BST Hyde Park

  • London, England, United Kingdom

Return of British Summer Time to London’s Hyde Park

AEG Live has brought the British Summer Time Series (BST) of concerts back to Hyde Park for the first time since Summer 2019 with audio and video supplied by Solotech’s UK operation.

The 2022 series of one-off concerts featured artists ranging from the Rolling Stones and Pearl Jam to Elton John and the Eagles. New for 2022 was an enlarged stage, now with a single oak tree and an enhanced video wall, provided by new video supplier Solotech in the UK.

Solotech first set up a video operation in the UK at the beginning of 2020, headed up by Director of Special Projects Ian ‘Woody’ Woodall.

“We wanted to develop the UK business organically rather than by acquisition, so we were starting from scratch albeit with a strong team of people and support from the Canadian operation.”

– Ian Woodall

Despite the pandemic, progress has been rapid with the Solotech team involved in many projects, including the full 360 package of video, lights, and sound for the Abba Voyage shows and now BST, their biggest video package to date.

The screens to the rear and side of the stage measured over 1,500 square metres in area, made up of 4,500 Saco video tiles. The curved sections on either side of the stage were constructed from 540 Roe flexible CB5 panels.

For 2022, AEG had commissioned a new stage for BST, which is 5 metres taller than the previous one. “It was the first time it had been constructed on site,” commented Ian Woodall. “As a result, it threw up a number of rigging challenges for us when we came to hang the video walls, but the end result was certainly worth it.”

As an integral part of the stage, the video walls remain in situ throughout the entire series of concerts. As such, they are used for every artist who takes to the stage, including all the headline acts. “We have to work with the artists to ensure our content integrates with their show,” explained Woody. “We are feeding in pre-recorded segments with live footage. They are one-off concerts that have the look and feel of well-rehearsed shows that are repeated night after night.”

Capital Sound, a Solotech company, has been the audio provider for BST since its inception in 2013. Given the site’s proximity to some of the world’s most expensive residential real estate, off-site noise has always been a key issue. From the outset, Capital Sound opted to use Martin Audio’s MLA System, and the 2022 edition was no exception.

With the stage rising an additional 5 metres, Capital Sound opted to extend the two main PA and sidefill hangs and streamline the 11 delay towers, introducing their recently acquired Martin Audio WPL scalable line array. Solotech Senior Technical Advisor Robin Conway commented, “Had we used the original plot, the hangs would have been out of proportion. So, I looked at issues such as trim height, and both visually and performance wise, by increasing the box count, we managed to achieve better results, with more energy at the front.”

The main PA this year was increased by four elements and comprised 19 MLA and a single MLD Downfill on each side, with 15 MLA and an MLD Downfill as side hangs. Arranged in a broadside cardioid array were 32 MLX subwoofers, while six pairs of MLA Compact provided front fills.

The quality of the PA this year was once again exemplary, a fact to which the many social posts attested. Solotech senior project manager Martin Connolly was delighted with both the onsite and off-site sound thresholds, which met the approval of acousticians/noise control consultants, Vanguardia. “Following propagation tests, we managed to achieve great level—an increase on what we have had in the past and with a bit more control,” he said.

This was particularly evident in performances by Elton John and Adele, as Connolly explained. “Elton John was 100-101dB(A) and Adele was 102dB(A) LEq (1 min) and 101dB(A) LEq 5 mins, with 75dB(A) offsite.”

Sam Fender FOH engineer Peter Fergie echoed this sentiment following his mix of Sam’s direct support set for The Rolling Stones. He commented, “The Martin MLA system is one I have come across a few times, so I came up with a good idea of what to expect and was pleased to hear my mix translate well. The team on site was great, with one or two familiar faces, as is always the way when jumping in and out of big shows and festivals. We’re very self-contained, but the Solotech audio team was very accommodating with the few bits we needed to integrate our show into the Hyde Park setup.”

“Noise management at BST Hyde Park was once again a great success, thanks to Solotech/Capital Sound. Their comprehensive technical knowledge of the sound systems across the event site is first-class. In addition, their clear and concise communication in time-pressured environments is critical for us as noise consultants. It allows us to ensure onsite music levels are sufficient whilst off-site noise levels are within licence conditions. We look forward to working with Solotech again in the future.”

– Vanguardia Acoustic Consultant Harry Lang

Bob Boyle, Courtney Barnett’s FOH engineer, said this following her support slot on the same day. He commented, “The system was so clear and present that I did not feel I needed to get over my 95 dBA to make the mix translate or feel powerful.”

When asked how he found the service provided by Solotech, he had this to say, “Always a pleasure. Top-notch gear, top-notch techs, and friendly, knowledgeable people to work with. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Especially when you’re middle of the bill on a show like the Hyde Park gig, it feels great to have a group of technicians be as thorough and as easy to work with as the group that was out on that one. Having interacted with them as a PM a couple of times as well, I’ve come to expect great service from Solotech, and they’ve delivered every time.”

Summing up the event and the technical excellence of the sound reinforcement, BST Production Director Mark Ward said, “There were a lot of conversations about how to make the PA sound great and feel in proportion on Star’s vast new Titan stage. Solotech and Martin Audio got fully engaged in figuring out solutions, and we more than achieved the result we were after—both sonically and aesthetically. It looked ‘right’ and sounded brilliant.”