Berlin stadium nominated for InAVation Award

Berlin’s Stadion An der Alten Försterei – home of FC Union Berlin – was recently rebuilt and fitted with a state-of-the-art AV and broadcast systems and it’s now shortlisted for 2016 InAVation Award. Nial Anderson visited to find out more.

The  German  football  team  FC  Union Berlin  was  founded  in  1906  in  the city’s  eastern  industrial  heartland. Its first players were mostly factory workers who developed  a  loyal, passionate following among the area’s working class supporters. Over the years this following – the ‘Iron Union’ – has continued to grow, and its enthusiastic fan base is something the club has become well- known for. 

The  club’s  home  is  the  Stadion  An  der  Alten Försterei (Stadium at the old forester’s house) – the largest football stadium in Berlin with a capacity of  just over 22,000. The current facility was constructed in two phases in 2009 and 2013, replacing the original 1920 stadium that hadn’t been updated in more than 40 years.  
View of the pitch from the stands
The  loyal  spirit  for  which  the  club  has  become known  shone  through  during  the  reconstruction, which  was  carried  out  largely  by  the  club’s  own supporters. More than 2,000 fans offered their services during the project and much of the construction budget came from donations and sponsorship from local businesses.  FC Union Berlin’s chief technical officer designed the stadium and paid tribute to the club’s history using the interior design. Imitation iron girders specked with fake rust rise from the entrance area and spread out upwards through the building’s communal rooms and corridors, evoking an image of the smoking foundries and steel mills that gave the club its first players. 

Along  with  the  new  building,  substantial  AV  systems  were  specified  to  support  the  broadcasting of games and to bring added functionality to multi- use rooms around the stadium. This would not only nurture  and  potentially  grow  the  club’s  fan  base by  enabling  effective  capture  and  distribution  of  live video, but ensure the club’s financial future by creating  a  series  of  multi-purpose  areas  (from  the meeting  rooms  to  the  pitch  area  itself)  that  could be  hired  out  for  a  range  of  uses  from  meetings  to music concerts. 

The first port of call for visitors to the stadium is the Press Room, which is dominated by a 3m x 2m videowall made up of Sharp panels. Those who haven’t visited the club before are shown an introduction fi lm on the videowall as the first part of their tour. The club has its own TV crew to prepare and edit footage as well as its own in-house AV team.  Localised control  is  provided  for  sound  in  Q&A  sessions  and PowerPoint  presentations,  while  the  mixed  audio  is sent along with camera feeds to the Control Centre. The Control Centre – the nerve centre of stadium as far as AV is concerned - releases streaming video with audio  embedded  enabling  press  conferences  to  be streamed  live  within  the  stadium’s  digital  signage system, to TV trucks parked outside and to the web. The stadium’s digital signage system consists of 110 displays with content delivered via IPTV and video- on-demand. 

Other  key  areas  for  content  delivery  are  the interview  area  downstairs,  with  six  displays  on  the surrounding walls, and a large bar upstairs which also has a meeting room and dining area with a 3m x 4m videowall  made  up  of  Samsung  panels.  The offices and sponsors’ rooms upstairs in the venue also feature displays that are hooked up to the IPTV network.

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Riedel  Communications  was  tasked  with  tying together  this  complex  set-up  over  a  single  ï¬bre backbone to deliver simple and reliable connectivity. Riedel’s MediorNet Compact was chosen to provide the main fibre-based network for the  venue.  It features integrated signal processing and a network bandwidth of 50 Gbit/s.  

“MediorNet was completely new at the time it was chosen for this installation,” said Sebastian Reiter, a member of the stadium’s AV team. “It was one of the few products that combined signal transmission, AV data and communications all over fibre.  The cable topography is all over one fibre backbone with two rings of fibre for redundancy.” To handle the audio distribution network, Riedel’s well-established RockNet product was specified. Tailored  specie ally  for  tour  and installed  sound  applications,  it conveys  160  24bit/48kHz  audio channels,  counter-rotating  on  a single CAT5 or fibre. RockNet 300 features 160 channels and RockNet 100, 80 channels. It can integrate up to 99 devices in one network and features built in redundancy.   
System management from a PC
“I  had  experience  of  using  RockNet  previously  when  I  worked  at  the  Olympic  Stadium  in  Berlin so I had experience of this with Motorola handheld radios,” Reiter continued.

“This worked well and it gave us 15km of coverage area for the handheld radios which means staff can use them to direct  traffic  outside  the  stadium  and still easily be in range.” 
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Communication  in  the  stadium  is  handled  via  130  Motorola  Mototrbo  handheld  radios  that  are integrated  into  the  MediorNet  backbone  and  also the  ï¬ re  evacuation  system.  The  advantage  to  the new  system  is  that,  despite  having  an  excellent range  outside  the  stadium,  the  system  suffers  no interference from businesses around the venue that the old system was susceptible to.

The Control Centre, which has a small but dedicated staff, serves as the main communications hub of the stadium where lighting, AV and temperature  are controlled. A streamlined broadcast system workflow was essential for the small in-house AV team so they could work quickly and effectively while covering live events. The stadium enjoys an average attendance of  20,000 people per match (almost a full house every game),  considered  a  very  good  ï¬gure  for  a  second league  team.  However,  FC  Union  Berlin  pledges  to deliver a first league experience through the quality of  its  facilities  and  match  coverage.  It  delivers an  estimated  six  hours  live  content  per  match, including  the  game  and  surrounding  conferences and  announcements.  During  a  match,  the  stadium management can seamlessly control media content, that  is  available  in  the  entire  ï¬ ber  network  for  processing.  “Sponsors expect quality,” said  Ulf Rohbeck who handles IPTV at the stadium. “720p is seen as perfectly sufficient at the moment,  with  an  upgrade  to  4K possible  in  three  to  four  years.” The HD1080 input is  taken  to 720p  for  live  production  using VBrick IPTV encoders.

Rohbeck  continues:  “For  live content  streaming  we  can  use different  access  points  to  send content to and from OB (Outside Broadcasting) vans, show content on the huge wall within the stadium, and we  can  remotely  link  cameras  and  computers  to  the network and configure them in real time.

“We have the capacity to run seven events at the same time up to a maximum of 10. We created the AV system just for football but it has unlocked big business opportunities.  Nearly every week we  are hosting events here now.”

The rock band Linkin Park  took  over  the  stadium earlier this month in the largest event the venue has hosted to date. It is events such as these that the club hopes to do more of as time goes on to create another revenue stream, outside of football.
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“The AV system is very important for the finances of  the  club,”  explained  Rohbeck,  who  previously worked  in  data  simulation  for  the  European  Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.

“We are prepared for FC Union Berlin playing in the  ï¬rst  league;  we  are  basically  a  second  league team  with  ï¬rst  league  facilities.  We have built the foundations for a better future.”


Bose evacuation controller and speakers
Dynacord amps
Electro-Voice speakers
Riedel RockNet audio distribution network

Lightware matrix
Riedel MediorNet Compact fibre-based network 
Samsung displays
Sharp displays
VBrick encoders

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