The frenetic pace of the Rugby Sevens and Tens competitions sees stripped-down teams competing in a gala atmosphere with lightning fast-halves and quick turnarounds between games. To sporting audio and comms provider Gearhouse Broadcast, this means having around 40 referees fitted with wireless mics and monitoring, sending audio to broadcast and the coaches, and receiving audio back through their in-ear monitors, all with one minute to changeover active frequencies between games. In this mission-critical environment, Gearhouse relies on Shure Axient Digital wireless and Clear-Com matrices to make sure no-one misses a call.
“The Rugby Sevens at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium were 79 games across three days, and the Rugby Tens at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium were 40 games in two days,” reported Andrew Henderson, OB Supervisor at Gearhouse Broadcast. “At the Sevens, we had 40 referees that had to be wired for comms. Each ref had a Shure PSM 1000 receiver for listen and a Shure Axient Digital AD1 bodypack transmitter fitted in their vests. Each game saw six refs on the field, with the main ref mic always open. The two assistant and two goal refs and the sideline manager all had push-to-talk buttons. The coaches had Clear-Com talkback panels so they could speak to the referees if they thought they needed to review a decision.”
As you’d imagine in central Sydney and Brisbane, the RF environment was busy. “There was a lot of background RF, and a lot of RF on-site,” added Andrew. “But Axient Digital frequency management is really good; Shure’s Wireless Workbench software scans the area and does the hard work for you. I changed one frequency before we started and that was it for the duration. We couldn’t allow everyone to have their own frequency, so we ran two groups managed out of Wireless Workbench. For each game, we loaded a new file and pushed it to the receivers. There was about one minute between each game, so we were restricted with time and turnarounds. We had 12 frequencies live at any time, with all of the in-ear-monitors on same frequency.”
Andrew routed all incoming audio through a DSP unit that automixed the wireless mics before outputting to a Clear-Com Eclipse PiCo 36 port matrix. Audio was fed from there to the referee’s in-ear-monitors, the TV broadcast, and to Clear-Com V-Series Lever Panels in the coaches’ boxes. The mics from The Clear-Com Lever Panels were then fed back through the Eclipse PiCo into the DSP and back out to the coach’s ears.
Gearhouse’s rapid adoption of the new Shure Axient Digital wireless system has bought instant advantages. “Last season we were using Shure’s top-of-the-line analogue UHF-R system,” Andrew elaborated. “As soon as we swapped over, I could immediately hear the difference. I couldn’t believe the quality – it’s amazing. And the way Axient Digital manages its frequencies, I’m getting a lot less interference.”
Another huge bonus for Gearhouse is the ease of set-up. “Allianz Stadium is very big, and we were located at the top at the radio boxes, almost the furthest point from the field,” continued Andrew. “We had two paddles just outside the radio box on a couple of handrails, and we didn’t have dropout all weekend – I couldn’t believe it. The broadcast crew asked me how I was covering the field. They all thought we were running RF over fibre to multiple antennas, they were so happy with the quality.”
Gearhouse Broadcast has now built 15 kits built with Shure Axient Digital and Clear-Com Eclipse PiCo, and will be getting heavy use out of them in the upcoming seasons of the AFL and Super Rugby. “We took on Axient Digital at the end of last year’s AFL season, and it’s the best radio mic system ever I’ve ever used in terms of both audio and RF quality,” concluded Andrew.
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