GilmanSound’s Black-Box Audio Processor Attracts NFL, MLB Attention
Most people in installed venue sound have never heard of GilmanSound, and, among the few that have, opinions are mixed: some are curious, others outright dismissive. But Paul Gilman, a classically trained musician who has made records with classic-rock–era celebs and scored several films, one of which he also wrote and directed, managed to get his live-sound audio-processing technology into the biggest show of the year: last February’s Super Bowl, where the GilmanSound processor was installed in-line between the FOH console and the expanded MetLife Stadium sound system for the event.
Furthermore, although GilmanSound (the product and the Los Angeles-area company have the same name) managed to make it into the biggest broadcast-sports event of the year, what’s inside the box remains a closely guarded secret. Even its users, who pay what Gilman says is a licensing fee between $500,000 and $1 million for a five-year contract term, depending on venue and sound system, are kept mostly in the dark. They have to sign nondisclosure agreements as part of those contracts and are not given access to what’s under the hood of the tightly sealed box.
GilmanSound — the company and the technology — was founded 3½ years ago to create for live sound what Gilman, whose discography includes records with Leon Russell and John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, says mastering does for music recordings: add a sonic finishing touch that articulates elements in the mix. Another analogy he likes to use is that of cinematic sound design.
He is coy about how the system works specifically, comparing it with video time-base correction that analyzes and processes signals in real time, although he acknowledges that it uses some of the more common audio-manipulation methods, such as phase and delay parameters, as well as subtractive synthesis. It’s how the GilmanSound processor combines them that makes the difference, he says, as well as the inclusion of some algorithms and electronic components that he says are not commonly used in audio systems.
The result is more-articulate sound in acoustically challenged venues, such as sports arenas and stadiums; Gilman notes that both the NFL and the MLB recognize it as useful in fan engagement. As important and perhaps more immediately practical, he adds, is how the processor can improve the musicality of existing stadium sound systems, allowing venue owners to avoid the capital costs of new sound systems while enabling their venues to present more revenue-creating music shows.
That’s what both the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros have done, the former installing a GilmanSound processor in Globe Life Stadium in 2011 and the latter doing so in Minute Maid Park a year later. Rob Matwick, EVP of ballpark and event operations for the Rangers, last year told Sports Business Journal that using the GilmanSound system had saved the team several hundred thousand dollars.
However, along with a few other one-off deployments, including at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas for a soccer event between Real Madrid and Mexico, as well as the Super Bowl appearance (and, to reassure NFL officials, its use at several Jets and Giants games at MetLife prior to the big game), these are the only installations of the GilmanSound system.
Gilman acknowledges that the company has been lacking in marketing resources. He also understands that consultants who specialize in sports-venue sound might find his product’s ability to extend the lifespan of existing sound systems threatening. He is keenly aware that the world of sports is slow to accommodate new technologies and that major-league politics can be as complex as an episode of Game of Thrones. But he also seems to thrive in this David-and-Goliath situation, his upstart technology challenging established systems.
“We don’t have a giant sales force, and the Super Bowl ate up most of the season for us,” he says. “But the GilmanSound system is in use, and it works, and that message is getting out.”
Activity has been ramping up. Gilman cites ongoing discussions with possible strategic partners, notably IT giant Cisco; Imagine, the former Harris Broadcast; and Evolution Media Capital, a boutique investment bank backed by Hollywood’s biggest talent agency, CAA, which has been making moves in the sports market. The company is preparing to do a site survey for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ stadium and is in discussions with six other NFL and MLB teams, whose names he did not disclose, about implementing the system. Other plans include the possibility of creating a second channel for MLB that would allow fans to hear the enhanced sound as a broadcast.
“My original goal all along was to get into the Super Bowl, and we got there a lot faster than I thought we would,” he says. “Now we’re here, and there has to be a tipping point We’re not auditioning anymore; we’re ready.”