Vanguardia Director Jim Griffiths has been invited by Festival Magazine to write an article about the management of sound levels at festivals. Here is his article included in the February edition of the magazine:
Sound advice through technology
The days of waving a sound level meter around and telling engineers to 'turn it down' at festivals are long gone. The evolution of high-end technology in speaker, amplifier and digital processing designs has meant that sound management and control needs to embrace these advances and work with technology, to provide an integrated approach in the control of sound levels.
Well before reaching the festival site, detailed acoustic models can be developed, which inform the promoter and production companies about site layout, to minimise sound pollution.
These models eventually make their way to the licensing authority for approval.
The process is started months before the festival to inform the site layout and is now adopted at the majority of major music events throughout the UK. The use of modern technology doesn't stop here - following detailed sound propagation tests to assess the transmission off-site a day before the festival, advanced sound analysis instrumentation is now available to pinpoint the problematic stage causing high levels in the community.
One of the hardest issues for festival noise control has traditionally been which stage or combination of stages are causing the highest levels off-site. Today, sound analysers are available that correlate the sound profile from each stage at community sites, thus establishing, with a degree of confidence, the sound level contribution from each stage.
I tested the latest Metrao sound analysing system at Reading [cap 90,000] last year and it proved an essential tool to provide effective sound management. Even beyond just establishing the sound level in dB(A) terms, the instrumentation identifies the problem frequencies causing a potential issue off-site, so that subtle fine-tuning of the sound system from a particular stage can be adjusted rather just 'turn it down'.
As for the future, I see an increasing use of technology to help festivals manage their sound output, whilst not disturbing the neighbours.
Jim Griffiths, Director