When Garth MacAleavey, sound designer for the premiere of The Hubble Cantata—an orchestral and operatic performance fused with virtual reality imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope—began to plan his sound setup for this year’s live event, he knew that DPA Microphones needed to be part of the show.
Rehearsal of the Hubble Cantata
“I was first introduced to a DPA representative through a mutual friend and Grammy winning Sound Engineer Marc Urselli,” MacAleavey said. “I told him about this wildly ambitious gig, and how I really wanted to get some d:vote 4099 Instrument Microphones on the string orchestra. He mentioned having just got back from a gig with DPA and after a great introduction meeting, we overhauled my 54 channel input list to include, not only my well-trusted d:vote 4099s, but a slew of other mics and models with which I wasn’t yet familiar.”
On MacAleavey’s list were d:dicate 4015C Wide Cardioid Microphones, d:dicate 4018 Supercardioid Microphones, d:dicate 4011C Cardioid Microphones and d:dicate 2011C Twin Diaphragm Cardioid Microphones.
The Hubble Cantata, which premiered on August 6 in Brooklyn, NY, fuses a major musical performance, featuring a 20-piece ensemble, a 100-person choir and two Metropolitan Opera stars, Nathan Gunn and Jessica Rivera, with a virtual reality experience amidst a 360-degree sound installation. A portion of the work composed by Paola Prestini, featured a virtual reality experience by Eliza McNitt, which took the audience on a journey inside of the Orion Nebula to reveal the cosmic connections between humans and the stars.
The Hubble Cantata
“The true stars of the show were the d:dicate 4018s on low profile stands used for our soloists Nathan Gunn and Jessica Rivera,” MacAleavey said. “After sound checking the orchestra and chorus, they stepped up to the d:dicate 4018s and my jaw dropped. We barely touched an EQ knob and they sounded incredible. Their tight pattern was so perfect. I never struggled to keep the opera singers present in the mix, their diction was perfectly understood by the audience.”
Cardboard VR headsets were given out on-site. Audience members were encouraged to download the "Fistful of Stars" app by Wemersive Inc. to have the best viewing experience. The stunning visuals—combined with performances by Gunn and Rivera, the Norwegian string orchestra 1B1, NOVUS NY, The Washington Chorus, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus—made for an amazing event.
“I had 100 chorus members on risers behind the orchestra and another 20 kids in one row in the front,” states MacAleavey. “I had two channels to mic the kids chorus and the wide polar pattern on the d:dicate 4015s did the trick with amazing coverage and clarity. I had another channel for the nine-foot grand piano and the d:dicate 4015s stepped up to the challenge there as well. The whole range of piano was clear as day out in front of the line arrays in Prospect Park.
“The d:dicate 2011Cs served as my percussion overhead mics, and with so much happening onstage, it was amazing how focused and clear the percussion sounded, even when surrounded by 120 singers and an adjacent orchestra,” MacAleavey said. “The d:dicate 4011Cs were excellent as well and used for close-miking the wind instruments. There was minimal bleeding from other instruments or distortion and the mics accurately captured the original sound. The d:vote 4099Vs and d:vote 4099Cs have been my go-to mics for years on strings, but now I also have a great respect for DPA’s line of d:dicate mics.”