3G Productions of Las Vegas and Los Angeles was contracted to supply audio for the last appearances by Pope Francis in the remote outposts of Morelia and Juarez, Mexico with limited time to set up a vast fiber network to carry signals covering several zones from the console to the amplifiers over exceptionally long distances.
The actual venues for the Pope’s final Mexican appearances included the Jose Morelos Pavon Stadium and the Estadio Venustiano Carranza, a soccer stadium, in Morelia along with a park, Parque Publico Federal El Chamizal, and a small adjoining soccer park in Juarez just north of the U.S. border.
Shervorn “Shevy” Emmanuel, 3G System Tech for the Morelia Pavon Stadium event, describes the challenges: “We had to cover the main stadium and a surround system in the parking lots for the crowd overflow and even though we had a total of 232 d&b boxes overall, the real challenge was signal distribution without loss or degradation over long distances.
“We created a drive system with switches at Front of House which connected to other switches at the delays in the parking lots, the stadium, and stage left and stage right. Front of house was approximately 1,000 ft. from the delays and 300 ft. from the stage cable-wise, it would have been very difficult to devise an analog or AES method to distribute the audio; fiber was the best way to do it.”
The basic fiber network approach used by 3G at all of the Pope’s events consisted of running the AES signals for the PA, subs, delay towers, stadium, stage left and right and press areas from the FOH SSL L500 Plus console to a Lab Gruppen LM44 Lake processor, then all of the signals to a Dante audio over IP fiber network, to a Focusrite RedNet D16 to convert the signals back to AES for transmission to the d&b D80 amps used in all of the setups.
As for the speaker system, Shevy explains that, “for the 39,000 in the stadium, the main system throw was about 600 ft. Bottom line, wherever anyone was sitting, they had to hear every word the Pope and Cardinals were saying, not to mention a full orchestra that we were responsible for mixing as well. We couldn’t have pulled it off without the network.”
The speaker setup for Pavon Stadium basically consisted of two main hangs of 16 d&b J8 and J12s, two outfill hangs of 12 J8 and J12s, two infill hangs of d&b Ys, and three delay hangs with 8, 4 and 4 d&b J-Series respectively for a total of 96. Parking lots 1, 2 and 3 had a total of 136 V-Series speakers to cover distances of 350, 250 and 200 ft. respectively.
For all three events, SSL L500 consoles were used at FOH and Digico SD10’s were used for Monitors.
Asked about the event outcome, Shevy responds, “The event went surprisingly well. We had very few technical issues and fiber was a big part of that. It’s a solid system, using the RedNet in tandem with the Lake Processors is very dependable and it performed exceptionally well in the stadium. Everyone was ecstatic at the end. My direct contact, a systems engineer hired by the client, said, ‘Everything was flawless.’ He was very happy with every result we provided.”
Mike Smeaton, System Tech at the Morelia soccer stadium event echoes Shevy’s feelings about the fiber network: “The Dante fiber network let you carry signal over really long distances, you can’t run copper cable for more than 300 ft. We had long runs from FOH to either side of the stage and especially to the parking lots. There would be too much loss over conventional cables.
“The most challenging thing was the ability to adapt when things changed at the last minute with several layers of authority from the Mexican government to our client and down to us. Reacting quickly and effectively to the challenges and making sure the audio was clean and clear and we had good backup in case anything went wrong.
“The rest was reasonably straight-ahead because of the fiber, just making sure everyone in the house understood what the Pope was saying and that the orchestra and another stage with local musicians sounded good throughout the venue.”
The soccer stadium speaker setup consisted of d&b J12s and J8s in two main hangs with 14 enclosures each, two outer arrays with 6 J12s each, two rear arrays per side of two J12 cabinets, two infill arrays with six Q1s and six J-Sub enclosures per side. 3 ground stacks of four J12s each were used for delays, with 20 d&b M4 wedges for monitors and 44 D80 amplifiers driving the system.
The last Pope appearance was in Juarez, Mexico in “a park that was pretty much a dirt parking lot about 1600 ft. long by 900 ft. wide with a small soccer stadium at the end right along the US/Mexican border,” as described by 3G System Tech Jon Daly.
Speaker coverage included 16 d&b J8s for left and right main hangs; four Q1s for Outfills and six Q1s for Infills, 16 J and INFRA subs and M4s for monitors. The first delay row consisted of three towers with eight J8s and J12s total, delays row 2,3 and 4 with three towers each with six J8s and J12s total and delay row five with each tower including six V12s. The soccer stadium system had eight arrays; each with 10 V8s and 16 J Subs, all powered by a total of 75 D80 amplifiers.
“Because the event was the last to be organized by the Mexican government and was almost canceled, we didn’t have much time,” Jon adds. “It was a real challenge to get the cable and equipment installed with only a few days to prepare. We had all of this fiber and none of it could run above ground. It all had to be buried in a network of corrugated plastic tubes between FOH, the stage towers, 15 delay towers and 8 speaker clusters hanging from a four post roof in the center of the soccer stadium next to the video screen.
“Luckily, the massive Dante network consisting of over 10,000 meters of fiber connecting everything together allowed us to take optimized signal a lot further––up to 1200 meters into the soccer stadium––while also maintaining absolute signal integrity. We also had an amp network control on the same network for the D80s.”
According to Jon, the results were successful enough to elicit positive from Pope Francis himself: “His secret service detail came to FOH, thanked us and said the Pope felt it was incredible sounding. He had been concerned about how it would sound in Juarez and Morelia because those were later dates and kept getting pushed back because of the scheduling. According to his staff, the Pope was expecting it to sound inferior to the other sites like Mexico City, but he was really impressed!”
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About 3G Productions, Inc.
Founded in 2004 and located in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, 3G is a multifaceted audio company focused on providing the highest quality of service in live production, sound and video equipment rental and sales, event staffing and installed sound and video.