The Detroit Auto Show or, more formally, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), is the crown jewel of car exhibitions in the U.S. This year’s edition featured the debuts of 53 new models, plus a wide range of concept cars and special events. The stakes are highest at the show’s all-important press conferences, so the event producers call in trusted providers like On Stage Audio (OSA), Creative Technologies, Digital Black, and Eighth Day Sound to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
In Cobo Center’s challenging RF environment, that task is easier said than done. The wireless requirements for the show include about 445 channels of microphones, intercoms, IFBs, and in-ear monitors. In addition, each press conference is attended by roughly 3,000 members of the international media, many with their own undocumented wireless systems.
“On the RF front, the auto show is like the Wild, Wild West,” says Jim Risgin, Vice President of On Stage Audio. “Everyone’s success depends on cooperation among all the audio vendors. When the media arrives, our work is at best…a guess, as their RF usage is a complete unknown to us. It’s one of the more challenging events we do, and no better test of a wireless system.”
To gear up for the event, On Stage Audio brought more than 40 channels of Shure wireless to Detroit, including 32 channels of the new Axient wireless system along with several PSM1000 personal monitor systems.
Jeff Jones of Amazing Audio took the lead, coordinating the wireless needs of all providers and building an RF map of the convention hall. “The biggest challenge is actually before the show, when everyone is rehearsing at the same time,” he notes.
The Axient Spectrum Manager and Wireless Workbench software made it easier to create a frequency plan for Shure and non-Shure equipment and to pre-select backup frequencies. Mixing the Lincoln press event, independent engineer/designer Tom Jones of Waterloo Audio coordinated frequencies for 12 Axient systems, 10 channels of Shure UHF-R, and four PSM1000s, plus Telex wireless intercoms.
The Spectrum Manager and Wireless Workbench software were also able to quickly deal with the inevitable contingencies. “When the ENG crews came in with their own wireless, we were already online with Wireless Workbench 6 and used Spectrum Manager to see what was being broadcast, find clear channels, and deploy that to our wireless inventory,” says Tom Jones.
A unique feature of the Axient system is that backup frequencies can be deployed manually or automatically, depending on the user’s preference. Carmen Educate of OSA was the sound designer for the General Motors press event, where he used 16 channels of Axient in full frequency diversity mode for completely seamless and automatic switching.
“Axient allowed us to automatically switch between clean frequencies we had preset as backups, and Spectrum Manager gave us the ability to coordinate everything in one program.” At the Ford exhibit, OSA senior audio engineer Peter Wiejaczka chose the manual route for his 12 Axient systems. “I used Axient in a prompt-only mode, with the backup channels coordinated with the other booths,” he explains. “When the press came in with their own RF devices, I was able to switch to those backup frequencies as needed.”
Jim Risgin of On Stage Audio thinks Axient earned its stripes at this event. “Using new technology is always a risk, but we felt very comfortable going with Shure Axient. We love it. Nothing else has the features, the strength, and flexibility it has. Having mixed these shows for over 20 years, it’s an amazing feeling to know that, finally, there’s a wireless system that has my back.”