ACE provides audiovisual design to “The Legend of Camel Bells,” named to receive prestigious TEA Thea Award
by Judith Rubin
On Nov 13, 2018, ACE [Advanced Communication Equipment (Int’l) Co. Ltd.] congratulated its client, Huaxia Cultural Tourism, following the announcement that Huaxia had been named to receive a TEA Thea Award for the show “The Legend of Camel Bells,” for which ACE was Audiovisual Designer. ACE is a professional audio, video and lighting service provider, and a major supplier and system integrator in China, Hong Kong and Macau. ACE’s past projects include the 2010 Shanghai World Expo Opening & Closing Ceremonies, Tianjin Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park, Wuhan Wanda Han Show, (2014) in addition to a major destination theme park that recently opened in China.
“Camel Bells” is a permanent show at the Huaxia Cultural Tourism resort in Xi’an in scenic Huaxia City, a 6-billion yuan enterprise already recognized with numerous leisure and tourism awards. The show is third in a series of “Legend” spectacles dramatizing Chinese history and culture, staged around the country since 2010 by Shandong Huaxia Cultural Tourism Group, led by Xia Chunting. It dramatizes a story of the Silk Road with epic scale and spectacle, blending state-of-the-art theater technology, live performance and animal actors, and monumental, animated sets and effects and surround sound. The 3,000 seat, purpose built theater is designed with a revolving auditorium that delivers the audience to the sets that encircle it. ACE provided the innovative technical design, audio system design and controls that helped “Camel Bells” stand out from its “Legends” predecessors and bring the guest experience to a new level.
Huaxia Cultural Tourism will be formally honored with the TEA Thea Award at the 25th annual TEA Thea Awards Gala on April 13, 2019 at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. “The Legend of Camel Bells” will be awarded for Outstanding Achievement – Live Show Spectacular.
While the award is officially given to the project owner, a requirement in accepting a TEA Thea Award is that the owner furnish a comprehensive credits list that TEA publishes in the Thea Awards Program and that becomes public record. Huaxia Cultural Tourism has already begun to acknowledge key members of the team for “Camel Bells,” such as ACE.
“We assembled the best talent from throughout China to produce ‘The Legend of Camel Bells,’” said Mr. Xia Chunting, Chief Director and Scriptwriter. “We would like to thank all of the key team members that made this production possible including Xia Zhenxiang (Producer), Jack Ahe (Executive Director & Choreography), Dong Gang ( Composer), Han Chunqi (Costume Design), Bingo Tso [ACE] (Audiovisual Design), Li Guangcheng (Scenic Design), Meng Qin (Lighting Design), and the entire cast and crew.”
“We’re proud to have played a part in creating a truly grand project that will receive this high mark of excellence and achievement from our peers in the global attractions industry,” said Bingo Tso, senior vice president of ACE.
A leap forward in the Legends series
A published statement from the TEA Thea Awards Committee reveals that it was impressed by the theatrical and storytelling qualities of the show itself as well as its use of technology and its sheer scale: “This is China – where audiences love big spectacle, big stories – and where, due to sheer population numbers, themed entertainment development is and must be on a grand scale,” wrote the Committee. “‘The Legend of Camel Bells’ show represents the highest level of visual imagination and design in its execution. It wows the audience with stunning stage effects, massive props, extreme scenery, a waterfall, a huge cast and animal actors, all dramatically presented on the massive, oval-shaped stage and backed by a huge LED screen. The adventure is continuous as it engages the 3,000-person audience that’s mounted on a raked platform that not only rotates as the story action moves seamlessly from scene to scene, but also tracks back and forth from the action to provide a more intimate or larger stage area as required for the scene.”
Unique theater and audio system design
“Camel Bells” is the second Huaxia project for ACE. The relationship began in 2015, with ACE providing the lighting control system for the Minnan Legend show in Xiamen, Fujian province. For “Camel Bells,” ACE took on a far larger scope. Bingo Tso said, “ACE provided the overall design for audio, and brought a multi-channel PA system design to the show, which created a 3D sound image to enhance the guest experience. At the same time, the system was integrated with the rotating auditorium, creating 3D sound images for the six different stage sides – and we’re pleased to report that we were able to deliver this optimized system at a reasonable cost.”
The unique multi-channel audio system resolved the acoustical challenge of a very live space. Bingo Tso of ACE designed the audio system featuring clusters of line array speakers as the main PA, supplemented by point source speakers, subwoofers and monitors, integrated into the scenic and building structures. A proprietary core processor gave the ability to up-mix a stereo source into multi-channel, facilitating 360-degree sound coverage with precisely placed effects and optimal acoustics.
ACE’s scope on the project also included technical support and system tuning for the audio system, and control system design for video and lighting. ACE was also the equipment supplier for the entire audio system and the lighting and video control and server system.
The theater is 142 meters (L) by 128 meters (W) and 50 meters (H). The six sets for the show (one for each story chapter) ring the audience platform. Each set is an elaborate, permanent installation with integrated technology systems, rigging and effects. The rotating auditorium is capable of revolving 360 degrees, as well as back and forth, to bring the audience into position relative to the sets as the story unfolds. Show action equipment includes: Volcano/snow mountain (15 meters high), figure of Buddha (18 meters high), indoor waterfall (40 meters wide x 20 meters high) fed by a 2,000-ton water tank. The scenic backdrop is a giant, 4,000 square meter LED screen.
Bingo Tso gave some details of the custom setup. “The auditorium operates on a custom-designed control system, allowing the operators to bring the auditorium to different show positions with the touch of a button. The system is combined with a safety surveillance system that monitors the operation and every motion of the auditorium, E-stop and redundant failure system is also equipped. The control room for the moving auditorium, lighting, video, sound and special effects is located on the top level of the revolving auditorium. Motion controlled bridges connect the auditorium to the stage for extended interactive show performance. The auditorium is also equipped with fire control equipment, climate control and an emergency evacuation system.”
