In addition to the Aces, other baseball stakeholders (notably Baseball Victoria) had some input into the project, while there were several components that were added after Mozaix initially met with the team to scope the work.
The main grandstand seats 2200 with approximately a third of those seats under cover. With further capacity down the first and third baselines, the stadium can hold around 5000 spectators. There is a function room under the seating, behind home plate.
The Melbourne Aces, a foundation club of the reborn ABL, moved to the venue for their third season, in the summer of 2012/2013. Just prior to that, Sport and Recreation Victoria funded a major upgrade that focused on the playing surface, player amenities, landscaping, and fundamental equipment, including the light towers and PA system.
Even though they weren’t really sure what they needed – apart from a handful of quite clear must-have features – and had a relatively small budget, we listened carefully and soon realised what they were trying to envisage and achieve: providing a gameday experience to underpin the revitalisation of baseball in Australia.
Melbourne Ballpark was already considered to be the best baseball venue in the country, having hosted most of the annual ABL all-star games, even with what amounted to a fairly rudimentary public address system. Not to dwell on what was there before we started but suffice to say that the control room was full of bird droppings!
They had recently installed a massive 18-metre LED wall in right field, so there was a real imperative to ensure the audio was also brought into the 21st century.
A long list of high-tech production equipment such as
o Blackmagic ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K scaler
o Blackmagic HDMI to SDI Mini Converters
o Blackmagic SDI to Audio 4K Mini Converter
o Blackmagic SmartVideohub router (supports any SD, HD or Ultra HD SDI format on the same router at the same time)
o QSC Core 110f 128×128 Network Processor
o Audio Technica BPHS1 Broadcast Headsets
o Custom Ambient Noise Condenser Microphone setup
o Crowd Ambience System
A long list of audio production equipment such as
o Sennheiser ew 500 Wireless Microphone set
o Custom headset microphone & headphone control plate
o Crowd ambience system
o Powersoft Quattrocanali amplifiers with Dante
o Apple iPad control system
o Cisco Gigabit PoE Managed Switch
o ATLAS Multipurpose Horn Speaker System
o Yamaha bass reflex surface mount speakers
o Apart dual cone active surface mount speaker monitors
They also wanted something simple and reliable, so that nearly anyone could operate the system when lower league games were being played, and it needed to distribute audio into the rooms and the dugouts for the players.
Apart from the functional needs, the Aces’ goal was to create a far more exciting and engaging ambience. They wanted people to enjoy their gameday experience to the point that they not only couldn’t wait to come back next time but went away and told their friends what they were missing.
That meant stepping up the music to the next level, using bigger, better speakers with a lot more warmth (as opposed to the tinny, music-being-pushed-through-public-address-speakers sound that they were used to).
Mozaix presented a proposed solution, which the Aces liked. Then they told us what they really wanted!
When you attend a rugby, rugby league, or soccer match at AAMI Park (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium), as you enter the concourse on the way in, the sounds of the venue signal that you’re at an exciting event straight away, even before you see the playing field.
The Aces wanted that same sort of vibe throughout Melbourne Ballpark, including pre- and post-game, but particularly when play was underway.
We identified the ideal outdoor, all-weather speakers as the Atlas IED music horns. These are big speakers that don’t look much different to what you might see on a pole in a shopping centre carpark, except they have a large 12-inch woofer behind them to reduce the ‘squawkiness’ and make them much better for playing music.
They offer a variety of flare angles, allowing us to be a bit more focused on an area, rather than trying to spread the sound as far as possible. This also enhances the musicality. They are used extensively in high school and college sports venues in the US.
Yamaha VXS series speakers were selected for the premium seating areas and dugout, while those and various other more suitable speakers were installed in the internal spaces, such as corporate boxes, the foyer and concourse, change rooms, bathrooms, and so on.
We put one of the big speakers in the centre of the roofline and pointed it back at the ground, which means the players can feel the vibe for the first time. There are also speakers on the edge of the stadium to the sides, for those watching from the sideline gardens.
The entire setup is controlled via our favoured QSC Q-SYS system, located in the announcer’s booth. The Q-SYS Core gives us the ability to set up virtually any sort of configuration, which allows a great deal of versatility
It also means we can simplify the operation down to an iPad. Anyone with the required access can turn whatever they need (or don’t need) on and off, adjust levels for inputs, including microphones, and speaker outputs.
The main function room has a stand-alone system where they can present into the room or out into the ground, in fact, you can switch any zone on or off or take presentations from the other zones.
The scope did evolve along the way, including the provision of a full mix-down for the broadcast team on local sports radio station SEN.
We also found ourselves adding a video and camera switching backbone for the LED wall, which wasn’t even discussed at the start of the project.
And then there was that challenge of creating a vibrant, exciting gameday ambience.
For our custom solution, we realised that the stands wouldn’t always be packed, so we needed to be able to strike the right balance between the level of our inputs and the actual crowd noise.
In order to do this, we sample the crowd in attendance at each game to track the variance in level and that automatically triggers different tracks so that whatever is coming through the system matches the game and its crowd.
That intelligent solution was perhaps the icing on the cake of what was a very satisfying job. We were able to be a bit creative to shape the solution to fit and we’re delighted to say that it turned out even better than the Aces expected.
We’ll see you at Melbourne Ballpark for a hotdog and a resounding rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame!