NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE: The Country Music Television (CMT) Artists of the Year celebration honors five country music artists who stand at the top of the field with an evening of live music at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. This year, Rob Lowe hosted the proceedings, which included heartfelt performances by the five honorees: Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, and Kenny Chesney. As in the past, CMT hired Wireless First, a Clair Global Company to simultaneously provide live sound reinforcement and broadcast sound (the show aired in mid-December), along with RF equipment and expertise. In addition to the impactful Clair i3 line array system, which stays out of television sightlines, Clair Global brought two new products: a custom-built portable RF microphone podium and the CF 1090 Fractal Antenna. Both provided tangible benefits over existing technologies that allowed the crew to accomplish such a multifaceted job with confidence.
“It was an interesting mix of music and performances,” said Monty Curry, who served as Clair Global crew chief and production A1. “There were a lot of guest musicians and a lot of creative sets. For example, Lady Antebellum gave its backing band the night off and performed an acoustic set – just the three of them.” Of course, each honoree deserved stellar live sound and stellar broadcast sound, which effectively meant that Wireless First/Clair Global put on five big-name live shows with every complication imaginable, overlain by the ceaseless demands of a high-profile television production. In addition to Curry, Rick Schimer was on hand to mix FOH music. Jason Spence gave every musician a performance-inspiring mix at monitors. Josh Macinerny managed the evening’s RF signal space. Paul Cervanansky oversaw the construction and interconnection of Wireless First/Clair Global’s infrastructure in his role as chief system engineer.
“One of the main challenges at a show like this is striking a balance between the live vibe and the broadcast quality that doesn’t feel like a compromise on either end,” explained Curry. “Otherwise, everything suffers. If the people in the audience don’t get the volume they expect, they don’t react with the same excitement that they would at a normal concert. That feeds back to the performers, who sense that lack of excitement. Even though these are the most professional musicians in the industry, they’re also humans. They’re bound to put on a better show when they feel the excitement of the crowd.”
Wireless First and Clair Global’s success in this regard is two-fold. First, the performance of its proprietary line array system delivers significant SPL to the crowd but, via tight pattern control, low SPL to any on-stage production mics, while simultaneously keeping a low, camera-friendly profile. Second, the use of elegant technologies maintains high broadcast quality both visually and aurally. The Clair Broadcast custom-built portable RF microphone podium is the latest example of the company’s engineering spirit. “On CMT’s Artists of the Year celebration and other high-profile awards shows, stage management and logistics is a complicated affair,” said Kevin Sanford, principal of Wireless First. “All the podium rigs that we had encountered were time-consuming to assemble, awkward to move around on stage, and of less than professional sound quality and reliability.” Clair Broadcasting’s solution is to place two top-of-the-line Schoeps condensers at the top of the stand with their cables running internally to a base that conceals battery power and a wireless transmitter. At the CMT Artists of the Year celebration, Curry used the hypercardioid microphone when only one speaker was addressing the mic and the cardioid mic otherwise. Its sleek design and robust RF transmitter base (which is held on magnetically to allow for speedy troubleshooting or adjustments) made it easy to move it wherever it was needed on stage.
The RF component of the show involved some two-dozen microphone channels, including Shure, Sennheiser, and AudioTechnica live performance mics. Macinerny gave the presenters Sennheiser 5200 Series handheld and body-pack transmitters, some outfitted with Neumann KK 105 capsules. Spence delivered his mixes to the performers using a dozen stereo Sennheiser G2 Series wireless personal monitors delivered to the receivers using a pair of Clair Global’s new CF 1090 Fractal Antennas. “We started designing the CF 1090 many years ago and recently finished a year-and-a-half of prototyping and beta tests,” said Sanford. “The goal from the beginning was to design a rock-solid, reliably-consistent antenna that we could count on in high stakes situations like the CMT show. It’s gratifying to see all of that hard work pay off. The goal has definitely been achieved.”
For the house PA, Clair Global brought in its stalwart i3 line array. A relatively new advance, however, is its power and processing source. The modular Clair StakRak houses three Lab.gruppen PLM Series amplifiers and a Dolby Lake signal processor. Control and audio passes on convenient CAT5 cable (along with other standard formats) and each StakRak integrates seamlessly with other units, along with Clair’s loudspeakers and subwoofers. “It’s very easy to set up and use,” said Curry. “Configuring our system is fast and reliable, which allows us to focus our attention on the million other things that are demanded of us!”
ABOUT WIRELESS FIRST, A CLAIR GLOBAL COMPANY
Wireless First, a Clair Global Company, has decades of experience in handling wireless communications for television and theatrical productions, concert tours, corporate events and themed environments; servicing all the major television networks and production companies, including ABC, NBC, MTV, NBA, Buena Vista Pictures and Radio City Productions. Under the auspices of Kevin Sanford, Wireless First has offices in Mt. Vernon New York, Nashville and Los Angeles.