The announcement that Rogers Sportsnet had won the Canadian broadcast rights to NHL hockey, including the venerable Hockey Night in Canada, sent shock waves through the broadcast industry. With the nation’s eyes upon them, Sportsnet knew they had no room for error in delivering exceptional hockey programming right from the start.
To ensure success on the production side, Sportsnet contracted with RP Dynamics of Toronto to act as audio consultant for their new studio complex. The primary consultant on the project was Wireless and Broadcast Specialist John Christie of RP, responsible for designing and installing the systems needed to meet the network’s ambitious production goals, which required that all on-air talent be wireless. For Christie, there was no doubt that the best product choice for both microphone and IFB in-ear systems would be from Shure.
“To have all the studio talent on wireless all the time made product selection of paramount importance,” says Christie. “On a typical broadcast day, there are about 340 radio frequencies active within the facility. That leaves no room for compromise in product selection, which is why I recommended Shure Axient® for all microphone channels and PSM®1000 personal monitors for IFB systems. Both are designed to thrive in difficult and challenging RF environments.”
Shure Axient® is the only wireless product proven to detect and seamlessly switch away from interference before it can be heard. Using the system’s AXT600 Spectrum Manager for scanning and analysis, it literally keeps a “best available” list of backup frequencies active at all times for this purpose. According to the logs automatically generated by the Axient® system in the NHL Studios, there were five frequency changes deployed automatically during the first three weeks of the season as the system smoothly prevented audible wireless problems during HNIC and other hockey broadcasts.
Another key feature of Axient® is that all transmitters can be fully remote controlled via Shure’s ShowLink® Access Point. “Not only do we have the ability to mute, sleep, and change frequencies, we can also change the transmitter’s output power and fine-tune the gain structure,” notes Christie. “As we change on-air personnel over the course of the broadcast day, that capability has proven to be incredibly powerful.”
In total, Rogers Sportsnet purchased 28 channels of Axient® wireless for their studio operations, 24 of which are bodypacks, along with five antenna distribution systems, the Spectrum Manager, and Shure’s AXT900 battery chargers.
As critical as their microphones are for the on-air talent, their IFB (interruptible foldback) system is every bit as important. Christie notes that the Shure PSM®1000 offers several design features that make it ideal for use in IFB applications, most notably the system’s diversity bodypack receivers, which is a huge advantage in a crowded RF area like the studios. Shure’s MixMode® feature is also exceptionally broadcast-friendly.
“Using MixMode®, we can seamlessly send two separate signals from our digital intercoms, broadcasting in two channels but being heard as one. It’s almost like having an extra input,” Christie explains.
To monitor and control all the wireless traffic, each of the three control rooms is equipped with a computer running Shure’s Wireless Workbench software, all networked into the main system.
“I prefer Wireless Workbench to other systems because it accommodates all RF products and lets me manipulate all the Shure gear in real time,” says Christie. “That just makes life so much easier. Rather than having to take a list of frequencies over to a device and program it manually, all I do is push one button and all the devices are programmed. The advantage of having all your wireless gear working together on the same network is hard to overstate.”
“There has been a lot of interest in this project, which is only natural. Not only is it NHL hockey, but it’s Hockey Night in Canada – a national institution for 60 years. The technical challenge of creating an all-wireless studio of this size, and in a building with so many existing RF channels, made it critical that we have the best equipment, properly deployed,” concludes John Christie of RP Dynamics. “Now, with the new season underway, we’ve proven that Shure Axient® and PSM®1000 are the right products for the job. There have literally been no wireless issues on air, and the team at Rogers Sportsnet is ecstatic. We couldn’t have asked for a better result.”
Sportsnet equipment racks with Shure Axient Systems, Shure AXT900
Rackmount Charging Stations and Shure PSM®1000 Personal Monitor