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Installation Profile: Sound Harbor

Electrosonic designs and integrates AV and control systems for Maryland’s National Harbor. 10/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Installation Profile: Sound Harbor

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Story by Trevor Boyer
Photos by Eddie Arrossi

Electrosonic designs and integrates AV and control systems for Maryland’s National Harbor.




The National Harbor in Maryland combines an outdoor marina with an upscale dining and shopping center. To make this outdoor venue a unique and enjoyable space, developer The Peterson Companies turned to Electrosonic to design, integrate, and install the AV and control systems for the areas that needed music and PA technology.

The National Harbor in Maryland combines an outdoor marina with an upscale dining and shopping center. To make this outdoor venue a unique and enjoyable space, developer The Peterson Companies turned to Electrosonic to design, integrate, and install the AV and control systems for the areas that needed music and PA technology.

The National Harbor in Maryland, a 300-acre residential and commercial development on the Potomac River, sits about 10 miles south of Washington, D.C., just below the Capital Beltway. The brand-new community in Prince George's County is still in the process of springing from the waterfront, but the developer, The Peterson Companies, was, at press time, just wrapping phase one of the project. The development's multibillion-dollar price tag is said to be possibly the largest for any development in Maryland history. The National Harbor occupies a 1.5-mile stretch of waterfront so close to the nation's capital that, uniquely, still had not been completely developed.

The National Harbor's outdoor mall has 15 shops, with five more set to open soon. Phase one includes nine restaurants that are already open, with another eight to come. Three initial residential buildings house 450 condos. Once completed, the development's 300 acres will hold a grand total of 7.3 million square feet of hotels, convention space, restaurants, office space, retail stores, and condominiums, plus four piers that include two marinas.

As an upscale dining and shopping area with boat access and harbor views, the National Harbor is designed as an entertainment destination. To keep its visitors enjoying themselves and spending money, the harbor hosts weekly markets, clam bakes, the Freedom schooner Amistad, Oktoberfest, and various other special events. There's also a Friday-night concert series; movies at the harbor plaza that doubles as an outdoor concert venue; and music that is piped-in along its piers, promenade blocks, its plaza, and American Way — a pedestrian-friendly main street modeled after la Ramblas in Madrid, Spain.

With such an ambitious entertainment plan in mind, The Peterson Companiesturned to integration giant Electrosonic last year to design, integrate, and install audiovisual and control systems for those public areas that needed music and public address. A design consultant based in Electrosonic's Burbank, Calif., office, Yiannis Cabolis, served as the system designer for the project. In November 2007, he sent an equipment list, a facility impact drawing, and a worksheet that detailed signal flow to the company's integration group that's based in Orlando, Fla. The group also needed to integrate and install a lighting system that was designed by Brian Gale of NYXdesign in Altadena, Calif.

LOUDSPEAKERS

Key to the entire audiovisual system are 121 prototype loudspeakers from Renkus-Heinz. The SG61-2R self-powered units are weatherized versions of the standard indoor-only Renkus-Heinz SG61. First of all, their integrated powered amplifiers are modified so that they can withstand the hot Maryland summers. Second, a weatherproof bubble encloses the back of the amplifier module on the loudspeaker. This keeps the rain out, but it still allows air to flow in and out of the unit.

“They've just got a nice, full sound to them for a small speaker,” says Gary Barnes, project manager for Electrosonic. “They're maybe 2ft. tall and 1ft. wide.”

Though the special SG61-2R units cost more than non-powered loudspeakers would have, Cabolis maintains that the choice of these powered, weatherproof loudspeakers ultimately saved the project about $25,000. According to him, this figure accounts for the costs of extra conduit and for the rack space and ventilation systems that power amplifiers would have required.

These SG61-2R loudspeakers are mounted on poles that are spaced at regular intervals along the commercial pier, the marina pier, the north walk, the south walk, and American Way. The outdoor concert area for the National Harbor, the harbor plaza, is outfitted with more Renkus-Heinz loudspeakers. The centerpiece of this portion of the system is a pair of line arrays that each are composed of six Renkus-Heinz PN102LA-R-WR loudspeakers. These are coupled with dual BP15-2R subwoofers, positioned at either side of the performance stage and mounted on RHANG102LA fly-rigging hardware. Four vaults with custom hydraulic lifts put these two line arrays and two light ladders in place. The line-array system is designed for a small band, with the assumption that a larger touring act would bring in its own equipment.


Installation Profile: Sound Harbor

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Story by Trevor Boyer
Photos by Eddie Arrossi

Electrosonic designs and integrates AV and control systems for Maryland’s National Harbor.




