On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles continues his conversation with Jim Brawley of James S. Brawley and Associates in Clemson, South Carolina about the 55-million-dollar renovation of Clemson University’s Littlejohn Coliseum. Audio consultant on the project, Brawley discusses the routing system, operator options, sound for the outdoor concourses and speaker installation the facility’s Burton Gallery.
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At Clemson University they spent 55 million dollars to revamp Littlejohn Coliseum and get it ready to operate for decades to come. Along with the main basketball court there were outside decks, clubs, control rooms and practice courts to get sound systems into. Jim Brawley, the audio consultant on the project, is back to wrap up the story so stay right there.
Jim, last week you gave us the story on outfitting the newly remodeled Littlejohn Coliseum with Bose RoomMatch speaker arrays, a big job right there in your own home town. Now the installation was done by a Savannah-based company, Stagefront Presentation Systems and you were the audio consultant on the project.
That’s correct. Mm-hmm.
We talked last week about the Littlejohn Coliseum basketball court and the things you had to do to get that right with Bose RoomMatch arrays. What other areas of the coliseum got new sound installations? There were clubs, galleries, outdoor terraces, practice courts and you had to equip all of those with a unified sound system.
Well, part of the renovation of the Coliseum was to provide upgraded what they call player development areas. Clemson has spent quite a bit of money in player development areas for football and for baseball and the onsite facilities were inadequate for attracting the best basketball players. So part of the renovation was to build a whole new player development area that included a large full-sized basketball court. And this is for men’s and women’s basketball, so part of this is in an area that they now call the Swann Pavilion that has weight training rooms and men’s locker rooms and lounge areas on one end of the court and then women’s locker rooms and lounge areas on the other end of the court. And men’s basketball operations is on the men’s end of the court and the women’s basketball operations is on the women’s end of the court. And all the coaches can look out their windows now onto the practice court. So a big part of basketball practice is that the players can bring in their own iPods or phones and plug their music choice right into interfaces that are in those rooms and play their music over the loudspeakers that are provided for the practice court so that they can have their music. They don’t really use the court for basketball practice. That’s done in the Coliseum itself, on that court. But the practice court is for individual practice and training of players. [Timestamp: 2:54]
And did this include installing sound systems in some outdoor areas?
Part of the bowl system was to distribute bowl system program to the concourses and to outdoor areas that surround the perimeter, so as people walk up they can listen to program material. And that is usually the home radio station that’s broadcast on the perimeter of the building as you walk up. And then there were two new plazas that they built that were part of the main entrance to the big gallery area, which serves as an event space independent of basketball, and also is a gathering area for pregame ticket collection and everything. It’s quite a large room that has independent sound systems for event and program distribution, and it also has two large LED video displays. The loudspeakers in that area, called the Burton Gallery, are Community I series, or I think that’s what they’re called, that provide high fidelity and high-powered program playback for the video if they’re doing video in there. And it also works as a speech amplification system for when they do special podium events or dinners in that space. So two auxiliary spaces are the practice court and this Burton Gallery area, but beyond that and in program distribution into the perimeter concourse and to the outside perimeter of the building, and then two extra plazas that they have. And on the Burton Gallery area and the plazas that enter the Burton Gallery are also utilized at football games. So the Coliseum becomes a big center of activity at football games because it’s adjacent to the football stadium. For basketball and football, those facilities get a lot of use. One of the aspects of the renovation was to upgrade premium areas. Everybody likes to have premium seating, so they have two premium seat areas. One is at the lower bowl seating on the side courts, on either side. And there’s a club that opens up into that that allows premium seat holders to use that club for meal and beverage service and gathering. And that club has a separate entrance, so that club has its own independent sound system and that sound system will tie into the bowl system for game day. But they can use the club even if they’re not having a game day. Then the second premium area is courtside seating. These are seats that people can buy that are right at court level on the side of the court opposite the team. There’s another small club down at court level for court level club members. All of these systems are tied together using QSC Q-SYS DSP and audio network distribution. There’s a Q-SYS in the bowl, there’s a Q-SYS in the perimeter area equipment rack, and they talk to each other over fiber cable, and program distribution can be routed from one to the other. All of the clubs and practice courts and gallery areas have QSC touch screens in there that are programmed for use of those systems either independently or connect to the head end system however they want to do the end users down there. All those other auxiliary systems, to me, is the complicated part of being sure that you get what the owner needs and wants and can get the playback that they want. So these clubs have independent microphone inputs and some wireless microphone inputs and playback inputs from personal devices, and program selection from game day use or radio or any special other thing that goes on. The bowl is used not only for games but also special events and graduations – both high school and Clemson graduations. And the practice court is also used as a pre-area for graduations. And the court and practice court are used extensively in the summer for basketball camps. [Timestamp: 6:51]
And so that explains why you had to put in mic systems for different events.
