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#STINGDAILY: Sounds Good

Nov. 29, 2012

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

At the end of the 2010-11 season Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball Head Coach MaChelle Joseph stood at center court of Alexander Memorial Coliseum and thanked the fans for their support of her team, which had just set a school single-season wins record.

The fans knew they were being thanked, as the word ‘thank’ came out clearly over the public address system. Anything after that was a little harder to nail down.

It wasn’t Coach Joseph. The problem was Coach Joseph speaking through a sound system created for an arena built in the 1950’s.

Should that speech be given at the end of this season, it won’t have that problem, as it will be given through the modernized P.A. at McCamish Pavilion.

For Tech fans it won’t be so much believing what they’re hearing, as much as simply hearing it, period.

“You really need to experience it first-hand to appreciate it. But at the same time, those of us who are used with the old building take a lot of pride in what the new building sounds like,” said acting Athletic Director Paul Griffin. “It sounds like what a building in this decade should sound like.

“The volume should be able to be adjusted. The clarity of the sound should be the same for all patrons regardless of where they’re located,” he added. “Whereas in the past, you could be in half the arena and you couldn’t understand the P.A.’s best efforts to make you familiar with who was being substituted for, what the foul call was or any information they were trying to share. It had to do almost exclusively with the structure of the building and the technology that was just antiquated. Now, today’s technology in sound as well as video, just continues to emerge and do wonders in buildings.”

When Tech looked to update its sound, it actually called on the same company that installed the original system back in 1955. Baker Audio, located in Norcross, had done its share of work over the years on campus, including the 2008 renovation of Bobby Dodd Stadium and occasional updates at AMC over the years.

This time they followed the plans for McCamish, adding their expertise where needed.

“The direction that we gave to them was, obviously, we wanted to get the sound better, we wanted it to fit the space and we really just let them decide what was best to put in there, based on the design of the building and all of the attributes,” said Andy Blanton, Georgia Tech’s Director of Video Operations, who runs the sound on game nights. “The structures that were going in place, the center-hung scoreboard, for example, was a problem for them to work around. So we decided to to with somewhat of a truss-system just above the center-hung that they were going to hang all of their speakers off of and from there we filled out all of the areas with smaller speakers around the concourse and the upper seating areas.

So there really should be a very even sense of coverage in the facility all together,” he added. “Technically it’s much more sound than the other system and all-in-all, it’s not a very complicated sound system. It’s based on simple principles of amplification and speakers.”

Regardless of where fans are within the facility, the improved sound will be noticeable, although Blanton hopes not too much so.

“The challenge is to make sure that when you walk into the building, you don’t notice the sound in terms of it over-powering the situation,” he said. “It should be there, it should be clear, it should be an even volume everywhere that you go. So when you walk from the stands up into the open concourse, the sound should go with you. It should not be very evident that you have walked out into the bowl and now, all of a sudden, the speakers are slapping you in the face. But it needs to be a significant presence.”

“This system is versatile. It has the ability to take as much of that sub, the bass out as we need to make sure that it’s not rumbling around in the building,” he added. “That’s what you have to kind of battle when you’re in an open venue, is to try not to have too much of an echo or a rattle because sound bounces off of solid surfaces. So if it gets kind of caught in some of the open areas, you have to be careful. Those are some of the challenges.”

Much less of a challenge is setting up and operating the P.A. system.

“We were limited before in the old building. There basically was only one input to feed the system, which was on the floor, so every game we would actually have to physically carry out an audio board then set it up courtside and actually run it from the court,” said Blanton. “In this scenario, we’re up in a production booth, where the operator can simply walk in and all of the equipment is always there, it’s always set up.

“We wanted to expand our capabilities for doing on-court presentations or commencement exercises and things like that,” he continued. “So we made a few provisions to make sure we have several wireless microphones. They’re solid as a rock. You can go nearly anywhere in the building and still be heard clearly, legibly.”

Further advantages of the new system are it’s allowing for exclusivity for private functions in the Callaway Club, as well as giving teams the ability to easily customize background music for their on-court practices. Things like coaches’ clinics and on-court presentations also will be a snap and, most important, understandable.

While the system is still not perfect, Fans should notice the upgrade.

“We’ve kind of taken into account that when you leave your seat we don’t want you to leave the action,” he said. “So depending on where you go in the building you should be in range of something connected back to the sound system which still connects to the game, whether it be the P.A. sound system or the play-by-play radio.

“I don’t expect it to be 7.1 Surround Sound. In a building that size, we hope to just make it bearable and intelligible and certainly hope that the legibility of the P.A. announcements are such that you can understand what he’s saying,” he added. “We hope that we’ve done the engineering correctly, we hope that it’s going to carry the sound the right way without being overpowering and overbearing. You want it to be just right.”

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