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Football fanfare for pro audio

Fifty Lawo systems were used during the month-long football extravaganza that also saw extensive involvement from Electro-Voice, Crest and Peavey, writes David Davies.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup was a story of many strands – impressive winning streaks (the Netherlands), disastrous failures (the UK) and, of course, all those love-’em-or-hate-’em vuvuzelas (pictured) making life ‘interesting’ for broadcast engineers the world over! It also provided a remarkable opportunity for the capabilities of pro-audio systems to be demonstrated in a highly pressurised environment.

Although information was still emerging as PSNE went to press, details about the use of a host of leading brands – including Lawo, Electro-Voice, Crest, Peavey, MAYAH and Waves – had come through. Digested below, they illustrate the extent to which high-specification audio was deployed at an event which seems destined to yield a long-term boost to host country South Africa’s global profile.

Lawo was absolutely integral to broadcast coverage of the event, with approximately 50 systems in use by various organisations. At the request of Swiss company Host Broadcast Services (HBS) – which took overall responsibility for the production of international and video audio feeds – rental company and Lawo subsidiary Audio Broadcast Services (ABS) provided a Lawo mc2 56 and an Innovason Eclipse for use at each of the 10 host venues, enabling the creation of multiple feeds (main stereo, interviews, cellphone content, etc). Commentator feeds were sent digitally to the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) via remote DALLIS I/O systems and a central Lawo Nova73 HD routing matrix, with the complete surround feed created at the IBC using two Lawo mc2 66 systems.

Philipp Lawo, CEO of Lawo, tells PSNE: “It is an honour for our company that HBS as host broadcaster of the World Cup in South Africa has chosen Lawo systems for the mix of the international audio feeds. For the first time ever in such an international mega sports event, the audio infrastructure uses a networked solution not only for the commentary signals but also for the stereo and surround production. Our systems are designed for integration in networked structures, and so Lawo was able to meet the demands of HBS. It is a big responsibility we are bearing and we are grateful to HBS that they have given us this opportunity, putting their trust solely in Lawo equipment for this extraordinary task.”

Internationally renowned broadcasters making use of Lawo systems on-site included BBC, CCTV, SABC and Sky TV. Germany’s two national public broadcasters – ARD and ZDF – also deployed Lawo systems. SWR (Südwestrundfunk) rented no fewer than six Lawo crystal consoles and one mc2 56 for a radio studio operated by ARD, which also made use of six Alfacam-supplied OB vans containing mc2 66 systems. ZDF used one mc2 90, one mc2 56 and 70 DALLIS I/O systems, while UK commercial broadcaster ITV fielded an mc2 66 for a variety of tasks, including the softening of the vuvuzela noise via use of the desk’s notch filters.

Freelance audio engineer and audio system designer David Loudoun covered the tournament for various broadcasters, including ITV, and remarked: “The Lawo console is extremely powerful, flexible and user-friendly. It has been rock solid – totally reliable.” As well as Lawo systems, SABC’s set-up also included Riedel Artist digital matrix intercom technology. All four of its new HD OB vans were equipped with Riedel systems by British systems integrator Sony UK, in conjunction with South African service provider and Riedel distributor Inala Technologies. Identically specified, all trucks feature one Artist 32 and one Artist 128 mainframe to provide the required amount of intercom ports. Both mainframes are equipped with redundant power supplies and CPU cards.

TV broadcast and OB truck provider Alfacam also made use of Riedel technology, having fitted five HD OB trucks in use at the World Cup with Riedel MediorNet systems. TSL was among other favoured brands, with Alfacam recently purchasing a dozen of its PAM1-3G8 professional audio monitors. These units were used in broadcast compounds in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg/Ellis Park and Pretoria stadiums to help simplify multichannel broadcast audio monitoring.

“The World Cup was a completely successful project for us,” says Riedel director of rental projects, Marc Schneider. “Besides several broadcast providers utilising Riedel technology, such as MediorNet and Artist, to broadcast the event worldwide, Riedel was the largest provider of communications technology to the games.”

Also on a broadcast angle, sports network ESPN was among those organisations to employ DTS Neural Surround technology. Hardware integrated on-site included the DTS Neural Surround Sound Encoders and Decoders, as well as the Mono2Stereo 4-channel stereo synthesizer built by hardware partner and licensee DaySequerra. Both solutions allowed mixers to create a dynamic surround mix while maintaining strong voice clarity from the announcers.

Meanwhile, Waves Audio rose to the challenges presented by those ubiquitous vuvuzelas by devising a new noise reduction solution. Working in conjunction with a major TV broadcaster, Waves offered a preset processing chain which it said could “dramatically” decrease vuvuzela noise, comprising two plug-ins: the WNS Waves Noise Suppressor and the Q10 Paragraphic Equalizer.

MAYAH technology was also in use, with approximately 30 of the company’s C11 codecs deployed for traditional ISDN communication between various locations in the country and broadcasters’ HQs.

Aside from the exacting demands of broadcast coverage, the World Cup was also a story of remarkable infrastructural investment at the 10 host stadiums. Four of the venues were entirely new; the other six were the subject of renovation. Installer Prosound won (separate) contracts at all but one of the 10 stadiums – supplying and installing equipment at nine, as well as creating the sound design for eight. The Prosound team for the historic project included technical director Mark Malherbe.

