Against The Glass

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St. Pete Times Forum used six L-Acoustics' V-DOSC line arrays for its TAMPA BAY, FL-2004 Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, were recently in need of an updated sound system for its home arena. St. Pete Times Forum is home to several types of events, including concerts and arena football, but the PA system left the attendees desiring more clarity and depth. After trying several systems, the forum decided to explore L-Acoustics' V-DOSC system in its search for its new rig.

The Forum contacted Dan Palmer, L-Acoustics U.S. sales manager to design the system. Palmer used Soundvision, an L-Acoustics acoustic prediction program to try out a few system scenarios to see how the rig would react in the forum. In the program, he made a model of the forum and tried various configurations with the loudspeakers to help him identify the best for the job. One of the issues that Palmer had to address was the sight line of the arrays. The arena is surrounded by glass for hockey games, so the line arrays had to just edge over the glass and keep sound off the ice. They also had to take into account the large video display in the center of the arena that would move about 15 feet from its original position when arena football was held. Palmer explained, "We had to come up with trim heights acceptable under both scenarios and still hit the front and back rows and the upper tier."

L-Acoustics went to Audio Visual Innovations (AVI) to install the system because it had been working with AVI for years. Charlie Lawson, AVI's audio director, was in charge of the install, which included more than just new loudspeakers. The forum wanted to add more entertainment value to its events, so L-Acoustics suggested putting microphones closer to the action. Lawson expanded, "They wanted to bring the hockey experience to the crowd, and L-Acoustics suggested putting ice mics through the PA and augment the SFX. So we put PZM mics on the glass." Having mics so close to the line arrays' path could cause problems with feedback however, and L-Acoustics addressed this by aiming the arrays meticulously. Lawson said, "They wanted to control the sound from bleeding into the broadcast mics on the ice and keep feedback from the glass mics. With the line arrays you can aim the PA within a foot's accuracy. So we put mics up at the top of the glass and had the bottom of the PA blow over the top of the glass and were able to feed them into the PA without a lot of feedback."

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AVI's Charlie Lawson in the depths of St. Pete Times Forum with the Lab.gruppen LA48 racks that power the V-DOSC.
Lawson and Palmer had to make sure the arrays could provide adequate coverage to the entire arena while allowing intelligibility. Lawson said, "There's a lot of conventional PAs installed in new arenas, and the challenging thing about putting sound in them is that the sound tends to bounce around and go in a lot of places you don't want it to. It'll swim around the ceiling or bleed over on the ice so you have problem with the referee mics. The conventional PA is more like a shotgun with a large pattern. A line array is like the rifle shot-you can steer it where you want, so we're not hitting the ceiling or the ice, just the seats you want to cover."

Lawson installed six DVDOSC arrays and two arrays of DV subwoofers. Palmer explained his decision on the amount of arrays, "It's all about how the DOSC wave guide works. It emits a cylindrical wave that comes off the front of the array, allowing us to get a very intelligible sound field with only six arrays. It was a unique placement for our product because we were able to cover 20,000 seats with just six arrays."

Lab.gruppen LA48 amps power the system and for processing the forum chose Dolby Lake Contour. With the wireless control tablet Lawson was able to EQ the system from anywhere in the arena. "There was very little EQ done, maybe three filters on the clusters. But that wireless tablet gives the forum's guys real time mixing from any spot in the arena." Lawson also used SmaartLive Pro analyzing software, which allowed him to check out the room and time-align the subs.

Rigging the system was fairly simple for AVI. Since they couldn't use a chain hoist because it was a permanent install, they had to figure out how to dead hang it as precisely as possible. Lawson recalled, "It's not an exact science, rigging steel. So we put an industrial strength turnbuckle on the front side of the bumper and had the steel custom made to the closest length we thought would be used. We got it up, clipped it off, and had a rigger repel from the steel, turning the turnbuckle until the lasers we mounted on the bottom of the array hit where we wanted them to hit."

The crowd response has surpassed all expectations. Lawson said, "Anytime a puck or a check hits that glass the whole arena rumbles. You would have been amazed at the crowd response the minute we turned on those ice mics for the first time and someone got checked onto the glass. The crowd paused for a second and was like, 'Wow, what was that?' And then they really started to get into the game. When you bring them into the game audio-wise, you affect the mood of the crowd."

The system represents a new trend in arena audio systems because of the glass mics. Oddly enough, the TV viewing audience at home gets a better audio feed than the live audience in most arenas. Lawson explained, "I think in the past, the audio really has gone overlooked in most arenas. One thing that L-Acoustics was trying to start with St. Pete Times Forum was to go to some of these venues and make them step back to see the role the PA plays in their events. In most of the venues, the system was bought at cost with no other criteria. As technology has come to the point to where they're able to cost effectively upgrade their PAs, they're starting to realize the audio is just as important as the visual. When other teams and management come into the forum and we show them the system, they're interested because they can see the unlimited possibility that a quality PA can bring."

Audio Visual Innovations... www.aviinc.com
L-Acoustics...www.l-acoustics.com
Lab.gruppen... www.labgruppen.com

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