BIG LEAGUE BLAST
Nov 1, 2001 12:00 PM,
By Gregory A. DeTogne
IF YOU’RE a Milwaukee Brewers fan who frequents Miller Park, you know that the sporting venue is a place of diversion so entertaining and downright fun that even bad moments can feel good. Down by one in the bottom of the ninth when your team’s big hitter fans with a full count, two outs and the bases loaded? Hey, smile and have another bratwurst! Resigned to the ignominy of a shutout at the hands of that loathsome gang of pinstriped, American League thugs from Chicago? No way! Make that two brats — with mustard and sauerkraut — and a cold brew. Then sit back and take part in a sublime evening ritual as the $50 million retractable roof closes against a star-studded Wisconsin sky, with the high-and-fine sounds of “Also Spracht Zarathustra” coming from a sound system that keeps feet tapping and bodies swaying throughout the season — win, lose or draw…
LET’S PLAY SOME BASEBALL
Opened to the public this year on April 6, Miller Park was 53 months in the making, including repair time for a July 14, 1999, crane accident that caused $100 million in damages and took the lives of three ironworkers. Known as “Big Blue,” the crane collapsed while attempting to lift a 450-ton piece of the park’s roof into place. Once the dust settled, the pieces were picked up and final respects were paid to those lost. Then, construction of the domed enclosure continued and ultimately produced the 12,139-ton marvel of engineering in use today. Featured are seven panels (five moveable) with an opening or closing time of approximately 10 minutes. Rising 240 feet above second base, if you measure to the outside of its exterior shell, the roof allows the stadium bowl to be heated up to 30° above the outside temperature on cold days, when it’s closed.
With seating for 43,000 spectators (including 3500 club seats and space available in 70 luxury suites), Miller Park is rich with architecture inspired by art deco building designs of the 1930s. Outsized, geometric brickwork and wide-spanning steel trusses highlight the exterior elevations, while the bold use of murals inside pays tribute to Wisconsin’s baseball heroes, as well as major state industries such as agriculture, manufacturing and brewing.
Against this visual backdrop, the house audio system raises its head within the infrastructure thanks to a sonic blueprint penned by Dallas-based Pelton Marsh Kinsella. Having undergone a series of evolutionary changes prior to its actual implementation, the system was first envisioned by PMK design legend Topper Sowden as one that would follow a distributed plan using custom clusters of wooden, horn-loaded loudspeaker enclosures. By the post-bid, pre-contract stage of the project, however, it was obvious that the job was going to be well over budget and short on time. Out of necessity, an alternative plan began to emerge.
A NEW GAME PLAN
“Topper’s custom boxes would have been marvelous but costly,” recalls vice president of engineering Fred Curdts of Signal Perfection Ltd., based in Columbia, Maryland, the contracting firm awarded the Miller Park installation contract. “Most of the expense would have been incurred in the millwork and fiberglass components each would require. Incorporating these loudspeakers into the actual build would have meant designing them from scratch, actually building each one, and then tuning them. With the budget and clock both working against us, it was vital that we come up with an off-the-shelf alternative.”
At this point in time, after the blueprint had been further refined by designer Joseph Thomas, the torch of audio design duties was passed to PMK’s Dave Stearns. “Working jointly with SPL and Miller Park management, we arrived at a promising solution,” Stearns says, taking up the story where Curdts left off. “While exploring different product options, we hit upon one that provided us with cost- and time-saving benefits, and readily available service and parts should we ever need them. The fact that the products were weather-resistant was a nice plus, too, as we could actually set them up in the park and listen to the results before we made the decision to buy.”
The loudspeakers of which Stearns speaks are model 312 units from Community’s WET Series. Combining ready-to-ship availability with a made-to-order power of choice, usually reserved for custom undertakings, the WET Series is based around four enclosure sizes, each of which can be equipped as a full-range two or three-way device or a low-frequency/subwoofer system in a number of coverage patterns and colors.
Once approved for use at Miller Park, a total of 275 passive WET 312 enclosures made their way onto the equipment manifest, with horizontal coverage capabilities of 60° and 110°. Distributed upon supporting structures of the stadium’s field, loge, club and terrace levels (and in a few places on poles), each fiberglass loudspeaker is outfitted with compression drivers and low frequency elements using carbon fiber, polyimide and other weather-resistant materials. Stainless fasteners complement the enclosures, as do 3-layer WeatherStop protective grilles.
“Everyone was pleased with the choice,” SPL’s Curdts says of the decision to get WET. “The loudspeakers are extremely clear and articulate — exactly the attributes we were looking for since the primary use of this system is for public address. At the same time, they are very musical, which is an added benefit. Even with the large number of speakers we used to guarantee even coverage and that no one was more than about 50 feet from a sound source, the decision wound up saving the client hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention labor and time.”
TEAMWORK IN THE INFRASTRUCTURE
Moving back through the system from the loudspeakers, conventional copper travels to amplifier locations found high above left and right fields, as well as in the control room, where a Crest Century X-8 HS console stands at the ready for house mixing chores.
