allow new engineers coming on board to operate the console without being familiar with the show.”

Appropriately converted to MIDI time code, the SMPTE LTC time code from the 48-track Hard Disk workstation on which the shows' soundtracks are recorded is used by the sessions programmed on the SD7T to recall the shows’ various snapshots, which in turn generate MIDI program changes and MIDI control messages, fed out to the outboard devices.

In spite of the main shows being almost entirely automated, Amato - enthusiastic with his first outing with an SD7 - stresses that it is not just a case of pressing Play.

“On the contrary, there’s a considerable amount of manual work. According to the audience in the theatre and, since the automation eliminates the need to press countless buttons, I can dedicate more time with the desk to ensuring excellent sound, acoustic impact and colour – not with a classic Left, Centre and Right array, but with over 120 enclosures divided into zones, each controlled and processed differently.”

As well as the impressive main system, which includes 24 surround speakers, Amato also handles monitor mixes on the SD7T. “There are currently two singers and two violinists performing live, all of whom use IEM, plus a series of sidefill enclosures and monitors recessed in the stage for the dancers,” he explains. “For flyback guest artist Roberto Sinagoga, who comes on board for part of the cruise, five wedges are provided for his band and IEM for the artist himself.”

Campanelli concludes, “Both DiGiCo itself and its Italian distributor Audio Link were, as always, extremely proactive, particularly as far as our technical staff’s training is concerned. 

“For example, to learn the ins and outs of the SD7T console, and its Theatre Mode facilities to programme it for the shows, our production sound designer - an Italian who lives in London - requested the support of DiGiCo in the UK, who immediately put their team at his disposal. Being able to count on this sort of support is invaluable for us.”

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