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Full Sail Goes All-In on Esports

By Steve Harvey. Full Sail University’s new $6 million, 11,000-plus-square-foot esports arena, The Fortress, is the largest such facility on a college campus in the United States. It’s part of the media arts and technology college’s Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting studio facility.

Winter Park, FL—Full Sail University has unveiled its esports arena, the Fortress, constructed on a former soundstage adjacent to the media arts and technology college’s Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting studio facility. Representing a capital investment of $6 million, the 11,000-plus-square-foot arena seats 500 and is currently the largest esports arena on a college campus in the United States.

Built for Full Sail’s Armada collegiate esports organization, the Fortress houses the latest technologies and products from an array of audio, video and lighting brands, enabling fans to watch everything from one-on-one games to competitions among as many as 100 esports athletes simultaneously. Pro Sound & Video worked with L-Acoustics on the arena sound system design and integrated all the AVL systems.

Esports is potentially changing the face of broadcast, streaming globally to an audience whose size rivals that of traditional sporting events. With new production centers built on current technology, unencumbered by the legacy of traditional television, esports could well be a signpost to the future of the broadcast medium.

Viewers typically watch esports competitions via YouTube and Twitch, but games are increasingly being picked up for a cable audience by traditional entities such as Disney and Turner, requiring connectivity with the outside world.

Arenas are popping up nationwide as esports picks up momentum, but Vincent Lepore, Full Sail’s director of event technical operations, believes the Fortress has one distinct advantage over its rival standalone venues. “One of the things that is great about Full Sail is that we already had this campus built up around us. We have a lot of these redundant internet service providers and an IT team that supports the campus already. I think that’s unique,” he says.

Full Sail currently uses Telestream’s Wirecast for live video streaming, but that may change as Lepore weighs the options. “We’re looking at getting some video services type of fiber into our facilities so that we can have true connectivity with the outside world,” Lepore says, enabling the Fortress to connect to other arenas for competitions and other events.

Locally, the campus is fully wired, with fiber between buildings enabling the new arena to cohost events with, say, Full Sail Live, the college’s live production teaching venue. “In fact, in the next few weeks, we have one of our largest events of the year on the campus that will link both venues,” says Lepore.

The college’s reliance on Dante networking informed audio equipment choices at the Fortress. On the broadcast side, for example, a Calrec Brio36 console is outfitted with a Dante I/O card as well as MADI and Waves cards, the latter for connectivity with a Waves SoundGrid Server One. “Full Sail has numerous Calrec consoles around campus, so we’re really comfortable with Calrec and what they do for a broadcast mix. That was an easy choice for us,” says Lepore.

Related: Full Sail Live Venue Adds Broadcast Mix Options, Oct. 24, 2018

Monitoring at the Calrec console is via a pair of Genelec 8340A speakers with a 7360A subwoofer. The broadcast room is also outfitted with various items from Ross Video, including an Ultrix 112×112 video router, Carbonite Black 3 M/E switcher and Xpression graphics system. An EVS XS3 server handles playback and replays.

In the arena, the audience mix is generated from a Yamaha CL3, which checked a couple of boxes, he says. “First, it’s a great little console, and we had some space constraints, like everybody does. Also, the tight Dante integration is the killer feature for me. Having a console that could just drop right onto the Dante network and be seamless was a big deal for us.”

Game shoutcasters make use of Studio Technologies Dante-enabled announcer’s consoles, reports Lepore, who is now eyeing the company’s Model 207 eSports Console, introduced at the recent NAB Show. Shoutcasters and players are equipped with HMDC 27 headsets from Sennheiser, a Fortress sponsor along with MSI, Logitech, DXRacer and 3N2.

Related: Full Sail Gets Hands On Calrec Brio Consoles, May 10, 2018

“One of the things I was worried about was how those Sennheiser mics were going to come across live through the P.A. We just used them for the first time on a tournament and I was blown away by the sound of the microphone,” says Lepore. Eight channels of Shure Axient Digital with Beta 58 handheld transmitters plus eight DPA headset microphones and four channels of Shure PSM 1000 IEMs are additionally available.

A combination of processing keeps crowd noise out of the microphone feeds. “A little bit of Dan Dugan-type automixing and a little bit of Waves’ WNS noise suppression goes a long way here,” he says.

Production communications are built on the Telex ODIN frame and includes 10 KP-5032 intercom keypanels plus Roameo wireless and BP-325 wired intercom packs. “The intercom sits on the Dante network as well,” says Lepore. “Full Sail is a very heavy Telex user and has been for many years.”

As for the house P.A., he says, “We wanted to be able to do a traditional end-stage configuration, but we also wanted to be able to do an in-the-round setup” without rehanging loudspeakers. Twin arrays of L-Acoustics SB15 subwoofers atop Kiva II elements support end-stage events. For in-the-round events, 13 L-Acoustics X12 coax speakers are installed in a 360-degree ring, accompanied by two hangs of SB18 subwoofers. Four L-Acoustics 5XTs deliver front fill while four more X12s are available as floor monitors.

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Depending on the stage configuration, fans can follow the action either on an Absen 36-foot by 11.5-foot LED videowall or a 24-foot circumference, 3.25-foot tall ring of LED panels above the center of the room. “That’s where the gameplay can be viewed,” says Lepore. “We have 354 tiles in the room,” all offering a pixel pitch of 2.9 mm.

“No one sees a loudspeaker in their view of any of the LED walls,” he stresses. “That was really, really important, and it was very difficult to achieve.”

Full Sail’s Armada teams, launched in 2018, compete in various collegiate-level events, including League of Legends and Overwatch. But the college’s esports involvement began in 2012, when the campus hosted Red Bull LAN Orlando. More recently, in 2018, Full Sail hosted Florida Mayhem’s inaugural Overwatch season.

Full Sail Armada •