Miami, FL (November 7, 2003)–The University of Miami may have a popular college football team, but the Hurricanes’ marching band, which is smaller in size than many other schools’ bands, has been known to come off as anemic. That’s in the process of changing, however, at least at the Orange Bowl, the team’s home field. There, Miami sound contractor, Gig’s Up Inc., has provided the Band of the Hour marching band with a combination of strategically placed microphones and loudspeakers.
Owner George Feldner, a University of Miami graduate and former marching band member, heeded the call for help from the school’s music department to improve the marching band’s sound. “They called me in August and said ‘we’ve been told that virtually no one can hear the band in the stadium, can you help us?'” Feldner says. “The University of Miami has an excellent music department and marching band but the band is small in comparison to their arch rivals – Florida State and Florida A&M. In fact, Florida A&M’s trombone section is larger than the entire Band of the Hour.”
Feldner’s solution entailed employing a combination of Rode, Sennheiser and Octava mics to pick up the band’s sound on the field, and Sound Physics Labs loudspeakers positioned on the sidelines to project that sound into the home side stands.
In the speaker configuration, four groups of two SPL-td1 speakers stacked atop two SPL BassTech 7 subwoofers are placed behind the Miami team bench at both the 20-yard-line and 40-yard-line positions. Oriented up into the stands and aimed at an area underneath the stadium mezzanine, the speakers deliver sound to virtually all areas of the 80,000-seat stadium’s home side. After both the pre-game and halftime activities, the SPL-td1s are taken down off the subs so as not to obstruct the view from the stands.
On the field, Rode NT3 mics and Octava MK-219 mics are placed on mic stands on the edge of the field at every five-yard marker either side of the 50, up to both 35-yard lines, and deliver mono sound to the speakers. At the 50, Feldner places a stereo pair of the same mics. In addition, nine Sennheiser Evolution Series lavaliere clip-on mics are placed on each of the band’s section leaders. The stationary mics have to be quickly placed before the performance, and then quickly removed from the field following both pre-game and halftime activities.
Through the first two home games of the season, Feldner says his solution has produced a marching band that can finally be enjoyed by all the fans on the home side of the stadium. “It’s still a work in progress as far as fine-tuning the system, but there’s been a very positive response so far,” he says.
Some of the tinkering with the system relates to challenges stemming from ambient noise picked up by the mics. Feldner determined that there was 90dB of sound on the playing surface at a typical game even before the band took the field. Also, the constant movement of the marching band on the field presents a major challenge. “The time delays are intense. You can have a drummer within ten feet of a mic, and then a few seconds later he can be 100 feet away.
“There are still some issues with phase and time delay. I’m starting to think about ways I can delay inputs from the wireless mics so I have a point source on the field I can call time zero, and at that point adjust the delays for the movement of the musicians,” he says. “I’m looking at possibly moving to a digital solution so I can snapshot time delay on sets. Also, there’s the challenge of negating crowd noise that comes in through the open mics. With a mono system that’s not as noticeable, though, because there’s a different time perspective wherever you are in the audience.”
While he continues to tweak the system, Feldner says he’s proud of having had a role in beefing up the quality of the university’s marching band sound. “We’ve amplified it to the point where everyone is now able to hear the band,” he says. “If this solution continues to work, the brighter the band’s future will be.”
Sound Physics Labs