Outline Newton on His Sanctity’s signal service

October 2, 2023

Outline Newton on His Sanctity’s signal service

World Youth Day is a celebrating event that Pope John Paul II initiated in 1985, every edition of which has been held in a different country; after repeated rescheduling due to Covid pandemic, 2023’s finally happened last August in Lisbon, Portugal, before a 1.5 million pilgrim audience.

Ensuring live audio coverage to a gathering of such magnitude isn’t a small technical achievement, in terms of event technology, over an area of 3-by-1 kilometers: pilgrims prayed and sang and danced at the sound of 109 PA towers hosting a total of 1.100 loudspeaker systems driven by 327 amplifiers, whose signal reached through 103 km of optical fiber, across 300 network switches.

In order to safeguard the signal being matrixed and transported to this plethora of audio systems, two Outline Newton FPGA-based signal processors had been specifically custom-modified by their very Italian manufacturer, in order to fit the physics of the event.

Rafael Pereira was appointed with the responsibility of audio systems by Portuguese company Pixel Light Audiovisuals Lda, which served the event with rental support from companies Clair Global, Faber AV and AED Events on production level:

“You can only plan and run such a critical event project with the tools that you really know in depth, tools that have proved to deserve your full trust and confidence… we implemented Outline Newtons in our workflow at Pixel Light already in 2019, and never looked back, thanks to its unrivalled flexibility with signals’ matrix, routing, and EQ-ing”.

When asked about the peculiarities of such a project, Pereira offers: “The area is huge, the calculations I carried out returned a clear and simple indication: it needed 9 feeds spaced at pre-arranged delay intervals, across a range of 0 to 8 seconds, each of them injected into a Dante channel, then fed to towers via Neutrik end-nodes”.

How did the design get validated, in order to suggest that this solution was solid, before the whole blueprint and specs sheet was penned in ink?

Pereira explains: “I ran a test setup as proof of concept using standard Newton units – in terms of physics the design worked, it passed muster, while on the side it showed that you can reach 8-second delays with links and hops across different channels and different devices, too”.

You can of course choose among many different roads that all lead to Rome, as a figure of speech – so why the trouble of asking the manufacturer to modify regular production units?

“In an event of this relevance, with 1.5 million people who travelled the whole world to be here, the ultimate system’s purpose is two-fold: it’s total transparency for the voice of the Pope, and total dependability of the signal chain against the safety-critical issues – on such a huge gathering, you want the shortest chain, not a longer one”.

In the end, you clearly got what you asked for, but how did manufacturer Outline deal with your request of modifying their time-tested Newton units?

“It appears that they understood the application, as they didn’t try to talk me out of my request, nor try to figure whether I could achieve the same goal from a different approach – competence doesn’t often rhyme with flexibility… Outline turned out easy to deal with, and after they ironed out some software versioning hiccups, I had two Newtons running their special ‘Pope Delay’ modification”.

The Pixel Light Team. L-R: Joao Baltazar, Rafael Pereira, Bernardo Jobling, Kevin Lehmann

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