Total Production

EV EXCITE THE CROWDS AT HAHNENKAMM RACES

23 Feburary 2008


(Straubing) - Followed by skiing fans the world over, the Hahnenkamm races has been setting the pace, too, in the world of sound reinforcement, with Murdock Music managing in 2008 using systems from Electro-Voice

in February 2008 The Hahnenkamm races in Kitzbühel are to the international ski circus what Monte Carlo is to that of Formula One or Wimbledon to that of tennis: the top event of the season. The whole world tunes in to watch as the daredevils – with a sovereign disdain for their own safety – plunge down the notorious, near-vertical “Streif” into the valley below where over 90,000 spectators each year await them at the finish.

But it isn’t simply men and skis that are put to the ultimate test by the Super-G, the Downhill and the Slalom in the mountains of Tirol: the sound reinforcement equipment used each year, too, is expected to push out the envelope in terms of performance and endurance. To meet the huge, international expectations, the organizers of the event, Skiclub Kitzbühel, has for the last six years put its faith in the Fieberbrunn-based sound and rental company Murdock Music Entertainment. “Each year, we learn something new about taming the Hahnenkamm,” says Peter Auer, Murdock Music Entertainment’s production manager, “but it remains nonetheless a formidable challenge.”

To get some idea of the scale of the task, you have only to consider three of the central constraints: the vastness of the area to be covered and the steepness of the slope; the extreme nature of the weather conditions; and the existence of  “sensitive zones” in which sound levels have to be kept to a minimum. “On the one hand, you have to provide even coverage to all 45,000 spectators attending the races, but on the other, you must avoid interfering with the efforts of colleagues to provide TV and radio coverage to those following the event from the comfort of their homes. And then there’s the hostility of the terrain, with its bumps and hollows. All in all, a pretty tough nut to crack.”

The most effective ‘nutcracker’, this year, as in all recent years, turned out to be an XLC system – an extensive one – powered by amplifiers from Electro-Voice. But whereas last year, you could actually see the boxes strung out along the three-kilometre course, this year they were tucked away behind the tarpaulins of the various video walls. “That was actually ideal for us,” says Peter Auer, “because it allowed us to provide 120-degree coverage over a giant area.” To ensure the system was set up and controlled in such a way as to obtain optimal results, Murdock Music Entertainment called in qualified help to handle the simulations and fine-tuning of the system: Thomas Hasenauer of the company Signal, who is an academically qualified engineer. And a cracking good job he made of it: while spectators on the slopes could follow every word delivered by the legendary commentator Michael Horn – this year making his 45th and final appearance – the sound pressure levels in the area in front of the stands reserved for the TV broadcasters remained low, as stipulated in the contract.

Peter Auer waxed positively euphoric in his praise of the performance and resilience of the Electro-Voice enclosures: “We had it all to contend with this year: sun, rain, snow, freezing temperatures and ice – the full spectrum – but the rig just played and played.” Five years ago, when Murdock Music Entertainment first deployed their then brand-new XLC system, the weather was just as pitiless: “I felt really sorry for the enclosures that year. The weather! A biting wind that swept over the slopes and penetrated every vent and slit – and yet not one system failed. Unbelievable!”

The zero percent failure rate obtains to this day; not one single system failure in five years! In fact, by the time this year’s Hahnenkamm came round, the team led by company MD Stefan Gieringer and production manager Peter Auer had become so blasé they arrived without a single spare enclosure to provide backup. Truth to tell, they didn’t have one. “We were handling a VIP charity at the same time, also using XLCs, so our arsenal was in fact empty. We just trusted in God – and EV.”

Auer emphasizes that in terms of outlay, the Hahnenkamm races are strictly a one-off: for no other skiing event is as much equipment, and equipment of such outstanding quality, deployed as in Kitzbühel. “It’s down to the philosophy of the organizers,” says Auer. “Only the best here is good enough. That goes for the main sponsors – e.g. Audi – as well as for the sound system. But the quality of the sound we provided here was by no means lost on the organizers of other events in attendance, with whom discussions are already in progress…”

 

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