Wheel of Fortune, one of the most successful productions ever launched, went to Hawaii earlier in the year for a week’s worth of shows on the beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Oahu. A massive stage was built smack dab on the famous white sands of Waikiki beach, only 50 feet from the shoreline. Sound was provided by the recently formed Pro Mix West, a melding of Pro Mix Inc. out of New York and the former Burns Audio of Burbank. The setup featured an all-Apogee loudspeaker system, as it has for all Wheel remotes since 1996.
The sound system included AE-5s, AE-5 NCs (Narrow Conical version), SSMs, AE-3s and AE-3Ms for stage monitors. Speaker locations were critical because of the heavy reliance on wireless lavalier mics. Six AE-5s were placed on the “A” truss, a few feet downstage from the Wheel. Four more AE-5s were located on the forward-most (downstage) truss over the front lip of the stage, focused to cover the bulk of the front seating section and the first four or five rows in the bleachers. Both rows of AE-5s were flown with yoke-style rigging hardware, designed to allow easy positioning for optimal coverage.
Two arrays of three AE-5 NCs each were flown from the stage’s roof beams, which extend out from the front of the stage about ten feet beyond the front truss. Each of the two arrays were assembled in a “tight pack” configuration; i.e., no gap between adjacent units. The AE-5 NCs were flown with Apogee’s MARS frames. The frames themselves are the truss, and each frame is the footprint of the speaker it’s attached to, joined to its neighboring frame by a steel coupler and aircraft-grade pins.
I placed six Apogee SSMs along the apron of the stage to provide additional coverage to the front rows. Rounding off the system was a pair of AE-3s on tripod stands, filling in the areas to the side of the stage. At stage-right, the AE-3 was focused directly into the mixing hut, ensuring that the operator’s position was well-covered. AE-3s were also used for foldback onstage so that Pat, Vanna and the contestants were able to hear each other, as well as the program feeds from the broadcast truck. Finally, two more AE-5s were flown at the outer sides of the stage, covering the audience overflow areas.
To make sure these speakers function properly together as a system, both in terms of delay times and equalization, I use Apogee’s CORREQT (Computer Optimized Room Resonant EQualisation Technique) system to read both phase response and frequency response. After placing the measurement mics (B&K 4007s) around the audience areas, I can accurately and quickly read the deviations in frequency and phase from the desired flat response. I then use parametric EQs-in this case the XTA digital system-to adapt the frequency response, and digital delays to adapt the phase response. Only an hour-and-a-half was spent on aligning this system.
The console for the show has been a Yamaha 02R for about two years now. The recall function ensures that the operator can always get back to the starting point when experimenting with changes in level or EQ. Its small size means that only a minimal number of seats have to be given up for audio control.
Contestants were miked with wireless Trams on Shure body-packs. Shure also sent their yet-to-be-released lavalier mic to beta-test on this show, and both the P.A. mixer and the air mixer agreed it was excellent. Amplification was by Crest, which seems to complement the Apogee speakers very well. But now that Pro Mix and Burns Audio are one-and-the-same, I’m anxious to try out Apogee’s digitally controlled amplifiers, of which Pro Mix has a substantial inventory. The ability to read impedance values from the front panel of each amp will make daily testing and troubleshooting much easier.
The P.A. mixer, Cole Coonce, said it was the finest P.A. system he’s ever used: “This was the first time I’ve been able to match Vanna’s live microphone with her recorded voice coming back from the pre-recorded prize promotions, done a week prior.”