CHATSWOOD THINKS BIG
Text:/ Christopher Holder
Willoughby Council’s Concourse centre gives the affluent burghers of Sydney’s North Shore yet another reason to not renew their Harbour Bridge e-Tags. Why bother schlepping your way to the CBD when you’ve got a world-class concert hall, theatre and library smack dab in the middle of Chatswood (arguably Greater Sydney’s shopping epicentre)?
Add to the list of Concourse attractions, a public plaza with a big LED screen. The D3 screen, supplied and installed by DRM Audio Visual, provides a community focal point for big events such as the Olympics, New Year’s Eve, etc.
Essentially, Willoughby wanted a Federation Square of its own. As it happens, DRM did the work on Fed Square as well and knew the drill.
ROLLING IN THE BIG CRANE
Brad Hogan, Managing Director of DRM AV, paints this picture: “We worked closely with AW Edwards (the contracted builders), to ensure the structure was built to properly accommodate the screen. The idea was for the screen to be fitted after Edwards handed the building back to the City of Willoughby. We fabricated the structure and pre-fabricated some of the housing. We had to obtain special permits to bring it all in, and if you’ve seen the site you’ll understand why. The screen position is a good 18m above where a crane could be positioned and about 20m away. So it was a complex lift that required a substantial crane (41m, actually).”
Some six hours later DRM was able to wave the crane goodbye and start fitting the LED modules. One of D3’s key selling points is its easy installation and configuration. Once in position, the modules interconnect via standard cat5, and once linked have a nifty self-configuration mode. Or as Brad Hogan puts it: “Stick all the cat5 together, put it into a network switch, hit the Configuration button, and the system sends out a magnetic field off each module which allows each to ID its neighbour – ‘this module next to me is this Mac address, and the one above me is this other Mac address’. Effectively it builds itself.”
BROADCAST CONTROL ROOM
The next phase was to run OM3 multimode fibre back to the control room in the bowels of the building, which DRM had fitted out with a full-blown broadcast control facility. The setup allows the screen to display and schedule virtually any form of available content. The control room gives the operator the ability to view and preview all the input sources and, once selected, an AMX system takes care of all the audio and video switching – digitally, of course; everything is HDMI and DVI-D.
A Scala digital signage system is installed, again, working hand in glove with the AMX control system; Brad Hogan: “when a particular player is scheduled, it sends an IP string out for the AMX to pick up and perform the vision switching and the audio switching.”
A big public screen needs a big public audio system as well, which was supplied by Technical Audio Group. A lot is expected of the audio. It’s a big area to cover and there’s enough concrete to give an acoustician a heart attack. The harsh reflections not only serve to make speech intelligibility a nightmare but also the risk of annoying local retailers is very high.
A Martin Audio Omniline baby line array was once again selected to solve the problem [see last issue for our story on the Central Station concourse, and Issue 25 on St Mary’s church in North Sydney]. David Gilfillan of Gilfillan Soundwork and ICE Design Australia were commissioned to measure and model the space to ensure the system could be accurately optimised – hitting the audience, while missing the walls, glass balustrades, and surrounding cafes. From there the QSC Q-Sys FIR filtering and the Omniline’s ability to individually address each of the 40 elements with its own amp channel and processing came into their own.
Complementing the two 20-element Omniline arrays is a bass array installed under the elevator shaft (in the screen’s supporting column). The vertical array can be steered downward for added pattern control and is located behind a weatherised guillotine door.
All up, Sydney’s only permanently-installed big public display makes for an impressive crowd puller. But it’s not until you see it in action on occasions such as The Reading Hour 2012 do you get a sense of the possibilities. With its broadcast quality back-end, impressive D3 LED image and high-quality Martin Audio sound system, the Concourse screen can share hookups with Federation Square and the Perth Cultural Centre screen with great results. Clearly, this is far more than a big telly or digital billboard, it’s a suburban touchstone in a digitally connected, yet socially disconnected, world.