Teamwork Reigns at Galen Center in L.A.

Design and install a multipurpose audio system for a large, multiuse arena, used for everything from college basketball games to jazz concerts, on a compressed timeline.
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Teamwork Reigns at Galen Center in L.A.

Design and install a multipurpose audio system for a large, multiuse arena, used for everything from college basketball games to jazz concerts, on a compressed timeline.

CHALLENGE: Design and install a multipurpose audio system for a large, multiuse arena, used for everything from college basketball games to jazz concerts, on a compressed timeline.

SOLUTION: Make a point of forming solid relationships with larger contractors on the project so help is available when it's needed; work closely with product vendors to design and build an audio system with as much amplification and speaker coverage as the budget allows.

The Galen Center's scoreboard speakers almost meant disaster for the massive project.

Credit: Courtesy HOFFMAN VIDEO SYSTEMS

When they broke ground on Halloween 2004, the contractors charged with building downtown Los Angeles' Galen Center faced a scary timeline. The 255,000-square-foot, 10,258-seat facility, which would become the long-awaited home for the University of Southern California's basketball and volleyball teams, needed to be finished by the time the fall 2006 men's and women's seasons rolled around.

“The timeline was so compressed that towards the end of the project, we were working 24/7 just to meet the deadline,” says Rob Shepherd, president of Hoffman Video Systems, the Glendale, Calif.–based AV integrator brought into the massive project by Morrow-Meadows, the project's master electrical contractor based in City of Industry, Calif.

Hoffman was charged with overseeing the audio integration inside the main arena, as well as the design and installation of AV systems in a number of adjacent meeting rooms and practice facilities. All told it was a $2 million project, replete with an assortment of challenges you might expect when completing a huge task in a short amount of time.

But Hoffman was no stranger to large projects. The company had recently done a $7 million AV integration at a TV broadcast facility in Seoul, South Korea. The experience taught Shepherd and his company to form solid relationships with the other project contractors before time gets too short.

“Typically, when you're working with a billion-dollar construction company, they really don't care about the audiovisual part. They just want the building to open on time,” Shepherd says. “The challenge is to find a way to work with them as a team member and not as an adversary.”

In this case, any other way of working would have meant failure.

CRANE PAINS

At the Galen Center, building the massive speaker cluster that is mounted on the scoreboard above center court provided perhaps the best opportunity for relationship building. The scoreboard was designed to be effaced on all sides by JBL Precision Directivity PD700 series loudspeakers, but Hoffman officials found out near the end of the project that several crucial steel supports needed to mount the speakers had mistakenly been removed.

Making this oversight even more problematic, the huge crane needed to mount these steel supports, as well as the scoreboard speakers, was scheduled to be hauled out of the nearly completed arena. If it stayed inside any longer, it would be sealed in, because it was far too big to fit through any of the completed exit corridors.

Teamwork prevailed. Ultimately, the general contractor, Costa Mesa, Calif.–based Clark Construction Group, “literally took apart the crane apart to get it out of there,” says Michael Pratt, senior sales and design consultant for Hoffman.

Meanwhile, by the time the scoreboard was finally ready for Hoffman engineers to mount speakers to it, the floor below it was scheduled to be varnished—which couldn't be done until the crane at center court was moved. Again, Hoffman engineers were able to collaborate with other contractors on a condensed timeline that allowed them to quickly mount the supports and speakers and still leave enough time for the court to be varnished.

“These problems were the result of an oversight on the part of the structural engineers,” Pratt explains. “But the solution came from a joint effort [among] ourselves, Clark Construction, Morrow-Meadows, and USC. In construction, you're going to run into these problems, and if you can, you want to avoid a lot of finger-pointing.”

It also required Hoffman engineers to work fast. “If we had missed any deadlines, they wouldn't have been able to open on time because the court wouldn't have had time to cure,” Shepherd says.

SUSPENDED SOUND

While walking a scheduling tightrope, the Hoffman crew also had to negotiate a high bar for acoustical performance. As it happened, the late Lou Galen, the alumnus and banker who donated $50 million to build the $147 million venue that bears his name, was a jazz enthusiast. And for his part, USC athletic director Mike Garrett, the Heisman Trophy-winning running back turned administration official and arena champion, envisioned the Galen Center as home to USC's Thornton Symphony, as well as a place for “huge jazz concerts,” as he calls them.

JBL Precision Directivity PD700 loudspeakers hang from the Galen Center's scoreboard.

Credit: Courtesy HOFFMAN VIDEO SYSTEMS

That meant that Hoffman, working closely with Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon and Williams, a Dallas-based acoustical consultant, and its principal equipment partner, Northridge, Calif.–based JBL Professional, had to design and install a robust, full-coverage audio system in short order. Because JBL's headquarters were close by, it had consultants on site for much of the project. “The fact that they were local and could roll up their sleeves and have engineers work in our offices helped a lot,” Shepherd says. “In fact, they had sales engineers working with us in the bid process.”

