Photo: The DiGiCo SD7 console providing the house mix at Atlanta’s Philips Arena for Passion 2016
With the promise that “three locations will be connected across two cities with a single heartbeat,” Passion 2016 delivered worship sessions, speakers, and praise music through nine Optocore-networked DiGiCo SD7 digital audio mixing consoles at arenas in Georgia and Texas at the beginning of January. The three-day event attracted tens of thousands of college-age adults and featured a roster of speakers and bands traveling between all three venues. In addition to audio and video presentations synchronized over inter-city fiber networks, all were webcast worldwide.
With the same lineup of musicians performing at each arena, production provider Rat Sound Systems of Camarillo, California, supplied the same complement of DiGiCo consoles, with DiGiGrid servers at FOH and monitors, plus identical control, wired and wireless microphone, and IEM packages, at each of the three locations. Rat Sound, working for the third time on the design and implementation of production sound for the annual Passion Conference, also provided virtually identical L-Acoustics K1/K2 PA system packages, scaled appropriately for each venue.
Pastors Brad Jones, at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta, Clay Scroggins, at Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and Ben Stuart, at Toyota Center in Houston, led the events. Over the three-day period, pastor Louie Giglio, Passion Conference’s founder, and musicians including Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Crowder, Kristian Stanfill, Hillsong United and Rend Collective moved from one location to the next, providing the same experience for every attendee, regardless of the venue.
Matt Manix of Nashville’s Method Production Group, who designed and coordinated the audio networks within and linking each venue, selected DiGiCo’s SD7 for its power, flexibility, and audio quality, he says. “Having shared I/O and being able to have clean audio at every position without utilizing analog splitters, we were able to get the channel count up really high and retain the quality. The SD7 has to have one of the largest output buss counts out there and is arguably the most flexible system, as far as routing anything anywhere. And with the SD7’s A and B engine we didn’t have to rent extra desks or engines for redundancy,” he says.
Each arena featured an SD7 at front-of-house and at monitors with a third SD7 located at a backstage broadcast position where the web feed was mixed. The three desks were linked by an Optocore network, with fiber running to each console from one of four interconnected DiGiCo SD-Racks positioned at monitor world and back to an adjacent SD-Rack, providing redundancy through the closed-loop configuration. Monitor engineers had head amp control of two of the SD-Racks while the broadcast engineers controlled the two SD-Racks linking two other consoles—specified by one of the bands—into the Optocore network.
Philips Arena acted as the hub of an 800-mile-plus fiber network between the three venues, allowing the pastors to converse and interact with each other via DPA headsets and IMAG video screens. A DiGiCo SD-Mini Rack located in the outside broadcast production truck, and supplied to each venue by TNDV of Nashville, enabled operators to switch broadcast or FOH audio with the live video of speakers and musicians being transmitted between locations. Each OB truck’s SD-Mini Rack was looped through a DD4 fiber-to-MADI converter feeding the Riedel MediorNet-enabled HD-SDI link, incorporating 16 channels of embedded audio, between the venues.
The input capacity and output bussing capabilities of the SD7 desks ensured redundancy throughout the systems, as Manix details: “Each broadcast desk sent a mix-minus to the other two venues which were picked up by front-of-house, broadcast, and monitors. We also sent the front-of-house program feed to each venue as a backup to the broadcast mix and mix-minus. Additionally, each DiGiCo desk at each venue had access to all embedded audio from all venues.” Further, he says, isolated feeds from every presenter were shared between all locations, enabling the engineers to process them specifically for each venue.
The two Georgia venues were configured in-the-round, with Houston presented in an end-stage layout. Rat Sound’s key PA tech, Andrew Gilchrist, designed the L-Acoustics systems at all three venues. Philips Arena included eight hangs comprising a total of 41 L-Acoustics K1 and 60 K2 cabinets, Infinite Energy Center included six hangs of 18 K1 and 59 K2 boxes, and at Toyota Center there were four hangs of 28 K1 and 44 K2. Each rig also featured eight ARCS and 12 Kara plus two-dozen SB28 subs.
In the two Georgia venues, the amplification was positioned on the bumpers of the arrays—26 LA-RAKs in Atlanta and 22 in Gwinnett. “We took drive lines from front-of-house up to the catwalk using Riedel RockNet. That distributed out over AES, with an analog backup, to every hang. The power distribution was up there as well,” says Rat Sound audio engineer Tom Worley. In Houston, 18 LA-RAKs were distributed on the floor at stage left and right.
For nearly twenty years, the 268 Generation, a Christian organization that hosts gatherings around the world of college students between the ages of 18 and 25, has traditionally held its annual Passion Conferences in the US at multiple venues during the months of January and February. The 268 Generation, which takes its name from a Bible verse, Isaiah 26:8, will present Passion 2017 at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, which last hosted the conference in 2013, when it attracted more than 60,000 attendees.