Installed at the harbor plaza, which serves as the concert area, is a pair of line arrays composed of Renkus-Heinz PN102LA-R-WR loudspeakers. These are coupled with dual BP15-2R subwoofers.

Unfortunately, after being installed and up and running, the line arrays were soaked in a downpour during construction. At press time, Renkus-Heinz was upgrading the weather resistency of the line-array loudspeakers as well as improving the protective amplifier enclosures on the back of the loudspeakers.

The National Harbor is using all other aspects of the audio system that Electrosonic has installed, including a portable system for events such as weekly concerts at the harbor plaza. “At the level of concerts that they're doing right now,” Barnes says, “that's working just fine.”

The portable system is a self-contained PA system with a Yamaha front end in the form of an 01V96V2-CA digital portable mixer. There are also two Renkus-Heinz PN151/9-R-WR “loudspeakers on a stick.” This system is racked in a waterproof rollaround enclosure made of high-density plastic. “You can take this rig and go direct to the network, and send a signal out of the portable unit to wherever you want to send it,” Barnes says. “Or it can be its own little standalone unit, so you can come out of it and go analog.”

NETWORKED AUDIO AND CONTROL

The primary reason that Electrosonic chose powered loudspeakers for the National Harbor is that there is not enough equipment-room space to house racks of power amps. Equipment is housed in Kiosk C at the harbor plaza, which is essentially the FOH mixing booth for the concert space, and in a single main equipment room. There was not even enough room for patch bays, so Cabolis needed to specify electronics that could perform functions such as analog-to-digital conversion and converting standard audio to CobraNet. This meant relying on either internal switching within equipment, or sending CobraNet signals to the equipment and doing switching on the channels of DSP processors before these signals are retransmitted over the network.


Installation Profile: Sound Harbor

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Story by Trevor Boyer
Photos by Eddie Arrossi

Electrosonic designs and integrates AV and control systems for Maryland’s National Harbor.




The primary reason that Electrosonic chose powered loudspeakers for the National Harbor is that there is not enough equipment-room space to house racks of power amps. Equipment is housed in Kiosk C at the harbor plaza, which is essentially the front-of-house mixing booth for the concert space, and in a single main equipment room.

The primary reason that Electrosonic chose powered loudspeakers for the National Harbor is that there is not enough equipment-room space to house racks of power amps. Equipment is housed in Kiosk C at the harbor plaza, which is essentially the front-of-house mixing booth for the concert space, and in a single main equipment room.

The National Harbor's entire audio system is networked via a standard fiber-based 10/100 IP network that can run 128 discrete CobraNet channels; it is managed by various VLANs. DMX lighting control commands are also sent over this network, which was a challenge for Electrosonic to integrate. DMX starts at the equipment room as IP data and becomes analog at the Pathway Connectivity Pathport D converters found in 13 relay stations that resemble trash cans. It then travels over copper lines to the actual lights. At the same relay stations, the fiber-based audio signals stay digital, but a Weidmüller 8845780000 unit switches them from fiber to Cat-5.

“This is the first project that I've worked on where we were sending both audio [as CobraNet] and DMX via the same network,” Barnes says.

The National Harbor is using Renkus-Heinz's latest version of Rhaon technology for both processing signals and reporting status on any problems that might arise. Electrosonic used Rhaon as it integrated and installed the system to do final testing, tuning, and configuration of the system, and to make both tonal and gain adjustments. When Electrosonic initialized the system, the Rhaon software sent out a signal to find each Renkus-Heinz loudspeaker, to which it assigned a unique IP address that was then saved. That allowed the commissioning engineer to patch and group the loudspeakers.

“You can route any signal you want to any speaker you want any time you want, if you're proficient with it,” Barnes says. “I watched one of the commissioning engineers, Tony Peugh, just make it work like a champ by splitting the Rhaon up in certain bundles and getting his CobraNet bundles set up properly.” With this setup, operators who understand the Rhaon software can adjust each loudspeaker individually. “The operations of National Harbor can check what is going bad down to the driver level,” Cabolis says.

Electrosonic also used Rhaon to design a blunter control apparatus for day-to-day staff; the team programmed a unity gain setting to make it easy to adjust the volume of background music universally, or 40 or 60 loudspeakers at a time.

“When a show has specific requirements other than that, a production can go in and have show control and tell the head-end DSP processor — the [Peavey Nion] N6 MediaMatrix — to address each speaker individually,” Cabolis says. The N6 also puts a limiter and parametric EQ on the harbor plaza loudspeakers.

