Audio in the End Zone at Texas Christian University, Part 1

Designing a total sound system upgrade for Amon G. Carter Stadium at Texas Christian University was a big job and Acoustic Dimensions pulled it off successfully. 1/10/2012 9:20 AM Eastern

Audio in the End Zone at Texas Christian University, Part 1

Jan 10, 2012 2:20 PM

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Designing a total sound system upgrade for Amon G. Carter Stadium at Texas Christian University was a big job and Acoustic Dimensions pulled it off successfully. Casey Sherred and Brian Elwell of Acoustic Dimensions are here to tell us how they did the complete sound system upgrade with JBL speakers and Crown amps, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Casey and Brian from Acoustic Dimensions, thanks for being with us on the SVC Podcast and we’re talking about a big installation out in Texas Christian University’s Amon G. Carter Stadium. All JBL line arrays and a lot more of their things involved in this. You also used a lot of Crown amps and we’ll talk about those, but first tell me a little about Acoustic Dimensions.

Elwell: Well this is Brian and Acoustic Dimensions has been around since, I think, 1992. I joined the company in January of ’97. Casey joined the company in…

Sherred: January of 2001

Elwell: …2001, so I’ve been there it’ll be 15 years, and Casey’s been here going on ten years now. So in that time we started off, I think, I was the sixth employee in the Dallas office and now we’ve got over 26 employees here in Dallas and we also have a San Diego office. At the time I joined, there was a New York office and we’ve got an office in the U.K. [Timestamp: 1:55]

And from the looks of this, you’ve got more than enough to keep all of those people busy.

Elwell: Well, that’s the hope. Yes, we’re able to keep these people busy, and I think that we really like the kind of projects that we work on. They’re high profile; they’re exciting, they involve high-level technology, and they’re a lot of fun to work on. [Timestamp: 2:18]

And you can’t get much more high profile than a university football stadium and this one was in for a major overhaul, particularly the sound system. And you guys were called in so at what point did Acoustic Dimensions get into this project?

Elwell: Well, you know, I think I want to say that it actually was not that the sound system that they had previously was bad; it was a fairly recent upgrade. The problem was that they were tearing the entire stadium down and along with that came the demolition of the existing speaker system. So it was an entirely new stadium design, which required the new speakers. And we came on the project, it was just before schematic design was being wrapped up, so in essence, it was fairly early on in the project. [Timestamp: 3:09]

Well, that sure helps.

Elwell: Yes it does. [Timestamp: 3:11]

When you get in on the ground floor and maybe have some influence over some things that you can see coming that might be a problem later and sing out about it at the beginning.

Elwell: Yeah, there were some times where you are able to make some adjustments being there early on. There were some other things that tend to drive the look of the stadium that you can’t change no matter what point that you come into the project. [Timestamp: 3:34]

So you started with the idea of the distributed system and then went with the end zone system.

Elwell: Actually what we did, we came into the stadium with an open mind in terms of what is the best system we could design. And as we evaluated the distributed versus the end zone, we ran into concerns about the distances from where the distributed speakers could be located versus how far they needed to throw, and the ratios were too great. It was going to be too loud underneath the speakers and not loud enough at the far end. So based on that, our original concept was an end-zone system. From there, the university was thinking that they have heard distributed systems; they really liked it; they wanted us to take another hard look to see if there was any way that we could get a distributed system in there. So we then scrapped the end-zone design and started looking at a distributed system, and we still were faced with the same distance problems, but what we ended up doing was we were looking at using line arrays and high cue boxes—things that would throw a lot of energy down to the farthest seats and not be too loud for people underneath, and we felt that we came up with a decent design that would have worked. About that time, TCU got a new athletic director who for the reason that he did not like these big speakers on the precast spaces wanted us to go back and look at the end-zone design, and there are actually some things that helped the end-zone design to make it a little more cost effective and a little better in that the scoreboard was raised in elevation. It got pushed further back. There were just things that started to happen that made it a little more appealing at that time. So really felt that the design, it started off with an end zone went to distributed and then got switched back to an end zone, and that’s what’s in there now. [Timestamp: 5:57]

Well, that can happen quite a bit when you get more people and more influences coming from different directions into the mix. But on a big project like a stadium, depending on what point it comes along, that could really make a substantial difference in the time and cost of the whole thing. But you seemed to have handled it pretty well. From what I’ve seen here, the stadium sound system seems to have gotten good reviews. Now, how far is it from the amps to the speaker arrays on this? What sort of cable runs do you have there?

