THE P.A. PEOPLE: BEHIND THE GRAND PRIX
Celebrating its 20th year at Melbourne’s Albert Park, this year’s Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix is the first in the FIA Formula One World Championship season. The race in Melbourne is followed by twenty-one Grands Prix, finishing in Abu Dhabi on 27 November 2016.
The P.A. People, a Sydney based event communications company, has been a long-standing partner with the Formula 1 in providing audio and comms throughout the mass scale event.
The project kicks off with the design and implementation plan of the audio and communications system. Despite having provided these services for five successive years, The P.A. People must still ensure that the design works optimally each year. While the track is relatively unchanged from year to year, various activity areas and suppliers change, making it necessary to re-check that the design accommodates any alterations. For example, there once was a change in supplier at the V8 stand and team members discovered that their previous speaker brackets were no longer compatible with the new stands, so an alternative solution was quickly implemented.
Once the gear is transported to Melbourne, setup commences just six weeks before the first day of the Event weekend. At the commencement of the installation of the audio system around the track, the only infrastructure in place is an underground fibre optic network provided by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. By race day, The P.A. People had installed approximately 470 speakers over 6km at 20m intervals, using a total of 28kms of cable.
The nerve centre of The P.A. People operations is the ‘bunker’, located in Formula One Management’s command centre. Here the team manages the entire track audio system, the sound system for the International and National Press Conference rooms, and sound amplification over the entire event area.
Screens are located throughout the course, including open areas, stages, corporate and dining areas, providing commentary for attendees. Audio systems are also provided for other activities such as the BMX track, seven music performance areas and stages, autograph stages and Melbourne Walk. Appropriate sound level monitoring is necessary to accommodate a range of activities, such as the RAAF Jet and Roulettes, not to mention the noise of the Formula 1 cars.
Craig Moca, Manager, Engineering, Australian Grand Prix Corporation, has high praise for The P.A. People: “With the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, there are no second chances; it has to run perfectly. The P.A. People know our event and they deliver — every time. The P.A. People’s service is excellent.”
No matter what happens on the day, the race must go on. The P.A. People provide uninterrupted power supply (UPS) which ensures that even if the power fails, the race can still go on. Redundancy is assured in the audio system around the track as every other speaker is installed on a second circuit — so if an amplifier fails, only every second speaker is knocked out.
Once the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix weekend kicks off, the role of The P.A. People moves to technical support, making sure that everything is operational each morning until the track closes every day of race week. As Campbell Waller describes it, “there is not much to do as the system runs so well”.
Occasionally equipment needs to be repaired where a car hits a wall where equipment has been mounted or installed. For example, the material that prevents excessive light from shining in the drivers’ eyes blew off on day two, taking some of The P.A. People equipment as well, requiring quick repairs.
The P.A. People: www.papeople.com.au