The system also relies on five Nion N3s that serve the background music system. Each of these DSP units provides 32 inputs and outputs — in this case, CobraNet channels that are grouped to serve geographic regions of the harbor area. “That also builds some redundancy in the system,” Cabolis says. “Something being down, the whole system is not down; it's only a specific area.”

Day-to-day loudspeaker adjustments, such as the power-up sequence at the beginning of each day and reboots that allow the equipment's firmware to be updated, are scheduled via a Medialon Show Control Machine III. There's also an AMX touchscreen control system, based around an NI-4100 NetLinx integrated controller and an NXD-1200V 12in. touchscreen. This is used mainly within the confines of the equipment room while staffers are servicing gear. They can use the touchscreen interface, for instance, to access override modes for the equipment they are fixing.


Installation Profile: Sound Harbor

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Story by Trevor Boyer
Photos by Eddie Arrossi

Electrosonic designs and integrates AV and control systems for Maryland’s National Harbor.




Electrosonic integrated two different lighting systems at 
National Harbor: stage lighting and area lighting. Area lighting is controlled by a sophisticated DMX system. For stage lighting, Electrosonic integrated 20 Altman Lighting Wet Location PAR cans and 16 Wybron Mariner color changers.

Electrosonic integrated two different lighting systems at National Harbor: stage lighting and area lighting. Area lighting is controlled by a sophisticated DMX system. For stage lighting, Electrosonic integrated 20 Altman Lighting Wet Location PAR cans and 16 Wybron Mariner color changers.

Cabolis says that the biggest advantage to designing a system that distributes the audio over an IP network is that it is relatively easy to preprogram the whole thing in the shop of an integration firm.

“You can set your switches on top of a table and then, just by standard Cat-5 network extensions, connect every speaker if you wanted, or just do a bank at a time,” he says. “You can do basically the most painful part that comes from the commissioning of systems like that — walking around, things not being connected, things not working, amplifiers being off.”

The labor savings that potentially results from this preprogramming could allow integration firms to lower their quotes on projects, Cabolis says.

VIDEO AND LIGHTING

As mentioned, Electrosonic integrated a sophisticated DMX lighting system at the National Harbor. To serve movie showings and other events that require video, Electrosonic also designed and integrated a video system for the harbor plaza. A Christie Roadie HD+30K 3DLP projector uses its 30,000 lumens of brightness to throw a 2K-resolution image at a 40ft. sail-like projection screen that's rigged at the back of the stage. The Medialon show control unit also handles scheduling for the video system.

This projection system displays content sent from two Adtec Digital edje 4111 HD MPEG-2 players with 80GB hard drives. In this case, the design group chose the edjes over Electrosonic's own 9500 player.

“The design group is really good about that,” Barnes says. “They go with the gear that they think is going to be the best for the given project.”

There are two different lighting systems at National Harbor: stage lighting and area lighting. For area lighting, Electrosonic handled everything related to DMX control.

“The electrical contractors got us the right cable to our DMX path ports,” Barnes says, “and we did all the terminations.” Originating as network data when they're sent by an MA Lighting GrandMA console, these DMX signals are converted to analog by Pathway Connectivity Pathport D converters.

For stage lighting, Electrosonic integrated 20 Altman Lighting Wet Location PAR cans and 16 Wybron Mariner CXI IT color changers. An ETC Sensor SR48AFN dimming system will control these lights.

Straddling the border between lighting and video is a piece of gear called a Green Hippo Hippotizer. This video server/player allows layers of video and graphics to be manipulated in realtime for VJ-style control. The output of the Hippotizer, which also has a hard drive for clip storage and for preview monitoring, can be standard video that's sent to the Christie projector.

Or the Hippotizer can convert the video in order to output it via ArtNet, a version of DMX. “You can send that data to LED displays and then address lights to perform as pixels,” Cabolis says. He adds that along American Way, Christmas-style LED lights hang in trees.

“The way they're spaced out in these large trees, from a distance you can make the images dance — say, you can make waves crash, so a blue color in the top turns to white and then you can make those waves move up and down,” Cabolis says. Instead of programming the lights painstakingly via DMX, lighting designers can load video clips onto the Hippotizer and let it convert the footage.

At press time, Electrosonic was still working on certain aspects of the project. As noted, Renkus-Heinz is still in the process of upgrading the line-array components.

“The schedule was delayed a bit due to construction delays,” Barnes says. “There are still some punch-list items that we have to complete.”

At press time, Electrosonic had not yet commissioned, for instance, the ETC dimmer rack system. The LEDs are still being hung in trees along American Way. Despite these minor gaps, National Harbor — the development that sprang from the banks of the Potomac largely in one lurch — now has a functioning, flexible networked audio, video, and lighting system.


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