Pitch Perfect

Exploring the audio installation at the 2014 Dubai Rugby Sevens
The Dubai Rugby Sevens 2014.
The Dubai Rugby Sevens 2014.

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Having grown to become one of Dubai’s biggest sporting events, the Rugby Sevens requires the equipment and expertise of many different sources. Nick Chapman, general manager of Nocturnal, tells us more about the company’s audio installation this year.

A highlight on the Q4 events calendar, the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens is more than just a sports tournament. With live music, various entertainment options, and one of the best party atmospheres to be found, the Sevens seems to be one of those diary stalwarts that have been around since the days when Dubai was little more than bare desert.

And, as Nick Chapman, general manager of Nocturnal tells us, that is indeed the case. “I’ve been doing the Rugby 7s for the last 20 years,” he says, “and I’ve seen it grow from 500 people to 50,000.”

With so many different elements required to bring the event to life, there is obviously a need for more than one specialist company to get involved on the production side. From stand construction to site power and security, the Sevens requires one of the biggest collaborations around, and Nocturnal, formerly Redeye, has been pitching in (no pun intended) for many years when it comes to the main event itself — the rugby.

Chapman says: “Our responsibility is basically all audio and lighting elements of the rugby, which includes the main pitches 1 and 2 and the concert, then a lot of smaller systems spread out around the area. We actually install what I would describe as a high-end public address system. The gig is part of what we do as well, but of course it is a rugby tournament so that comes first.”

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So, considering he’s been involved since the very beginning, how has Chapman managed to adapt to cater for the huge tournament that the Sevens has become? He explains: “These days we use a lot of enclosures. There are approximately 90 small enclosures, which range from weatherproof Electro-Voice SX300s to Nexo PS10s and PS15s — mainly run off the Nexo NX4 amplifiers.”

He continues: “I designed this particular kind of layout of the system in about 1998. The idea behind what we do is that obviously it’s a temporary structure so everything has to be lightweight — we can’t really hang more than 20kgs in any one point because it’s basically a scaffold roof with shade net.

I came up with an idea, whereby the only way I could really guarantee the safety aspect of the system was to come for a lightweight weatherproof box because the installation takes about two weeks, and to have no electricity in the grandstands at all — every single box installed on the rugby is passive. By locating the amplifiers in weatherproof tents underneath the grandstands it means that there are no power sources or cables anywhere near the public that could endanger them.”

While the original layout template may be nearly two decades old, the technological advancements in audio equipment since then are not necessarily the biggest factor for Nocturnal when it comes to maintaining the quality of the audio on site.

Although, obviously, newer and better gear should signal an easier life for all, Chapman explains: “Obviously the tournament has grown rapidly over the years, so working on the sound aspect the biggest challenge now is basically being able to get a small enough speaker enclosure, loud enough to cope with the growing noise on site.”

“The rugby village is now full of activities, with many using fairly large audio systems and located close to the pitches. So, in turn, the ambient noise now within the ground itself is very loud,” he adds.

“A lot of people are there just to party but it is an IRB rugby tournament, so the rugby takes priority. We need to be able to keep a system that can deliver constant high levels out of a small box — that is a big challenge.

Because the grandstands have grown probably about 40 to 50 per cent in the last five years or so, the actual roof finishes halfway down the grandstands. Half the crowd are under shade net, half are sat in the sunlight. That means that – whereas all the enclosures used to fire backwards into the stands — half the speakers are now facing out.”

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Chapman elaborates on the impact this has had, explaining: “There is a fair bit of trial and error involved as there is no way to time phase two sound sources that are pointing at each other — but we are finding ways to get around this. This is from experience, finding the right enclosures and their respective throw, learning the different balance and expectations of each grandstand — I even know which fans sit in which grandstands these days!”

While the audio around the sporting action comes with its own challenges, Nocturnal has also taken on the extra task in recent years of supplying all of the technical production for the Rugby Rocks concert, which relies on a set-up that will be ‘alright on the night’.

“The concert takes place in the official rugby village, and about 15,000 people stay for it,” says Chapman. “We run the concert on the Friday and Saturday nights, but we never do a sound check. From when the rugby starts at say 8am, there are no gaps where we can make loud noises and do a sound check as it interferes with the rugby.”

“You get to know what to do,” he says. The core team from the rugby have been there many years — myself for 20 and a few others almost just as long. Even the people who run the entertainment on the pitch have been there 10 years, led by Dave Crane who does an amazing job with all the MCing. We’ve learnt what he needs and we have become a really entwined team.”

This year, however, there was a new addition joining the backstage crew. Chapman explains: “It’s a full-on concert system with concert sound and lighting etc. This year the interconnection was that we subcontracted the concert audio to eclipse Staging Services, which provided its new d&b J-series.”

Having partnered with Mark Brown of the eclipse Group in early 2014 following Brown’s investment in Nocturnal, Chapman revealed to Sound & Stage that: “It’s been going brilliantly.”

Discussing how the investment has impacted both companies over the year, he adds: “We made some further investments in our audio kit and eclipse Staging Services has made made a huge investment in their new d&b system, so between the two audio departments now there is a vast array of different products and equipment with d&b at the forefront, especially on the concert side.

We back it up with all the different DiGiCos that we have — Nocturnal has SD9s and SD11s and eclipse have just bought an SD8 — so it’s becoming quite a serious arsenal and, together, we all make it work very well.”

KIT LIST
Pitch one
- 70 Electro-Voice weatherproof SX300
- 10 Nexo Ps 10
- 10 EV2200 amplifiers
- 8 Nexo nx4 amplifiers
- 1 x DiGiCo SD11 console
- 6 Shure radio systems
- 4 x Sennheiser IEM systems

Pitch two
- 16 Nexo geo 1210 speaker enclosure
- 8 x Nexo CD18 subs
- 4 x Nexo NX4 amplifiers
- 1 x DiGiCo SD11
- 4 x Shure radio systems

Concert audio
- 16 x d&b J series tops
- 12 x d&b J subs
- 6 x D80 amplifiers racks
- 10 x Nexo PS15 monitors
- 2 x DiGiCo SD9 consoles

Concert lights and truss
- 12 x Martin mac 2000 spot
- 12 x Martin mac 2000 wash
- 36 x Chauvet LED par cans
- 1 x Grand MA lite console
- 15m x 12m x 10m JTE ground support

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