Another boon to the budget, which arrived with its own share of performance gains, was the selection of amplifiers from QSC Audio’s 2-channel CX line to fill Miller Park’s Middle Atlantic MRK Series equipment racks. With numbers from the army of CX amps brought into the fray tallying forty-four CX702 models, twenty-eight CX1202Vs, a trio of CX302s, and four CX602Vs, respective power ratings for the units just listed are 400 watts (at 8 ohms), 1000 watts/70 volts, 200 watts (at 8 ohms), and 400 watts/70 volts per channel.
Designed expressly for professional applications, each CX amplifier leaves the factory with a raft of contractor-friendly features. These include DC, infrasonic, thermal overload, and short-circuit protection, plus an HD15 data-port connector ideally suited for QSC’s QSControl computer-controlled network audio system or signal-processing accessories. Put to use at Miller Park with thoughts of QSControl in mind, each amp’s data port serves as a frontline connection to nine QSControl CM16a amplifier network monitors.
As a key hardware component of QSControl, each CM16a monitor offers 16 channels of gain control, monitoring and general amplifier management capabilities. Data communications are routed between each rackmounted CM16a in the remote amp locations and a control room-based system PC via an Ethernet network running on fiber.
Audio input winds its way from the control room to the remote amp rack locations. This happens through the fiber path and a CobraNet-capable, 40×56 Peavey MediaMatrix MM-950 mainframe, linked to four Peavey MM-8840 breakout boxes. The CobraNet audio terminates at the rear panels of four RAVE units also supplied by QSC. Each of the rack locations has a RAVE 160s unit with 16 outputs delivering audio, while an 8×8 RAVE 88s is put to work sending and receiving audio to and from the control room. An Ethernet switch manages QSControl data, as well as additional data generated by proprietary software developed by SPL to perform other system checks.
PROCESSING BY PEAVEY
Processing functions for Miller Park including all EQ and delay settings, plus routing, fall within the domain of the MediaMatrix. When the system was tuned, the stadium construction schedule required 18-hour days. “The only window of silence in the park was between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.,” PMK’s Stearns recounts. “The distributed loudspeaker layout is symmetrical down both foul lines, so when we began tuning, we set the delay and EQ for one zone behind home plate. Smaart Live made the process go quickly as we lined up the delays from the upper deck, down each level, to the field. The following day, the MediaMatrix settings were pasted to the remaining zones, and we were ready to start walking, listening and making further refinements.”
Outside of the main bowl system at Miller Park, approximately 481 other loudspeakers were used for under-balcony and concourse distribution, including WET 218T and R.5 66T models, also from Community. Making their initial presence known at the venue in September 2000, SPL was fully mobilized on-site by January of this year, with Dave Schrieder serving as project engineer and Mark Cretella filling the post of project manager. Milwaukee’s own Staff Electric was subcontracted for all labor, including wire pulls and terminations for the sprawling audio system and housewide A/V. Regarding the latter, SPL oversaw the implementation of an in-house MATV broadcast system, which is also tied in to a local cable feed. Managing the task of building the stadium’s cable/broadcast network was given over to SPL as well. Critically hailed as one of the best in major league baseball, Miller Park’s scoreboard looms large beyond the center field wall, and comprises two parts: a 37×48-foot Smartvision color video board and a 32×76-foot monochrome matrix board.
Following some fine-tuning during two exhibition games, the keys to the system were officially turned over to Lewis and his LSI crew. “Normally, we hand the system over to in-house electricians or other operators, who often don’t have the skill sets to run something this sophisticated,” Curdts says. “This time, we were very fortunate to have professionals like LSI in place. They can take this system and really run with it. It couldn’t be in better hands, and that translates into good sound and video — and a great time — for the fans.”
Greg DeTogne is a writer, communications consultant and owner of an editorial public relations firm in Libertyville, Illinois, that specializes in pro audio accounts.
What’s All the Fuss About RAVE?
RAVE is an acronym for Routing Audio Via Ethernet, a digital audio transport system chosen for Miller Park based upon its ability to simplify installation, increase routing flexibility and improve audio performance. With RAVE, audio is transmitted via standard Ethernet hardware and cabling using Peak Audio’s CobraNet technology.
Hundreds of channels of uncompressed 24-bit, 48kHz digital audio can be routed over a single cable within a RAVE network with no bit-rate reduction processing or other compromises to quality. RAVE supports switched network topologies, such as virtual local area networks, as well. Within these VLANs, hundreds of audio channels can peacefully co-exist with asynchronous-PC or control-system traffic.
Compared to traditional wiring methods, RAVE yields both time and cost savings, as well as reduced cabling, termination, conduit, and installation labor. Available in both analog and digital I/O models, it also can be easily interfaced with a wide variety of analog and digital components without using additional converters. And, because it is Ethernet-based, it can be reconfigured or expanded with off-the-shelf network media and hardware.
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