Royal Randwick’s new $180m grandstand has been a huge audiovisual undertaking. And when it comes to the punt – it’s mission critical.
Text:/ Christopher Holder
To understand the AV at the Australian Turf Club’s (ATC) Royal Randwick race track in Sydney, you need to understand race day.
The PA People, has done a stadium or two over the years, there’s no doubting that, but the Sport of Kings is a horse of a very different colour to other game day scenarios or sporting events.
Horse racing is about prestige, glamour, money, power and influence. You won’t find the royal family owning a stake in West Ham United, but you will find royal families of all persuasions taking a keen interest in thoroughbred horse flesh.
But regardless of whether you’re a sheikh or a taxi driver, once the horses are under starter’s orders, there’s only one focus, and that’s on the race call:
“We needed to ascertain how the client wanted to operate the system and work with them,” explains The P.A. People’s project manager, Josh Jones. “We’ve worked with Royal Randwick for a number of years now, but requirements evolve, so we put our listening ears on.
“There’s an audio hierarchy that exists. Ultimately, the race call is king – once the horses leave the barrier every audio zone is taking the race call. The rest of the time it’ll switch back to what you have running locally — free-to-air, Sky Sports, etc. The bookies’ areas are a little different. The interstate race results will override the background audio, while any announcements from Randwick’s weights and measures room will have precedence over the interstate results. It took a few visits to the Autumn Carnival to get all this down. We learnt a lot.”
CALL IT AS YOU SEE IT
It’s interesting just what a great leveller that race call is. This is a $180m new grandstand development. There are dozens of private suites and function spaces. There’s the new ‘Theatre of the Horse’ parade ring, an owners’ pavilion, the Directors’ Lounge, and, of course, acres of visitors’ concourse and a grassed area along the track for the hoi polloi in for a casual punt. Josh Jones again:
“Part of the Norman Disney & Young consultant’s spec was to cover everyone on the grass (up to 20,000) with 100dB of audio. That’s some serious level. But just as important was to avoid caning the horses with 90dB of audio as they galloped past to the finishing line. This is all from a distributed PA mounted 40m up on the lip of the roof of the grandstand. Using a combination of BSS BLU DSP processing, Crown CTS amplifiers (with BLU PIP cards) and weather-rated JBL AE Series loudspeakers we’ve got that area covered.”
And that’s just one zone. Along with the aforementioned VIP spaces, functions rooms, etc., there are more than 60 zones.
Josh Jones: “For audio signal transmission we went with Dante over fibre (with copper backup). With 160-plus channels we needed something that would provide us with the audio channels backwards and forwards that run through the building. You could say it was a comparatively simple job in terms of knowing what the ‘plumbing’ needed to be but we needed the horsepower to make that happen. Which was one of the reasons we went with Dante.
“For example, we have every free-to-air TV channel (30-odd channels), each one of those is a discrete audio channel that gets selected and controlled directly from the system in each one of these rooms – it can be independently routed to each room at the user’s discretion. As well as that, you’ve got the race-caller and the local use of microphones and announcers in the parade ring… everything runs over the same fibre backbone.”
The finishing-post Daktronics Semaphore 15HD LED video display is a showstopper. Along with the same format screen (420sqm) at Rosehill Racecourse this display is the biggest south of the equator. It features 720 x 2568 pixel resolution at a 15mm pixel pitch. Daktronics screens are well regarded for their wide viewing angle, high brightness and high contrast, and the full IP65-rated outdoor Semaphore display provides a genuine focal point for all 40,000-odd people on race day.
Indoors, Daktronics has two of its large-format 6mm pixel-pitch LED panels taking care of all the odds and vision from races around the country – one above the bar and another above the TAB. The control features are state of the art. Using the Daktronics show control solution the displays are fully integrated with the TAB interface, taking the TAB data and displaying it in any format the ATC desires. Practically this means the traditional basic-but-serviceable TAB readouts are replaced with better looking fonts and colours, and the data can appear anywhere on the big screen that works best.
Daktronics: (02) 9453 4600 or www.daktronics.com
IPTV: 800 NETWORKED SCREENS
Hearing everything is one thing, but that’s only half the equation in the new grandstand, there are 800-odd screens (including ~500 Sony models) for the public to see everything.
The screen network is powered by an Exterity IPTV system. The system handles everything from terrestrial free-to-air TV, satellite pay-TV, outside broadcast van feeds, production facilities, and locally-produced digital signage generated in-house by the ATC. In fact, there are some 60 channels available at the site, together with over 30 pages of digital signage screens. Each display is independently-addressable from the Exterity central management platform.
High definition displays are absolutely everywhere. In fact, I challenge anyone to walk into any front-of-house area and not clock a screen in their line of sight. Bars, suites, ballrooms, dining areas, outdoor spaces and management facilities, they’re all covered. The race-day operator of the Exterity system can provide central control, while a good number of AMX wall panels allow those in hospitality suites to tailor the visuals to their needs.
Video is on the same fibre backbone as the audio but on a separate VLAN (Virtual LAN). And the TAB – with its self-service kiosks and odds screens? Well, unsurprisingly, that runs on its own totally-separate data infrastructure – even the racks are segregated and locked with a different key.
The P.A. People has been responsible for some significant installations, but according to Josh Jones this one is: “without doubt, the biggest rollout of an integrated audiovisual project that The P.A. People has been involved with”. And said with the lack of equivocation you’d expect from a man who has come out the end of a very long, mentally-arduous process.
It’s the ATC’s challenge to now exploit the high level of amenity the grandstand provides during ‘down time’. What with the wonderful interior design from architects Woods Bagot, the generously-proportioned ballroom areas and the excellent catering facilities, I’d hazard a guess that Royal Randwick will be keeping itself busy all year round.