The 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend took place in Charlotte, NC, on the weekend of February 15-17. Audio was supplied by Firehouse Productions, with wireless spectrum management handled by Frequency Coordination Group (FCG). Its task was to deliver flawless audio to TNT, TBS, and NBA TV, along with fans in attendance at the Spectrum Center arena. With three days of live broadcast events and hundreds of visiting media crews covering them, Firehouse chose Shure wireless gear as key tools toward ensuring a successful weekend.
Cameron Stuckey of Firehouse was the primary RF Technician, designing the wireless antenna system and managing frequencies assigned by FCG. “From the first game on Friday through the post-game awards on Sunday night, All-Star Weekend is a pretty hectic event,” said Stuckey. “There’s always something going on, and it’s our job to be prepared. Obviously, equipment choice is a key aspect to making it all happen.”
To that end, Firehouse supplied 24 channels of Shure Axient Digital as primary wireless systems. Half of those were dedicated to on-court music events, including pregame and halftime entertainment for all the weekend’s events, highlighted by the halftime show by hip-hop artist J. Cole on Sunday night. In-ear monitors for musical performances were all Shure PSM 1000 systems, with eight transmitter channels available to feed 16 P10R bodypack receivers.
Eight more channels of Axient Digital were dedicated to tangential events around the games themselves, such as player introductions, bench reporters, fan interactions like T-shirt giveaways, and dance cam, as well as the final award ceremony. The remaining Axient Digital channels were used by TBS for a special Saturday broadcast of the NBA web series “Area 21,” featuring live commentary on the skills challenge, 3-point, and slam dunk competitions by retired All-Stars Charles Barkley and Rasheed Wallace with host Kevin Garnett.
Most of the Axient Digital systems in use were handhelds, with Shure KSM9 condenser microphone elements topping 17 AD2 transmitters. AD1 bodypack systems were used for the guitar and bass players accompanying Anthony Hamilton’s soulful rendition of the National Anthem and for hands-free miking of the “Area 21” participants.
“One thing we love about Axient Digital is its channel density,” said Stuckey. “That gives us the flexibility we need to pack channels closer together if we need to and makes it easier for the frequency coordinator to accommodate the systems brought in by visiting media and musicians.”
Brooks Schroeder, president of Frequency Coordination Group, was also pleased. “The nice thing about the new Shure products like Axient Digital is that their off-band rejection is amazing,” he said. “Sunday night, we had over 450 UHF frequencies running simultaneously, and we had no complaints of any issues from the NBA or the broadcasters. That’s how the whole weekend went.”
In addition, six channels of analog Shure Axient were deployed for TNT broadcast use. The AXT200 handheld transmitter used all weekend by sideline reporter Allie LaForce was equipped with the AXT651 Talk Switch. This switch goes in-line between the transmitter and the capsule and enables the user to control the output routing of the AXT400 receiver, either sending audio to the director or the broadcast mix. Also used were the WA653 mic flag collars, which provide additional clearance for all types of mic flags. AXT100 bodypacks were used to mic on-court activities during Saturday’s Skills Challenge event.
Firehouse uses Shure’s rechargeable battery system with rack-mount SBRC chargers, another feature that Cameron Stuckey appreciates. “The Shure rechargeables are great, with long life and the ability to show remaining battery life minute by minute,” he said. “Coming from a background where we might go through 1,000 or more alkalines for an event like this, it feels pretty good environmentally, especially compared to hauling away five-gallon buckets of used batteries like we used to.”
Asked to sum up All-Star Weekend, Firehouse’s Cameron Stuckey said, “For a gig like the NBA All-Stars, it’s all about preparation. Fortunately, the NBA gives us the latitude we need to achieve their production goals, and I think it shows in the product you see on TV. We’re very happy with the results.”