Massive Harman Professional Audio System Provides Fitting Platform For China’s National Day Spectacular
13 October 2009, Hong Kong, China
In a compelling demonstration of the high performance and depth of integration of Harman Professional audio components, Hong Kong-based ACE Professional Sound and Lighting, deployed an extremely large integrated audio system featuring components from JBL Professional, Soundcraft, Crown Audio and BSS Audio and configured using Harman HiQnet System Architect™ to support China’s National Day celebrations. Held October 1– the 60th anniversary of the 1949 revolution — this year’s celebrations featured 200,000 participants, an array of large, festive floats representing cultural, sporting and national successes and culminated in a 60,000-person evening rendition of “I Love China” in Tiananmen Square accompanied by a 300,000-shell fireworks display.
Overall sound design was delegated to Radio Film and TV Design Institute of the China Media Group, with the bulk of audio-specific systems integration shouldered by Hong Kong-based ACE Professional Sound and Lighting. Although the sheer magnitude of audio logistics outstripped the capabilities of any single supplier, ACE contributed the lion’s share – roughly 80% – of all audio gear deployed in and around Tiananmen Square, with near universal reliance on highly integrated systems from Harman Professional. All told, equipment supplied by ACE included nearly 700 JBL loudspeakers plus more than 480 Crown amplifiers, 57 BSS Audio DSP units, and 46 Soundcraft analogue and digital mixing desks.
“We’d also supplied systems for the 50th anniversary in 1999,” says ACE Vice President Bingo Tso, “but this year’s project was perhaps ten times as large. The size of the systems, along with newer technologies – line arrays, digital consoles and DSP amplifiers – made it extremely important to have everything working together. Fortunately, using HiQnet System Architect™, all the Harman Professional equipment integrated perfectly.”
During the parade, the total street frontage requiring audio coverage measured nearly 10 km. Coverage would have been a simple task, except that the stands adjoined a 17 m wide moat. To cover the broad expanse, ACE configured fourteen short arrays, each with two JBL VerTec VT4888 3-way cabinets atop a VT4882 subwoofer, with each combination driven by three Crown I-Tech 4000 amplifiers. The array produced ample power to cross the water, while the “short stack” configuration remained discreetly out of TV camera view. Two larger but well-disguised arrays, each with eight JBL VerTec VT4888 and four VerTec VT4882, covered the gate tower structure, with augmentation on the VIP balcony from 56 JBL MS26 cabinets on the floor and additional JBL AC16 cabinets mounted overhead, again powered by Crown I-Tech 4000 amplifiers.
For broadcast sound, the discrete live sources, numerous submixes, and prerecorded material converged on a 96-input Soundcraft Vi6 digital console. Activity at the primary live sound control room (located at the gate stands) revolved around dual Vi6 desks, one with 96 inputs and a second with 64. A second audio control position (equipped with the same combination of Vi6 desks plus a 48-input Vi4) was set up in Tiananmen Square specifically for the mammoth orchestra and chorus.
“The snapshot memories and internal processing on the Vi6 desks proved extremely useful,” notes Tso. “As we had so many different signal sources at various distances up to a kilometer or more away. We used the on-board processing for EQ and to time-align sources to a common zero point.”
The live mixes were either delivered directly to the BSS London loudspeaker drive processors, or, for the longer hauls, first distributed through a fiber optic matrixing and distribution network. In most cases, analog cables paralleled the digital or fiber optic ones as a safety net. “We had signal redundancy at nearly all levels,” notes Ben Lui, ACE’s assistant general manager for pro sound. “For example, the new Crown I-Tech HD Series amplifiers have built-in signal sensing with automatic switching. If the digital signal had failed for any reason – though it never did – then the amplifiers would have instantly switched to the analog inputs.”
The many other distributed main loudspeaker systems and monitoring systems spread through the expansive site would require a small book to catalogue in detail. However, in brief, we can note that much of the street-side coverage was provided via custom-made (in China) column speakers designed specifically to blend with the ornate lampposts on which they were mounted. Low-mid drivers were domestically manufactured, with the 4”-diaphragm HF drivers supplied by JBL. The complement of approximately 100 lamppost speakers was powered by racks of Crown I-Tech 5000HD amplifiers mounted in the Great Hall of the People, adjacent to the Square. Hundreds of additional loudspeakers – drawn from JBL’s PRX, SRX, VRX and Control Series – were assigned duties along the avenues, in VIP rooms, at entrances and exits, around parade marshalling points, and for monitoring in performance areas.
Dozens of supplemental audio mixing points were required as well. For the parade, 22 small analog mixers (mainly Soundcraft GB2R) were placed along the parade route to, picking up ambient sound and routing into the Nexus fiber optic snake system. Additional compact digital consoles (Soundcraft Si2 and Si3) were at the hub of smaller indoor and outdoor systems for the various parties and meetings surrounding the main celebrations.