RG Jones Sound Engineering Expands Wimbledon's BSS Audio Soundweb Digital Network For This year's Championships With First Soundweb London New Family Members Installation.
The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club will once again look to the excellence of Royal Warrant Holders RG Jones to revamp the audio network at the home of the world-famous Wimbledon Tennis Championships. A major upgrade this year featuring configurable DSP and a 256-channel, low latency, fault tolerable digital audio bus, will coincide with the release of BSS Audio's newest members to the Soundweb London Family.
Prior to the 2002 Wimbledon Championships, RG Jones oversaw one of the largest deployments ever of BSS Audio's Soundweb Original â€˜Green' series. In fact, Soundweb's broadcast quality audio gave the BBC the confidence for the first time to use the media wall box feeds from RG Jones to supply many of the feeds required for The Championships. At the same time the BBC also chose to install a Soundweb in each of the No.1 Court and Centre Court scanner trucks, while further devices were installed in OSCAR, the audio and video distribution area where the BBC routes all the Court feeds to the international broadcasters.
But the standard of signal quality, routing flexibility and processing power which so impressed the BBC six years ago has moved on considerably — and the timing of a further major upgrade this year (largely focused on the Centre Court redevelopment) coincided with the release of BSS Audio's newest members to the Soundweb London family. These feature configurable DSP boasting four times the processing capability of existing Soundweb London devices and a 256-channel, low-latency, fault-tolerant digital audio bus, which works on Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable and allows an audio link between â€˜BLU' devices over distances of up to 100 meters, with the option of exceeding that distance via an off the shelf fiber media converter. The combination of the digital audio bus and increased DSP capability allows 128 x 128 matrices within individual devices and 128 x n matrices within a system.
RG Jones' Sales & Installation Dept Manager, Jon Berry, felt that this would provide the perfect solution. “The limitations with the old system were the amount of networked audio channels you could get, and since we have expanded the system every year — including a new PA system for the new Court 2 and now the Centre Court redevelopment — we needed to increase the routing,” he said. “And this would have required nearly 20 extra [Soundweb Original] hubs.”
So back in March this year Harman Pro UK introduced RG Jones to the new Soundweb London devices, offering programming, installation and maintenance support.
“We could see the benefits immediately,” continued RG Jones' project manager. “The whole benefit resided in the BLU link, which gave us 256 channels of networked audio. The two, more powerful, SHARC DSPs provide four times the processing power enabling us to create lots of matrices of the signal without any risk of running out of processing capacity.”
The biggest drawback was the time scale, as his team was simultaneously installing over 500 speakers and amp sources into the new look Centre Court. They still ensured that the new Soundweb system was fully soak tested over a two-week period at their HQ, prior to delivery.
“Due to the cable length restriction of the BLU link, we have interfaced some of the Soundweb Original â€˜Green' boxes with the Soundweb London â€˜BLU' system as a multicore system using AES-EBU connections” continued Jon. “These units are placed across the site to access the various buildings that are spread further apart than the 100m limit, such as the Big Screen control hut, the Bandstand, and the scanner park. We have used a number of the Club's infrastructure fiber pairs between the PA rooms to create a redundant ring using the BLU link.”
So how is the system designed? The matrix has been developed around three BLU-800 devices and 27 x BLU-160 devices. Mission control for the system is located in the Broadcast Centre PA room where the team monitors and controls the system on an intuitive HiQnetâ„¢ London Architect GUI developed largely by Duncan Owen, who worked on the 2002 refit, displayed on four large LCD displays. A mirrored control system is installed in the second â€˜bunker' – the Centre Court PA room.
Each of the three PA rooms has a selection of processing racks housing the Soundweb London devices, and the original SW9088iis processors and SW9000iis hubs. The Soundwebs also interface to a Debentures function system, and press distribution system installed by RG Jones.
One of the main roles of Soundweb London is to transmit site-wide announcements via the paging mics (there is no automated messaging). “Although the system does not fall under a full PA/VA system remit, the expectation is that it may well become necessary at some point.” The other key tasks for the Soundweb London system are virtual mixing of the umpire microphones on the local court audio systems, links with the broadcasters and distribution to the Press.
Meanwhile the second phase of The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club's three-year plan to transform the Centre Court remains on schedule.
After going roofless in 2007, Centre Court has assumed a more traditional look following the installation of the permanent non-moveable new roof. The seating capacity will increase by 1200 to 15,000 from 13,800, while the East and North stands have been fitted out with new leisure facilities.
The final phase of the Centre Court project, including the installation of a retractable roof, will complete next year when the new No.2 Court will also come into use.
“It's been a very successful integration,” summarises RG Jones' project manager. “ Our original aim had been simply to replicate the role of the Soundweb Original â€˜Greens' with the new Soundweb London â€˜BLUs' — but because it's a much more powerful set-up we've improved on it considerably. There's now a lot we can look at in terms of both fault monitoring and scheduling — specifically to check the health of the Soundweb network and later the amplifiers.
“We have also implemented a CobraNet-based comms system with some Soundweb network integration for â€˜Hawk-eye', the Big Screen and internal crew communication. We use the Soundweb system to put the delayed audio in Sync with the picture on the new active scoreboards.”
The final word comes from Duncan Owen. “With Soundweb London we have a much glossier control surface programmed with HiQnet London Architect; from a design point of view it is a lot faster than Soundweb Designer and there's a lot more you can do with it. Also, a lot of thought has gone into the GUI — you can customise just about everything. After all it is an extensive site which we are covering with this network.”
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