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Coordinating Audio for Live Events, Part 1

Sep 9, 2010 11:27 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Obviously there had to be some people on stage coordinating all of this for who gets what microphone and when and all that kind of thing. How many people did you have on stage working this?
Shepherd: I had a main arrays engineer with me who basically coordinates everything onsite making it all work and then we had stage guys. They’re all the actual level of the quality of engineers that we have on the show. They’re all essentially FOH engineering level or that’s the standard, so even the guards have been doing the stage are very good at running around and sorting out radio packs as well, and they’ll go and fit a lot of them. [Timestamp: 10:03]

And you mentioned that you went with a Shure UHF-R system. Why did you go with that particular make and model?
Chapman: It’s something that we stock ourselves anyway and also stability. We had heard of some issues about LED walls and having interference with RF. We then, after a lot of research, discovered a problem with a specific manufacturer of stuff, which just worked because we actually found out that Shure, on that particular vendor, where they’d had problems. The Shure stuff worked very well. It was actually fine, so it was part of the reason and that we’ve just had a lot of good work with Shure UHF-R series. It’s very stable, very nice sounding. [Timestamp: 10:42]

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Coordinating Audio for Live Events, Part 2
The annual gathering for a multibillion dollar company is a huge bash, and when the event came to Wembley Arena, local company Sound By Design was called in....

And for a show of this size with Shure wireless mics, I guess you used the Wireless Workbench software?
Yes we do; yeah.

OK, that has a lot of features. How was that especially useful for this show?
Chapman: Mainly for the RF monitoring. We had 50 receivers spread out. It was easier just to have a couple of screens and localizing a little monitoring, seeing what’s going on, checking on signal strength, and also pack labeling; color tape is used in some cases on the packs actually to be able to label each pack physically, and it’s a lot quicker to do it from a computer than flash it all up to the units, receivers, and transmitters from there. [Timestamp: 11:21]

Yeah, you can coordinate other RF sources with that or is it just for mics?
Chapman: No, the Wireless Workbench is purely for the radio mics, and you can monitor the IMs on that. [Timestamp: 11:31]

OK, I didn’t know how much stuff you could enter on that and just tell it, in whatever way, what’s going on with everything.
Chapman: You can enter because even the IMs that we were using are a Shure product, the PSM700s. Unfortunately it’s a 12 year old design, and so what they don’t interface with Wireless Workbench, you can tell the program that you’re using them and it can help to coordinate frequencies if you’re using it for that purpose and things like that. But we hope to soon upgrade to the new PSM900 system, which is fully integrated with it and is basically just a new UHF-R for IM. [Timestamp: 12:08]

And I believe you’re networking all the receivers in the system with twisted pair and using routers.
Chapman: Yeah that’s right. I mean we had three racks of receivers. Each rack had its own switch in it, and they were all connected up with Cat-5, and then each switch was just plugged into a wireless router, which we had set to automatically dish out DHCP addressing to the receivers. Sometimes we do have problems with that. Occasionally in certain venues depending upon how much Wi-fi is going on, but at that point, you can manually assign addresses to each receiver, but we didn’t need to in this case. [Timestamp: 12:44]

Well, that could get to be more of a challenge in the future because of all this new wireless mobile broadband stuff that’s coming along.
Chapman: Yes.

And of course, you’re aware that there have been substantial changes over here as far as the FCC who runs our wireless.
Chapman: Yes, absolutely.

So how’s it been over there? I understand there have been changes going on there too.
Chapman: Yes, we’ve got similar things happening over here—a lot of Europe trying to standardize the radio frequencies, the different things they usually don’t oversee. The government is looking to sell off a lot of spectrum to big companies, so we are being forced out. We currently sit in channel 69 for shared units across companies. Unfortunately that’s all being sold off, so anyone who has a current license for channel 69 is being offered a partial rebate while the government is being pushed down into 38, I think it is. But we’re losing a lot of the interlead spectrum between as well, so I think we’re running into a rather third of the space that we currently have, but that all is going to happen as soon as the 2012 Olympics has come and gone as London is the last part of the country to have it’s analog television switched off just after the Olympics. So at that point, well hopefully, we’ll have all our new systems up and running by then, but it’s only this week that they’ve announced the rebate scheme, so I am currently looking into what we can and can’t sell or get money for from the government really. [Timestamp: 14:15]

Well, maybe by that time you’ll have some experience to look at from over here, in terms of from the user stand point, what people have been doing because I don’t think it’s really hit a lot of people over here yet even though it’s all legal and in place now.
Chapman: Oh, OK. I read about it in magazines, and obviously I’m aware that some manufacturers […] have offered rebates schemes and things. Yeah, it’s very interesting to keep an eye on it because it’s going to hit us fairly quickly I think. [Timestamp: 12:42]

All right, Phill Chapman and Dave Shepherd of Sound By Design, and this has been great talking about the Forever Living annual gathering at Wembley Arena and how you handled all of that, which is still amazing to me. And in part two we’re going to get into the FOH console and some potential challenges from a large LED wall, I believe, and some other things, but thanks for being here for part one.

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