The Atlanta-based Center for Puppetry Arts is the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. dedicated to the art form of puppetry. The Center provides performances, interactive workshops, and museum exhibits as well as educational outreach and Distance Learning programs that support national curriculum standards in language arts, social studies, science, and math, among other areas.
The Center presents more than 600 live performances in two on-site theaters each year. With such a full calendar, the organization requires significant support from robust technologies that can withstand the unique conditions created by puppetry performances.
The Center for Puppetry Arts Master Electrician Gregory Montague requires a durable, top-of-the-line wireless microphone system that can deliver excellent sound quality, frequency agility, and has the ability to withstand significant abuse. With these demands in mind, Montague turned to the Shure UHF-R Wireless Microphone System for reliable audio production.
“The UHF-R wireless system delivers the quality of sound you expect from a Shure product,” Montague says. “And its frequency selection tool allows us to navigate Atlanta’s crowded RF spectrum to deliver clean, uninterrupted sound.
“Our puppeteers are also extremely active,” Montague continues. “In the course of a performance they sing, dance, and manipulate puppets—sometimes from body-contorting angles, sometimes rolling around on carts. They also have to navigate extremely tight quarters and move scenery, while sometimes wearing black velour suits with hoods that obscure their vision.”
For its performances, the Center needs equipment that can withstand the heat and resulting perspiration, constant movement, and the occasional behind-the-scenes accidental collision.
“I also really appreciate the system’s ability to quickly change mic elements and antennas, the metal chassis, the IR frequency sync setting, and the digital display that quickly gives me the information I need,” Montague adds.
Using 20 channels of UHF-R, Montague and the production team rely on the system for hundreds of live performances held six days a week, 52 weeks a year. The production team has been pleased with UHF-R’s ability to perform flawlessly while proactively avoiding RF interference.
Based on his positive experience with UHF-R, Montague was quick to investigate Shure’s portfolio of wireless systems when the Center’s award-winning Distance Learning program expanded its educational offerings. The Distance Learning program extends the Center’s learning opportunities around the globe through live interactive videoconferencing, Webinars, and recorded online content.
When the Distance Learning program added puppet shows through videoconferencing, it quickly discovered that its boundary microphones were not making the grade. “The puppeteers’ movement made it difficult for the audience to hear everything with the wired mics we had been using,” Montague says. “It was time to upgrade to wireless mics.”
The exciting new program came with all the challenges normally faced in the Center’s live stage productions, plus the puppeteers had to operate with minimal in-show technical support. This required a wireless system that was not only durable and agile but also easy to use. After exploring the intuitive functionalities of Shure’s ULX-D Digital Wireless system, Montague selected the gear because it met all the criteria.
“We knew the Shure ULX-D system could handle what our Distance Learning department would throw at it,” Montague says. “We looked at the digital system and realized it had all of the things we liked about the UHF-R—such as automatic frequency selection and metal chassis. Plus, the fact that it’s so easy to use is a huge advantage—especially since these puppeteers are responsible for triggering their own sound cues and act as their own in-show tech support.”
Montague’s use of ULX-D for online workshops and UHF-R for live stage performances makes his day-to-day A/V operations less stressful. “The Shure products allow me peace of mind because they are reliable, durable, and deliver high-quality sound,” he concludes.
Visit the Center for Puppetry Arts at www.puppet.org.