Amplifying the Pope’s message to the millions

Amplifying the Pope’s message to the millions

Published: WORSHIP

POLAND: Pope Saint John Paul II conceived the concept of World Youth Day (WYD) in 1985, with the inaugural international version of the event held in Buenos Aires in 1987. Since then, the Catholic Church has staged a WYD every two or three years, emphasising the theme of unity for its young worshippers, millions of which make the pilgrimage to the site of each edition.

It is estimated that two and a half million flocked to the 2016 WYD, which was hosted by Poland and split between Kraków and nearby village Brzegi. With such a large audience gathered to witness Pope Francis deliver the address, a substantial PA system was required to match the sheer scale of the event.

‘We had to deliver sound over a huge radius of 1,650m and between the furthest delay line towers the distance was 2,400m, so adding a pre-delay to specific tower feeds was also necessary’ explains the event’s senior system technician, Pawel Zakrzewski, ‘but the majority of system tuning was done via Armonía Pro Audio Suite; it’s very easy to use and provides a user-friendly environment. I split control over the system into four PCs for more flexibility and convenience which was crucial as I had to cooperate simultaneously with several crews working out in the field.’

To amplify the Pope’s message, as well as the audio throughout the event including a worship concert, Poznań-based rental company Gigant Sound Letus delivered the systems for 66 delay towers. The systems comprised GTO, C-12 and Mantas line arrays from Outline, which were powered by Powersoft amplifiers from both the K Series and X Series.

It is estimated that around 600 line array modules were deployed for the event, requiring 200 amplifiers. Of these 200, 34 were X8 Dante units, 80 were K10, 30 were K20 and the remaining 56 comprised Outline’s T7/T9/T11 DSP + KAESOP models. These were all connected to a single TCP/IP network and controlled via Armonía’s Pro Audio Suite.

‘After the initial calculations had been made in the EASE prediction software, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to test the newly acquired Outline rig, which later proved to possess far greater dynamics and range than we ever expected’ enthuses Gigant Sound Letus company owner, Jerzy Taborowski. ‘I always know that I can rely on Powersof not only in terms of performance and reliability but also compatibility with other major rental companies across Europe. What I like the most about the X series, is that our amp racks are now even smarter and more versatile than before.’

Even with an event of this size, scale and attendance, budget constraints can still play a factor, as Mr Taborowski recalls when noting that the original sound design called the Outline delay lines to be spaced out at 150m intervals, which is double the usual distance for sound reinforcement. ‘The calculations suggested we use about 140 towers, which the organisers did not approve due to the costs involved,’ he says. ‘So it was suggested we use every second tower in a diamond-shape array, which meant each tower would be spaced 300m apart! This seemed like pure madness but the challenge was accepted as we knew that the Outline systems would provide incredible results.’

With the gauntlet laid down, Mr Zakrzewski made additional calculations using EASE and Outline’s OpenArray 3D simulator. The solution required some of the towers to be equipped with interchangeable transducers and Outline Dual Parabolic Wave Guide devices. ‘We assumed 3.5 Mantas as an equivalent of a single GTO unit, two Mantas for a GTO C-12, and 1.5 Mantas for a Butterfly unit,’ adds Mr Taborowski. ‘Based on this, there should have been approximately 1,000 Outline Mantas boxes deployed on site.’

Outline support engineer Giulio Gandini provided technical support onsite at the invitation of Gigant Sound. ‘Fine tuning of this kind of system, size wise, requires mobility as the coverage and time alignment have to be controlled over a huge area,’ he explains. ‘Having to adjust each tower manually would increase build-up time to a scary extent. Thanks to full Ethernet control performed from a single point, we had the possibility to remotely monitor each rack.’

As previously reported, an Optocore fibre ring was deployed to distribute the audio across the large distances. ‘We had four independent redundant rings that delivered groups of eight, pre-delayed audio streams to each tower for easy configuration — not to mention TCP/IP protocol,’ recalls Mr Taborowski.

‘We were all relieved and Wojciech Ciesielka, acting representative of the organiser, was impressed with the range, sheer sound and phase response of the system,’ the Gigant Sound owner continues, discussing how the SPL levels and range were greater than expected following initial listening tests. ‘The unbelievable dynamic range — 150dB for a single GTO and 147.5dB for a C-12 — along with the huge, natural sound made us choose Outline, and the decision proved completely justified. On top of that the excellent phase response ensured the sound was always close to each individual.

‘As for Powersoft, we intended to use their amplifiers and the Armonía Pro Suite right from the start and everything was done according to plan,’ Mr Taborowski furthers. ‘Armonía allowed us to control the amplifiers individually, in groups as well as globally, entirely from the FOH position.

‘Probably no other company in Europe has ever provided sound reinforcement solutions in such a vast area and for such a massive crowd of over 2.5 million people,’ he concludes. ‘Although much of the equipment was provided by us, of course, this was an international collaboration and I also want to add thanks to the other companies from whom we sub-hired equipment. These included Capital Sound and Britannia Row (UK), EQ Audio & Events (Ireland), Szimpatech Showtechnika (Hungary), Invi AS (Denmark), Trius (Germany), Soundtech, Planet Service and Blackout (Italy) and Rent-All (Netherlands). Special thanks also go to Outline management, Giulio Gandini, our technical chief, Marcin “Zapas” Szafranski, and of course all sound crew for their roles in what was a very difficult event.’

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