Jands distribute professional lighting, sound and staging equipment. The theatre projects division of Jands provide products and installation services for the entertainment and audiovisual industries.
In 2006 Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority undertook a tender process to find a suitable contractor to provide the specialist service for the upgrade of the existing Audio Visual system. The precinct had an existing system augmented with additional sound system on water’s edge system. The original system consisted of an analogue distribution system, with copper based reticulation of audio and video signals over distances in the order of kilometres, in an often hostile environment.
Connection points for temporary interfacing are all outdoors in a salty atmosphere, which tested the limits of corrosion resistance techniques, compromising signal integrity and system reliability. Expanding requirements of the precinct, including King St Wharf and IMAX, meant existing systems did not fulfil evolving requirements. Complete systems had to be hired in for events such as community fairs, trade shows, exhibitions and New Year’s festivities.
In February 2007, Rutledge Engineering was awarded the contract to design, supply and install the new public address system and reticulation infrastructure.
The new public address system represents a convergence of IT and audio technologies on a large scale with over 300 outdoor speakers, distributed over 32 zones, controlled by a screen-selectable system. A key component was an intuitive user interface with wireless access around the precinct.
Rutledge needed to establish details of the existing system and its cable routes to replace and upgrade. The only cabling retained was the copper from the amplifiers to the loudspeakers.
Working in all weathers is part of any exterior project, in this case it also meant working around the public, and the unique challenge of working from boats at low tide to access under-wharf areas to install new cabling to replace lost and damaged cable paths.
For outdoor use in a marine environment, special attention was given to corrosion protection throughout, for instance stainless steel grilles and boots were installed over speaker connections.
For maximum flexibility and to address the needs of a range of applications, a screen selectable system allows audio broadcasts to one or multiple areas from a control room, or from mobile units. These can be set up and connected to the network at a number of input points around the site. The team developed a vandal and weatherproof mobile communications system trolley to accommodate the mobile units.
The backbone is Ethernet with audio devices being IP addressable. Blown fibre optic cable was the backbone of the reticulation solution. This allowed for a staged approach to installation, and caters for future expansion of the system.
A number of digital signal processing solutions were considered for use in the solution offered. Rutledge Engineering chose the BSS Soundweb London system for all distribution duties, and Crown PIP cards for loudspeaker chain processing and monitoring.
Crown and BSS share a common parent company in the Harman Group, and provide a unique solution in their HiQ Net solution to complex audio system control. This solution provides a common software front end for control configuration and monitoring, and provides a total control solution for all audio processing and amplification. The solution provides a back engine for all control, monitoring and processing functions, and provides a conduit for the user interface to be implemented through the Crestron controller.
During the course of technical investigations for this project, Rutledge Engineering surveyed the features of a number of vendors. The criteria for evaluation included amplifier models that fit the purpose of this system, both in amplifier specifications and facilities in monitoring. It was important that the solution, and in particular the monitoring software and hardware is mature, was well deployed both locally and internationally. The brand needed to be reputable and well supported locally and cost effective.
Following this evaluation, Rutledge Engineering decided that the Crown Audio IQ System presented the best option. Crown Audio IQ System design includes the use of the CTS range of amplifiers from Crown, fitted with USP3-CN PIP cards to facilitate signal processing, monitoring, CobraNet distribution and control. These USP3-CN PIP cards allowed feeding CobraNet digital audio signals directly into the amplifiers, ensuring there was no signal degradation in the distribution system.
A digital audio distribution system using an Ethernet network running over fibre backbone represents a true convergence of IT and audio technologies.
The IQ system complied with the specification and allowed for audio monitoring of both the input and output of the amplifier at remote locations. This was accomplished by feeding the amplifier’s output signal back into the CobraNet system for monitoring at any location in the system. This feature allows the operator to monitor the condition of the signal leaving the amplifier, and is highly desirable in installations where the systems are physically spread over a large distance.
This allows any fault appearing at any location in the system to be displayed with a warning on the user interface panel. The on-screen alert details the exact location in the precinct, so the operator can know precisely where the fault is located. The type of fault is also reported.
The Crown IQ system is able to measure the amplifier load and report changes over its control port. By using this function, the system is able to sense any speaker failure and report it to the control system, allowing alerts of speaker and speaker cable failure, as well as attempted theft, to be provided on the control system screen.
After evaluation of a number of loudspeaker options, Rutledge Engineering installed a JBL solution based upon technical compliance to the modelled solution in terms of SPL and directivity. Environmental compliance was naturally of importance in such an exposed, outdoor situation and the JBL models are fit for purpose and are compliant with the specification, especially the weatherproofing requirements.
The JBL Control Contractor series feature a simple and effective mounting solution to deter theft and tampering by the general public. Rutledge Engineering used two primary speaker models to address the general audio requirements of the precinct. These were 152 x JBL Control 28T60 and 140 x Control 25T. Further attention included weather protection to prevent damage by salt spray, humidity and solar radiation. For each speaker unit a stainless steel “Weathermax” grille was used to provide these protections.