68th Tony Awards on CBS

The CBS broadcast of the 2014 Tony Awards, which aired June 8, was  one of the most complex in the event’s history. From host Hugh Jackman’s  sprawling, bouncing, opening number to the on-stage gathering of all  winners for a closing rendition of “On Broadway,” viewers were treated  to a fast-paced production that included a record 17 musical acts and a  live orchestra in Radio City Music Hall.

Managing RF system design and frequency coordination for Firehouse  Productions was Vinny Siniscal. “With so much real estate to cover, so  many frequencies to manage and so many live bands, I specified Shure  UHF-R systems again this year,” he states. “When I’m doing a live  network broadcast, that’s my preference. Even though the product has  been around ten years or so, I know there’s nothing else out there that I  trust to be robust enough to survive in such a crowded RF environment.”

This year’s production used almost 250 channels of wireless, 64 of  which were for microphones. In addition, all eight channels of in-ear  monitors on the Tony stage were Shure PSM® 1000 systems. The production  also used wireless intercom systems, effects cues, and ENG cameras –  most notably the Steadicam following Jackman from the red carpet to the  stage on the opening number. “Producers design these shows assuming that  whatever wireless is required can be accommodated,” notes Siniscal. “If  that means more channels in less available spectrum, then so be it.  It’s our job to make it happen.”

All but eight of the wireless mics were Shure UHF-R—the only  exceptions were a handful of costumes with other transmitters already  sewn inside. Most of the 56 Shure channels were bodypacks, including 32  UR1M micro-packs. Twelve channels were UR2 handheld transmitters, with  an SM58® capsule for Hugh Jackman and Beta 58 elements for most other  artists, including Carole King, LL Cool J, and Sting’s choir. “Firehouse  provided full combo systems, and, of course, we had all Shure capsules  available,” says Siniscal. “At the Tony Awards, you have to be ready for  anything.”

One of Siniscal’s biggest challenges this year was the creation of  six separate wireless reception zones. “That was driven by the opening  number,” he relates. “It started on the red carpet, which is literally  outside and open to all the RF on the street. Then we had to cover the  stage-level and basement-level elevator banks, plus the elevator shaft  itself. Of course, we also had the usual zones for the main stage and  front of house, plus the backstage zone.”

To handle the audio transition from zone to zone, Siniscal found the  Shure UA874 active directional antenna to be a valuable tool. “What I  love about these antennas is that the RF output is switchable from -6dB  to +12dB, including unity gain,” he explains. “That’s a key feature, as  it allows me to balance for different RF levels across the various  zones. I can also turn each zone on and off remotely via the  distribution amp.”

With a lot of advance work, three scanners, and a lot of Shure  equipment, Firehouse Productions contributed flawless wireless to the  telecast for the fourth consecutive year. “Doing the Tony Awards is  always a big challenge, because every year, the production grows,” says  Siniscal. “We had about 50 more wireless channels compared to last year,  plus the outdoor coverage. That means competing with whatever is  happening in Midtown – which is a lot of variables to deal with,  especially for a live network broadcast. But we had a great team; we did  our advance work, and had the right tools for the job. Fortunately, it  went off without a hitch, and I look forward to doing it again next  year.”

Gear List

Model Number Quantity Description
PSM 1000 An unprecedented combination of audio and RF performance for the most demanding professional monitoring applications.
UHF-R Wireless system masters the high pressure and extreme conditions of any large-scale touring or installation while delivering uncompromising audio.
UR1M Lightweight and discreet UHF-R Bodypack Transmitter with TA4M or Lemo-3 connector options.
UR2/BETA58 The premier UR2 transmitter with the legendary Beta 58A offers excellent sound for professional vocal performances
UR2/SM58 The UR2 handheld transmitter boasts a rugged, lightweight construction and an antenna design which advances RF transmission reliability.