NILES, Ill., Nov. 19, 2014— The live ABC telecast of the 48th Annual CMA Awards from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena was a huge success in the ratings, drawing more than 16 million viewers. The three-hour program also set standards for production, with 21 music performances captured, mixed, and broadcast by an A-list production team, who are all veterans of the demanding award show circuit.
To ensure quick transitions between acts, the production team employs as much wireless technology as possible. As is customary, a mix of the major wireless microphone brands was available to the performers, while Shure PSM® 1000 personal monitors were the exclusive choice for all performances as stage in-ear monitors.
Production mixer Mark King, a Los Angeles-based freelancer, has been providing the final broadcast mix for the past six CMA telecasts. As the person who provides the live mix of music, host microphones, and crowd noise to the network, he is acutely aware of the need for quality audio.
“We want the performers to be comfortable on stage, so the choice of vocal microphones for live performance is largely decided by the artists themselves,” he notes. “Year in and year out, the vast majority of those performers turn out to be Shure users, which is really great. From a product standpoint, Shure wireless is my preference in general. It really is a great product.”
Shure users took home a lot of major awards this year, including Entertainer of the Year for Luke Bryan, Song of the Year for Kacey Musgraves, Vocal Group of the Year for Little Big Town, and Vocal Duo of the Year for Florida Georgia Line. All performed live during the show.
Led by audio producers Tom Davis and Paul Sandweiss, the production team for this year’s CMA Awards was strictly A-list. The systems provider was ATK Audiotek, which brought in the PA system, wireless mics and in-ear systems, and backline gear, with wireless frequency coordination and system design handled by James Stoffo. The broadcast music mix in 5.1 surround was again provided by M3 (Music Mix Mobile), with Jay Vicari and John Harris at the controls. Inside the arena, the music was mixed by Rick Shimer, while Pat Baltzell handled the production mix.
Monitors for all music performances were mixed by the team of Jason Spence of Nashville’s J Sound Services and independent engineer Tom Pesa. “We had 100 percent Shure PSM 1000 in-ears again this year,” says Spence. “Tom and I had 20 channels available, and we used upwards of 60 wireless beltpacks during the show. We also had four hardwired in-ear systems, mainly for drummers. Those were powered by the Shure P6HW bodypack.”
With the diversity design of Shure’s PSM 1000 bodypacks, Spence reports no interference problems in the all-important in-ear mixes. “The PSM 1000 provides the RF performance required on hostile events such as award shows. And it doesn’t hurt that they have the cleanest sound and the widest stereo image of any IEM system. I received numerous compliments on the ear mixes again this year, and I attribute a lot of that to the sound quality and performance of the Shure PSM 1000.”
House sound mixer Rick Shimer is also a big fan of Shure wireless. “Whether they are using a classic SM58 head or the KSM9 condenser, I know I’m going to get that signature Shure sound. And RF-wise, they are solid as a rock,” he says. “It’s amazing how far we’ve come with wireless systems. They are so reliable, we don’t think twice about using them everywhere, even backing vocals, which is a huge help in terms of production and staging. We moved 21 music performances on and off of two stages during a three-hour show, and there was never a glitch.”
While Shimer loves the way advanced technology helps him as a sound engineer, it was actually a new take on an old school product that impressed at the 2014 CMAs. “This was the first year I used Shure headphones at front of house – the SRH440 –and it was a refreshing change for me. They were provided by ATK, along with the console, and they were really comfortable and sounded great.”
With the event complete, the production team scattered, knowing they would soon meet again. “We literally had the same production team this year as last at the CMAs, which really helps to create a smooth show,” says Mark King. “Those of us who specialize in live broadcast award shows love what we do, and working with great people and great products is a big part of that.”