Clemson’s Howard Field Puts ‘A’ and ‘V’ Together at a Whole New Level

Audio and video have been mostly separate propositions in sports-venue systems, particularly as the trend toward distributed systems makes audio even more distinct. But the new sound system and video scoreboard at Frank Howard Field at Clemson Memorial Stadium put audio and video together into a true multimedia combination, and in a very big way.

“The audio system completes a full-on media experience when used with the stadium’s video displays,” says Mike Maloney, regional audio sales associate, Daktronics, which did the installation of both systems this year. “The sound system is used for announcements, music, videos, audio reinforcement for the marching bands on the field, and, of course, for the roaring Clemson Tiger.”

The stadium’s new video system is substantial. Measuring approximately 25 ft. tall by 61 ft. wide, the main display offers LED resolution at 504×1272 pixels, with excellent viewing angles and the ability to operate as a single giant display or be divided into multiple zones to show a wide variety of stats, information, graphics, animation, and live and recorded video. Additional video displays approximately 19 ft. tall by 31 ft. wide are nearly as vivid at 384×624 pixels. LED ribbon displays totaling 730 ft. are mounted to the sideline fascia on the north and south stands and integrate seamlessly with existing ribbon-display technology already in the 81,500-seat stadium.

Big Sound
The sound system is equally hi-res. Intended also for use with touring sound systems brought in by visiting music acts (the venue has hosted shows by the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, U2, and others), the new system is based on 30 JBL VLA Series line-array elements, most housed within the scoreboard infrastructure: JBL VLA901H, VLA601H, and VLA301H full-range loudspeakers are arranged in custom-built steel framing at the top of the scoreboard tower. The large number of loudspeakers had to be placed in a relatively small space — literally limited to the width of the video display — and located in a purpose-built weatherized housing.

“The VLA Series cabinets are weatherized to begin with, but we wanted the added protection of putting them in a housing that resists the elements since the loudspeakers are outdoors 365 days a year,” Maloney says. “We reused the existing structural columns to support the video display and the base of the sound system, but everything above that point is new construction.”

The loudspeakers are arranged in a center cluster of three line arrays, one aimed directly forward, closely flanked by two arrays aimed toward the left and right of the stadium. The center array comprises eight JBL VLA loudspeakers. The top four are VLA301H loudspeakers. The next two models in the array are VLA601H, with two VLA901H loudspeakers at the bottom of the center array. The left and right arrays include eight VLA601H loudspeakers each.

This main center cluster is augmented by two side-fill arrays of three VLA301H loudspeakers at the far sides of the scoreboard and two JBL PD5200/95-WRC loudspeakers to deliver down-fill sound to the area below the scoreboard. Danley Sound Labs TH812 subwoofers are also part of the scoreboard sound system.

These and the JBL loudspeakers are powered by 54 Crown I-Tech HD Series amplifiers, and system control is provided by BSS London Architect and Harman HiQnet System Architect, with a customized Daktronics Announcer computer interface. The Crown I-Tech HD amplifiers also handle loudspeaker DSP. Digital mixing control is via a 24-input Yamaha O1V-96VCM-CA mixer that lets the operator build up to eight digital or analog outputs.

The system is huge, but it has to be: Frank Howard Field is a mammoth stadium. The upper decks on the sides are larger and higher than most stadiums, creating some extreme throw distances of more than 700 ft. The seating actually extends around and behind the scoreboard location, so high-power side-fill speakers firing out of the scoreboard’s side grill were necessary.

“This arrangement enabled us to use the center-most array to cover the far end-zone seats and the field, while the left- and right-center arrays provide sound for the side seating and the side fills cover the nearest parts of the upper deck,” says Maloney. “In particular, the JBL VLA301H gave us the ability to project sound to the farthest seats in the stadium and provided the pattern control we needed to get a good blend between all the line arrays.”

Aside from its sheer brute force, the new sound system has some sophisticated other aspects. Interfacing to the processing and amplification can be monitored and controlled via a touchscreen computer located in the control-room rack. Password-protected connection to the Clemson network allows remote access to the system by Daktronics and Clemson technicians. In-ear monitors diminish delay issues for the on-field talent, and an assisted-listening system provides support for hearing-impaired visitors to Memorial Stadium. In the event of an emergency, the main sound system has a custom alarm interface created by Daktronics that provides a priority override to silence anything but emergency audio broadcasts from the main sound system.

With the college tier of sports venues at the leading edge of stadium and arena AV technology, complex systems like the one Daktronics developed for Clemson will become more frequent, putting the “boom” into “sis-boom-bah.”

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