A lot of ink has already been spilled about the Springvale Urban Screen in Melbourne’s south-east. It’s an astonishing AV installation project with some serious physical engineering from ENGIE AV Technologies, a 2.2 tonne, 6.5m by 3m LED screen in a custom frame mounted to the side of the Springvale Community Hub that cantilevers out at 45 degrees to address the surrounding civic space, complete with surround sound and remote production capabilities. Our media colleagues over at Inavate have even nominated the project as a finalist for an Inavation Award, to be handed out at ISE.
A huge cast of characters contributed time, effort and expertise to the project, including designer and audio visual integrator ENGIE AV Technologies, global consultancy AECOM, Ireland Brown Construction, VuePix screen provider ULA Group and audio supplier CMI Music & Audio.
With international media attention focussing on the sheer size and flexibility of the install, we talk to the project’s instigator, Thomas Dawe, Media Production and Technology Coordinator at the City of Greater Dandenong and Director of Lux Consulting, about the cultural and community benefit of the project, and some of the surprising supporting technology that’s integrated in the background.
Thomas Dawe’s background is in broadcast integration. He started out with stalwarts Videocraft 20 years ago, before working for Melbourne’s Federation Square on their huge Urban Screen, and then moving out to Dandenong Council in 2013. He’s also worked on Urban Screen projects for local government entities nationally and internationally, as part of his consultancy practice.
So what is an Urban Screen anyway? “An Urban Screen is a large outdoor LED screen that is not commercially driven,” explains Thomas. “It’s wholly focussed on civic and community engagement. Its primary use is for cultural events, links to other sites, overflow from indoor live events, community messaging, advocacy, and film nights.”
Springvale’s Urban Screen joins a video network that includes another outdoor screen at Dandenong’s Harmony Square, which is linked to The Drum Theatre, just across the road. With the entire Urban Screen system linked via dark fibre running around the council area, the two Urban Screens can mirror each other, take feeds from council venues as overflow, and run programmes live from The Drum Theatre.
“Council rents the fibre ring, and we have all of our services trunked on it,” Thomas continues. “Our time-critical audio and video have a QoS reservation of approximately 10GB. This ensures quality signal between venues, and guarantees the crazy low latency that we enjoy. We are never hobbled by network infrastructure. Our switches are enterprise-grade HP Aruba 2900 series with 10GB links between them, and 40GB links between the venues, so we’re never lacking bandwidth.”
The networked video infrastructure is all NDI, run via NewTek and BirdDog hardware. “We chose NDI for its remote production functionality,” illustrates Thomas. “The Mezzanine proxy format available in full bandwidth NDI means I can mix and produce shows from home over an NBN connection, and every new iteration of NDI shaves a few frames off the latency. For more hands-on live production and IMAG, we have Ross vision mixers that can take SDI inputs; we use baseband when required.”
With a Crestron system offering touchscreen control from within the building, techs on-site at Springvale can also grab a tablet and go for a walk in the park, so to speak. “We can mix a show with an iPad, including both vision and audio, from within the square,” continues Thomas. “We can do lower thirds, transitions, and playback, all via the web panel control from NewTek. We have four NewTek NDI appliances, including a TC410 Tricaster in the council chamber that has a full custom web interface. Using the web interface, you can select any elected official, and the system will focus a PTZ camera to that person, pull up their mic, and mix everything to the webstream, all automatically.”
A typical use case for this flexible and powerful control is a citizenship ceremony. “For example, if there’s a ceremony in Springvale Town Hall, in just seconds we can have it routed to the public screen, giving us an instant overflow venue,” offers Thomas. “We’ve done this with shows in The Drum Theatre, sending them live to either screen. We do five or six very large events a year, and many smaller activations. Harmony Square and the surrounding streets and public spaces can hold 14,000 people for New Year’s Eve, so it’s very handy having such a large outdoor space we can broadcast to, especially if you consider COVID restrictions.”
Audio follows video, and the Council’s network features an all-Dante implementation across venues and hardware. A Q-SYS DSP core 510i sits at the heart of the Springvale install, and all venues use Dante-enabled Yamaha QL or CL digital mixers and their Dante stageboxes. A rackmounted Yamaha QL-1 is available to move between Dandenong and Springvale, and can go to The Drum Theatre to augment their flagship Yamaha PM5 Rivage if necessary.
Flanking the Urban Screen in Springvale, you’ll find modular Fohhn Focus FMI-100 and FMI-400 beam steerable column speakers. The FMI-100s provide highs, with eight 1” drivers, and the FMI-400s provide highs and lows, running 32 4” drivers, extending frequency response down to 60 Hz.
While Thomas and consultants AECOM originally preferred a compact line array solution for the left-right PA, it became clear that the tiny amount of space available each side of the screen ruled that option out. Fohhn distributor CMI’s technical staff designed the solution. “The Fohhn product fit the bill and was able to be integrated into the 800mm depth we had to play with,” relates Thomas. “The fact that they are beam steered meant we could mount them in the space we had available and still get the coverage right. Residential is pretty close, and that’s another benefit to having that controllability. We considered supplementing the system with a portable LF unit on wheels, but the FMI-400s go pretty low and they absolutely hammer!”
Another nice addition from Fohhn are the eight AT-221W all-weather 10” and horn loudspeakers mounted on poles around the square. “The lighting poles the AT-221Ws are mounted on also contain fibre with Neutrik terminations, coax, Cat6, and cameras,” adds Thomas. “There’s all the services we can access when doing outdoor events. The discrete feeds to the AT-221Ws means we can run proper 5.1 on movie nights.”
And finally, the large and obvious elephant in the room; the large outdoor screen chosen carefully and mounted by ENGIE AV Technoloiges is made of VuePix ER3 LED with a 3.9mm pixel pitch. “VuePix is supported by ULA Group in Australia, which is a requirement for government procurement, but also means we can go and see them here in Melbourne,” concludes Thomas. “Not only are VuePix products widely used, such as at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, they’re a hyperfine pitch, can face into the Australian north sun and drive at 5000 nits, providing a full daylight readable image.” Like everything else about this project, that’s absolutely epic.
Photos by HasMedia
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