28/02/2011 Los Angeles
This year marked the 60th anniversary of the NBA’s All-Star Game, and the association celebrated with a weekend of festivities culminating in the big game on Sunday, February 20th. Only A-list talent entertained the crowd at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, including Rihanna at the game day halftime show and Bruno Mars and Cee-Lo during the Friday and Saturday festivities. In addition, a large number of announcers at the event’s red carpet blanketed the Staples Center to provide multi-dimensional insights into the game and surrounding festivities. Kevin Sanford and his team from Wireless First & Clair Global successfully wrangled over two hundred wireless channels in the heart of one of the worst RF environments in the world. He relied on Sennheiser transmitters, receivers, and personal monitor technology – along with an array of improvisations that would have made MacGyver proud – to apply the professional polish on a production that was technically demanding in the extreme.
“There were events going on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” said Sanford. “And it was a different network airing the events every day, so we kind of had to reinvent the wheel. Apart from that, the biggest challenge at an event like this is the sheer number of people needing wireless communications. We had people at the Red Carpet, on stage, in the seating, and behind the scenes. Coordinating all of that so that no one gets stepped on is not trivial.”
Sanford brought multiple channels of Sennheiser SKM 5200 handheld transmitters as well as 2000 Series, with either MD 5235, KK 105 S or MMK 965-1 capsules for the most prominent individuals, including Rihanna, and her surprise halftime show guests Drake and Kanye West, the main announcers, and the national anthem vocalists Josh Groban and Melanie Fiona. He paired those transmitters with the robust performance of Sennheiser EM 3732-II receivers. To inspire All-Star-Game-worthy performances and to mitigate the possibility of amateurish feedback, Sanford brought fourteen channels of Sennheiser SR 2050-XP IEM wireless personal monitors for use with performers across the three days.
“I like the idea of using Sennheiser in high-pressure events like this because its wireless technology is reliable and repeatable,” said Sanford. “In a crowded RF environment like Los Angeles, you really have to go all out. With yesterday’s technology, something like the NBA All-Star Game Weekend wouldn’t even be possible – at least not at the level of sophistication that we aspired to this year.”
He continued: “With a lower-profile, more predictable live event, we would keep it simple, say, have an A antenna and a B antenna. Here, we had six antennas in all sorts of exotic locations, because with television, you have to be ready for anything. I can’t tell you how many times a producer has told me not to worry about covering a particular location because there was no way we were going to use it, only to be told the next day that we would be using it! So yes, we’re always on the lookout for bigger, faster, stronger ways to get robust coverage.”
The antennas are a combination of Sennheiser A 5000-CP, and Wireless First proprietary designs. Instead of establishing separate networks, Sanford and his engineers built both the on-screen and behind-the-scenes networks into one centralized network to improve coverage for all users. At the NBA All-Star Game Weekend, several of the coverage zones were outside or in the nosebleed section at the Staples Center. To deliver that coverage with the same robust performance of the closer antennas, Sanford employed a proprietary optical fiber relay. “We are working on all kinds of fun new things in this new RF age,” he concluded.