NILES, IL, December, 2010 — One of the breakout ratings hits of the fall TV season, NBC’s The Sing-Off is an elimination competition among a cappella singing groups, hosted by Nick Lachey. The finale was broadcast on Monday, December 20, with phone-in voters awarding the top prize to the Alabama gospel group Committed. For the two-hour live broadcast, the program specified a full stage of Shure UHF-R wireless systems, including 28 handheld transmitters with KSM9 mic capsules and another 14 channels with SM58® heads. In addition, the show requested four channels of Shure PSM® 900 personal monitors with eight bodypack receivers, which were used by guest artists including Sara Bareilles, Sheryl Crow, Neil Diamond, and Boyz II Men. All systems were supplied by Soundtronics Wireless in Burbank.
“It turned out to be a lot trickier than we thought,” reports Jason Bellamy of Soundtronics Wireless, which supplied and coordinated all wireless systems. “We actually installed the first 28 channels of wireless, plus the in-ears, last Thursday, which was difficult enough. But on show day, the producers decided to add more performances, so we had to find room for 14 more frequencies. It was a real challenge, but we got it done.”
“This is live TV, and there’s no room for error,” notes Larry Reed, broadcast audio mixer for The Sing-Off. “Frankly, that’s why I use Soundtronics whenever I can. They are the absolute best RF company I know. Today, literally at the last minute, they got us 14 extra channels of Shure systems, which is an amazing feat in a location like Warner Brothers studios.”
For The Sing-Off, the Soundtronics team coordinates frequencies with neighboring stages of several other productions. “We work with the sound department at Warners, which coordinates everything wireless – audio, IFB, cameras, PL, you name it,” notes Jason Bellamy. “We run all that information through an intermod program called IAS to come up with a frequency list for the show. After that, it’s about deployment and troubleshooting. It’s a team effort to make sure everything can be accommodated.”
Broadcast mixer Larry Reed, who specified the Shure systems, was thrilled with the result. “The audio was flawless tonight,” he reports. “There was no interference, no artifacts, and no dropouts. The mics couldn’t have been better if they were hardwired.”
Reed specified Shure in large part because of the KSM9 mic capsule. “The specification is actually a group decision, based on the number and type of wireless channels we need,” he explains. “But it’s my job to get the best sound possible, and the KSM9 just sounds gorgeous on vocals, especially in cardioid mode. It’s got a beautiful, warm, natural sound to it. For a show like The Sing-Off, which is all about the vocals, it’s the perfect choice.”
Soundtronics partner Jason Bellamy notes that the Shure UHF-R system has the technical ability to match its sound quality. “This is live TV, and with the amount of frequency congestion we’re facing, productions like The Sing-Off rely on us to provide a reliable wireless set-up. Our Phoenix III antenna helps us tune out interference and maximize available channels, and the wireless system is a big part of that equation. The Shure UHF-R is one of our go-to systems. It’s got good, clean, strong RF power, which we need, and they are extremely reliable. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we had an onsite mechanical malfunction with Shure. We own well over 100 channels of it.”
“There’s nothing like mixing for live TV, It’s nerve-wracking but at the same time, it’s a total rush,” concludes Larry Reed. “You need to be confident in your crew and your equipment. When you’ve got a combination of a rock solid wireless like Shure and experts like Soundtronics to set them up, you can trust there will be no technical issues. It lets me focus on my job, which is to produce great sound for the home viewer.