Istanbul Airport takes flight with first-class AV
Istanbul has a brand new multi-billion euro airport, and to accommodate 90 million passengers a year it is pushing the boundaries of available technology. Paul Milligan speaks to those involved in the design and installation process.
April 2019 was a significant day in Turkey. It signalled the handover of passenger flights in its capital city of Istanbul from Atatürk Airport to the new Istanbul Airport.
Atatürk Airport was one of the busiest in Europe, and has been in the top five by passenger traffic since 2013. Due to a lack of space to expand it was at bursting point, so a decision was made in 2013 to build a replacement. The new airport is huge in scale, costing $11bn (€9.6bn) to build it can currently accommodate 90 million passengers annually across 76.5million sqm. It will eventually handle up to 200 million passengers a year, across eight runways and four terminal buildings when complete in 2027.
Two of the many milestones it is currently staking a claim to is the world’s biggest duty-free area, and the world’s biggest audio system running over Dante.
For the AV systems found in the new airport it was down to a mix of local integrator Astel (Duty Free area) and integrator Titan Building Systems (PA/VA), with audio system design and testing carried out by independent consultant Ricardo Castro from RCOE. All three were vastly experienced in supplying AV into airports. AV equipment was supplied by manufacturers Absen (LED) and AtlasIED (audio), both working in close cooperation with the respective integrators for each technology.
The big visual impact at the new Istanbul Airport is created by 1,000 sq m of Absen LED including two huge ceiling mounted videowalls as well as curved facade screens that wrap around the concession stores in the biggest duty-free area in the world. Three projects were combined into one for the duty-free areas, and is jointly managed by Turkish company Unifree and German retail company Gebr Heinemann. The LED was installed by integrator Astel, and includes two giant screens, each one measuring 120 sq m featuring 5.2mm pixel pitch tiles and 3,500nits brightness.
The giant screens have been installed in such a way that passengers cannot miss passing one on route to a flight as they are situated in the east and west sides of the airport. A combination of the sheer size of the two large screens and the architecture of the new airport created a challenge when installing them says Selen Guler Arabaci, business development manager, Absen. “For the giant screens Astel created a special design because moving equipment up and down the stairs at the airport is not easy. It added a motorised (one) man-lift to the screen itself. The lift comes down from the screen and a technician goes up. It lives in the back of the screen, and the lift can move from one side to the other side of the screen as well as move up and down. The ceilings from the airport are unable to take heavy weights, no more than 5 tonnes so Astel created a special lighter bracket to hang the big screens and we helped them choose the lightest LED tiles available, with the best performances.”
To add to the difficulty, the 5-tonne restriction has to take in the weight of the technician too.
A curved LED wall has also been installed which is 300 metres long and follows the walkway of all passengers along the duty-free store. The other LED screens fitted throughout the duty-free area are 2.5mm pixel pitch, and more than twenty 4K processors power the screens. The high brightness (1,500nits), high contrast screens also feature wide viewing angles to avoid any potential image loss for passers-by. “We worked in close collaboration with Sistem 9 and Unifree, advising them on the alternative products available. Following an extensive review, we opted for Absen’s N2.5 and N5D Plus screens, which were bright and clear enough so that they would be clearly visible to passengers in the terminal,” adds Arabaci.
The curved LED screens proved to be the most critical part, as far as the visual side of the installation goes,” says Cilga Ozcelik, sales support manager at Astel. “From an LED perspective, a project of this scale was unprecedented, many parts of it were challenging but the curved LED segments were of paramount importance, in particular because the curved areas were not standard. It is installed in waves, so we had to
install the LED tiles at different angles. Some were fitted at 20 degrees, then 22 degrees, then 30 degrees, then 35 degrees. We decided to use special connectors between screens, as each time we fitted a new tile, it was a different angle than the previous one.”
