Since it opened in 1983, BC Place stadium in Vancouver, Canada, has been lauded for its iconic beauty. Though its recent upgrade has altered its appearance, the re-design has been tailored to not only enhance the user experience, but its visual appeal too.
Sound system-wise, improvements have been just as significant. Clair Brothers Audio Systems has installed a huge JBL VLA line array speaker system, which fulfils entertainment and safety roles. The system is driven by Lab.gruppen PLM Series amplification and processing, fully integrated with Peavey MediaMatrix NION for distribution and control.
The audio challenge at BC Place was met by a collaboration between audio consultant Ian Wolfe of Acoustical Design Group and Clair Systems, who designed the amplification and control systems with assistance from Audinate, Lab.gruppen, Peavey, JBL, Audio Associates and Tech Spa. A cross-company team of over 30 people contributed to this part of the project alone.
Ian Wolfe’s first professional project was at BC Place as a contractor in 1982. He reflected: “I was always proud to be a part of BC Place when it was first built. Having the opportunity to work on the building from a design standpoint was always a dream. I always had been thinking about what I would do if I had the chance to implement an upgrade to the sound system. My dream came true.”
A total of 160 JBL VLA601-WRC line array cabinets were specified. Above the seating, 12 arrays have been flown, evenly spaced around the oval structure. Each array comprises 11 JBL VLA601-WRC cabinets. Six more clusters of VLA601-WRC cabinets under the scoreboard – four of five and two of four – and two down firing JBL PD5212 speakers, cover the entire floor of the stadium, totalling approximately three acres.
“We needed loudspeakers that could provide a lot of output and could cover that large space,” noted Clair Systems’ Senior Engineer Jim Devenney. With so many loudspeakers, it was important to have the right power combination behind the set up, and that meant looking to the most powerful amplifier range on the planet – Lab.gruppen’s PLM Series.
A total of 157 Lab.gruppen PLM Series amplifiers have been specified – 112 PLM 10000Q and 45 of the flagship model – the PLM 20000Q – which represents the largest single fixed installation of PLM power in the world to date. Both models support audio transport via Dante – Audinate’s digital audio networking protocol – which was central to the audio integration at BC Place. The monitoring and the audio transport are all via Dante, across one network along with system control, on a fully-redundant network topology.
The PLM Series’ on board Lake Digital Audio Processing speaks to Peavey’s MediaMatrix nWare software, which controls the MediaMatrix NION n3 audio processors. This was made possible by TechSpa’s development of the existing Peavey software.
Regardless of their power capabilities, the PLM Series amplifiers come equipped with Dante networked audio distribution, Lake Processing and load verification with real-time monitoring. The PLM 20000Q was developed to deliver unrivalled power over four channels, with each channel rated at over 5,000W into 2.2 – 3.3 ohms. Originally created to meet the demands of high-performance touring, with Clair Global as a key early customer, it quickly gained a reputation as an equally potent solution for the installation market because of its very high power density, low mains consumption and its aforementioned smart system control and tuning features. The PLM 10000Q offers very similar functionality with four channels of 2,350W at 2 ohms.
The PLMs’ network buddy where this system is concerned, the MediaMatrix NION n3, is part of a series renowned for stability, efficiency and robustness. It boast 448-channels of high-speed digital audio bus for seamless expandability and offers a low-latency audio path suited to projects as huge as BC Place.
Discussing the collaborative nature of the project, Lab.gruppen’s Josh Evans highlighted Peavey’s roll: “Peavey’s support was amazing – they were on the job site a lot. They also helped with the development and gave the thumbs up that we should do the Lab.gruppen / Peavey module.”
Audinate’s Dante brings BC Place’s audio infrastructure together with minimal hassle and high performance. Regarded as a true plug-and-play digital audio network, it utilises standard internet protocols over Ethernet, and provides reliable, sample accurate, low latency distribution. Over 500 Dante channels have been used at BC Place. If a Dante network of that scale was translated into other digital networking options, the results would be unworkable. Dante adoption was crucial and therefore the equipment had to comply. With Zen, Audinate’s automatic device discovery and system configuration protocol, what was a potentially complicated network set-up was made much simpler.
Not to say it was in any way simple, of course. “When it came time to get the control and monitoring working properly, that did require some help from our friends at Audinate in the US, South Korea and the UK,” explained Evans.
The network is fully redundant, which eliminates failure at any single point, and provides a safety feature that is extremely pertinent to a sports arena of BC Place’s size. Evans said: “Commissioning a system that large, with six different redundancies, can be a challenge. It’s not just one system; it’s one system with multiple redundancies. So what you’ve got is a large system that you have to commission, times by six.”
Despite the challenges involved, the project was completed on time and the system provides the requisite combination of power and smooth coverage. “In the end we came up with an elegant and effective solution to match the expectations of audiences that visit this impressive facility,” said Devenney.
Talking about working with Clair Brothers, Wolfe concluded: “They are very professional and great to work with. Their approach to the project included a ‘let’s get it done’ attitude and they did whatever was necessary to have the sound system ready to go for the first use. It was a lot of work.”
This is an abridged version of an article featured in the March/April edition of Mondo’dr magazine.