When the MARC Theater in Salt Lake City underwent a major renovation in 2012, converting it from an indoor sports facility to a 564-seat movie theater, it quickly established itself on the circuit of the annual Sundance Film Festival.
Co-founded by Robert Redford in 1981 in an attempt to draw more independent film makers to Utah, the Sundance Institute had formally renamed the US Film Festival the Sundance Film Festival 10 years later, after one of Redford’s most iconic characters.
A long-term member of the technical crew at Sundance, Dan Beedy took over as technical project manager in 2013, and in the last three years has focused on upgrading the event’s audio reproduction capabilities.
This has resulted in the installation of a Martin Audio WPC scalable resolution line array as the centerpiece of a 7.1 system.
“We realized that the sound systems hadn’t seen an upgrade since the ’90s,” said Beedy.
Although some of the other theaters that hosted Sundance Film Festival premieres had received Dolby Atmos fitouts, the MARC, which hosts many prominent festival premieres, had been neglected.
“Sundance has always had a focus on presenting their films to a high standard, so we needed to find partners to help bring the audio up to spec,” said Beedy.
Enter production project manager Ben VanDonkelaar, senior audio engineer at BlueWater Technologies, and Martin Audio’s northeastern regional sales manager Martha Callaghan, who designed and specified a new system for the MARC.
Beedy and VanDonkelaar had long worked closely together, notably on the Traverse City Film Festival.
“When Sundance was looking for a new partner I suggested they look at Bluewater, and specifically Ben,” said Beedy. “We have a great shorthand together about how venues are set up and what the goals are.
“While Ben’s team was in charge of flying the rig, my team was in charge of tuning it,” he said.
Inside the Installation
The 7.1 system comprises left/center/right/left surround/right surround/left rear/right rear plus the subs.
“We used hangs of six WPC for the left/center/right channels and each of those arrays also had an SXH218 for-low frequency extension,” said Beedy.
A separate SXH218 provided the dedicated subwoofer and a further 12 CDD-Live 12s were used for left/right and left rear/right rear surrounds.
The WPC hangs were optimized in 2-box resolution and powered from two touring racks of three iKON iK42 multichannel amplifiers.
“This required eight continuous hours of pink noise and individual multi-band PEQ tuning on every pair of elements to meet the Dolby standard curve and SPL coverage,” said Martin Audio product support engineer Joe Lima. Quite an adventure I must say.”
The installation marked Martin Audio’s initiation at Sundance, said Beedy. He had originally been introduced to Callaghan by VanDonkelaar during a sound upgrade at the ICA in Boston that had proved a challenging space.
“Cinema products aren’t designed to meet the more exacting specs of a premiere room,” said Beedy. “We’d like every seat to have a similar audio experience when we are designing for premieres.
“We actually pushed what the speakers were capable of and needed help to unlock some of the software to accomplish that,” he said.
When the MARC was first commissioned, it was in the orientation that it’s since returned to this year, said Beedy. The tech team changed the room setup when they got complaints about the audio quality but reverted back to the original design this year.
Both Beedy and Sundance Institute technical director Holden Payne had been itching to re-imagine the space once they had access to products such as the scalable Wavefront Precision Compact.
“I convinced the festival management that if we could spin the room back to its original orientation, it would not only improve the audio quality noticeably, but retain or gain seating capacity,” said Beedy.
“We received numerous compliments on the audio and everyone was blown away by how well the room sounded,” he said.