When Staging's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Staging doesn’t always involve a fixed stage in a fixed location. Good AV is now expected at any venue, and staging companies are increasingly called upon to work their magic in challenging settings that bring to bear all the lessons learned from the more traditional venues.

Two million people lined the streets of New York City on Sunday, November 6, 2005 to cheer and watch the largest amount of runners, 37,597 of them, race through the five boroughs of Manhattan-Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan itself. Runners from all over the world converged on Ft. Wadsworth in Staten Island beginning at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. From the 9:32 a.m. and 10:02 a.m. women and men’s starts, respectively, to the finish line in Central Park, the ACE Communications Rental & Staging Crew was on site to provide audio, video, sound equipment and services for the event. Completing the 26.2-mile course in 2:09:30, Paul Tergat of Kenya finished first for the men in the 36th annual NYC Marathon.

Crossing the finish line in 2:24:41 secured a first-place finish in the women’s category for Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia. Amazing times for these two runners--and planning the AV required as much stamina as crossing the finish line.

ACE began planning with the New York Road Runners club in June of this year. Project manager Mary Cesar and video managers Mil Samardzija and Marc Almodovar thoroughly planned all logistics with the NYRR team for months leading up to the big event. Numerous site surveys for the entire course were conducted to insure that the event would run as smoothly as possible. Since last year’s race the NYRR club doubled the entertainment and increased the video projection by adding a second LED truck at the finish line.

Complex Logistics

The fact that the race takes place in five different areas posed a real challenge. The complex logistics alone make the NYC Marathon a daunting task, but ACE was up to the challenge. Sound systems and video were needed for throughout the race, a main sound stage for the starting line, Columbus Circle and the finish line. The finish line was a formidable location that included two LED trucks, a hydraulic stage, generators, VIP bleachers, announcer platform, award platform, photo bridge and much more. Several site surveys and detailed measuring and planning allowed ACE to pull it off without a hitch.

At the starting line in Fort Wadsworth there was a myriad of events unfolding. ACE provided numerous sound systems around the park as well as the main stage sponsored by Best Buy with musical performances by Blues BBQ and a performance from hit country music artist Billy Currington, which was broadcast live on NBC. ACE Live Sound’s front of house sound system consisted of EV X-arrays powered by QSC power light amp racks and XTA speaker processing. The Crest GTX 40 channel was provided as FOH console and the Crest LM 40 channel was used for monitor mix along with Meyer UM1 wedge monitors. A delay tower was utilized for full coverage on the great lawn.

Speakers were ratchet-strapped to light posts throughout the five color-coded runner corrals in Ft. Wadsworth. These speakers were used to provide multi-lingual playback of instructions to the runners giving them constant instruction on where to go and how to proceed to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge starting line. At the starting line, 26 speakers were rigged two to a pole from posts 1000 feet out up the Verrazano Bridge. In addition, Yorkville TX8 three-way tops and TX9 dual subs were stacked strategically throughout the toll plaza to supply sound to the runners in that area. Lead audio engineer Gilberto Cruz performed a stellar job of sound design and engineering. It’s not every day that an engineer has the opportunity of miking a Howitzer cannon. The burst of the cannon and Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “New York, New York” bellowing from ACE’s sound system set the runners in motion up the bridge and on to the course.

Throughout the course there were eight street concerts to entertain spectators and runners alike; three stages in Brooklyn, one in Queens, one in the Bronx and three in Manhattan. ACE provided Stageline SL-100 stages for the bands at Columbus Circle-where the runners entered Central Park. It was here ACE provided a second Stageline SL-100 stage with a Meyer FOH sound system, monitor speakers and lighting as well as a large screen LED truck for the runners to view themselves as they entered the park. Leonardo Ruiz, Yo Flaco, Pamela Betti & The Bluebloods were among the performers at this site.
At Columbus Circle ACE provided a live camera and a satellite feed to tie-in with the NBC feed. A video switcher and video technicians manned this station.

The Big Finish (Line)

At the finish line there was another stage with two large screens LED trucks-one 100 yards out from the finish and the other behind the finish line to provide viewing for both sides of the bleachers crowd. For the first time in the United States a 10 mm (finer resolution), 16:9 ratio large screen LED was used. A complex switching setup w/multiple inputs displayed a combination of the broadcast of the race, on-site cameras, our live camera, commercials for the New York Road Runners and a PowerPoint presentation of logos for the race sponsors. Cues for all these visuals were coordinated by the lead video technician, Michael DeJesus. The 33 x 1 lens on ACE’s camera provided a dramatic image of the last stretch before the finish line.
Sounds and visuals enhanced the drama of thousands of people who pushed themselves to the limit to complete the marathon. As the runners turned into the park from Central Park South they encountered cheering crowds, bands playing on stage and a 12 x 16 image of themselves running. The effect on the runners was electrifying. They picked up their heels, pumped their fists in the air and actually picked up speed to finish the last grueling mile of the Marathon.

After hours of hard work, a true team effort, it was great to know the event was successful to the client. Peter Ciaccia, vice president, Event Development & Production from the New York Road Runners club, said, “It takes a great team to organize the production of the ING New York City Marathon.Having ACE Communications as part of that team gives us a level of confidence that the job will get done right”.