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The Wire

DiGiCo SD12-96 Does a Deep Dive for the US Olympic Swimming Team Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium

The SD12’s seemingly limitless flexibility and configurability made it the ultimate audio hub and allowed the event’s live sound to adapt on the fly as needs changed

The United States’ historic dominance of the Olympic swimming competitions makes the sport a central one for fans here and it made the US Olympic Swimming Team Trials as gargantuan as an NFL Draft event. The Trials, which took place from June 15 to 23, were held for the first time ever in an NFL stadium—Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, home of the Colts football team—instead of at the CHI Health Center Omaha, the Nebraska arena where they had taken place ahead of four consecutive previous Olympics qualifying trials. The nine-day event was predicted to generate over $100 million of economic impact locally, according to the Indiana Sports Corp.

The stadium venue, which would be able to seat 30,000 after the construction of two Olympic-sized pools over the football field, more than twice the number the earlier arena could accommodate, presented significant live-sound challenges for the event, which was also broadcast on NBC Sports. Thankfully, a DiGiCo SD12-96 console—supported by DiGiCo SD-Racks and SD-MiNi Racks connected via an Optocore loop, as well as a DiGiCo Purple Box CAT5/MADI-to-optical convertor—assured that the entire audio system, including comms and feeds to broadcast, could be handled by the SD12-96 acting as a central sonic hub.

“It really is on a scale with an NFL Draft,” observes Caleb Cassler, Senior Audio Specialist with Dodd Technologies (DTI), which provided the live sound for the Olympic Swimming Team Trials this year as well as many USA Swimming Events since 1996, including past Olympic trials. Dodd also provided a second SD12-96 and a DiGiCo SD10 plus an SD-Rack for USA Swimming LIVE!, an outdoor music stage that programmed DJs, bands, and presentations all week between trials sessions.

Caleb Cassler mixing audio for the event on the DiGiCo SD12-96 desk

A combination of Lucas Oil Stadium’s installed JBL sound system and additional Meyer Sound components brought in by DTI for the swim events turned the sound of the massive, enclosed venue into a huge distributed system, with highly specific zones for aspects of the event such as the warmup pool, first-call, athlete entrance, athlete lounge, and massage room areas, as well as underdeck elevator positions, VIP sections, starting blocks, and athlete seating areas. Each of these required their own sets of loudspeakers and separate groups/auxes from the SD12-96, which the desk’s flexible configuration capability handled with ease.

Everyone—the audience, the swimmers, the announcers—had their own demands for the live sound,” says Cassler. “The warmup pool, a first-call room—all of those rooms have PA in them, but they also needed to have particular feel, in terms of content and volume. Then there’s the last-call room, which didn’t have speakers, but which was open to the main area so you could hear the crowd and announcements and music through the doorway as they got ready to enter. Every area was very particular, and the SD12-96 let me send each one a completely separate feed with exactly what was needed. The routing was very, very flexible, which it needed to be for this.”

In fact, sometimes spaces needed to be quickly reconfigured, such as when a diving space needed to accommodate a group of dignitaries for a meeting or a press conference. “Being able to quickly throw up new boxes or new groups and adjust things quickly and on the fly was critical for this,” he says. “If a new ‘room’ appears out of nowhere and I need to add more speakers, I can do that without restructuring the entire console. The console is never the limiting factor.”

The 2024 US Olympic Swimming Team Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium

Furthermore, the SD12-96 served as the hub for the live event’s comms infrastructure, managing Dodd Technologies’ Riedel Artist frames and Bolero wireless units via a DMI-DANTE64@96 card and an Optocore M12 MADI hub/switch to interface with the comm system via MADI. “The console can take pretty much anything that I would need it to, both in the cards and in the Optocore options. So I could just plug in MADI, plug in Dante, and then if I need to add something later, or someone wants a new feed, I don’t have to leave the console and start plugging stuff in. I’ve already got 64 channels of Dante and 32 to 64 channels of MADI that I can move around from the console as needed. The MADI ports on the console were used for one local I/O to my computer for playback, LTC, records, and the like, and one via a Purple Box to ST using the house fiber up to an SD-MiNi Rack.”

Another example of how the SD-12-96 streamlined a complex mission was the need for announcers to hear themselves without a delay from the PA system. “There was about a 250-millisecond delay from the PA, making it hard to talk and understand each other,” he explains. “So I just dialed up a separate aux for them and programmed a button on their comms and they could hear whatever they wanted to hear and not hear what they didn’t want to hear. It all goes back to the SD. I’m using it as a giant matrix, which is fantastic.” That also helped with the four discrete video playback sources that were part of the inputs Cassler had to manage, half of which included timecode, as well as sound effects, three wireless roving announcer/hosts, an anthem singer, violinist, quartet, and choir.

The US Olympic Swimming Team Trials presented just about everything a live-event production could demand of a FOH console and its A1, from MADI to Dante to AES67, plus a truly complex PA system that required numerous tweaks over the course of days. “On the SD12-96, I was able to hit every flavor of audio there pretty much is and handle it easily,” says Cassler. “Anyone could throw anything at me they needed, and with the SD12, I could work with it and make it happen.”

Dodd Technologies can be found online at www.doddtechnologies.com.

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