Weathering the Elements of Outdoor Theatre
North Carolina’s Historic Annual Performance of “The Lost Colony” Relies on PSA Microphones to Endure Extreme Weather
The longest running outdoor symphonic drama, The Lost Colony, has been telling the story of the first English colonies in North America since 1937. The Waterside Theatre, located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and performing from the end of May through the end of August, requires audio equipment that has to stand up to the outdoor elements, including water — in both the form of rain and perspiration—as well as wind and heat. All of which could potentially shorten the useful life of a microphone.
Over the past few years the audio systems have been overhauled, upgraded, and redesigned at The Lost Colony, including the ever important microphones. Since 2013, the production has relied on the mics from Point Source Audio and supplied by Wake Forest, NC-based Provision Audio Video Solutions. The audio team at The Lost Colony includes sound designer / composer Michael Rasbury; A1 Joe Reynolds; and A2 Josiah Rodgers.
Facing Environmental Acoustics
Audio is particularly important to the audience experience at The Lost Colony as explained by Lance Culpepper, associate producer. “With an outdoor venue, the environment can create a lot of other challenges in addition to heat and insects. You also have just the natural ambient sound, everything from cicadas to a gust of wind that can carry voices off. So, in order to provide our audience the experience that they’re expecting, we really have to put a lot of our resources into ensuring that the audio equipment can sustain itself through all of these dynamic changes. That’s one of the reasons why microphones are so important to us. Prior to the Point Source mics, we saw a much shorter lifespan with the previous microphones and we had to send them out for servicing more frequently. We don’t see those problems with the Point Source mics.”
How Weather Conditions Affect Sound
“The resistance to water and being able to submerge the microphone without having any lasting impact was the reason this product was brought to our attention,” notes Culpepper. “Performing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina — with the extreme temperatures—perspiration is one of our greatest enemies, not only with the element in the microphone, but with the mic tape; getting the microphone to stay where you need it to be. Also, since we perform in the rain at times; it’s not the exception when a microphone becomes wet.” To address keeping the mics in place, the audio team use the PSA CO-8WD dual-ear headsets.
“I am beyond pleased with the addition of Point Source microphones to our production,” states A1 Joseph Reynolds. “The waterproof elements are paramount to an outdoor period drama, where the perspiration of the talent could compromise mic functionality. I especially enjoy the dual behind the ear headsets. It helps to have consistent placement and keeps the mic off the talent’s face.”
Placement is an important consideration as noted by Rasbury. “From a design perspective, the low profile of these microphones is key for getting the mic near the voice without detracting from the 16th century costume design. Our show is also very physical in nature. We have a large company and large-scale fight choreography. Given the way these mics attach to both ears, they stay on the actor and in the correct place throughout the show.”
The other feature of the PSA mics that the team wants to highlight is that “the frequency response of these elements is excellent (20Hz to 20kHz),” says Rasbury. “Our show also includes gunshots, explosions, and loud actor responses; these do not distort at high SPL.” Reynolds adds, “The frequency response is tailored nicely to the full range of human speech and I don’t have to slice up every channel with a parametric scalpel.”
Double Mic’ing the Lead
This season, the audio team added one of the new PSA CO2 Confidence Collection dual element headest mics for an actor who is quite active each performance. “We’ve assigned that one to the more active characters—John Borden,” explains Culpepper. “This character is most likely to have a mic failure due to the activity required by the role; stage combat; perspiration. We were excited to see a product that made the application of the dual elements simpler, by combining those wire runs and keeping things as tidy as possible. That mic has been a great benefit to the production.”
Culpepper appreciates the support from Point Source Audio. “They’ve been great to work with,” he says. “The communication has been excellent as well as customer service-wise. Also, when I’ve spoken with their reps at trade shows or at SETC, they’ve been familiar with us, they remember who we are, and even where we are. Knowing that we’re not just another account number with them means a lot to our organization.”
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The waterproof elements are paramount to an outdoor period drama, where the perspiration of the talent could compromise mic functionality.