Where exactly is the control point in the coliseum? Do they have a booth up above someplace where they can see everything?
There’s a control booth for games that’s up on an upper level above the top seating bowl you can walk right on from bowl seating. That’s a platform up there. The sound system operator and scoreboard operators are at that level. Game day operations for a game are done at court level so there’s intercom communication from court level. The game director is at court level and he calls to production people what needs to happen next because they have a host running with a wireless microphone. They have time-out events, halftime events, sound effects. It’s a pretty extensive audio production requirement that ties in with the Daktronics scoreboard display. So all of that control for game day is at that platform. All of the other spaces have local control with touch screens so there is no master control for that. [Timestamp: 7:57]
I was going to say that it must have been a tall order to take a system that complex and make it easy to operate.
Yeah, that’s one advantage that I think Q-SYS and maybe other systems have, but the Q-SYS gives you programmable touch screens that talk directly to the audio system. So you can put the controls on there that you need and you don’t put the ones that you don’t want to have on there. So for a touch screen all they have to do is enter the password. That gives them access to mute and level controls for the various inputs that are available. And can also route the output of program in that to other areas if needed. [Timestamp: 8:33]
Did you use any other types of speakers in the outdoor areas?
In the outdoor perimeter of the Coliseum we repurposed existing EAW speakers that were put in probably 20 years ago when they did the roof renovation. The Coliseum was built in ’68 or so and it was being built when I was going to Clemson University, and here I am 40 years later working on it. It’s pretty awesome. [Timestamp: 8:58]
Yeah. Really! I’m sure there are a lot of memories in that place and the opportunity to come in there and actually make some history yourself has got to be a great feeling.
Yeah. In the outdoor plazas adjacent to the Burton Gallery use the one system IM112 speakers for that. And all of the other distributed system ceiling speakers and surface mount speakers in the perimeter concourse and in the club areas and in the gallery areas, those were all Community D Series or C Series small format speakers and their I Series large format speakers for the gallery. [Timestamp: 9:33]
And the amps you use in there?
All the amplifiers for the perimeter areas are QSC Q-SYS amplifiers. And the Q-SYS provides control of the whole system. We also have a Bose Control Space system that interfaces the Q-SYS system into the Bose amplifier system for the bowl. [Timestamp: 9:52]
Sometimes that’s a little chancy trying to get all those different makes of gear working together.
We were fortunate enough that the Bose guy had developed Bose amplifier modules that could be monitored and QSYS so they are just in the QSYS software. So one Q-SYS software allows you to monitor both the QSC and the Bose amplifiers. [Timestamp: 10:13]
Big advantage not having to bend anything around and try to make it work some other way than it was supposed to, but you have the manufacturers working together.
Yeah. The control booth in the bowl has a resident Q-SYS computer there that it gives that operator access to any control in any room in the building. So if he’s got to mute the sound in the practice court he can go to that computer and mute it in the practice court. Not that they need to do that, but there have been times where the main game day operator needs to take control at one of these other venues and he can just pull up a duplicate of the control panels in that room and make adjustments on it himself. [Timestamp: 10:50]
Very handy and very well thought out. That was a lot of stuff to test and make sure it was all working right. Clemson keeps calling you back for more work so what has James S. Brawley and Associates got coming up now?
For Clemson University I’ve got a new facility for tennis that’s under construction now, for indoor tennis, and a new softball stadium that’s coming on in 2020. Clemson is adding softball for the first time, so I’ll have the opportunity to do that stadium. Other products that I have are large worship spaces that have great big rigs in them, and I’m also doing a lot of high school auditoriums these days. [Timestamp: 11:25]
Well I’m glad we got time for this one. You’ve got plenty to keep you busy.
I know this was a big project for Clemson and they showed a lot of confidence in you. We’ve been talking to Jim Brawley of James S. Brawley and Associates and Clemson University’s Littlejohn Coliseum. It’s been great having you with us, Jim.
All righty. Well, thank you, Bennett.
So Clemson University’s Littlejohn Coliseum is ready to host their wide range of events in style. The operators know that when they push the right touch screen button, the right things will always happen thanks to Jim Brawley and his team. Next week on the SVC Podcast we’ll have another AV case story so get back with us then.