Feature Article - October 2019
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Game Day Connections

Entertain & Communicate With Lighting, Scoreboards & Sound

By Dave Ramont

When it comes to sound systems, manufacturers strive to provide high speech intelligibility and quality music reproduction with even coverage and levels capable of overcoming crowd noise. Systems can also integrate with scoring and video displays. Huntimer points out that display animations have an increased impact when they include audio. "If facilities have sponsorships, they can play commercials during a timeout or period break and further increase the impact of sponsor messages."

She said many of their outdoor audio customers are installing their digital audio system which has freeform LED elements mounted to the face of the speaker. "This new system allows facilities to maximize the surface area with additional sponsors or content that enhances what's being shown on the main video board."

Speaker placement and reflection, coverage patterns, decibel ratings, mid- and high-frequency speakers that can adjust horizontally and vertically, peak limiters for managing distortion and built-in overload protection are all considerations when designing sound systems.

Huntimer describes how their audio staff will visit a site and conduct a detailed survey to determine acoustic characteristics, physical dimensions and desired operation modes of the system. "Our engineering team then builds computer models of the venue and determines the best speaker selection and placement to achieve the desired coverage."

In outdoor settings, distances are greater from speaker to listener, requiring higher-powered speakers and specifically designed horns. Indoor spaces have reflections to deal with, which will reduce intelligibility in certain areas. "We work to put sound energy right where it needs to be (the seats) and that energy off areas it isn't needed (the ceiling). This minimizes reflections and creates high intelligibility, allowing the audience to clearly understand the announcer when they speak," said Huntimer. Speaker control enclosures might be wall-mounted remotely for easier access, and announcer consoles can provide simplified interface to sound systems, which might include microphone inputs and an MP3 player.

Mandato said the new audio system at UMBC—used for music, PA and in-game promotions—is far superior. "It's much livelier; it gets loud in the building. The acoustics are very good—more sound dampers were added than called for to enhance the sound travel and reduce reverberation."

From informing visitors to getting a crowd excited, clear, crisp audio quality is a crucial part of the fan experience, according to Huntimer. "We've all heard audio in facilities that is staticky, garbled and difficult to clearly hear. When a facility has a speaker system that provides intelligible sound combined with seat-shaking bass it creates an immersive audiovisual experience that impresses your audience."

With all the possibilities that now exist with regard to scoreboards and video boards, lighting and sound, another trend that Huntimer mentioned involves student development. Some schools may offer a class or club, or even just have some students interested in media production during games. "The students running the cameras and acting as producers in the booth are gaining real-life experiences that can carry forward into college and even as a career." Huntimer points out that more than 50% of colleges and 75% of professional venues throughout the country use their control systems, which are the same at each level. "So as students gain knowledge at their high schools or small colleges, they can take their skills to the next level and jump right in, minimizing training for the facility and the operator."

At UMBC, Mandato said the new building and its amenities are amazing, and fans are loving it. "No question, it's like we went from the Flintstones to the Jetsons in the blink of an eye." RM