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Optocore Festival Boxes Prove a Winner for Sound Image at WE Fest

After a long period of hiatus and cancellations, concerts, productions and performances are starting to ramp back up as both artists and patrons slowly venture back into the world.

As Sound Image was preparing to stage the weekend-long WE Fest country music festival, at the Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, they turned to Optocore to simplify the show’s signal distribution, and implemented a pair of Optocore Festival Boxes to create a format agnostic fiber tunnel for all the guest acts.

When he began to put the show together, Sound Image system engineer, Timothy ‘Ziggy’ Ziegler, elected to deploy one of Sound Image’s fiber PA drive systems that’s based on a set of Optocore X6R-FX units, used to distribute both AES and LAN.

The X6R at FOH, configured to accept 16 AES inputs, sends digital audio over redundant fiber optic cables to the drive racks on Stage Left and Stage Right where the signals are outputted via X6Rs configured for 16 AES Out to amplifiers powering JBL A12 Line arrays.

“By keeping the PA feed digital throughout the entire signal chain, the system is more efficient, and by transporting it over fiber it gives us a superb sonic quality that increases the system’s dynamic head room over what you would get with copper connections,” comments Ziggy on using the X6Rs. Optocore’s 2GB fiber network also creates a virtual Ethernet network between every device, which allows IP data to easily pass across the entire system. From the laptop running System Manager at FOH, PA control is sent to the stage without running additional cables. Ziggy adds: “Knowing that I could just plug in my laptop and connect to the amps stage without having to configure any IP addresses within the Optocore was easy. Once I plugged in, the amps popped right up.”

As the show began to take shape and the multitude of artists announced—including headliners Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton—it was clear that Ziggy would need provision for supporting multiple different consoles and networks for the various artists. This, combined with the challenge that the cable path from FOH to the stage was over 350 feet, limiting Ethernet runs and making snake distances difficult, another solution was needed.

Ziggy had previously used Optocore’s Festival Box with Billie Ellish overseas and remembered how easy it was to use and how quickly it allowed set up. “Optocore made the show sound great and it was easy to set up. Using the Festival Box on the show was effortless and I can’t wait for more productions, as the uses for it are endless.”

At WE Fest a pair of Festival Boxes created a link between the Stage and FOH via two high bandwidth, duplex fiber streams. The units themselves can be populated with any number or format of Multimode, Singlemode, or RJ45 SPFs that create a point-to-point tunnel with the paired unit. The Festival Box can support and transmit any number of audio networks and IP data formats, including Optocore, DiGiCo, MADI, Yamaha TwinLane, AVB, Dante, AES67 and many more. Ziggy explains that “by using the Festival Boxes as our link between FOH and the Stage we could quickly change over between artists and easily connect up different consoles without having to run a ton of extra cables.”

Throughout the course of the three-day show the guest artists had multiple DiGiCo consoles running on Optocore networks—as is so often the case—and AVID S6L’s using AVB. “All of the engineers that came in were really excited to use the Festival Box system as we explained it to them, they just plugged in and the consoles instantly found the stage racks and connected. Instead of running multiple fiber and Cat5 cables we were able to do the entire weekend on just two duplex fibers. ”