Networked audio was essential to driving Super Bowl LIV’s massive audio infrastructure. ATK Audiotek, who handled audio at the game, deployed Focusrite RedNet Dante-network gear venue-wide for both the game and half-time entertainment.
For 2020’s Super Bowl LIV in the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, ATK Audiotek deployed two large-scale sound systems – a flown house system and ATK’s field cart system.
ATK also provided and operated the substantial backbone of routing equipment and input/output interfaces to patch all the systems together. The Focusrite gear allowed audio to flow from inputs to mix positions, to amplifiers and speakers, and also to external partners such as broadcast and recording trucks.
“That's where having Dante and RedNet comes in to play," said ATK’s Kirk Powell, who led audio production for the event.
Once the structure of the system was plotted out, the preconfiguration was implemented by Alex Guessard, the system designer and FOH mixer for the entertainment aspects of the 2020 Super Bowl. He did the prep work in a 50-foot-by-50-foot space in the ATK shop in California.
“First, we reset the devices and put the new configuration in them." While requiring a methodical approach for such a complex system, updating firmware, naming channels and making subscriptions on RedNet devices was a straightforward task.
“In the shop, we could verify the patch was working by just running a 10-foot cable. It's so much easier than having to walk to the catwalk and back down again, just to check a cable or connection,” said Powell.
Once the whole stadium worth of equipment is configured and operational in one place, the deployment process is as simple as positioning the racks and connecting the fiber or network cables.
ATK racks were positioned in nearly every corner of the stadium. Columns of input and output interfaces, amplifiers and network switches activated all over the stadium. In each position, RedNet units performed various operations. There were nodes at grass-level, at each corner of the field, comprised of RedNet MP8R, RedNet A16R and RedNet D16R units.
ATK shared audio with the various broadcast trucks and mobile production facilities on site. Powell and Guessard devised a standardized way of interfacing with all of these external partners via RedNet D64R 64x64 Dante to MADI interfaces.
Each partner was responsible for the clocking of their respective digital audio systems, Guessard said. “The RedNet D64Rs allowed us to create different islands.” Each island (or truck) supplies a word clock via BNC to the RedNet D64R responsible for transporting their respective MADI signals where on-board sample-rate conversion allows for the MADI channels to be transported at the desired sample rate.
Possibly the most important human aspect to the audio system was the role of Patchmaster, handled for Super Bowl LIV by Luis Montes from a nook in the underbelly of the Hard Rock Stadium.
As the central hub of ATK’s network, every element of the production came from each nodes' network switches. Montes patched via an overhead bundle of cables as wide as a water main. He used a RedNet AM2 two-channel D-A converter with line-level connections and a headphone output to audibly monitor signals on the network for source verification and quality control.
“It's a very adrenaline-filled show,” said Guessard. “From the moment the halftime whistle was blown we had six minutes to deploy and connect everything — the stage was set up, the speaker carts were wheeled on and all the artists had to be set up on the stage. It's was same for lighting and the same for video.”
After the 12-minute performance, another commercial break covered the stage strike. “The stadium had to look like nothing happened,” Powell said.
Guessard said “there's no way we could do what we do today without a networked system. With the channel counts that we have and the mass distribution, it's not feasible.”
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