Wireless First, Clair Global Provide Audio for CMT Artists of the Year Show

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Back row, from left: Jason Aldean, CMT Artists of the Year 2011 host Rob Lowe, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum. Front row, from left: Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum.

Photo copyright 2011 Getty Images

In mid-December, the Country Music Television (CMT) held its Artists of the Year celebration honoring five country music artists—Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, and Kenny Chesney—with an evening of live music at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. As in past years, CMT hired Wireless First, a Clair Global Company, to simultaneously provide live sound reinforcement and broadcast sound for the telecast, along with RF equipment and expertise.

Clair Global brought the Clair i3 line array system, which stays out of television sight lines, as well as a custom-built portable RF microphone podium and the CF 1090 Fractal Antenna.

"It was an interesting mix of music and performances," says 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."

In addition to Curry, Rick Schimer was on hand to mix music at front-of-house; Jason Spence handled the monitor mix; Josh Macinerny managed the evening's RF signal space; and 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," Curry explains. "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 Brothers state that the performance of their proprietary line array system delivers significant SPL to the crowd, as well as low SPL to any onstage production mics via tight pattern control, while simultaneously keeping a low, camera-friendly profile.

"All the podium rigs that we had encountered were time-consuming to assemble, awkward to move around onstage, and of less than professional sound quality and reliability," says Kevin Sanford, principal of Wireless First. 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; otherwise, he used the cardioid mic otherwise, whose design and 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 onstage.

The RF component of the show involved some two-dozen microphone channels, including Shure, Sennheiser, and Audio-Technica live performance mics. Macinerny gave the presenters Sennheiser 5200 Series handheld and body-pack transmitters, some of which were 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 P.A., Clair Global brought in its i3 line array with a new 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 Cat-5 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," says 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!"

For more information, visit www.wirelessfirst.com and clairglobal.com.