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AFL Grand Final 2017 with JPJ Audio

AFL Grand Final 2017

JPJ Audio took over designing and operating the audio system for the AFL Grand Final entertainment six years ago and it's been smooth sailing ever since. This year The Killers absolutely nailed it with an incredible performance that won them universal praise.

The AFL Grand Final is an annual Australian rules football match, traditionally held in late-September or early-October at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, to determine the Australian Football League (AFL) premiers for that year.

For sound designer James "Oysters" Kilpatrick the biggest hurdle is the sheer size of the playing field, which is around 500m in circumference, and the fact that everything has to be set up in matter of minutes. Of course, it also has to be taken down in an equally short amount of time.

"We do a rehearsal during the week where it all has to be wheeled out and struck down afterwards, and then we do a soundcheck and out it all goes again," said Kilpatrick. "We also have a large amount of outputs as we're driving the TV OB for the music, sending a mix with ambient mics to Triple M, plus feeding the ground and the media. It takes us about a week to wire and thoroughly check all of the outputs as there are so many including various mix minus feeds."

Kilpatrick ran an Avid Profile mainly because he wanted stability and the Waves Plugins to run without the complication of a server but also because of its' small footprint as space is premium. He also required a console that was capable of running ProTools while at the same time, could add markers for memories via snapshots, as the rehearsals are recorded on the Thursday and on the Friday there are more rehearsals running everything off the ProTools to the broadcast truck. The reliability of the Avid Profile was also a major factor in its choice especially as the weather and temperature can be quite erratic in Melbourne at that time of year.

At front-of-house control with Kilpatrick this year were Tim Millikan and Ryan Fallis, with Kilpatrick sending his outputs to Millikan to distribute via matrix mixers, line drivers, and active splitters. Everything that Kilpatrick had on his console was mirrored onto Millikan's DiGiCo SD11 in case Kilpatrick console was to fail. Fallis looked after the fully redundant ProTools replay and would also send everything he was doing to Channel 7. All control gear was on a UPS and was all timed, with JPJ doing extensive power failure tests in the factory leading up to the event.

"It was all fiber with Channel 7 directly to me so that was a bit easier than years previously," added Kilpatrick. "Tim and Bowden Birkett (JPJ Audio's head system engineer) could actually change any part of the PA or any part of the zoning, or even the levels to Channel 7 without asking me."

It's important to remember that this is a TV show, not a concert, which can be a hard thing for people to get their head around. It's not only live in the ground, its going live to millions people, there is no waiting till somebody is ready, it just rolls ready or not.

"You have to use wind socks as it's our windiest month in Melbourne and it really swirls around the ground," said Kilpatrick. "RF can also be a problem and in the past, it has failed. This year Frontier production bought in Peter Cochrane from ARTICULATE Communications to manage all of the RF and communications. He lowered the power on all of the radios, allotted all of the frequencies, and it worked incredibly well. Everyone is on in-ears because without them the amount of slap back in the playing field is disorientating."

Sixteen carts of d&b audiotechnik cabinets were wheeled out, each cart holding three d&b J Series cabinets.

"The ground runs in mono with redundant loops of signal and power so the most you could lose would be two or three carts," said Kilpatrick. "We can even broadcast for about 15 to 20 minutes without power although the speakers would fail. We could have run it with fiber but that would have got quite complex and I try to keep it as simple as possible, especially as so many complex things have failed at this event in the past. Eventually it will be entirely networked but when we do that, we'll probably run it in the shop for a month before."

Kilpatrick remarked that this years' show by The Killers was the best yet, even though the band was so complex he didn't take a full split of all of its gear.

"As they have so many electronics such as sequencers, synthesizers, and keyboards, we had that all bussed down a series of stems by Marty Beath," he explained. "We took the vocals, guitars, and drums all separate but it was condensed across sixteen lines instead of say fifty-six."

Once the "footy" had finished, The Killers performed a free show for anyone who wished to attend reverting back to a normal concert set up with front-of-house and monitors and with Kilpatrick looking after OB to television only.

WWWjpjaudio.com.au/


(8 November 2017)

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