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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Jun 4, 2009 4:33 PM, By Trevor Boyer

Pumping Up the Crowd

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The NetMax system is connected to IrisNet software that lives on the facilities office’s control computer. Via this software, the Crisler Arena employee who runs the sound system can perform a full system check of every component—every driver, amplifier, cable, and connector—before each game.

NCAA regulations for basketball and other sports dictate a certain minimum height for the lowest element that hangs above the game floor. With the old system, certain components hung below the scoreboard. TeL Systems successfully placed every element higher than the bottom lip of the scoreboard save for two EV FRX+940 and two FRX+660 two-way loudspeakers that hang from the bottom of the scoreboard and provide downfill for the arena floor. The comfortable height of the compact line-array system meant that the scoreboard could be lowered somewhat, giving spectators better sight lines to the scoreboard.

In advance of the line-array system’s installation in late September of last year, the university turned down any big events that might otherwise have taken place at Crisler during the time period. Despite that, TeL Systems and its hired guns still needed to work the night shift, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., to accommodate the schedules of the teams that were already holding practices on the floor during the day. Two EV employees visited the arena to assist during overnight commissioning: Stuart Schatz did tuning commissioning, and Chris Aelits programmed the NetMax system.

In addition to the six TeL System employees, there were also about the same number of riggers working on the installation. In order to hang the heavy line arrays from a single point, TeL Systems turned to rigging manufacturer Polar Focus. That company devised a custom chain pulley that keeps the arrays steady from a single hanging point.

Aelits programmed two EV TPI-8 wired touchpanels, which live in the arena’s facilities offices, to call up presets for three types of events. First is the packed arena, a phenomenon that’s recently become more common for Michigan basketball games. Second is a practice mode that pushes audio to the floor only. This mode allows practicing athletes to plug an iPod into a Sonance iPort IW-1 docking station and control the system’s volume from the arena’s facilities office or from a portable rack on the floor. Finally, there is a setting that allows a university employee to press a button on the touchpanel and reconfigure the settings for commencement ceremonies that are held in the arena. According to O’Neil and Couyoumjian, a competing contractor who does live-event work for the university, the school was pleased with Crisler Arena’s new system upon driving it during commencement. (An Allen & Heath GL2400-32 32-channel mixer drives the system.)

While the old system was really only adequate for announcements, the new EV line-array system has allowed the athletic department to expand the content of its game-related audio. The Michigan pep band now alternates with a DJ who plays music intended to enliven the crowd.

“Everybody’s got headsets,” Couyoumjian says. “They’re producing a show much like most arenas, and it’s pumping up the crowd.”

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