Due to the curved design, the cabinets had to be significantly modified to achieve the desired effect. In addition, the walls had been painted by the time Astel got to site, and some furniture had already been added to the walls before it got to install the LED tiles. “So we had to put the screens inside this furniture while maintaining the correct angle from the front side. We had to work around the furniture without altering them when integrating the screens,” adds Ozcelik. “It wasn’t something we could pre-plan beforehand on a computer, we had to find solutions on-site.” Sistem 9 is providing support for the video control system.
The priority of any technology provider working with an airport is to ensure the safety of all visitors, especially so when you are talking about the sort of passengers numbers Istanbul Airport will see, and this was the focus for Titan and Ricardo Castro. Titan already had more than 30 airport projects under its belt by the time the tenderc ame around for the new Istanbul Airport, including work in Atatürk Airport.
“Most of the people who were managing the project are actually ex- Atatürk Airport people, so we had personal relationships with them, and this is how we got involved. There was a tender, which we won, and it began a three-year journey till now,” says Titan CEO Bülent Akıncı. Titan then had the task of finding the right PA/VA system, and distributor AtlasIED suggested Renkus Heinz for the big open spaces being planned. A meeting about another project between the Middle East manager for Renkus Heinz and audio consultant Ricardo Castro at prolight + sound 2016 in Frankfurt lead to Titan and Castro working together.
Castro also has previous airport design experience, including work on Qatar Airport on his CV. That was in the March, by June Castro had his first designs ready for the biggest areas such as check-in, baggage claims and one (of the five) piers. Akıncı then held a meeting with IGA Group, the owners of the airport, to present the concept (and the budget.
Because Titan has worked on airport projects before in Turkey it had the immediate trust of the client, which helped massively says Akıncı in making sure the audio was of a high standard.
“They learned 20 years ago how important intelligibility is, and how important acoustics are. This is a high ceiling building, so there was not really any other choice but to use smart speakers. And I call them smart because they’re really smart. We chose them without much difficulty because everything we talked about was based on calculations and engineering and maths.”
Over a three-year period, Castro developed a system design, doing models, working on positioning, and checking the performance. Phase 1 of Castro’s design used 467 Renkus-Heinz Iconyx Gen5-series digitally steered line arrays, which covered the check-in area, five piers that deliver passengers from the check-in lounge to their gates, and the baggage claim area.
Akıncı expects that figure to go past 500 line arrays by the end of this year, with later phases covering the large duty-free lounge and newer areas as the airport’s construction continues. Castro performed all the Renkus Heinz simulations and calculations, with Titan handling all the passive speakers and all the EASE work. “Ricardo’s role was crucial, what he does is as much as engineering as it is art,” adds Akıncı.
For the main check-in area, Castro specified 16 Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC32-24-RD digitally steerable line arrays, aiming the beams along the check-in desks, toward the main wall of the passenger entry area, and away from the reflective check-in counters. Sixteen IC16-8-RD steerable arrays extend coverage to the main entrances. Another 26 IC8-RD columns installed on the top of the counters, or positioned behind the main IC32-24-RD arrays, fill in the remaining areas.
The sound system uses a dedicated Dante network that runs over the airport’s central LAN but is separate from the overall airport network, for security reasons. “We told the investors we need a dedicated network, and don’t want to be part of the giant airport network,” says Akıncı. “We spoke to Dante throughout the project as we were concerned about how many devices you can have, how many sources and outputs and lines and all the gear on in one network,” adds Castro. “It was the right decision,” says Akıncı. Titan has a service contract for the airport PA/VA system, including workers based on site. Even though the first phase is completed, Akıncı predicts his team will have to spend another six months fine tuning the system; “It’s a 1.5 million sq m building, every day new clients are arriving, there are new shops etc, nowadays airports are like shopping malls.” It is incredible to think a project of this size has completed the first of four phases, but then again, as phase one shows, nothing at the new Istanbul Airport is done in half measures.
AtlasIED 150/300/600W dual amplifiers, noise sensors
Renkus Heinz Iconyx IC32-24-RD, IC16-8-RD, IC8-RD steerable line arrays
Absen N5D Plus LED display, N2.5 custom designed LED display
Sistem9 digital signage software and player