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Working Around a Challenging RF Environment for Worship, Part 2

Nov 18, 2010 9:44 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Antennas and frequency coordination are critical in a crowded RF environment with lots of radio intense government facilities around; Beau Miles with Asbury United Methodist Church near Huntsville, Ala., is here to wrap up his talk on how he handled the job.

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Working Around a Challenging RF Environment for Worship, Part 1
Beau Miles with Asbury United Methodist Church near Huntsville, Ala. solves a tricky RF environment with Sennheiser....

SVC: All right Beau, thanks for being back with me for part two from the Asbury United Methodist Church in Madison, Ala. I keep wanting to say Huntsville, but you’re right down the street from Huntsville, and you’re right across the road it looks like—I looked on the map—it looks like you’re right across the road from the Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal and all those government things with all that RF stuff going on.
Oh yeah.

And you’re doing a lot of mic stuff, a lot of live performing in the church services, numerous services that you have going on. And I wanted to get back into, for a minute here, how you distribute the mic signals.
Well, first, it’s best to start with what do we have, and the first thing is to note that we have 16 wireless transmitters for handhelds or body packs, ive of them being handhelds and then that would leave 11 of them as body packs and then we have another four wireless in-ear monitors. A And so we had to coordinate all 20 of those frequencies, and so what was interesting is, again, what we did is we started by calling Sennheiser and saying, “Sennheiser, what do we do?” And they looked at the area here and essentially said, what we’ve laughed at today, and said that, “Wow, you’ve got a lot going on in your area.” And we again said, “Yes, we know.” We’re right down the road from the arsenal and have probably 10 churches on the same road as we’re on and different things like that, and so it was, “Now what do we do?,” and so they suggested three separate bands: one being the G band, one being the A band, and one being the B band—obviously the C band is no longer available. They suggested all three of those bands. If I remember right, the B band for our wireless in-ears, and then one of the eight receivers in the A range, and then eight more of them in the G range. And what this did was it allowed us to separate the frequencies and deal with inner modulation a little bit easier. And so they gave us the exact frequencies to tune it to plus a few more, and what we then did is we put those into a splitter kit. Instead trying to rely on all the little bitty antennas to pick up their own thing and fight for their signal between all the others, we put it into a splitter kit that could carry eight of them, and then all that does is that carries power to all the units but it also gives you external antenna.

So actually all of our wireless are in a equipment room in the back, and I monitor them from the computer and you have antennas out at in the FOH. And we did something a little different for this, and this was based on American Audio and one of their other owners: Mack Blake and Gwin Edwards got together and made this decision and I thought it was a little strange, but it worked phenomenally well. And so what we did—and we’ll start with just the wireless ears—the first thing they did was they got the antenna for the wireless ears and they got the really nice one. I’m trying to remember the exact model; I think it’s the 8500 CP, which is one of their higher antennas and what they did is—actually right behind our stage we have a practice room that we’re able to practice in when anything else is going on out on the stage—and what they did is they went and got on the top of it because there’s space between it and the roof deck, and they got on top of it and put that antenna there, carried one cable to it and put that cable on it. Then they went 3 meters over and did the same with one of the A band antennas, then went three meters over and did the same with one of the G band. Now, usually I’m used to seeing all of the antennas together like this, but I’m not used to seeing one and one and one. The ears are not true diversity, so they do not have two antennas; they only have one. And so the other wireless antennas though still had to be put out somewhere, so what they did is they went out into our catwalks and very discretely hung one antenna from the A range and one antenna from the G range and basically made it so that no matter where that microphone antenna was transmitting from, there would be a receiving antenna at some place. And in fact they even went ahead and combined directional antennas and omni. So the A band has an omni, and the A band has a directional, and the G band also has the same, and what this allows for is it allows for the omni to pick up 99 percent of the time in the sanctuary, and that’s where it’s at—the ones on the catwalks in front of us. And then they used the directional one in case of any kind of thing that’s going on back stage that is blocked by any sort of metal stud or if anything else is happening, and if just looses signal, it will always have its signal back there on the back. And so that’s what we did. It sounds a little complicated, but it turned out to be phenomenal, and I have yet to have any trouble with it. [Timestamp: 6:00]

And you used Sennheiser’s wireless systems manager that you mentioned in part one. What would you think is, at least in your situation, the best feature of that? What does that do for you?
Oh boy, I don’t know if I could give you one. There’s a best feature when you’re setting up and a best feature weekly. The best feature when you’re setting up is being able to record your signal, and we talked about that a little on part one, but being able to walk around and test it and see if it drops out and you can see how much. If it’s 3dB or 6dB or 12dB or whatever it might be, you could see how quickly it does and you can stand in that hot spot and you can go, “Wow, that’s where the bad spot is; this is great.” And in fact, if I wanted to—and probably should have, in order to test the frequencies that are going on on Sunday morning—you could actually come in, turn on a mic, put it on stage, and go somewhere else on that Sunday morning and see what the environment is in that whole entire area, and so that just makes it just amazing. But then there’s the best feature of a weekly use, and the best feature of the weekly use is, in my opinion, is the monitoring capabilities, being able to look at it and to see microphone 4 is muted and I need to unmute it or disable the mute or whatever it might be, or it’s loosing signal or the battery, it has a battery monitor on that, and I’m able to call back to the youth back stage and say, “Hey, we’re going to get his attention and you need to have a microphone ready for him.” And so the monitoring capabilities of it are great, and plus whenever you have to retune, it is much easier; you just type in a number instead of turning the little dial. So there’s no “greatest,” but I would say the best, for me on a weekly use, is the monitoring. [Timestamp: 7:47]

Yeah, I would think that just having all the receivers networked and being able to control them that way is really nice in itself.
I can log into them from my computer that I’m sitting at in my office right this minute, as long as I’m on my network, which is really great because I can VPN into my network and log into them. And so if I’m on vacation and something happens, then I will be able to actually log right back into them if somebody calls me going, “Oh, something’s wrong.” I’m able to log in and see what’s going on with them, so that the network ability of them is phenomenal. And the other good thing, and I know this sounds dumb, but they’re not taking up real estate at FOH and that is a great feature that I don’t got to worry about them getting in my way or me hitting it or breaking off an antenna or anything. [Timestamp: 8:35]

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