It was a double pass for optical fiber at Sunday’s NFL Pro Bowl game at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Copper cabling took a beating due to excessive moisture buildup from the rain.
“The issue with copper wasn’t noise for a change, it was water,” said Jeff Kang with Custom Audio, Kaneohe, Hawaii, which has been providing sound reinforcement for Pro Bowl for over 10 years.
Fortunately, this year, Kang had contacted FiberPlex Technologies about a MADI-to-optic conversion box for his Avid Profile live audio console in order to run optical fiber across the stadium, and thereby bypass the problems associated with a copper run.
The FiberPlex FOI-6010 conversion box with MADI SFP/SFP+ (small form-factor pluggable module) on one end and multimode fiber SFP/SFP+ on the other makes it possible to run a fiber snake between the Avid FOH rack and a main stage rack about 650 feet away, something Kang wishes he had been able to do with a secondary stage rack 350 feet up field. The secondary stage rack connected through copper cabling was glitchy due to a steady drizzle of rain the day of the game.
“The problem was that it (copper snake) would constantly switch between primary and backup because of the condensation,” he said, adding that the optical run was unaffected by weather or noise – which was good, because he didn’t have a backup system.
“That’s how much trust I put in these fiber systems,” commented Kang, who has two FiberPlex LightViper audio snakes that he uses for a variety of venues, including use as a 330-foot optical snake during the Pro Bowl game.
For Pro Bowl 2014, FiberPlex’s MADI SFP/SFP+ easily handled Avid’s modified MADI protocol for bidirectional 48x48 digital audio channels into multimode optical fiber supporting separate wireless mics, multitrack recordings, live band, plus a number of announcers and other sources that add to the mix of a typical NFL game.
The remaining channels of the 64x64 bidirectional MADI capability are used for controlling mic preamps, metering, and for reading data on the Avid stage rack down field. (This is part of Avid’s modified use of the MADI protocol.)
Custom Audio is one of a growing number of sound reinforcement firms now using optical snakes for live mixing and other applications that require transporting media error-free and transparently over long distances. Setup requires only a few strands of fiber for the copper equivalent of a 40-pair, 500-pound snake, which is why Custom Audio’s crew was able to dismantle the system in record time after the Pro Bowl game.
“My crew looked at me and said, ‘We got out of here two hours faster than we normally do,’” commented Kang.