Superbowl Embraces Digital Audio

Although not a new concept, the pairing of professional sports with musical entertainment is perhaps nowhere more pronounced than during the Super Bowl, an event that has grown from championship football game to all-out entertainment extravaganza, requiring months of planning and monumental technical expertise. In an effort to boost ratings, justify high-dollar advertising, bring in new fans, and hold the attention of a viewing audience of 800 million, Super Bowl XXXVI was no exception, with a full schedule of performances running from Friday through Super Sunday. Sound reinforcement for this year's pre-game, halftime events, and on-field trophy presentations were handled by personnel and products that are no strangers to mega events, Burbank, CA-based ATK/Audiotek and four Yamaha PM1D digital mixing systems provided by Hi-Tech Audio of San Francisco, CA.

"Planners understand that preparation and experience have a lot to do with the success of this type of event," said Brett Valasek, production coordinator for ATK. "We've handled the Super Bowl since 1997, so we understand that multiact shows have unique technical challenges. Turnaround times and set changes are tight, plus television demands clean looks and sound."

The music-packed weekend began with the NFL Super Bowl Friday Night Bash at the New Orleans Arena, hosted by CBS for NFL owners and friends. Two Yamaha PM1D digital consoles were used for all-live audio (manned by independent engineers John Pernal at the front of house and Ron Reaves at the monitor positions, with technical support from Mark Ditmar and Tom Holmes), and an audio truck with its own audio split on site for live broadcast. For television viewing purposes, the first part of the show used tape-delay, with a live finale. Recording and mixing for the telecast was handled by Effanel Music.

Sunday's pregame lineup from the Louisiana Superdome opened with the Boston Pops and featured Paul McCartney, Barry Manilow, Marc Anthony, Mary J. Blige, Patti LaBelle, James Ingram, Wynonna, Yolanda Adams, and Mariah Carey. Irish rockers U2 took the stage for the halftime festivities, with all performances echoing a patriotic theme. Although most of the musical performers used prerecorded tracks to reduce the possibility of technical problems, U2 played live. Engineers Mike Parker and Tom Pesa used a Yamaha PM1D to mix monitors for all of the entertainment foldback needs. An additional PM1D was used for halftime rehearsals in a tent outside the Superdome earlier in the week. "PM1D memory cards were moved from the rehearsal board to the show board," added Valasek.

Monitor coverage for the performers on the field during pre- and half-time entertainment included AudioTek custom M-2 and M-5 cabinets. U2 was the only act requiring additional effects, mostly to augment band member mixes. For that purpose, ATK provided a Shure PSM700 in-ear monitor system, Lexicon PCM80, and a t.c. electronic M5000 reverb and 2290 delay.

Audio systems included a distributed system of 16 mobile sound reinforcement carts, each containing four L-ACOUSTIC V-DOSC speakers and amplifier racks, covering the lower seating areas. ATK augmented the Superdome's house system with 10 clusters of JBL Vertec cabinets, arrayed in groups of three and four and cabled via a fiber optic system. System EQ, driven through the Yamaha PM1D, consisted of XTA DP-226 and DP-224. "Having a pieced stage and a mobile P.A. system demanded a limited number of connections that could be terminated quickly,ä Valasek said. All house and monitor speakers were powered by QSC Audio PowerLight 4.0 and 9.0 amplifiers. Stage signals were routed to Westwood One's remote broadcast truck, where engineer Andrew Waterman handled mixing and playback sources for all entertainment, assisted by John Harris for U2's halftime set. "When outlining this system, we made equipment choices based upon the need for simplification," said Scott Harmala, Audio Systems engineer and system designer for ATK. "For instance, the presets and onboard effects of the PM1Ds eliminated the need for extra outboard gear. The line array systems solve a lot of the television issues: good coverage with less hardware and cabling, better sightlines, lots of gain before feedback."