New Meadowlands Stadium: Not Just a Video Masterpiece
Much has been written about the massive video intrastructure at New Meadowlands Stadium and they way it delivers content to every visitor. But the audio system is also cutting-edge.
AN AV TABLA RASA
Because of its multipurpose design, the New Meadowlands Stadium also has a unique mixing console solution. An Avid Digidesign Venue SC48 console can be used indoors or out (weather-permitting, of course), in the main control room, or on the field. The SC48 is configured as a tour sound console, allowing it to be moved just as any live sound console would, and an Optocore system is used to route audio from the field to the audio control and video replay room, as well as the broadcast dock.
That same Optocore system allows the mixing console to be moved to secondary outdoor locations using connectors located at the camera platforms. "Usually, the mixer sits inside the control room and sees the action from behind the glass. If he's lucky, the window will open," says Leamy. "This approach lets the mixer be in the same environment as the fans. The mixer will hear the sound the way the audience will hear it."
Since the New Meadowlands essentially hosts two main co-tenants, the venue itself had to be the digital equivalent of a tabla rasa. "It couldn't be [Giants] blue, it couldn't be [Jets] green," Leamy says. "It had to be neutral, and the systems help it achieve that, to let each team 'own' the stadium when they are there."
The effect is accomplished mainly through digital signage and displays, particularly the five pylon-marked entrance gates and Daktronics videowalls that can be fed content either locally or from the central control room via Cobranet. The video displays also receive tailored audio; arriving fans are greeted by Jets or Giants music and information though various JBL AM and AC series speakers.
That flexibility extends to the four main VIP clubs, which can also act as standalone space and tie into the same content feeds that guests encounter at the stadium gates. A Peavey NION media matrix DSP handles source selection and message repeater functions. "The fan experience has to start from the moment they get out of their car and stay with them wherever they go throughout the stadium," Leamy says.
Control is critical to keeping this digital content ballet on its toes. Much of that is handled by one of the largest Crestron Rack2 Series control systems ever deployed in a commercial application. The Crestron system manages the audio, video, and lighting in all the VIP club settings, plus it integrates Cisco's StadiumVision systems to control the clubs' TV monitors.
The same Series 2 system and Rack2 processors are also integrated with building management systems using Crestron's GLA-BMS system and RoomView server software to enable global presets received from the Schneider Electric Square D power distribution and control system to set certain signage, lighting, and audio to predefined macro levels, such as "Jets Night Game," "Giants Day Game," or "Concert Setting Night." Leamy's emphasis on letting each team set the tone for its games even extends to the backlighting on the stadium's touch panels, which come up green or blue on game day (for other events, they default to gray).
"The biggest challenge here was the scope of the programming," says Ian McDermott, Crestron's senior systems engineer on the project, who estimates there are about 500 lights and display circuits riding on the system.
The trick was to make each individual space as customizable as possible, but also have them all play nicely together on the network. In theory, a single button can turn on or off all the lights, set the channel on a TV and adjust audio levels for any one club space, or all of them. "I've never encountered this level of integration before," McDermott says.
THE POWER OF (A SEPARATE) NETWORK
In a roundabout way, the strength of the New Meadowlands Stadium's distributed audio systems owes a lot to its high-tech video systems. The IPTV network is run out of the centrally positioned telecommunications room, adjacent to the stadium's broadcast center and production studio, as well as the main security control room.
WJHW's Faber says that while this proximity of electronics nerve centers was unintentionala byproduct of the larger architectural designit worked out well in terms of cabling efficiency.
Faber says WJHW has worked with a dozen IPTV systems like the one for the New Meadowlands Stadium, but it's still new enough that he gets pushback from unlikely sources. Although management was gung-ho about an IT-based audio/video network, there was enough concern about running CobraNet on a converged network that in the end it was decided the sound systems would have their own dedicated network.
"Contractors aren't used to [the idea of converged networks] yet," Faber says. "They want to stay in their comfort zone. The problem is, developments on the IT side are moving so fast that they're actually becoming disruptive."
Faber says he's looking forward to designing future venues with a single unified network, which he says will facilitate ease of intercommunication and make data mining feasible. Such a network could help grow revenue streams for leagues, teams, and venue owners even more than the impressive AV installation off exit 16W in New Jersey.
Dan Daley is a freelance AV writer and frequent contributor to Pro AV.