Sound Image Delivers Stunning Performance for Pac-12 with Avid S3L

Built in 1958, Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium is home field for ASU’s Sun Devils football team. Sound Image, one of the nation’s leading AV systems integrators and sound providers, maintains and operates the university’s stadium and basketball arena sound systems. Sound Image project managers Larry Budd and Ben Davis were preparing to handle an upcoming ASU vs. Stanford Pac-12 football game to be televised on ESPN to a national audience and recognized that the stadium’s 16-channel analog console would not support the complexities of such a large event. Davis then looked for other solutions that would give him the I/O count and flexibility he would need in a small footprint—ultimately choosing the ultra-compact Avid S3L System to deliver the flexibility and processing required to meet the event’s sophisticated logistics.

Big power, small package

“The requirements for a standard [Sun Devils] game aren’t that demanding,” Davis explains, “but for the nationally-televised Stanford game, I knew that I was going to need something much more flexible and agile. We’re in such a small control room that a standard large-format console just wouldn’t fit, so when I started thinking about what kind of console I needed to facilitate all of the inputs, outputs, and the matrixing, it immediately popped into my head that this would be perfect for the S3L. The horsepower that it delivers in such a small footprint is ridiculous—unlike anything else on the market.”

Preparing for the show, Davis had to contend with managing 32 channels of audio coming in from a variety of sources. He sent 16 channels to multiple destinations, including ESPN, KPR Radio, Stanford Radio, and paper press, as well as providing various announcers and performers with in-ear mixes.

“I originally thought that 16 inputs should get me by, but as the week progressed, the Pac-12 started adding elements like separate sends for all the playback devices, the pre-game show got more intricate with live talent, and ESPN was going to do all the starting lineup packages from the remote TV truck. My channel count easily doubled in three days, and I was making patch changes within half an hour of the beginning of the show!”

VENUE familiarity adds ease

Davis has experience mixing on Avid live systems, ranging from the D-Show System to SC48, and immediately felt at home on S3L, as it shares the same common VENUE software with these systems.

“The surface may be different, but the software is the same, so I was able to create my patch list and do all my routing quickly, without a lot of time to sit with the console,” he recalls. “That’s the thing about this event—the day of the show, the script was still being written. Although I had built layers on the console that represented the different stages of the show so that I’d have all the important elements right in front of me, the S3L has a really good workflow to add and change things on the fly and morph into anything I needed it to be.”

Sound performance

In comparison with the console usually used for sporting events, Davis immediately noticed the improved sound quality and sonic flexibility afforded by Avid S3L. “I had a lot more headroom in the S3L than our usual console, and was able to drive the system harder. The sound was pristine, and the [S3L’s] preamps sound fantastic.”

Even the TV hosts, show hosts and performers commented on the quality of sound that Davis was able to deliver. According to the on field manager Larry Budd, the USO Liberty Bells who sang the National Anthem and have performed all over the world, said that they have never had an in-ear mix sound so good. “With the in-ear mixes I provided, they were so excited to go out and perform. They said it was the best experience that they’d ever had.”