Shure Wireless Systems Drive NBA All-Star Weekend

Firehouse Productions used more than 150 UHF-R wireless systems and PSM 1000 in-ear monitors in New Orleans

With two basketball venues, a large outdoor fan festival, and three days of live broadcasts on TNT, ESPN, and NBA TV, the NBA All-Star Game weekend in New Orleans was a huge audio and RF challenge. For the fourth consecutive year, Firehouse Productions handled the wide-ranging audio, wireless, and intercom needs for the league’s signature in-season celebration with events at the Smoothie King Center, the Mercedes Superdome, and, outdoors, at Champions Square.

Audio coordinator for the weekend was Mark Dittmar, VP, design and sales, Firehouse Productions. His solution to the audio challenge was to rely on Shure wireless microphones and in-ear monitoring systems.

image001“There were live TV and press events almost continuously for three days, and our job was to provide audio into and out of all the major venues, including PA systems, wireless microphones, and monitors, plus intercoms,” he reports. “With 603 active frequencies at Smoothie King Arena alone, wireless was obviously our biggest concern. For microphone and in-ear systems, we relied exclusively on Shure.”

In Smoothie King Arena, the Firehouse team deployed 32 channels of Shure UHF-R wireless microphones, with another 24 channels of PSM 1000 in-ear monitoring systems for live coverage of the three-point, slam dunk, and skills competitions on All-Star Saturday Night, along with Sunday primetime coverage of the All-Star Game. Handheld systems sported a mix of SM58, KSM8, and KSM9 capsules, and bodypack systems were used for a variety of music applications, including wireless guitars and sousaphone. Musical artists for the All-Star Game included The Roots during pregame festivities and John Legend as halftime entertainment.

Firehouse also supplied and managed Shure UHF-R and PSM 1000 systems in the other All-Star venues, the Mercedes Superdome, and the outdoor Champions Square amphitheater, which served as a fan-activity area.

“The area we were responsible for covers about 1 square mile, and it was pretty much non-stop activity all week,” notes Firehouse Director of Operations, Wireless and Communications, Vinny Siniscal, who was also onsite. “Between in-ears and mics, we had between 150 and 160 channels of Shure products on the air. They worked great all week.”

With multiple broadcasters and hundreds of visiting media representatives onsite, frequency coordination was a crucial activity. For this task, Firehouse brought in RF specialist Frequency Coordination Group (FCG). To create a working frequency plan for the 1,200-plus RF systems in use across the site, all media organizations are required to register in advance, which enables Firehouse and FCG to do their coordination.

“It’s a pretty big undertaking,” notes FCG President Brooks Schroeder, “but Firehouse makes everything as easy as possible with planning and attention to detail and by supplying the right gear for the job. The Shure PSM 1000 in-ears are a great example, because they work great, even on stages full of interference from video walls and moving lights.”

One detail that Dittmar appreciates is the extender kits Shure now offers for its handheld wireless transmitters.

“It seems like a small thing,” he says, “but it’s actually a pretty big deal for us. When you put a mic flag on a wireless, it pushes your hand lower, possibly covering the transmit antenna at the bottom. If you hold the base directly, you lose a lot of your transmission power. When someone has huge hands that can palm a basketball, all of a sudden, the antenna disappears, and that’s a problem. Fortunately, Shure gets it and developed these extender kits to address the issue.”

The WA653 Mic Flag Extender Kit is compatible with all interchangeable Shure wireless microphone cartridges and includes 1- and 1.5-in. spacer collars, extending handheld transmitter length by up to 2.5 in. Multiple kits can be used to achieve even greater extension as needed.

Dittmar credits Firehouse’s team approach and dedication with making it all happen without a problem. “This is our fourth straight year doing this event, and it was easily the best,” he says. “We have a great relationship with the NBA and their broadcast partners and had an A-list team from top to bottom. We had a crew of 42 in New Orleans, and most of us worked 18-hour days from Friday to Sunday. As for the wireless, the Shure UHF-R and PSM 1000 systems never let us down. That’s why it’s our go-to wireless for events like this.”

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