Difficult wireless environment finds improvement with Shure RF
12 channels of Shure's flagship Axient wireless microphone system have been installed for use at Bregenz's international music and performing arts festival in Western Austria.
Situated on the stunning shores of Lake Constance, the month-long annual Bregenz Festival sees the picturesque lakeside town of Bregenz in Austria taken over by regular theatrical, musical and operatic productions, with the spectacle of the ‘Spiel auf dem See’ (Music on the Mere) as its centrepiece, taking place on a gigantic floating stage in the lake itself.
As with most modern live stage, musical and operatic productions, the Bregenzer Festspiele has made increasing use of wireless microphone technology over the years; the consequent lack of requirement for cables or overhead mics for sound reinforcement has permitted greater freedom of movement for performers and therefore more ambitious productions.
However, the use of RF at Bregenz has always been constrained by local environmental factors. The town is very close to borders with Germany and Switzerland (‘border triangle’), all using radio frequencies in often conflicting ways. Furthermore, following the shutdown of analogue television locally and auctioning of the RF spectrum, the range of frequencies available for use by wireless microphones at Bregenz is more restricted than ever
Rudolf Illmer - now Head of Sound - has been at the Bregenz Festival for 27 years, and is used to the problems presented by using RF in the 'border triangle. "It always requires very careful planning when it comes to spectrum management, and now the plans for the forthcoming stage 2 of the Digital Dividend will put still more spectrum beyond PMSE [Programme Making & Special Events] use. Most of our wireless mic systems are 15 to 20 years old, and we can no longer guarantee that they will operate free of interference."
Consequently, the period between the end of the 2013 Festival and the opening of the 2014 event in July saw the beginning of a wholesale renewal of the wireless systems at Bregenz. "We ran detailed live tests with systems from all of the major manufacturers," continues Illmer.
"Feedback from our engineers was decisively in favour of [Shure's] Axient by some margin, due to a variety of factors, including the clarity of sound, the extensive operating distance, the great range of frequencies usable by the transmitters and receivers, the intelligent battery technology, and the ease-of-use with the Wireless Workbench management software."
All 12 channels of Axient are currently being driven in 10mW mode, allowing operation over a wide range despite the relatively low power requirements. Axient systems can also be driven in 50mW mode in the EU if required, but despite the crowded RF environment, the lower-power mode has proved sufficient in Bregenz, as Wolfgang Streiter explains.
"Range is an important concern for us — the lake stage is the largest of its kind in the world, and the singers on it are sometimes performing at a distance of up to 100 metres from the transmitters.”
The 12 channels of Axient in operation at Bregenz so far are all being used on the floating lakeside stage, and RF Systems Specialist Wolfgang Streiter has already noticed the difference. "With the help of the Spectrum Manager and Wireless Workbench, we now have better control over what's happening locally in this very critical, demanding RF environment," he explains. "We rely absolutely on Axient's Interference Detection & Avoidance mode: during the festival, there are countless events locally that can cause us problems."
Streiter's comments are echoed by Rudolf Illmer, who concludes: "Axient's handheld with its dual transmitters is currently without equal, as is its ability to seek out and switch to clear frequencies automatically in case of interference. This year, we're very relaxed about the coming festival season!"
|Axient||Wireless management network offers a spectrum management suite to integrate spectrum analysis, channel allocation, and device management.|
|AXT600||Axient Spectrum Manager delivers wide-band UHF spectrum scanning, spectrum analysis, and compatible frequency coordination in a single rack unit.|
|WWB6||Wireless Workbench offers total control of networked Shure Systems to provide a rich interface to manage every facet of a performance.|