An HD video and light show, accompanied by a high-fidelity soundtrack recorded by members of the Indianapolis Symphony, is being put on every evening at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. The music is conveyed by an AVB-networked system of 36 Meyer Sound loudspeakers.
Called Shining a Light, the AV installation is a joint venture of the city’s business association, Downtown Indy, and the Indiana War Memorials Commissions, with the latter responsible for the monuments occupying the circle. Shining a Light made its debut in November 2019 with a patriotic tribute to Indiana veterans, and a special holiday programme was inserted in late December 2020. The current programme, a response to the global pandemic, was introduced in late March 2020 during the stay-at-home order. Since restrictions were lifted, expanded programming includes a patriotic tribute and a motorsports presentation leading up to the postponed Indy 500 race.
The technology infrastructure was designed and installed by Dodd Technologies of nearby Pendleton, Indiana. For audio, the system comprises 24 Meyer Sound CAL 32 column-array loudspeakers, all discreetly mounted in threes on eight light poles around the circle, and 12 900-LFC subwoofers hidden in recessed pits.
“Monument Circle presented multiple challenges from an acoustical standpoint,” said Caleb Cassler of Dodd Technologies, the system designer and project manager. “With the concave building fronts all around it is a very reverberant space, with echoes of up to three seconds carrying down side streets where there are numerous hotels and apartment buildings. So filling the circle with uniform, high-impact sound demanded very precise control.”
Cassler said that several options were considered, including small distributed ‘rock’ speakers, large speaker towers and even arrays on adjoining buildings. But these solutions fell short, either lacking in audio power or fidelity, or raising aesthetic objections. “The Meyer Sound CAL solution made everybody happy,” he said. “The speaker trios blend into the light poles, which are essentially duplicates of those there previously. And the precise beam-steering capabilities of CAL allowed us to tailor exact coverage to maintain high levels with minimal spill outside the circle. And finally, because CAL connects directly to the AVB network, we could minimise the size of new conduit we had to run out to the speaker locations.”
Reliability and durability also were factored into the decision, added Cassler, as the loudspeakers would remain in place year-round, fully exposed to the weather.
Audio and video programmes, as well as show control commands, originate from computers in an equipment room below the central monument. In addition to the AVB network switch, the control room also houses a Galaxy 816 network platform and an RMServer for remote system monitoring. Video from the media servers is carried by a licensed 80GHz wireless link to projectors on adjoining rooftops.
The AVB-networked system of CAL 32 loudspeakers enables flexibility in tailoring the system for different uses and audio effects, according to Cassler. “Because each loudspeaker can be addressed individually, I have the capability of doing 24 discrete mixes plus a sub effects mix,” he said. “Right now we’re just doing eight mixes, one for each pole, with panning for left-right-left-right stereo around the circle. But we can really do anything we want. For example, when the Indy 500 resumes, we could do a programme with car sounds zooming around the circle.”
As senior vice president of marketing and events for Downtown Indy, Bob Schultz had a major stake in the impact of Shining a Light as a technology showcase for the city. “I had been out on the circle for various tests of the video and lighting prior to public launch last fall,” he recalled. “I remember the first time I heard the sound kick in. The high-quality sound and the vibrating bass created an overwhelming experience for all who had gathered.”
Schultz was equally pleased with how the sound is confined to the viewing area. “Running a high-power audio and video presentation outdoors in a concave, circular environment usually would create an echo sensation, but that has not been the case here,” he said. “There is power in those speakers, but apparently it is well harnessed and directed.”
Heading the Shining a Light team for Dodd Technologies was owner and president Mark Dodd, with producer/production designer Andy Meggenhofen tasked with overall supervision of AV system design and content integration. Terry Linger and Conrad Piccirillo of Indianapolis-based Innovative Edit were principally responsible for programme content creation. Events director Courtney Howell Rissman coordinated with Bob Schultz on behalf of Downtown Indy, while USAF Brigadier General (Ret.) J Stewart Goodwin represented the Indiana War Memorials Commission throughout the project. Shining a Light was funded in large part by a grant from the Lilly Endowment.