Firehouse Productions Brings Live Energy to NBA Bubble

Firehouse Productions deployed the latest JBL loudspeakers and Crown amplifiers to recreate feeling of sold-out crowds with limited audience.

CI Staff Leave a Comment
Firehouse Productions Brings Live Energy to NBA Bubble

To bring the energy and excitement of a typical basketball experience to an NBA season that was anything but typical, Firehouse Productions deployed two complete HARMAN Professional Solutions audio systems featuring JBL Professional loudspeakers and Crown amplifiers.

Due to restrictions on large gatherings related to COVID-19, the NBA decided to proceed with the 2019-20 season without fans present.

To safely accommodate players, staff and support crews, the NBA set up a strict isolation “bubble” at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.

Teams began playing July 30 at the 8,000-seat AdventHealth Arena and 5,000-seat HP Field House venues with audiences of just a few hundred essential personnel.

To ensure high-impact sound for the dramatically reduced crowds inside the NBA bubble, league officials turned to Firehouse Productions, who have been providing sound reinforcement for NBA games for more than a decade.

Related: How Video Boards and UC are Helping the NBA Connect with Fans

Firehouse Productions deployed JBL VTX V20 line array loudspeakers and VTX S25 subwoofers powered by Crown I-Tech HD Series amplifiers.

“The NBA has a very strict 85 dB limit on the PA system, so intelligibility becomes everything,” said Firehouse Productions VP Mark Dittmar. “When you can go up to 100 dB, you don’t need as much intelligibility, because you can just turn it up and people can hear it.

“When you have an 85 dB limit, that’s a very different game. You need to be intelligible above the audience sound,” he said.

Firehouse Productions deployed three hangs of eight JBL VTX V20 line array loudspeakers in each venue.

The three-way design and Radiation Boundary Integrator waveguide provide broad coverage for the audience while preventing sound from bleeding onto the court, which had its own sound system.

The ASM suspension system allowed Dittmar’s crew to deploy the sound system efficiently and precisely while following COVID-19 safety protocols.

NBA Bubble

Inside the NBA Bubble

To provide the same impact as a typical arena sound system with more focused coverage, Firehouse Productions added JBL VTX S25 subwoofers in cardioid configuration.

Featuring two 15-inch Differential Drive woofers engineered for extra-long excursion, the VTX S25 provides industry-leading low-frequency output for its size, with extremely low distortion.

Designed specifically for use with VTX V20 line array elements, VTX S25 subwoofers can be arrayed in a cardioid configuration to prevent low-frequency spillage outside the coverage zone.

Firehouse Productions selected Crown I-Tech 4x3500HD and 12000HD amplifiers to power both sound systems.

Featuring BSS OMNIDRIVEHD processing with linear phase FIR filters and the acclaimed LevelMAX Limiter Suite, both models provide amplification with headroom. Network connectivity via HiQnet and Ethernet protocols provides a high degree of control and real-time diagnostics.

Having provided sound reinforcement for NBA games and all-star events for the past 10 years, Firehouse Productions maintains a solid working relationship with the organization.

It’s this mutual trust, Dittmar says, that allowed his team to react quickly to the unique situation, designing and deploying the sound system in a short time frame with outstanding results.

“I’ve got a very long-standing relationship with them, and a heck of a lot of trust,” Dittmar said of the NBA. “If I say something, that’s what I’m going to deliver. If they tell me something, that’s not just them making up an excuse or something.

“We have a very strong working relationship together, and that allows us to take complicated, fast-moving situations and get really great results,” he said.

NBA Bubble

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our digital newsletters!