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Monday, July 22, 2024

DiGiCo Audio Tech Dives Deep for US Olympic Swim Trials

With the United States being one of the world’s swimming superpowers, the sport is a central one for fans in that country, as demonstrated by the US Olympic Swimming Team Trials which attract as much attention as an NFL Draft event.

The Trials, which took place from June 15 to 23, were held for the first time ever in an NFL stadium — Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, home of the Colts football team. The nine-day event was predicted to generate over US$100 million of economic impact locally, according to the Indiana Sports Corp.

The stadium venue, which would be able to seat 30,000 after the construction of two Olympic-sized pools over the football field, presented significant live-sound challenges for the event, which was also broadcast on NBC Sports. A DiGiCo SD12-96 console — supported by DiGiCo SD-Racks and SD-MiNi Racks connected via an Optocore loop, as well as a DiGiCo Purple Box CAT5/MADI-to-optical convertor — assured that the entire audio system, including comms and feeds to broadcast, could be handled by the SD12-96 acting as a central sonic hub.

“It really is on a scale with an NFL Draft,” observes Caleb Cassler, Senior Audio Specialist with Dodd Technologies (DTI), which provided the live sound for the Olympic Swimming Team Trials this year as well as many USA Swimming Events since 1996. Dodd also provided a second SD12-96 and a DiGiCo SD10 plus an SD-Rack for USA Swimming LIVE!, an outdoor music stage that programmed DJs, bands, and presentations all week between trials sessions.

A combination of Lucas Oil Stadium’s installed JBL sound system and additional Meyer Sound components brought in by DTI for the swim events turned the sound of the massive, enclosed venue into a huge distributed system, with highly specific zones for aspects of the event such as the warmup pool, first-call, athlete entrance, athlete lounge, and massage room areas, as well as underdeck elevator positions, VIP sections, starting blocks, and athlete seating areas. Each of these required their own sets of loudspeakers and separate groups/auxes from the SD12-96, which the desk’s flexible configuration capability handled with ease.

“Everyone — the audience, the swimmers, the announcers — had their own demands for the live sound,” says Cassler. “The warmup pool, a first-call room — all of those rooms have PA in them, but they also needed to have particular feel, in terms of content and volume. Then there’s the last-call room, which didn’t have speakers, but which was open to the main area so you could hear the crowd and announcements and music through the doorway as they got ready to enter. Every area was very particular, and the SD12-96 let me send each one a completely separate feed with exactly what was needed. The routing was very, very flexible, which it needed to be for this.”

In fact, sometimes spaces needed to be quickly reconfigured, such as when a diving space needed to accommodate a group of dignitaries for a meeting or a press conference. “Being able to quickly throw up new boxes or new groups and adjust things quickly and on the fly was critical for this,” he says. “If a new ‘room’ appears out of nowhere and I need to add more speakers, I can do that without restructuring the entire console. The console is never the limiting factor.”

Furthermore, the SD12-96 served as the hub for the live event’s comms infrastructure, managing Dodd Technologies’ Riedel Artist frames and Bolero wireless units via a DMI-DANTE64@96 card and an Optocore M12 MADI hub/switch to interface with the comm system via MADI.

“The console can take pretty much anything that I would need it to, both in the cards and in the Optocore options.” says Cassler. So I could just plug in MADI, plug in Dante, and then if I need to add something later, or someone wants a new feed, I don’t have to leave the console and start plugging stuff in. I’ve already got 64 channels of Dante and 32 to 64 channels of MADI that I can move around from the console as needed. The MADI ports on the console were used for one local I/O to my computer for playback, LTC, records, and the like, and one via a Purple Box to ST using the house fibre up to an SD-MiNi Rack.”

Another example of how the SD-12-96 streamlined a complex mission was the need for announcers to hear themselves without a delay from the PA system.

“There was about a 250-millisecond delay from the PA, making it hard to talk and understand each other,” explains Cassler. “So I just dialled up a separate aux for them and programmed a button on their comms and they could hear whatever they wanted to hear and not hear what they didn’t want to hear. It all goes back to the SD. I’m using it as a giant matrix, which is fantastic.”

That also helped with the four discrete video playback sources that were part of the inputs Cassler had to manage, half of which included timecode, as well as sound effects, three wireless roving announcer/hosts, an anthem singer, violinist, quartet, and choir.

The US Olympic Swimming Team Trials presented just about everything a live-event production could demand of a FOH console and its A1, from MADI to Dante to AES67, plus a truly complex PA system that required numerous tweaks over the course of days.

“On the SD12-96, I was able to hit every flavour of audio there pretty much is and handle it easily,” concludes Caleb Cassler. “Anyone could throw anything at me they needed, and with the SD12, I could work with it and make it happen.”

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