Transforming Westminster Abbey: AV Integration for the King Charles III Coronation

In May 2023, as the world tuned in to witness the historic coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey, the stage was set for a remarkable audio-visual production, made possible by the expertise of Whitwam AV Integration (Whitwam AVI), Plus 4 Audio, and the BBC's broadcast teams. This event marked a significant milestone in the legacy of Westminster Abbey, transforming the iconic house of worship into a grand performance venue fit for a king.

Whitwam AVI, a trusted technology partner with a history of successful projects at the Abbey, was tasked with the crucial role of upgrading the existing audio-visual systems to meet the demands of such a monumental occasion. Director Andrew Pymm recalls the initial approach from the Abbey in 2018, emphasising the need to stage productions on a scale never before seen within its historic walls. The challenge was clear: the Abbey had to be transformed into a world-class performance venue capable of delivering high-quality sound and vision for a global audience.

To achieve this ambitious goal, Whitwam AVI implemented a series of innovative solutions. The outdated Yamaha control system was replaced with a state-of-the-art Q-SYS signal processing platform, offering superior control capability and stability. Additionally, extensive installation of fiber optic cables facilitated the transmission of Dante audio and high-definition video throughout the building, ensuring seamless connectivity within the building for the production.

Collaborating closely with renowned sound engineers from Plus 4 Audio, the team deployed advanced audio technologies, including a Digico SD7 console and strategically placed PA speakers, to overcome the unique acoustic challenges posed by Westminster Abbey’s reverberant environment. By providing multiple audio feeds and individual zone control, the production team achieved optimal clarity and intelligibility for both the live audience and television viewers worldwide.

Mark Ballard, operations director for Plus 4 Audio, highlights the importance of collaboration in overcoming the technical complexities of the project. “Westminster Abbey is particularly challenging for audio; it is hugely reverberant. It requires a low level, fully distributed sound system across the entire venue, because if you excite the room too much sound just reverberates around in the upper area and becomes very distracting, not only in the room but especially on broadcast.” The seamless integration of Whitwam AVI’s expertise in audio-visual systems with Plus 4 Audio’s proficiency in live venue productions ensured the success of the event.

“Our collaboration with Whitwam was critical to the smooth running of the show. I don’t believe either of our companies would have been able to achieve this on our own and this really played to our individual strengths and specialities. We received multiple compliments about the sound for the event and it was an honour to be involved.”

The feedback from performers, congregation members, and broadcast viewers alike was overwhelmingly positive, with many praising the unprecedented quality of sound achieved within the historic walls of Westminster Abbey. Andrew Pymm reflects on the magnitude of the project, acknowledging the sense of pride and accomplishment shared by all involved in this once-in-a-generation celebration.

“Westminster Abbey is certainly one of the biggest projects we’ve ever tackled,” said Pymm. “Turning it around in the two weeks preparation we had available was hugely rewarding because it really was mission critical. When the broadcasters tell you there’s 3.5 billion people watching the Coronation around the world, you understand the true scale of this once-in-a-generation celebration.”

In conclusion, the transformation of Westminster Abbey into a performance venue fit for a king stands as a testament to the collaborative efforts and unwavering dedication of Whitwam AV Integration, Plus 4 Audio, and the BBC’s broadcast teams. By seamlessly blending cutting-edge technology with respect for the Abbey’s rich heritage, they delivered an unforgettable audio-visual experience befitting of such a historic occasion.

“From our perspective it couldn’t have gone better,” he concluded. “It was absolutely fantastic. I think everybody involved was aware that we were working on something unique, something that was part of history, and everybody put their all into it.”

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