ACE was contracted to AV and lighting integrator Weihai Yuanda Digital Technology Co., Ltd, a subsidiary of Hua Xia group for show production. ACE provided system design, technical support, system tuning services and equipment, while Weihai Yuanda was responsible for installation based on the design. The overall timeline for the project was 24 months, with ACE involvement in the final 12 months.
On the creative side, ACE worked closely with the music composer, Dong Gang, for the multi-channel sound imaging, and with lighting designer Meng Qin and video designer Li Guangcheng for the design of the control system for lighting and video. On the production side, ACE interacted closely with Weihai Yuanda Digital Technology Co., Ltd for system installation and integration, and also with Beijing Qicheng Oriental Culture and Art Co., Ltd, media producer for the show.
“’The Legend of Camel Bells’ was the first project on which ACE collaborated with Huaxia on such a large scale, and thanks to the expertise and professionalism of the production team, the collaboration was very successful,” said Bingo Tso. “The creative team was led by the president of the Huaxia Group, Xia Chunting, who acted as chief director and scriptwriter and assembled the best artists from throughout China to produce the show. ACE is now a strategic cooperation partner with Huaxia Tourism and we are working with them on new theaters in Nanjing and Chengdu.”
Bingo Tso named some key team members: Weihai Yuanda Digital Technology Co., Ltd. (General Manager Tan Yuanxiang and Deputy Manager Tan Chao); Wang Xiaofei, General Manager of Huaxia Tourism; the show operations technical team (Audio technical manager Zou Junlong and Lighting technical manager Liu Changping); the ACE lighting and video team, Zhang Wei, Yang Zongjian and Zhu Lefeng) and the ACE audio team (Guo Feng, You Jiabin, Xiong Sihong, Zheng Chen).
Audio and operations
Some of the greatest tech design challenges had to do with audio. ACE’s own creative team, led by Bingo Tso under direction from Xia Chunting, worked closely with the music composer on sound design.
The sheer size of the venue made it a challenging acoustic environment, and this was further complicated by the need to deliver sound for each of the six stage and provide a consistent audience experience from one segment to another. “We had to create six “sub-systems” [one for each stage],” said Bingo Tso. “The goal of the audio design was to deliver the best possible sound image for each stage and maintain even sound coverage and frequency response throughout the auditorium at the same time. For the Main PA speakers, we had 12 clusters of line-array speakers in LCR configuration, together with overhead and side delay speakers, contributed in stabilizing the sound image and ensuring consistent frequency response.
“Since the venue is very large, and the six stages have to share the speaker configuration as the auditorium revolves, we had to carefully design the system in order to control reverberation and unwanted energy. We used a digital routing network system for signal and control from top to bottom within the entire audio system. The digital processor and routing system in the audio system form the core. They allow the system engineers to control and tune each individual amplifier and speaker if necessary, and to recall cues in the system for different configuration during the segments. The digital system structure facilitates tuning as well as future changes to the show.”
Although “Camel Bells” is a permanent installation and technically very sophisticated, it is still live theater. According to Bingo Tso, “Due to frequent re-choreography of the show, all the show control systems are currently independent; operators need to follow the music and technical show scripts to run the show. But the system is capable of synchronizing lighting, audio and video together based on MIDI or timecode in the future.” He added that all departments have their emergency backup protocols, that training and routine evaluation are part of operations, and that ACE is under contract to provide maintenance and technical support for its AV and lighting system components.
An international honor and showcase
Members of the industry who attend the annual TEA Summit and Thea Case Studies April 11-12 can expect to learn more details about the design and production of “The Legend of Camel Bells.” Much of this annual conference that precedes the TEA Thea Awards Gala on April 13 is devoted to showcasing the projects to be awarded, with owners and creatives giving joint presentations to an audience of their peers in the attractions industry.
With this honor from TEA, “The Legend of Camel Bells” joins a select group. The TEA Thea Award is considered the highest professional honor in the visitor attractions industry. The stated objective of the TEA Thea Awards is “to find excellence and celebrate it.” From hundreds of nominations submitted for consideration, 17 recipients were chosen to receive Thea Awards for the 2018-19 cycle. The TEA Thea Awards Committee is a who’s who of distinguished industry professionals and leaders who follow a rigorous, thorough and objective process of discussion and evaluation.
“We are deeply honored by this sign of international recognition from TEA,” said Xia Zhenxiang, President of Huaxia Cultural Tourism. “We congratulate everyone who helped to make ‘The Legend of Camel Bells’ a grand success. We express heartfelt congratulations and thanks to our team. ‘The Legend of Camel Bells’ and our other Legends heritage productions have helped to distinguish our growing network of world-class resorts and tourism destinations in China.”
Huaxia Cultural Tourism Group, established in 2009, specializes in investment, development and operations within the cultural tourism industry, in addition to the commercial development of creative cultural ideas, and the management and operation of cultural tourism projects for clients. The Group has five subsidiaries located in Weihai, Beijing, Xiamen, Xi ‘an, and Nanjing. The Group has been celebrated with numerous honors, including National Outstanding Contribution Award in Tourism Industry (Flying Horse Award), National Cultural Industry Demonstration Base, Top 10 Tourism & Entertainment Service Provider in China, No. 1 Characteristic Show in China’s Cultural Tourism, Top 10 Most Popular Tourist Performance in China, China’s No.1 Eco-town, and Gold Award for Global Cultural Tourism Destinations. • • •
Photos of “The Legend of Camel Bells” production, construction and models are all courtesy of ACE.