RF Command Center Aids In Complex Set Up For Peter Gabriel Tour
By Jimmy Nicholson
I’ve been working at both ends of the multicore for more than 10 years, and over the last few years I’ve seen complex RF systems, once the preserve of large scale tours, trickle their way down to smaller acts and productions until we’ve reached the stage we’re at now; where at most major festivals you can put the wedges away shortly after lunch.
The first task I had planned for my newly acquired Invisible Waves X RF Command Center, however, would be at the larger end of the scale. Peter Gabriel would be performing his 1986 album ‘So’ in its entirety, with the band members that made up the original tour 25 years ago. I would be looking after 16 radio mics and 16 IEM systems throughout Canada and North America.
Due to the nature of the stage set and lighting truss layout, I would have a very limited amount of time each day to get 32 clean frequencies ready for line-check. Monitor world would be on a rolling riser, built in the middle of the arena floor, and rolled into place sometimes only half an hour before line-check was due to start.
Intermodulation calculations were done with Professional Wireless’ IAS software, which, given your location, will tell you what local TV stations are operating from an Internet database. As is invariably the case with these things, the database is frequently out of date (as the software will remind you) and the IWx gave me the opportunity to quickly scan the local conditions and verify what the database had told me. What could, at times, appear to be a crowded spectrum according to the database, turned out to be mercifully clear. And at other times, what looked to be favorable local conditions, had obviously acquired a new set of digital TV stations recently. The speed at which it’s possible to scan and verify the local RF conditions with the RF Command Center and adjust your intermod calculations accordingly is invaluable in a situation like this.
After initial setup and fine-tuning of the day’s frequencies, I connected the audio output of the IWx scanner into our crew shout system and sent it to my IEM mix. This gave me 2 very useful functions: firstly, it allowed me to use the Click-To-Listen feature to check out any new local frequencies that might appear during the day (or indeed the show), and secondly, it gave me an audible warning when a key frequency (main vocal, wireless instrument systems etc.) stopped transmitting. This second feature is like a 6th sense for RF techs. If, for instance, you are at the other side of the stage and a wireless instrument pack gets accidentally switched off – hearing the signature ‘bong’ sound of the RF Command Center let’s you know it’s time to hot-foot it back to RF world and grab a spare pack!
In addition to its capabilities in the world of radio mics and IEM systems, my version of the IWx can scan frequencies all the way up to 3.5GHz. Our backline team was using several wireless MIDI systems operating in the ‘2.4Ghz’ band that consumer wifi devices occupy. I was able to scan the rest of the tour’s ‘2.4Ghz’ equipment, including a selection of wifi devices and wireless comms equipment, and advise the backline department where to retune their systems for interference free operation.
The next challenge for my IWx would be substantially simpler, but the same features that make it so useful on Peter Gabriel would apply here too. This would be a threeweek UK tour with upcoming UK pop artist Conor Maynard, where I would be mixing monitors for Conor and his 5-piece band. 8 IEM systems and a pair of radio mics made up the RF requirements for this show. Not quite on the same scale as PG, but there are no wedges on this tour either, so we would be just as reliant on the RF. RF licensing regulations are different in the UK than North America, so most of the coordination with local TV stations is done for you by the license issuers JFMG. Our radio mics would be operating in the so-called ‘Shared UHF’ range, however, so would still require a scan and coordination each day. On PG I had been running the IWx from my flight-case computer workstation, but this tour would be travelling light, so the portability of the IWx really came into its own.
Many of the UK’s large club/theatre venues, which this tour would be covering, have multiple venues in the same building, and while the vast majority of the UK spectrum is regulated by JFMG, not everyone follows the regulations. The IWx lets me see what’s really going on at a particular location!
Having done plenty of touring with other RF scanning options, and plenty with no option at all, I can safely say the IWx RF Command Center (www.rfanalyzers.com) is now a permanent resident in whatever size toolbox I’m carrying – in fact, my minimal ‘briefcase gig’ toolbox is now the RF Command Center in its custom built case, with my IEMs, a couple of USB sticks and a Sharpie!
SOURCE: Kaltman Creations LLC