JBL loudspeakers provide sound for Tate Britain exhibition

Tate Britain has recently brought the early Victorian art of John Martin to life with the help of JBL’s Control 1 loudspeakers.

The exhibition, which runs until January 15th, aims to recreate the impact that the original paintings had when they initially toured Britain in the mid-19th century. Since then, Martin’s work has provided inspiration for a number of major films, video games and album artwork.

One of his major projects was the completion of a triptych of paintings on the theme of the end of the world (shown in Room 5 of the exhibition — entitled The Great Day of his Wrath, The Last Judgement and The Plains of Heaven — and it is for this theatre-style finale that an extra dimension has been created in the form of an immersive 11-minute-long son et lumière, run on a show loop, using 16 JBL Control 1 loudspeakers and three digital projectors.

Dan Crompton, the Tate’s Audio Visual service manager confirmed that the loudspeakers were selected to reproduce a range of sound sources, including effects, music, narrative and historical documentation taken from original scripts, in 16-channel surround, with each speaker channel individually mixed.

“We wanted discreet multiple speakers around the space to fly the sound around the room — and although we were on a tight budget we didn’t go for the cheapest option. We knew from experience that the Control 1’s were good speakers but just as importantly we know the characteristics of the box. They are punchy and able to overcome the main challenges of intelligibility and clarity by taming the high reverberation time of the room.”

The show is triggered from a Mac running QLab multimedia playback software and the JBL Control 1s are wall-mounted behind the audience and low down close to the pictures themselves, with a rubber buffer behind the mount offering additional protection.

“The sound is the essence of the piece,” declared Crompton. “The combination of sound effects and music are carefully matched around the 16 channel immersive space. We wanted to balance the powerful imagery with equally powerful audio somehow and JBL was a major part of the inspiration.”

The AV specialist concluded, “I have worked with JBL extensively throughout my career and have encountered most challenges in art galleries — however manipulating Victorian oil paintings in such a way is something entirely new.”