17 Apr 2015

Staging Connections at the Clipsal 500, Adelaide

Held over four days from 26 February to 1 March 2015, the Clipsal 500 is a massive V8 Supercar street race that attracts over 285,000 people. Run on a 3.7 km long circuit through Adelaide’s beautiful East Parklands, the Clipsal 500 is a multiple award-winning event, attracting a huge audience both at the track and via broadcast. Staging Connections’ Adelaide team has been proudly involved with the race since it was first run in 1999, and in 2015, radically upgraded their production infrastructure to make this year’s race the most technically sophisticated on the circuit.

”Up until 2015, we’d been running the audio around the track via telephone lines. It went through a mainframe and was all copper cabling that ran from point-to-point,” said Tatu Murch-Lempinen, Staging Connections Adelaide’s Operations Manager.

The team designed a new system to make the event’s backbone the equal of any event in the world, running the audio system via fibre optic cabling and Audinate’s Dante network.

Dante allows audio devices fitted with a Dante interface to send and receive audio channels over standard Ethernet infrastructure. This means off-the-shelf Ethernet switches, fibre optic cabling and standard Cat6 cabling can be used to move audio over large distances and to many devices with a minimum of equipment, time and investment. Best of all, a Dante network’s channel capacity is only limited by its Ethernet switch’s bandwidth; a single standard gigabit Ethernet switch can carry an astonishing 512 channels of audio.

“It also made sense because of our strong relationship with Yamaha, whose range of digital mixers and remote input/output devices all support Dante,” said Mr Murch-Lempinen.

To form the core of the system, Staging Connections acquired and rolled out an entirely new Ethernet platform.

“The longest fibre optic run around the track was about 1.2 kilometres. There were eight lines run previously, which we’ve had upgraded to 24 lines. We also had some temporary military-grade fibre running through underground pits” continued Mr Murch-Lempinen.

Mark Warren, CEO of the South Australian Motor Sport Board, saw a significant improvement in the quality of the audio at the event.

“We’ve been running a programme with clear objectives to improve the patron experience at all levels, from the grandstands, to general admission and to the corporates.

“It was clear to us that the previous analogue audio system was in need of some attention. The older style horn speakers were in front of the corporate platforms, the grandstands and general admission, which resulted in disparate audio levels that couldn’t be tailored to suit. Staging Connections fully fibre-optic backbone gives us greater flexibility to adjust audio levels to each different patron’s needs,” continued Mr Warren.

All audio devices required to run the event, including mixing desks, inputs, outputs and power amplifiers, all connected back to the Cisco switches via Cat6 cable. For mixing duties, Staging Connections decided on Yamaha’s CL5 digital mixers.

Deployed around the track were a range of Yamaha’s Rio remote input/output interfaces. These ranged in size from the Rio3224-D 32 in, 24 out unit positioned at the media compound to the 16 in, eight out Rio168-D, right down to Ri8-Ds and Ro8-Ds that offer eight inputs and outputs respectively.

With a fully integrated Dante network now available for all audio services on site, a variety of tasks became simpler. Outside broadcast provider Gearhouse Broadcast connected their HD-5 truck directly to Staging Connections’ audio system with two cables by using Yamaha’s new RMio64-D Dante-MADI bridge.

“It’s a good outcome to simplify the integration between the broadcaster, around-the-track-TV, corporates and the patrons,” said Mr Warren.

Twelve lab.gruppen C28:4 power amplifiers were purchased for their ability to drive nearly 400 loudspeakers run around the circuit efficiently and safely, replacing the more than 40 amplifiers previously needed to do the job.

“We could then control the volume of the amps, monitor their heat, and get alerts if there were shorts on the line or if a line had been cut due to an accident. It all reported back to a laptop in the main control room,” said Mr Murch-Lempinen.

With all new distribution and amplification now running the event, the team turned their attention to the most customer-facing aspects of the audio system, the loudspeakers. The aging horn system that was fitted around the track on the crash barriers was upgraded with more than 350 new TOA CS-304 outdoor loudspeakers and an additional 14 TOA HX-5 Line Array loudspeakers for the main pit straight grandstand.

“We designed brackets to sit the HX-5s as high on the barriers as possible so that the angle of their coverage matched the angle of the grandstand. They shot just over the first couple of rows so it wasn’t too loud at the front, and gave a nice even distribution as you went up. Everyone was raving saying it was the best audio they’d ever heard in the grandstand. There was even a crash that knocked around one our HX-5s. They stood up to a pretty big hit and kept working!” said Mr Murch-Lempinen.

Staging Connection’s other major responsibility at the event is the enormous task of providing 400 televisions screens along with the RF reticulation system to feed them and 30 LED Superscreens around the site. 2015 saw the system go full HD for the first time for all channels, with Staging Connections rolling out a fleet of new 48 inch Sony LED TV panels, replacing the 32 inch screens.

400 units went into 200-plus facilities including corporate suites, event management and race official’s offices, bars, and VIP areas. A variety of methods were used to install the screens, ranging from freestanding Big City Stands and modified speaker stands to custom hanging wall brackets and fixed wall mounts.

Over four days, through Adelaide summer heat and all the demands of a vast outdoor event, both the audio and video systems performed flawlessly. Staging Connections has already renewed their contract to provide production on a multi-year deal.

“Staging Connections have been fantastic in working with us to understand our objective from the outset; to provide patrons with a better event experience,” stated Mr Warren, CEO of the South Australian Motor Sport Board.


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