In addition to the scoreboard cluster, the team suspended 26 JBL AM6215/64P loudspeakers from a catwalk, providing an exploded ring delay. It mounted another 51 JBL Control 28T-60 loudspeakers below the tier level seating area. Later this year, Hoffman will install JBL 26DT ceiling speakers throughout the concession areas.

IN THE ZONE

Getting the system equalized proved to be one of the most labor-intensive endeavors. “With all this concrete and steel in the building, it was very challenging,” says Pratt. “It took us about three months to really equalize that system once everything was in place. We had a huge staff walking around every corner of the arena with sound meters in their hands, communicating back and forth with the operator in the control room to find out where the dead areas in the facility were.”

Considering the loudspeakers, scoreboard speakers, paging speakers, and life and safety speakers, there were about 25 separate zones to contend with. The contractors equalized every location a fan might find himself.

“We probably spent a little more in the way of labor resources than we should have,” says Shepherd. “But we achieved the ultimate goal—the customer was satisfied.”

EQUIPMENT LIST

Hoffman Video Systems installed the following equipment at the Galen Center arena in Los Angeles.

2 AKG SR 4000 wireless receiver
2 AKG HT 400 wireless handheld
2 AKG D880 WL-1 MK2 handheld capsule
2 AKG PT 400 wireless lav
2 AKG C417L lav capsule
2 AKG AB 4000 antenna booster
1 AKG PS 4000 antenna booster
1 Aphex Dominator II 720 limiter
2 Aphex 120A audio DA
2 Aphex 124A stereo consumer to pro amp
2 ATI System PS100 power supply
1 ATI System RM100 card frame
5 ATI System MIDA100-1 DA module
2 Atlas/Soundlier GN-13 gooseneck
2 Atlas/Soundlier DS-14 small mic stand
12 Atlas/Soundlier MS-12CE small stand for base
10 Atlas/Soundlier PB-15E fixed boom
4 Atlas/Soundlier TE-E tripod stand
4 Atlas/Soundlier MS-20E big stand for base
6 Atlas/Soundlier PB-21XE extendable boom
4 Atlas/Soundlier DMS-7E low stand
6 Audix OM-6 cardiod microphone
7 Bittree B52DC-FNLIT/E3 M patch bays
4 Bittree B96DC-HNLBT/E3 S intercom patch panels
1 Bittree B52DC-NNNIT/E3 utility patchy bay in ER53-A3
10 Bittree E3M-100 EDAC housing
30 Bittree E3M-100 EPIN-100
1 BSS FCS960 1/3 octave EQ
1 BSS DPR-901 II dynamics EQ
10 Canare EC025F 25-foot black mic cable
10 Canare EC025F 25-foot red intercom cable
10 Canare EC05F 50-foot grey mic cable
10 Canare EC100F 100-foot blue mic cable
1 Contemporary Rese232-MTA TV tuner
1 Contemporary ReseRK-1 rack kit for 232-MTA
3 Crown CTs1200 400-watt amp
7 Crown CTs2000 800-watt amp
13 Crown CTs1200 475-watt amp
16 Crown CTs2000 800-watt amp
13 Crown CTs3000 1,600-watt amp
22 Crown I-tech 6000 2,000-watt amp
49 Crown IQ-PIP-USP3CN amplifier Cobranet and control module
1 Crown D75A control room monitor amp
1 Crown CTs600 foldback amp
2 Crown CM-311A/E announcer headset
1 DBX 1066 comp/limiter
1 Denon TU-1500RDP AM/FM radio
6 EAW SM200i floor monitor speaker
12 EDAC 516-090-000-402 multi-connector 30 channel female
12 EDAC 516-090-000-301 multi-connector 30 channel male
24 EDAC 516-290-590 multi-connector 30 channel housing
6 EDAC 516-120-000-402 multi-connector 40 channel female
6 EDAC 516-120-000-301 multi-connector 40 channel male
12 EDAC 516-2120-590 multi-connector 40 channel housing
2 Electrovoice RE-18 cardiod microphone
1 Electrovoice RE-20 announcer microphone
1 Eracks P4BOX DSP control computer with 17-inch monitor
2 HP ProCurve 2524 24 port managed switch
12 HP Procurve 2324 24 port unmanaged switch
4 HP Procurve J4132A LX transceiver
1 HP 1160 printer
2 JBL 4408A monitor loudspeaker
10 JBL PD743WJHW type MH1 loudspeaker
10 JBL PD764WJHW type MH2 loudspeaker
8 JBL PD5200-64WJHW type MH3 loudspeaker
14 JBL PD7164WJHW type LF loudspeaker
26 JBL AM6215/64P-Black type D1 loudspeaker
6 JBL AM6215/64P-Black scoreboard speakers
51 JBL Control 28T-60 type U loudspeaker
3 Jensen DIN-2LI 10K 1:1 line matching transformer
2 Jensen DIN-2MS-2 4:1 line bridging transformer
1 Jensen DIN-2MS-2 mic bridging transformer
1 Jensen DIN-MRP 3RU DIN rail mounting adapter
1 LF Engineering M-601 C AM BC antenna
1 Listen Tech LT800-216-1-7-3 transmitter
4 Listen Tech LR-400-216-OAC00 receivers
1 Listen Tech LA-326 rack mount kit
1 Listen Tech LA-122 universal antenna
4 Listen Tech LA-161 single ear bud
1 LynTec C3 crowd noise compensation system
1 LynTec RD-1 remote delay
2 LynTec RSM-2 remote microphone
1 LynTec MSP 341-36 modular sequencing panel board
1 LynTec MSP 341-24 modular sequencing panel board
48 LynTec BMB-20 motorized breaker
2 LynTec BUMB-20 non-motorized breaker
1 LynTec CR completion relay for MZ-12 modular sequencer
1 Middle Atlantic RIB-3-WRK-32 riser base for FOH
3 Middle Atlantic D3 3RU drawer
2 Middle Atlantic BRK12 source rack
1 Misc patch cables
1 Misc panel mounts
1 Oxmoor RMX44 routing mixer
1 Peavey IDL-1000 digital delay
6 Peavey Media Matrix N3 DSP
2 Peavey CAB 4n Cobranet breakout box
3 Peavey NIO-8ml nion mic/lione input
16 Peavey NIO-8o nion line output
4 Peavey MM line 4 CAB line input
6 Phoenix ZB 6 (1051003) DIN rail label
3 Phoenix HDFK-4 BK Black DIN rail screw terminal
3 Phoenix HDFK-4 (0706650) Gray DIN rail screw terminal
2 Pro Co Sound 9641-033065-01, 02 lamacoid markers
2 Rane MS-1B microphone preamp
2 RDL ST-MX2 mono summing amp
1 Roland AR-3000 primary message repeater
1 Roland AR-200 secondary message repeater
1 Roland AR-NT1 network interface for AR-3000
2 Sandisk SDCF38/SDa 512 MB flash cards for message repeaters
2 Sandisk SKCFH-1024-901 PCMCIA II adapter with flash cards
6 Shure SM Beta58A cardiod microphone
2 Shure SM Beta57 cardiod microphone
1 Shure MX418D/C 18-inch gooseneck microphone
2 Sony MDR-7506 announcer microphone
1 Soundcraft K-2 32-channel mixing console
2 Soundcraft RW8033 MH-2 power supply with link cable
5 Symetrix 528E vocal processor
2 Tascam CD-01U Pro compact disc player
2 Tascam LA-450 CD-450 I/O card
2 Tascam RC-450 CD-450 remote
1 Tascam 322 w/remote dual cassette recorder
1 Tascam LA-322 322 I/O card
1 Tascam CD-RW2000 CD recorder
2 Whirlwind SPC83L line splitter

