Take Me Out to the Ball Game
ANZ Stadium was built for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Images: Scott Willsallen
ANZ Stadium was built for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and has just enjoyed its first house PA upgrade since a Bose system was installed in 1999. The new $2m d&b V Series system is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it represents d&b’s big debut into the stadium market, normally dominated by the big US brands who do it so well in the stadium-heavy States. Secondly, the manner in which it was installed, thriftily/savvily using the existing copper count and hang points. Thirdly, it’s interesting for the industry, in the manner in which the integrators/installers were side-lined from the design process (and the resulting cut from the sale of the loudspeakers). Unsurprisingly, it’s a job that’s got tongues wagging around the world. And the man of the moment is Scott Willsallen, whose company Auditoria managed the process.
Many readers will know Scott Willsallen (aka SWA) for his work as audio director on a bunch of opening/closing ceremonies — Olympics (Summer and Winter), Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Rugby World Cups, etc. And it’s this pedigree that made him so attractive to the ANZ Stadium management, who were looking to emulate that big event experience on game day.
SWA: “It’s pretty clear that expectations are on the increase. Not just from the event producers but the audience. The battle between TV keeping people in their homes and venues trying to get them out, is fierce. The venues need to keep offering something more. Many people think we’ve gone further than anyone else here, at ANZ Stadium. But I’d counter that by saying: all we’ve done is catch up.”
CHOICE & PRAGMATISM
AT: How did the procurement process play out?
SWA: The goal was to present the stadium with options, based on their current and future presentation needs. It would be very easy to spend a load of money dragging extra cable through the building so we could have more loudspeakers. Our goal was never to spend money on copper cabling, there’s already a bunch of it in there. I’m really pleased with the fact we’ve managed to deliver a PA that has twice the box count yet we’ve not run any more copper from the amp room to the catwalks. Not a single strand. We’ve used all the existing copper, and all the existing loudspeaker positions.
AT: So what were the main challenges in attaining an even coverage?
SWA: Some seats are 30m away from the array and others are as much as 50m away. So what you’re trying to achieve is only ever going to be a spatial average. The d&b D12 amps address the V Series array in two-box increments. Within that constraint we can do some adjustments from the mids up, but in the low/mids and lows the array works as a single point source. The configuration naturally has lobes dictated by the spacing and timing difference between the boxes. If you try to take one frequency lobe away, it’ll just reappear somewhere else. The line length isn’t long enough to control the lows.
Meanwhile, the subs (arrayed as pairs either side of the main hang) are 2.5m apart, so we have some pattern control there, which is really useful. But we have pattern control at only one frequency because of that spacing. The length of the line is as much about the circuits we have available and our budget as it is about good electroacoustic practice. So it really is, a juggling act, a balance of many things.
AT: Okay, so ideally, you’d have more boxes in each array to address that 130-degree vertical chunk of air?
SWA: That’s right. Ideally, you’d use inter-cabinet spacing to optimise your amplitude coverage (getting the same level to every seat). But with so few elements (because of the scarcity of circuits) we had to use some amplitude shading — which effectively means adjusting the amplifier levels to those two-box pairs.
AT: How did final tuning go?
SWA: We had three clear days available and that time we measured each array 14 times from the lower bowl, 14 from the middle bowl and 14 from the upper bowl — 42 measurements in all for each. We then averaged out the measurements in WaveCapture and EQ’d the array to meet a consistent target curve.
The curve wasn’t an absolute frequency response target that we devised beforehand. We did the measurements on Arrays 1 and 2 for each of the four quadrants (which collectively accounts for about a third of the audience area), and took an average of all those. Effectively, we picked a curve that sounded good and was achievable using the four parametric filters on the d&b D12 amplifiers.
Prior to the system being commissioned I was able to get along to ANZ Stadium for the first rugby State of Origin match. The stadium was full, the crowd in full voice, and so was the sound. It’s truly an experience, and certainly not one that can be replicated in the rumpus room regardless of how big the telly is.
Will the average punter immediately apprehend the sonic differences of the V Series PA over the 14-year-old Bose system it replaced? No. But the PA is a key piece of the event puzzle. The cold beer, the hot pie, the comfy seat, the ease of transport in/out, the big Panasonic LED screens, and the game-day pyrotechnics all contribute to getting people out of the living room and into the venue.
Oh, and the Blues won. And I think that’s what the marketing department of Mastercard might call… ‘priceless’.