Super Bowl LII: For Entertainment Sound, Stadium Size Requires Modified Approach
ATK Audiotek extends audio network to wedge and in-ear monitors, wireless mics
It was a near balmy 70 degrees inside U.S. Bank Stadium during the days leading up to last Sunday’s big game, but it was still six degrees outside the domed venue. As engineers and technicians for ATK Audiotek, the event’s live-sound provider, moved back and forth between the stadium and their office across the street, they moved between two drastically different weather environments.
“It could get stressful,” says Kirk Powell, engineer-in-charge, ATK. “We were constantly taking layers of clothes on and off.”
The pregame and halftime entertainment at Super Bowl LII used much of the same system approaches that ATK has developed over nearly two decades of doing live sound: 18 wheeled field carts loaded with 85 JBL VT4889 loudspeakers and a total of 32 S28 subs (13 five-box carts and five four-box carts with two subs each) were brought in and placed around the perimeter of the field, powered by 108 Powersoft K10 and X4 amplifiers. What was different this year was the configuration for much of it, given the smaller size of the Downtown Minneapolis stadium.
“The north side of the stadium had movable bleachers, used for baseball, so we had plenty of room over there,” says Powell. “But, on the south side, there was barely room for coiled cables, let alone amplifiers.”
That meant positioning the smaller X4 amplifiers on that side of the venue, where two small tech bays at the two 30-yard lines were all that was available, which meant longer cable runs for some of the carts. This was somewhat offset by more intensive use of audio networking this year. A Dante network encompassed not only the speakers, as it did last year, but also extended to the wedge monitors, used for the pregame events such as the national anthem, and the in-ear monitors used for the halftime show. All the wireless microphones were also on the network, which comprised 10 Focusrite D16R RedNet boxes, 32 Focusrite A16R RedNet interfaces, and six Focusrite D64R RedNet boxes.
“The network definitely helped reduce the amount of space we needed for everything,” says Powell, “which was important in the smaller stadium.”
The field carts were tied into the stadium’s house PA, a JBL VLA system, which covered the upper reaches of the venue for the entertainment. ATK’s Scott Harmala and Jack Bowling spent several days before the event retuning the house PA to match the cart-borne system. That had the added benefit of tweaking the house PA for the game itself in a stadium not known for its sonic-friendliness. Bowling also mixed the live sound for the game itself; the entertainment sound was mixed by ATK’s Alex Guessard, using a combination of DiGiCo SD5 and SD10 consoles, and a pair of Yamaha CL5 consoles.
“They time-aligned the upper PA clusters to match the coverage of the cart speakers in the lower bowl,” Powell explains. “And they EQ-ed the cart speakers for the acoustics of the house. Then they set it up as two presets — the game and the show — and were able to move between the two with the press of a button. The music sounded great, the referee was loud and clear, and there was no feedback. When you have the time, you can make it sound incredible.”