AV Takes Center Stage In College Rivalry
Knowing that All Pro Sound had a hand in upgrading Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, the University of Alabama's athletic department recruited Company Director Bobby Taylor to update the AV design of its football facility. The upgrades to Bryant-Denny Stadium incorporate some of the latest developments in turning new and pre-existing sports venues into a sight and sound extravaganza.
CHALLENGE: Upgrade the audio system of a top collegiate stadium to keep pace with the video experience.
SOLUTION: Design And Install A Large, single cluster line array system for a stadium that holds 90,000 spectators
AS COLLEGE rivalries go, the one that exists between the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and cross-state rival Auburn University has few equals.
A stone's throw from the Alabama state line, All Pro Sound, an AV systems integrator in Pensacola, FL, is no stranger to the acrimony. So at the first meeting after winning the bid to upgrade the AV system at the University of Alabama's football stadium, Company Director Bobby Taylor wasn't entirely surprised at the tenor of the discussions.
Knowing that All Pro Sound had a hand in upgrading Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, the University of Alabama's athletic department recruited Taylor to update the AV design of its football facility. The upgrades to Bryant-Denny Stadium, which Taylor values at between $350,000 and $450,000, incorporate some of the latest developments in turning new and pre-existing sports venues into a sight and sound extravaganza.
All Pro's three-month job to install a new line array sound system was a large, logistically complex part of its contract. Consisting of six EAW BH312 low-frequency modules; 10 KF920 mid-frequency modules; four KF910 and six KF913 high-frequency modules; and six Community Wet2W8 loudspeakers as down-fills, the scoreboard-mounted array replaced a system designed for public address and little else. “Like other sports venues, they wanted a concert-style sound system that would also enhance the Jumbotron scoreboard video,” Taylor says. “The old system consisted of a lot of horns, and its frequency response was limited.”
The array is powered by 13 QSC Powerlight 4 and 10 QSC CX902 amplifiers. Additionally, three QSC CM16A devices that employ QSC's digital QSControl provide real-time monitoring of the sound system. “Housed in the control room, the QSControl tells them everything that's going on in the cluster,” Taylor says. “With a line array system designed to cover 90,000 seats, that's a vital function. If a driver or a speaker goes out, there may be a seating section where the crowd can't hear as well, but no one would really know it.”
Designed by Dallas-based AV systems designer, WJHW, the line array provided a hefty installation challenge. All Pro Sound worked with the construction company that hired it to build a housing, and spent several weeks installing and wiring components on the ground offsite and going through a series of build-ups and tear-downs before it was ready to hoist. “We had to be absolutely sure that the speaker cluster and the housing around it were perfectly balanced and secure,” Taylor says. “An enormous amount of work was put into the design of the enclosure around the speaker system.”
Weighing 25,000 pounds, the speaker cluster sits atop the existing scoreboard at the south end of the stadium. This was a single-cluster line array for the whole stadium. WJHW's Kevin Day, who designed the system, says a distributed system would have been ideal but would have involved too much expensive and potentially damaging infrastructure reworking to run conduit. A distributed system would have made for better audio timing with the Jumbotron video, but the line array solution allowed acceptable levels of delay. The longest throw distance is 750 feet. “It took us three days to put the array back together once we delivered it to the site, and then we had to wait for good weather before it could be lifted and welded to the top of the scoreboard,” Taylor says.
One of the most challenging aspects of this job was tuning the system. “As we approached the end of the installation, we started preparing the owners of the criteria necessary for tuning a system of this size,” says Patrick Nunnally, project manager. “It's crucial to create test tones, pink noises, speech, and music in order to put the system through its test. Typically, in other stadiums, we notify the campus police and the local newspaper of the times that we will be tuning. However, due to the physical location of Bryant-Denny Stadium, this would not be an easy feat.”
Because Bryant-Denny Stadium is located right in the middle of campus, there are many classrooms and teaching facilities within just a few hundred feet. In order to properly tune a system of this magnitude, SPL of more than 100 dB would need to be created within the venue. SPL levels well into the high 90 dB range would reach many hundreds of yards surrounding the stadium. “Very quickly we discovered from the owner that this was not an option because of academic concerns,” he adds. “We had to work around the class schedules. We had to wait until spring break to tune the system. Once we had the approval to make as much noise as necessary, the tuning was concluded with great success.”
Another major part of the project was redesigning and installing a new back-of-house digital audio processing and distribution system. All Pro replaced a 24x24 audio processing system with a 48x48 Biamp Audia unit, giving the stadium added capabilities to route audio to skyboxes, suites, VIP areas, and concourses. “They're wanting to increase audio interface with broadcasters and the media, and this upgrade will allow for better sharing of signals with the media for game audio and post-game press conferences,” Day says.
The back of house Biamp Audia system is used for a variety of functions, including compression and feedback control of the referee's wireless microphone and routing the press announcer to the delayed skybox zones. From the Audia control station, the operator can very easily send any input signal to any output source.
While the majority of the recently completed phase entailed sound system upgrades, All Pro Sound also relocated and redesigned video switching components that send live video, playback, and character generator-produced content. Routed over fiber optic cable, all video content for the stadium is produced and mixed in a control room housed in a campus arena two miles away.
As the university looks ahead to showing off its upgraded AV system for the upcoming football season, plans already are in the works for another major renovation — this time to the north end zone area. Entailing the addition of more seating, a new recruiting lounge, and additional skyboxes, the next phase, due to start at the end of the year, will give the school another opportunity to outshine its rival.