SOURCE: HOFFMAN VIDEO SYSTEMS

The whole system is powered by Crown I-Tech amplifiers, with Harmon Kardon HiQnet processors controlling amplification throughout the venue. All the equipment is mounted on a large service platform suspended 70 feet above the floor of the arena. “If you were to walk on the catwalk in the arena you would see a bank of racks that's probably rivaled only by the telephone company,” says Pratt, describing the extraordinary collective girth of the Galen Center's audio amplification and processing equipment.

“If it were just a basketball arena, we probably wouldn't have put in as many speakers and as much equipment,” Shepherd says. “But USC wanted a complete venue, and they spent a lot of money. You compare that sound system to other large sound systems like [the nearby] Staples Center and it's so far superior you can't even compare them. They've got a variety of teams in there and a variety of users.The system had to be flexible.”

Soul singer Al Green played a concert at the Galen Center a year ago and used the house audio system—an anomaly for high-end performers, who usually bring their own sound equipment.“Al Green had us crank up the system, and he said, ‘This will do,'” Shepherd says. “We made sure we had more amplification and speaker coverage than we needed and that paid off.”

And the work still wasn't done. In addition to the task of designing and building a flexible arena sound system, Hoffman officials were charged with integrating a robust AV system inside the adjacent Founders Club banquet hall.

Crestron-controlled and featuring PC and satellite display options, the room's video capability is based on four 5,000-lumen Christie DS+5K projectors, while audio support is delivered by 28 JBL 26DT ceiling speakers and two Crown CTs1200 amps.

The plush Founders Club serves the all-purpose assembly needs for Trojan athletic teams and various USC-affiliated academic organizations, offering them a place to conduct everything from booster and fund-raising activities to end-of-season awards presentations. Notably, it is where head gridiron coach Pete Carroll conducts weekly press conferences during football season.

For his part, Shepherd admits that getting all of this work done on a big, high-profile project with a lot of bigger contractors was daunting. But Hoffman benefited from an extraordinary level of cooperation. For example, Morrow-Meadows pulled the 500,000 feet of cable needed to keep the AV project moving along on time.“They had 100 people on site at any give time, so it was very easy for them to do that work,” Shepherd explains. “Without that help, we would have been in tough shape. Again, it was all about teamwork—as a group, whenever a problem came up, everyone got together.”

Daniel Frankel is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. He can be reached at daniel.frankel@variety.com.

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