Sherred: Well, the speakers—the main clusters, main arrays—flank the video scoreboard, and the amp rooms for each of those arrays on the left and right are directly below in the support of the scoreboard structure, so all these runs are less than 100ft. for the main speakers. There’s some delay speakers that get a little further than that—maybe 200ft. run, but were not dealing with really, really long runs on the main speaker system. [Timestamp: 6:54]

Audio in the End Zone at Texas Christian University, Part 1

Jan 10, 2012 2:20 PM

OK, and you have the mixing control point obviously some serious distance from there.
Yes, the audio control room is on the club level in the northwest corner of the stadium, and we’ve got a digital console in there. It’s a Soundcraft Contact Si 24, and we’re going analog out of that into the DSP unit that’s in that production room, and from there we’re linked with Blue link over fiber to the multiple amp rooms. There’s an amp room on the west that handles all the concourse speakers on the west side; the two amplifier rooms in the north end zone, which are powering all the main speakers; and we’ll have an amp room on the east side when that gets finished. That’ll be handling all the processing and amplification for the concourse speakers and the concessions and restrooms on the east side of the stands. [Timestamp: 7:54]

And how do you get the signal from the control room area out to the amps?
Well, out of the control room, we go into DSP into the BSS London Architect, and there we’re going fiber to connect all the DSP units together to distribute them around the campus—around the stadium and then we jump out of the DSP unit and feed into amplifiers that are located in those amp rooms. [Timestamp: 8:20]

Yeah, the fiber was what I was curious about. That seemed like a really long distance to run line-level audio over copper. Now who did the actual installation, the cutting and sawing and hacking and laying cable on it?
That was Electro Acoustics. They actually were involved with TCU for quite some time. They did the previous system design and install. They also had some of their staff who are the sound operators for the stadium and they did have to go through a bidding process, but the university was very pleased that they won and were the selected contractor. [Timestamp: 8:57]

And you already had a JBL system in there before the project got started? Is that what the original system was?
It was a JBL system, but it was a distributed system however. [Timestamp: 9:06]

OK, so I guess they knew what they liked as far as the gear and wanted to stay with JBL on the new system.
Yeah, absolutely. I think they put a lot of trust in us in terms of choosing the right product and making sure it sounded right, but ultimately they’re familiar with the JBL and the Harmony line and they had no issues with that. [Timestamp: 9:25]

And you put a lot of different JBL items in there, a big variety of their speaker models. What all have you got in there and what areas are you covering with them?
The main speakers—the main arrays—are the JBL VLA series. There are a couple of different models that we’re using there. There are essentially three main arrays per side that cover the main seating bowl, and then for fill speakers we have some AM series cabinets that are doing fill in the north end zone. We have some JBL Control series speakers, which are providing all the sound on the concourse at the concession stands. [Timestamp: 10:07]

Yeah, I noticed some of those. Let’s see the Control 321CT ceiling speakers…

…200W. I believe they’re 200W program they can handle, and that’s a whole lot of those you put in there.
Yeah, those are located in the club, which is a 20ft.-high ceiling. So those are throughout the club to provide reinforcement for private events or for the PA to announce what’s going on in the stadium for people to enjoy the club area and sit there and watch the game on the TVs. [Timestamp: 10:38]

And what were you using for the subwoofers out in the stadium?
In the stadium we have the JBL ASB 6128 subwoofers; four per side to provide a extra low frequency support for the main arrays. [Timestamp: 10:51]

And those are, what, two 18in. drivers?
Dual 18s, yes.

Yeah. OK, well it looks like you had enough for a distributed system. I was just looking over the list here. You’ve got the DSP first and the fiber to the amps, which are local at the speaker arrays. Did you have any issues with power to the amps since they’re out there where the speaker arrays are?
We’ve got power distribution in those amp rooms, so all the technical power for the sound system is fed off of one transformer and then it branches out to power panels in each amp room, so we’re not having to run the circuits very long. The feeder cables are a little long there, but at the branch circuit level, we’re able those lines very short. [Timestamp: 11:30]

Well, it’s obviously a big job, and one thing about these stadium systems, once they’re in, it’s exposed to the weather and all kinds of things, so it just has to keep on working because that gear is in places that are hard to get to especially while there’s an event going on. So I really appreciate your taking time out to let us know what you did at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Casey Sherred and Brian Elwell from Acoustic Dimensions and in part 2 we’re gonna be talking some more about the cabling, the amp racks, the time frame on the installation which can really be formidable. But thanks to both of you for being here.

Thanks for joining us for the SVC Podcast with Casey Sherred and Brian Elwell of Acoustic Dimensions. Show notes can be found on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at Join us for Part 2 with Sherred and Elwell as they talk about handling multiple deadlines and tough weather on the job, next time on the SVC Podcast.

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