For nearly two decades, the 268 Generation, a Christian organization that hosts gatherings worldwide of college students between the ages of 18 and 25, has traditionally held its annual U.S. national Passion Conferences at multiple venues throughout January and February.
For the recent Passion 2016, however, organizers vowed to bring an identical experience to all attendees, ambitiously staging simultaneous three-day events at three locations, with real-time audio, video, and control data streaming and synchronized between the locations, and with a webcast to the world.
This year’s convocation attracted tens of thousands of young adults to Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta, Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnett County (northeast of Atlanta), and Toyota Center in Houston. Pastors at each of those venues – respectively, Brad Jones, Clay Scroggins, and Ben Stuart – led the daily session schedules, interacting with each other via IMAG screens at each location.
Pastor Louie Giglio, who founded the conference in 1997, together with the Passion band plus artists and musicians including Hillsong United and Rend Collective, traveled between the three cities over a period of less than 48 hours to appear before audiences at each arena.
The locations had identical control and broadcast packages, reports Tom Worley of Rat Sound Systems (Camarillo, CA), which supplied audio production at all three venues and has provided sound for two previous Passion Conferences. Each venue was outfitted with three DiGiCo SD7 consoles: one at front of house and one at monitors, plus another for broadcast located backstage. Each system also incorporated six Waves DiGiGrid servers.
In addition, there were two Midas PRO9 consoles at each location (one for FOH and the other for monitors), provided at the request of Hillsong United, a major band from the Australian Christian community. Artists performing throughout each day alternated between the two console platforms.
The view from behind the DiGiCo SD7 at front of house at Philips Arena. (Credit: Jay Rigby)
Making It The Same
Since the bands played all three arenas, having identical systems at each location enabled show files to be easily updated and shared, Worley notes, adding that all crew members had access to the latest information on Dropbox or Google Drive.
The microphone complement was also identical for each band at each venue. “If you were using a [Shure] KSM32 on overhead in one venue it was the same in the other venues,” he says. “This gave us peace of mind knowing that the show files would transpose between venues and allowed us to have the consistency required to pull off an event of this nature.”
Wireless systems were similarly duplicated from one venue to the next, including 16 channels of Shure UHF-R mics, 12 channels of Sennheiser G3 in-ear monitoring systems (working with the Midas consoles), and 12 channels of Shure PSM 1000 personal monitoring systems (working with the DiGiCo consoles). RF technician Tom Jones coordinated wireless frequencies at each site.
Left to right: Midas PRO9 console, racks of Shure and Sennheiser wireless, and DiGiCo SD7 at the monitor position at one of the venues. (Credit: Jay Rigby)
Rat Sound PA tech Andrew Gilchrist designed the house reinforcement systems; the two Georgia locations were provided with in-the-round coverage while Houston was configured as an end stage. The systems were virtually identical, scaled relative to each venue’s size.
Coverage at Philips Arena was delivered by eight line array hangs comprised of 41 L-Acoustics K1 and 60 K2 cabinets. Four hangs were positioned in the four corners of the room, with the mid-section handled by upper and lower hangs to work around a large-format video screen. Infinite Energy Center was reinforced with six hangs of 18 K1 and 59 K2 boxes, and at the Toyota Center in Houston, there were four hangs of 28 K1 and 44 K2. Each rig also included two-dozen SB28 subwoofers as well as ARCS and Kara loudspeakers for various fill needs.
“Philips Arena was the hub of the whole system; that’s where all the rehearsals were,” says Worley. “We had one day to set up then went straight into rehearsals. It’s a big space to fill in-the-round, and every seat was full, right down to the front of the stage. A lot of the hangs were eight K1 with eight K2 underneath, or a similar combination – it was great to have the width of the K2 at the bottom. The curvature on the PA was pretty phenomenal.”
In Houston, 18 L-Acoustics LA-RAKs on the floor (stage left and right) provided amplification and loudspeaker control, while at the Georgia venues, these units (26 LA-RAKs in Atlanta and 22 in Gwinnett) were positioned on the bumpers of the arrays. “We took drive lines from front of house up to the catwalk using Riedel RockNet (digital audio networking). That was distributed out over AES, with an analog backup, to every hang. Power distribution was up there as well,” Worley notes.