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ETASound does PA/VA at O2 for NHL, NBA

America would like us to embrace its national sports, and both the NHL and NBA have staged games at London's O2 arena - with ETASound providing the audio facilities.

As the service company contracted to maintain the PA/VA system throughout the entire O2 complex, Eddie Thomas’s ETASound find themselves supporting between 150 and 200 events per year.

The main arena itself is equipped with a full Harman Pro rig, offering a matched JBL/Crown/BSS system solution, operating on a CobraNet backbone running HiQnet. But Thomas also holds a huge inventory of complementary Harman Pro components, making him ideally placed to add any further reinforcement when the occasion arises. Harman Pro is one of several audio brands distributed in the UK by Sound Technology.

The most challenging events, says Thomas, are not so much the conventional music gigs as the sports events — such as the NHL (ice hockey) and NBA (basketball) matches. For the past two years ETASound has provided sound and broadcast facilities for the NBA basketball Europe Live event, and over 16,200 people attended the first game between the Miami Heat and NY Jets, when the event was also broadcast to over 200 countries across the world.

Last month, the sound company was on site again for a series of matches between the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors: this was notable for being the first regular-season NBA game to be staged in Europe.

ETASound provided two Soundcraft Vi1 mixing desks, multiple radio microphone systems, broadcast splits and press conference facilities (including the second Vi1) along with a full engineering crew.

“The small format desk is perfect in this layout and with 64 inputs, it has plenty of capacity,” says Thomas, noting the large number of mic inputs and splits to the OB trucks, as commentators, cheerleaders, a DJ (who plugs his laptop or Instant Replay machine into the desk for independent control), and the half time interval acts (such as Escala from Britain’s Got Talent) go through their routines. “We make sure that the only thing anyone has to do is plug into the existing house system – the VerTec provides extremely even coverage throughout the arena.”

But the PA is only part of the story as ETASound also provides all the feeds to broadcast via the host broadcasters to the States for ESPN Freeview. There are separate splits for the mics and the music from the Vi1, along with show relay feeds to go into talkback.

One of the most challenging tasks is arranging splits to the OB trucks on all inputs from the press conference area, and ensuring perfect coverage, and this requires four staff to be operating permanently from both positions. “People in the press conference room need to know what’s going on out in the arena, but you have to watch your feedback levels closely, because with your mix going out to broadcast you have to get your balance just right,” says Thomas.
The Vi1 is perfect for this type of event, Thomas concludes. “Aside from a maximum of 64 inputs there are 30 bands of BSS graphic EQ – and we can also use it as a matrix mixer.”