NILES, IL., June 26, 2017—The 71st Tony Awards was broadcast live from New York’s Radio City Music Hall Sunday, June 11, on CBS. With Kevin Spacey’s epic opening number kicking off an evening of awards interspersed with Broadway musical production numbers, the show’s audio and wireless needs were as challenging as ever. A veteran crew from Firehouse Productions (Red Hook, NY/Las Vegas, NV) was on hand to ensure that the live telecast’s audio was delivered without missing a beat.
“This is my seventh time as wireless coordinator for the Tony Awards, and our audio standards are high,” notes Vinny Siniscal of Firehouse. “At the same time, it’s not my first rodeo, so I relied on Shure for every wireless channel I had a choice on, both wireless and in-ears. They came through flawlessly for us, as always.”
Among the 200 channels of wireless in use, 60 were microphones. Of those, 56 channels were Shure UHF-R combo systems. Most were outfitted with bodypacks, including 32 UR1M micropack transmitters, ideal for costume ensemble numbers. The UR2 handhelds used for various host, presenter, and interview duties were outfitted with Beta 87C capsules.
The production’s in-ear monitoring needs were met by ten PSM 1000 systems, which Siniscal describes as “everybody’s go-to in-ear system these days.” Eight systems were used on stage, with 16 P10R diversity receivers available to performers. The other two systems were in the monitor mix truck, with one for the sound engineer, and another for the audio supervisors from the various plays as their songs were performed.
Frequency coordination tasks included backstage communications via intercom and two-way radios, plus frequency assignments for credentialed media. Locations requiring coverage ranged far from the stage, including the red carpet area, the audience, backstage halls, and the ninth floor rehearsal room, a total of seven diversity zones in all. To cover it all, Firehouse uses a custom antenna system with tuned distribution amplifiers for each zone, with Shure UA845-SWB antenna splitters assisting in the signal routing.
The core frequency coordination was done with a combination of IAS software from Professional Wireless and Shure Wireless Workbench. “I use every tool at my disposal, and Wireless Workbench has been a real game-changer for us, especially for live wireless monitoring,” says Siniscal. “I set everything up in channel groups, so I’m only looking at what I need, and can check ahead by pulling up a tab to confirm all channels are good before the next number hits the stage. Yet I’m never more than one click away from my live view.”
The overall audio lead from Firehouse was Luis Espinal, with Sisse Jonassan assisting in the role of RF technician. The team shows up on Monday for set-up, working with the cast and crew through days of rehearsals to fine-tune the antenna system, eliminate dead zones, and adjust their systems to meet changing requirements as show time approaches.
For Firehouse Productions, the 2017 Tony Awards was a huge success. “Our job is to deliver flawless audio, and, once again, we didn’t have a single problem all night long, which I guess is why they keep asking us back,” says Siniscal. “Every year, the RF noise floor goes up a little, the spectrum is a bit more crowded, but these Shure systems remain rock solid for us. I’ve used them for over a decade now, and they’re always up to the task.”