Berlin stadium nominated for InAVation Award
Berlin’s Stadion An der Alten Försterei – home of FC Union Berlin – was recently rebuilt and fitted with a state-of-the-art AV and broadcast systems and it’s now shortlisted for 2016 InAVation Award. Nial Anderson visited to find out more.
The German football team FC Union Berlin was founded in 1906 in the city’s eastern industrial heartland. Its ﬁrst players were mostly factory workers who developed a loyal, passionate following among the area’s working class supporters. Over the years this following – the ‘Iron Union’ – has continued to grow, and its enthusiastic fan base is something the club has become well- known for.
The club’s home is the Stadion An der Alten Försterei (Stadium at the old forester’s house) – the largest football stadium in Berlin with a capacity of just over 22,000. The current facility was constructed in two phases in 2009 and 2013, replacing the original 1920 stadium that hadn’t been updated in more than 40 years.
The loyal spirit for which the club has become known shone through during the reconstruction, which was carried out largely by the club’s own supporters. More than 2,000 fans offered their services during the project and much of the construction budget came from donations and sponsorship from local businesses. FC Union Berlin’s chief technical ofﬁcer designed the stadium and paid tribute to the club’s history using the interior design. Imitation iron girders specked with fake rust rise from the entrance area and spread out upwards through the building’s communal rooms and corridors, evoking an image of the smoking foundries and steel mills that gave the club its ﬁrst players.
Along with the new building, substantial AV systems were speciﬁed to support the broadcasting of games and to bring added functionality to multi- use rooms around the stadium. This would not only nurture and potentially grow the club’s fan base by enabling effective capture and distribution of live video, but ensure the club’s ﬁnancial future by creating a series of multi-purpose areas (from the meeting rooms to the pitch area itself) that could be hired out for a range of uses from meetings to music concerts.
The ﬁrst port of call for visitors to the stadium is the Press Room, which is dominated by a 3m x 2m videowall made up of Sharp panels. Those who haven’t visited the club before are shown an introduction ﬁ lm on the videowall as the ﬁrst part of their tour. The club has its own TV crew to prepare and edit footage as well as its own in-house AV team. Localised control is provided for sound in Q&A sessions and PowerPoint presentations, while the mixed audio is sent along with camera feeds to the Control Centre. The Control Centre – the nerve centre of stadium as far as AV is concerned - releases streaming video with audio embedded enabling press conferences to be streamed live within the stadium’s digital signage system, to TV trucks parked outside and to the web. The stadium’s digital signage system consists of 110 displays with content delivered via IPTV and video- on-demand.
Other key areas for content delivery are the interview area downstairs, with six displays on the surrounding walls, and a large bar upstairs which also has a meeting room and dining area with a 3m x 4m videowall made up of Samsung panels. The ofﬁces and sponsors’ rooms upstairs in the venue also feature displays that are hooked up to the IPTV network.
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Riedel Communications was tasked with tying together this complex set-up over a single ﬁbre backbone to deliver simple and reliable connectivity. Riedel’s MediorNet Compact was chosen to provide the main ﬁbre-based network for the venue. It features integrated signal processing and a network bandwidth of 50 Gbit/s.
“MediorNet was completely new at the time it was chosen for this installation,” said Sebastian Reiter, a member of the stadium’s AV team. “It was one of the few products that combined signal transmission, AV data and communications all over ﬁbre. The cable topography is all over one ﬁbre backbone with two rings of ﬁbre for redundancy.” To handle the audio distribution network, Riedel’s well-established RockNet product was speciﬁed. Tailored specie ally for tour and installed sound applications, it conveys 160 24bit/48kHz audio channels, counter-rotating on a single CAT5 or ﬁbre. RockNet 300 features 160 channels and RockNet 100, 80 channels. It can integrate up to 99 devices in one network and features built in redundancy.
“I had experience of using RockNet previously when I worked at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin so I had experience of this with Motorola handheld radios,” Reiter continued.
“This worked well and it gave us 15km of coverage area for the handheld radios which means staff can use them to direct trafﬁc outside the stadium and still easily be in range.”
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Communication in the stadium is handled via 130 Motorola Mototrbo handheld radios that are integrated into the MediorNet backbone and also the ﬁ re evacuation system. The advantage to the new system is that, despite having an excellent range outside the stadium, the system suffers no interference from businesses around the venue that the old system was susceptible to.
The Control Centre, which has a small but dedicated staff, serves as the main communications hub of the stadium where lighting, AV and temperature are controlled. A streamlined broadcast system workﬂow was essential for the small in-house AV team so they could work quickly and effectively while covering live events. The stadium enjoys an average attendance of 20,000 people per match (almost a full house every game), considered a very good ﬁgure for a second league team. However, FC Union Berlin pledges to deliver a ﬁrst league experience through the quality of its facilities and match coverage. It delivers an estimated six hours live content per match, including the game and surrounding conferences and announcements. During a match, the stadium management can seamlessly control media content, that is available in the entire ﬁ ber network for processing. “Sponsors expect quality,” said Ulf Rohbeck who handles IPTV at the stadium. “720p is seen as perfectly sufﬁcient at the moment, with an upgrade to 4K possible in three to four years.” The HD1080 input is taken to 720p for live production using VBrick IPTV encoders.
Rohbeck continues: “For live content streaming we can use different access points to send content to and from OB (Outside Broadcasting) vans, show content on the huge wall within the stadium, and we can remotely link cameras and computers to the network and conﬁgure them in real time.
“We have the capacity to run seven events at the same time up to a maximum of 10. We created the AV system just for football but it has unlocked big business opportunities. Nearly every week we are hosting events here now.”
The rock band Linkin Park took over the stadium earlier this month in the largest event the venue has hosted to date. It is events such as these that the club hopes to do more of as time goes on to create another revenue stream, outside of football.
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“The AV system is very important for the ﬁnances of the club,” explained Rohbeck, who previously worked in data simulation for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.
“We are prepared for FC Union Berlin playing in the ﬁrst league; we are basically a second league team with ﬁrst league facilities. We have built the foundations for a better future.”
Bose evacuation controller and speakers
Riedel RockNet audio distribution network
Riedel MediorNet Compact fibre-based network