Electro-Voice loudspeakers provided sound reinforcement at all nine of the venues worked on by Prosound. In total, more than 2,300 E-V and Dynacord loudspeakers and a variety of EV REV-D wireless microphone systems were specified at the venues in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Nelspruit, Port Elizabeth, Rustenburg, Polokwane and Bloemfontein. E-V products selected included FRX, ZX5, SX, XLD and EVID, while 1,000-plus loudspeakers came from Dynacord’s DL800 series.

“Ever since founding the firm over 37 years ago, I have worked closely with Electro-Voice,” commented Prosound MD Terry Acres. “And with good reason: Electro-Voice systems are reliable, robust, evince exceptional mechanical quality, and deliver clear and balanced sound. In short: they’re the ones that best meet our requirements.”

Oliver Sahm, director of E-V parent EVI Audio’s Technical Support Team, summarised some of the main challenges pertaining to the World Cup project: “Long reverberation times, asymmetric architecture and boisterous fans require sound reinforcement systems and voice alarm systems to be combined, and strict TÜV-certified conformity with international standards is imperative to ensure that fans will be able not only to hear but also to understand safety announcements in case of emergency. This is anything but an easy assignment, yet nothing short of Champions League excellence will suffice. Our Tech Support team in Straubing, drawing on its many years of experience in the field of stadium sound, has developed solutions designed to meet such challenges and honed them to the needs of this year’s tournament in South Africa with the assistance of our friends at Prosound.”

All nine of the stadiums installed by Prosound were also equipped with Crest power amplifiers and Peavey MediaMatrix for audio distribution and control. In total, 480 Crest CKi amplifiers were deployed across the nine venues, while 24 MediaMatrix NION processors comprised 13 NION n3 and 11 NION n6 devices.

Along with the Olympic Games, the World Cup is “arguably the biggest international sporting carnival in the world and, like the Olympics, only comes around once every four years”, Peavey’s James Kennedy told PSNE. “To be as heavily involved as we were in supplying and supporting Prosound with the audio and control management from Crest Audio and MediaMatrix is something we are very proud of here at Peavey. Let’s face it, nine out of 10 stadiums ain’t bad!”

A contingent from PSNE and sister title Installation Europe was fortunate enough to visit the installations at three of the stadiums – Soccer City (Soweto), Loftus Verfeld (Pretoria) and Cape Town Stadium – in advance of the tournament. For Dave Robinson’s reflections on the trip, see the June issue of PSNE.

Pro-audio’s contribution to the World Cup and surrounding events was not restricted to the host stadiums or broadcast infrastructure, however. For example, a studio used to produce opening ceremony music for the World Cup was recently equipped with a full surround ADAM Audio system comprising P33as, A7s and Sub 8s. The facility in question – Mastermax Studios – is located in Midrand in the province of Gauteng.

The opening concert at Orlando Stadium, meanwhile, saw a collaboration between audio rental companies Britannia Row (UK) and Gearhouse (South Africa) to provide a massive audio spec that featured no fewer than eight Avid consoles: a D-Show and two Profiles at FOH, two Profiles at monitors, and a D-Show, Profile and SC48 for broadcast. In addition, four Pro Tools rigs were employed for recording and virtual soundcheck. (For more on this event, see the international touring article in the forthcoming 2010 edition of PSNLive.)

There were also copious celebratory events during the month of the tournament. United We Shall Stand for Bafana Bafana was one such occasion, and provided an opportunity for DJ and producer Gavin ‘Vin’ Deysel to use his newly purchased Allen & Heath Xone:DX. The first Xone:DX in South Africa was praised enthusiastically by Deysel, who said that he had used “a variety of controllers and can honestly say that the DX is by far the most superior when it comes to versatility”.

A number of FIFA Fan Fest outdoor fan parks were also created to help satisfy the requirements of football-lovers unable to get tickets for the big matches. On the 11 June opening day, Coda Audio’s Airline12 system was utilised by event specialist Sound Stylists for the InnesFree Fan Park in Sandton, Johannesburg. The system – which delivered “with clarity” above an audience of some 40,000 – comprised just a dozen Airline 12s and four Airline LA8 downfill cabinets per side, plus six SC8 subwoofers per side. The system was powered by Camco’s new V8 amplifiers and controlled at FOH by a DiGiCo D5 console. This combination was left in place for the whole tournament. “It really sizzles!” was one comment made by the production team.

The Sound Corporation provided audio at four sites, at which it deployed Lab.gruppen FP+ and fP Series power amplifiers supplied by South Africa-based Surgesound. Racks of FP 10000Q (4 x 2500W) devices powered EAW KF760/761 and KF730 line array systems, while a combination of fP 6400 and fP 2600 units were deployed in conjunction with EAW SM12 monitors.

Mark de Klerk, owner of The Sound Corporation, commented: “We’ve invested heavily in Lab.gruppen amplification technology, and with good reason… They are in my opinion second to none, giving us absolute peace of mind when it comes to reliability as well as delivering a natural sound quality”

Demonstrating the capabilities of current console, loudspeaker, amplifier and networking systems, South Africa 2010 proved to be an important global showcase for pro audio. The sector will doubtless be hoping for a similarly rewarding period when the next World Cup kicks off, in Brazil, during June 2014.