Install of the Month

As the world settles comfortably into the new millennium, China has begun to live up to its promise as a vast new frontier of economic and technological
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As the world settles comfortably into the new millennium, China has begun to live up to its promise as a vast new frontier of economic and technological

Install of the Month

Apr 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Daniel Keller

As the world settles comfortably into the new millennium, China has begun to live up to its promise as a vast new frontier of economic and technological development. With the gradual opening of the region to Western culture and capitalism, untold resources are being poured into updating the country's immense and ancient infrastructure. The result is a landscape that is a study in contrasts, with cellular towers popping up alongside centuries-old landmarks and rickshaws parked outside Internet cafés.

Wuhan, a city of nearly 10 million inhabitants, is China's seventh-largest city and its largest inland port. The capital of the Hubei province is now also home to the country's third-largest sports arena, the Wuhan Stadium.

Construction of the 60,000-seat stadium began in 1999 and was completed in August 2002. The venue is one of a number of large-scale arenas that has been specified by the Chinese government in preparation for the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Although Wuhan is some 600 miles from the capital, the stadium is likely to play host to at least some of the Olympics' events. The structure's ultramodern design is visually awe inspiring and incorporates state-of-the-art audio, video, and communications, including high-speed Internet access for press and visiting dignitaries.

Melody Developments, one of the country's largest A/V contractors, has overseen the design and installation of several prominent government projects, including the Chinese Government Water Works and the HeNan Museum as well as venues including the Wuhan (and a 50,000-occupancy stadium in HeNan). The company began in 1993 as both a major installer and a regional distributor to smaller contractors. It has grown to become one of China's biggest dealers for a number of Western pro-audio lines and has placed its stamp on some of the country's largest installations.

“We began the planning of the system early on, before the stadium itself had begun construction. However, we made some major design changes as new technologies became available,” says Zenglai Wei, senior engineer at the Research Institute of TV and Electro-Acoustics, the government body that works with Melody on stadium and other national projects. “The clients had some special needs for this stadium, and we were pleased to have the opportunity to revisit the overall design during the course of the construction.”

One of the more interesting challenges was the request for two discrete yet networked control centers. Because the stadium and its boardrooms would sometimes be used for multiple events simultaneously, there was a need for both main and subcontrol rooms. The system design had to incorporate the ability to access the entire network from either room while also being able to run one or both systems independently.

“Originally, our plans were for a more traditional analog-based system, with a number of multicore cables run between the rooms,” says Wei. “Midway through the stadium's construction, Melody's engineers demonstrated the Audia system from Biamp, which had just been introduced. We immediately recognized that Audia could provide a complete solution to a number of the issues we faced and redesigned our plans to incorporate it as a major component in the system.”

Both control rooms employ DDA CS-8 consoles sourcing several racks of Vega wireless systems, as well as various CD and other media playback. In the main room, the 24-channel mixer's outputs connect directly to three Audias, two 8-by-8s and one 4-by-12, which provide a total of 20 inputs and 28 outputs. The console in the smaller room sends its eight outputs to a single 8-by-8 Audia. Both rooms are networked using the Audia, allowing audio connectivity (through CobraNet) and computer control (through Ethernet) from either location.

The Audias output to Electro-Voice CPS2 power amps, which drive a mix of Kling and Freitag 212-6 horn-loaded full-range loudspeakers and model SWi 118 subwoofers, as well as Electro-Voice MH4020ACs and the smaller MH640 and MH940 coax horn systems. Seating at the stadium's “end-zone” seats are covered by Electro-Voice's EVI-15 two-way 15-inch Vari-Intense loudspeakers. All DSP and speaker processing are done through the Audias.

“We're using the Audias as crossovers and have set up a number of different delay zones in the software, as well,” says Wei. “The Audias also provide all the compression, limiting, and equalization.”

Wei was particularly pleased with the Audia's CobraNet feature. “Instead of running many pairs of shielded cable, we were able to save a lot of money and effort by simply connecting both rooms with a single Cat-5 cable, carrying both Ethernet control and CobraNet audio information,” Wei says. “In fact, the savings was substantial. Installing four Audias allowed us to take the place of several racks of signal processing, as well. This technology became available at just the right time for this project.”

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