Podcast w/ Bennett Liles: Complete AV Upgrade for Dayton Dragons Home Field, Part 1

A complete stadium control room upgrade
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In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Scott Rohrer about the effort he led in getting the completely new sound and video system set up for the Dayton Dragons in Fifth Third Field, their home stadium. Scott discusses the project starting with tearing out the old control area down to the drywall and installing a RedNet Dante digital audio network, new playback sources and independent operation by the stadium video crew and the broadcast team.

Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

The Dayton Dragons baseball team completely renovated their stadium and its video control room and they went far beyond what most minor league teams could do. Scott Rohrer was the installation team leader and he’s here to tell us how they handled it and what new capabilities this has given the team. That’s coming up now on the SVC Podcast.

Scott it’s very good having you with us on the SVC Podcast and you were the team leader for the installation of all the new sound and video systems for the Dayton Dragons at their home stadium, Fifth Third Field. For a minor league team they seem to be very serious about their TV coverage with all the new stuff they put in there.

Absolutely. First off, thanks for having me. It’s great to talk to you and it’s great to be with you on the podcast.

Well, when we get to doing a sports story on the podcast it’s always fun just because of the nature of sports coverage. It’s all live and anything can happen anytime. So how did this project with the Dragons come up at Fifth Third Field? How did the stadium get its name?

Fifth Third is a local bank here in the Dayton/Cincinnati region and it’s the naming rights partner for Fifth Third Field along with the Dayton Dragons. And just a quick little background on the Dayton Dragons, we had this opportunity to work through this control room renovation with them and they are really a cool franchise to work for. I mean their track record speaks for themselves. They’re one of the most successful minor league baseball teams ever and a local affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. They’re about an hour up I-75 from Great American Ballpark. They’re on the riverfront. And what really has been a sign of their success is the attendance and the overall fan support – unsurpassed fan support here at the stadium. They rank number six in all of the 160 minor league teams – and that includes every level of minor league teams, Triple A all the way down to Single A, which the Dragons are a Single A affiliate. Of the top 10 of those 160 teams, nine of those – with the exception being the Dragons – are all Triple A. You’ve got guys playing with those teams who are a step away from the majors being a big draw. It’s very much a testament to what’s happening here in Dayton that they can sell out for 15 straight seasons and it’s been incredible. They hold the longest sell-out streak in all professional sports and that is now 1,051 consecutive sell outs. And the community support there has been completely just overwhelming. They’ve got a great ownership group that believes in the product. They partner with great sponsors. They really value that partnership, but really it comes down to the great fans that they have in the seats. [Timestamp: 2:47]

Yeah, everything I read about that pointed to their having just a phenomenal attendance at their games. It’s a real party atmosphere. The fans are into it but the team itself is very much into getting the most first rate coverage for the games and you don’t always see that with minor league teams. The Dragons are very serious about their media presence.

Yeah. The Dragons put on a topnotch family-friendly entertainment show 70 nights throughout the summer and they find that the people come not only for the baseball but also the in between entertainment and the experience that they wrap around the baseball game every evening. And really the audio and video capabilities at the ballpark go hand in hand with supporting that show and providing a first class fan experience. The system that they had was the original one to the stadium back in 2000. They found that they were quickly outgrowing that – not only the capabilities, but the quality, the expectations they had for the system were much greater than the system was providing. So they started looking at what other options they had and that’s really when I got involved in the project. [Timestamp: 3:47]

And when you got in there what sort of timeline did you have? There must have been a lot to do. It looks like a complete revamp on everything.

Yeah, absolutely it was. The renovation was planned in-house over the course of three years and that’s quite a long time, but it really gave us a chance to in-depth do a discovery phase and a needs analysis process to really dive into what the system here needs to look like this year, but then also multiple years down the road. You know, when you go into these projects the gut instinct for a lot of people is to upgrade small pieces. They’ll come in and say our camera’s dying, so we need a new camera or we need a new switcher because we want to go HD. We instead started looking at the entire stadium infrastructure, the backbone of the system. How does the camera connect? Where is it located? What’s the cable pathway? And then designed up from there. Our goal was to put in infrastructure that would last for decades no matter what black boxes were connected on each end. This was really – it had to be a long-term investment for the facility and had to be one that was flexible to grow even further than anything we can dream today. So once we were happy with every aspect of that planning process, the drawings we created, the equipment list, we provided that to an independent outside consultant. You may be familiar with WJHW in Dallas. These guys are topnotch and they have a portfolio of projects that is exceptional and would match, I think, about anybody out there. They’re responsible for the Dallas Cowboys new stadium, Heinz Field – which is the home of the Steelers – Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Turner Field in Atlanta, the Royals’ Stadium in Kansas City, and they were great to work with. What really blew us away was when they looked at our project and all of our planning and prep work, they were completely blown away and they said it was something that they’d expect to see in a major league ballpark. So with their help we took the integration portion of the project out to bid and enlisted the help of Alpha Video out of Minneapolis. They also were another big league player on this project.They just wrapped up a project for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They were responsible for the Miami Marlins brand new stadium, the state-of-the-art facility they put in down there, Fenway Park’s HD upgrade, the Minnesota Twins, Tennessee Titans, really topnotch talent that we wanted to enlist for this project. So with all that said, the disassembly and demolition phase began in mid December and we basically gutted the room and took it all the way down to the drywall – and in some areas removed the drywall. That allowed and paved the way for the construction work to begin in February with all new electrical service. We installed LED lighting, HVAC, fire suppression, facility cabling in an infrastructure, drywall, brand new flooring. And then after that, Alpha Video came in and gave us an incredibly fast high quality install and had everything fully installed just in time for rehearsals and Opening Day on April 3. I think I’m going to stop now and take a breath because it almost felt like that when we were going through it. [Timestamp: 6:53]

And you have a control room in the stadium that has two completely separate areas?

