Ice arena makes sound decision

AUTHOR: Inavate

Line array and networked audio technologies as well as a bespoke video display system have taken on prominent roles at new sports facility in Belarus, Minsk.

In addition to its position as the capital and largest city in Belarus, Minsk is also headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), whose member countries are former Soviet Republics. Given its prominent role throughout the region, it’s only fitting the city wanted a flagship venue for the varied sports and other activities that take place here. Enter the Minsk Arena.

Minsk-based Art Ramos Studio a.l.c., a design/build firm specialising in the professional sound, lighting and cinema was awarded the contract for the arena’s sound reinforcement system. After final designs were approved in November 2008, the firm proceeded to install a system that revolves around line array technology from D.A.S. Audio, with power amplification and audio networking from QSC.

According to Anton Streltsov, Deputy Director of Art Ramos Studio, “The key audio challenge on this project was achieving clear speech intelligibility. We measured very high reverberation times during our tests, so as a means of addressing this condition we determined that loudspeakers systems with clearly defined and controllable dispersion patterns were essential. This led us to line array technology and our deployment of models from the D.A.S. Audio Aero Series.”

“We chose the D.A.S. Audio Aero 38 as the main loudspeakers because they deliver excellent sound quality and we had a very positive experience with them on a previous project— the Bobruisk Ice Hockey Palace,” Streltsov continued. “Hence, we were quite certain they would work well for the Minsk Arena. We also had space considerations, as the loudspeakers were to be positioned above the video displays. We required a certain amount of cabinets to create the target SPL and D.A.S. is one of just a few manufacturers who offer powerful systems with such relatively compact enclosures.”

All loudspeakers are positioned over centre ice above the media cube—an octagonal unit sporting eight large LED displays with a total surface of more than 500 square meters created by large screen specialist Palami of Minsk. The centrally positioned ring of loudspeakers was determined to be the most effective means of providing even coverage throughout the space. The set up includes three loudspeaker models from the D.A.S. Audio catalogue.

The largest loudspeakers are the D.A.S. Audio Aero 38’s.The Aero 38 is a 3-way medium format line array system consisting of dual 12-inch transducers for the lows, two 10-inch transducers for mids, and a single 1.5-inch Neodymium HF driver. The installation includes six loudspeaker clusters, each consisting of eight Aero 38’s. Two clusters of D.A.S. Audio’s Aero CA-28B loudspeakers augment the Aero 38’s. The Aero CA-28B is a 2-way, mid-high line array comprised of two 8-inch transducers and a Neodymium compression driver with a 1.5-inch exit for the highs.

“Because of their compact design, we were able to position these loudspeaker clusters neatly between the hanging point and the video screens,” Streltsov explained. “The Aero 38 clusters cover the main tribunes of the arena while the sides are covered by the Aero CA-28B’s due to their wide horizontal dispersion. “

Six D.A.S. Audio BiDriver Plus 2-way horn speaker units augment the eight flown line array clusters. The D.A.S. BiDriver Plus is a mid high system designed for long throw applications. It is comprised of a coaxial loudspeaker that incorporates a 10-inch cone transducer with a 4-inch voice coil.

“With this group of loudspeakers,” Streltsov remarked, “we achieved even coverage throughout all seating areas. Thanks to the D.A.S. BiDriver Plus loudspeakers, we also have full coverage over the hockey field, as these are targeting that area with some additional support coming from the Aero CA-28B’s. This combination of loudspeakers results in the best price/performance combination we’ve ever encountered.”

All D.A.S. loudspeaker systems are driven by QSC Audio CX Series 2-channel power amps. The system utilises forty-eight CX 902 units, six CX 702 systems, and four CX 302’s. In order to keep the amplifiers as close to the loudspeakers as possible, they reside along the upper ceiling ring above centre ice adjacent to the loudspeakers.

Due to long lines for signal distribution from the control room (which is located on the top level of the arena) and from 24 additional inputs around the hockey rink, a CobraNet audio networking system was deployed. Similarly, amplifiers and loudspeakers are controlled and monitored via QSC’s QSControl.Net using QSC Basis processors for amplifier and loudspeaker management and Rave units for digital audio transport.

The Control Room offers a window overlooking the hockey field and frequently serves as the announcer’s booth, though announcers can easily patch into the system via the inputs around the rink to be closer to the action. A DiGiCo SD8 Live Digital Console configured with 48 inputs and 48 outputs handles mixing chores while beyerdynamic OPUS 900 Series microphones and body packs plus in-ear monitoring complete the key aspects of the sound system.

While the new sound system will inevitably undergo adjustments, Streltsov reports that arena management and spectators are responding favourably. “The new sound system is functioning extremely well,” he says. “Coverage is consistent no matter where you’re seated and there’s plenty of headroom should it be needed. The sound system is also tied into the arena’s emergency evacuation system. In the event of fire, the main signal is switched off and the fire alarm message receives priority. This system also provides for automatic monitoring to ensure the sound system’s functionality. The combination of D.A.S. Audio’s line array technology and the audio networking capabilities offered by CobraNet and QSC really helped create a state-of-the-art sound reinforcement system everyone who enters the building can enjoy.”

In addition to the sound reinforcement solution, as with any large sporting arena these days, a considerable video display system was also required. Belarus-based Palami won out over competition from a number of other vendors, to supply and install both a centre cluster of screens, and a perimeter video display system.

Darya Yankovskaya, Overseas Manager for the company, explained the bid process: “All the bidders were required to assemble trial screens no less than four square metres in size in the building. A special technical committee composed of broadcast and optics specialists, was set up to assess the tenders. Judging criteria included white balance, colour depth, brightness, adjustable refresh rate and other features. Palami was successful on the basis of both features and price point.”

Display system is in three distinct parts. Firstly, the main cluster consists of eight screens made up of Palami’s 10mm pitch outdoor product. Four of them are 3,360 x 5,120 mm in size and the other four are 3,360 x 4,320mm. The outdoor product is IP65 rated and designed to work in high humidity environments at temperatures from –25°C to +80°C.

Underneath the media cube is a ticket-tape style display made from a flexible LED system. Palami installed its own 20mm pitch flexible modules here, which are again IP65 rated. It’s a total of 38m in length.

The final component is a massive, 304m long perimeter display around the entire arena. This is made up of a 20mm pitch LED module, which is specially designed for front access servicing.

“To control the system, we also used our own Palami video processor, which includes a main controller and an input module. This outputs to the 8-sided media-cube, the perimeter strip and also the two large screens on either side of the arena. It can be connected to TV facilities, video cameras and external broadcasts as well as showing the score or advertising content.”

Completed in December 2009, the newly constructed Minsk Arena includes a multi-sports and entertainment arena for 15,000 spectators, which is currently the largest capacity venue in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League). Other facilities include a skating stadium for up to 3,000 spectators, a velodrome with a capacity for 2,000 spectators, 10 locker rooms, the Governmental Lounge featuring a hospitality area and multi-purpose rooms, a VIP Lounge with a hospitality area, 38 sky boxes, 2 media lounges, a press conference hall, and 3 restaurants.