Yeah. So the master plan for the room was to subdivide it into two separate production – what we call environments. There’s one area for the in-house production and one for the out-of-house broadcast. Two completely separate crews that share core system components but also have enough equipment on their own to produce independent separate broadcasts. The in-house environment, the first one, controls every aspect of the fan’s experience at the park. This includes the video word production, in-house replays, five massive LED walls that they have around the stadium, PA audio as well as standard music and sound effects playback. The second area is the broadcast area and 25 games throughout the season. It’s also staffed and produces an independent production which is fed to the local CBS affiliate here in the Dayton area; number 62 market so that ends up being just over half a million households. In addition to those two environments and the productions they create, they also stream in every home game, as most minor league teams do, on MILBTV.com. [Timestamp: 8:02]

So the stadium team can be completely immersed in what they’re doing while the broadcast people can concentrate on what they’re showing the viewers at home. And all of this is carried around the stadium and control room with RedNet multi-channel Dante interfaces?

Yeah. When we were planning these separate systems that really had to integrate together, the audio component of everything was especially tricky. There were lots of sources that needed to be mixed and routed to many destinations and between those two production environments. So as we started diagramming in our planning phase with analog infrastructure we realized we had to keep a traditional audio router in there and it got really messy and really ugly very fast so we knew there had to be a better way. This was right about the time that the Audinate Dante technology was taking off. I’m not sure if you’re familiar, but if you’re not familiar with Dante it’s a protocol and a scheme for transporting and routing multichannel audio over a standard IP network. And so when you say multichannel audio, we’re talking a lot of channels and some of our devices here have up to a 64 in and 64 out channel count, so it really gave us a lot more flexibility. And once audio is on that network it can be anywhere in our facility to any device. Any network jack in the entire stadium becomes an output for up to 64 channels of audio and in input for up to 64 channels of audio. So that includes all of the main mixes, our submixes, our groups and auxesor VCA’s, direct outs of any source. Everything that is an input in this stadium can be routed to any output via that Dante network. All of that configuration is done from a really simple and slick application that’s on our engineering computer in the control room. So we found that when we started diagramming that out we solved the routing problem very quickly, but we just needed to get some of the non-Dante sources on-off the network and that’s really where Focusrite stepped up. We took a look at the RedNet products and they offered great solutions that helped us with some of the analog and AES signals – getting those in and out of the network. [Timestamp: 10:09]

And a primary audio source is the mixer and for that you went with the Soundcraft SI Expression 3?

Yeah. The number one criteria for the audio mixer was obviously it has to support the Dante option, but we really needed flexibility and ease of use. Not all of the events at the stadium, at Fifth Third Field, are staffed with an audio engineer. All the games are obviously, and anything that’s of high priority, but a lot of the special events or days at the park they rely on the staff members to be able to play the music and work the audio console. So we had to find a solution that would not only give the flexibility to the audio engineer, but be very easy to use and comfortable for someone who doesn’t have an audio background.And the Soundcraft really fit that.

Gotta be flexible but still user friendly. And how do they do the multi-track recording? How do they use that?

Well this is exactly where the Dante network shines. Every audio source that hits either the broadcast or the in-house mixer can be sent via direct out to the Dante network. Some of our main record decks pull the audio straight from the network and you can assign up to 16 channels of anything at that point – main mixes, crowd submixes, permanently installed crack-of-the-bat mics, PA announcer, wireless mics, audio tracks, sound effects. Even – and this is pretty cool we figured this one out – even a home radio announcer, we could pull in their play-by-play audio. And our creative team loves the flexibility, like when they work on promo videos for the Dragons and as soon as they drag in that multitrack file all of those audio tracks show up, the ISO’s and the main mixes, and they were just floored by that flexibility. [Timestamp: 11:40]

Yeah, I’m sure that makes things a lot easier in post and it gives them lots of different ways they can do things and probably allowed them to come up with some new ideas on how to get it done. What kind of a crew do they have on the actual games? Do they have full-time people on the tech jobs?

The Dragons hire professional freelancers for each of their 70 games. That’s 70 games for the in-house crew. As I mentioned before, there’s 25 TV nights so we ramp up the crewing for that as well. The crew and everything about the production is overseen by a Dragons staff member who is Chelsea Cooper. She’s the Director of Entertainment there. [Timestamp: 12:12]

Alright, well it’s been great hearing about how the Dayton Dragons handle all of their new capability in the stadium and for the broadcasts. Scott Rohrer, the technical team leader on this installation project. In part two we’ll get into the cameras, the intercom and how the routing all works. Thanks for giving us the story on it, Scott.

Absolutely. Thank you and I’ve enjoyed talking with you. Let me know if you’re ever in the area.

Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with Scott Rohrer. Show notes are available on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. In part two Scott will tell us about the intercom, the new cameras and the Utah Scientific routing system. Next time on the SVC Podcast.

In this edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Scott Rohrer about the effort he led in getting the completely new sound and video system set up for the Dayton Dragons in Fifth Third Field, their home stadium. Scott discusses the project starting with tearing out the old control area down to the drywall and installing a RedNet Dante digital audio network, new playback sources and independent operation by the stadium video crew and the broadcast team. - See more at: http://www.svconline.com/complete-av-upgrade-dayton-dragons-home-field-p...

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