Live audio and broadcast communications run over a Dante network
Known informally as the “Woodstock of fitness,” the CrossFit Games may owe more to the X Games and their multi-site operation on a massive campus than to this whimsical one-stage music festival. The 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games take place August 3-7 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin, where they have been since 2017, crowning the “Fittest Man and Fittest Woman on Earth.” The complex venue consists of an exhibition center, vendor pavilions, sponsor row, beer garden and outdoor competition area, North Park Stadium, built specifically for the Games. As physically spread out as the CrossFit Games are, however, their digital audio footprint is decidedly smaller this year.
Hearcorp director Dave BjornsonA 10-year veteran of Games like A2 and A1, serves as audio supervisor and teams with Justin Gordon, lead at sound reinforcement supplier Creative Technologiesand CP Communications Senior RF Technical Manager Frank Rafka to create a single Dante-over-MADI IP network for the audio needs of the entire event, including live sound and communications.
“Historically,” says Bjornson, “broadcast audio, sound and intercom at this event have been separate groups living in their own worlds. It wasn’t very efficient and didn’t always produce the highest quality end product. This year I came close [CrossFit Senior Coordinating Producer] Joe Novello and [CrossFit event producer Hamilton Road Productions] Principal Charlie Dube about the idea of sharing all event audio over a large Dante IP network.”
There are eight Yamaha live sound consoles on the network, mixing L-Acoustics PA systems at each venue, all connected via Dante. The NEP SS8 and SS4 mobile units handle outbound streaming for the event for the CrossFit International program’s global channels, as well as the two-hour broadcast via CBS Sports of Sunday’s finals. The result, says Björnson, is that most audio content will be accessible from and to any location in real time. For example, Shure Axient wireless microphone stands that were designed for specific locations on campus are now available for any location and for live or broadcast sound use.
Sound for secret events
This capability is especially important for the CrossFit Games, where some of the events are kept secret until hours or even minutes before they are played. In some cases, such as last-minute climbing wall competitions, the only audio assets available may be installed audience microphones and wireless camera microphones. In this case, says Bjornson, Hearcorp’s wireless lavalier and custom contact microphones can be quickly paired with CP’s Axient transmitters in local racks and deployed as effects mics attached to a nearby wall or beam.
“The camera mic can start,” he says, “but once an athlete is 20 feet in the air, you’ve got nothing. Being able to throw lava up the wall in a short amount of time makes all the difference. And that same mic can carry over to live sound and broadcast.
A campus-wide Riedel Bolero intercom system is located around the various halls and is also extended to external events via a Unity IP-based 48-pass intercom in all halls. Unity Connect from the pool at the Nicholas Rec Center features both talent and performance mics and IFB talent.
“Everyone has a Bolero belt and they have access to Riedel or Unity intercoms at the push of a button,” says Bjornson, whose Hearcorp also runs Tech 25, an after-school education nonprofit that introduced and taught the basics of live event technology for nearly three dozen teenagers and pre-teens in Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood. The communications team includes Alexander Olivareswho handles Bolero/Riedel programming; Kepner’s team, who does Adam’s programming; and Andy Strauberwhich is responsible for connecting the intercom systems of the two trucks together, allowing both trucks to be programmed from one place.
Rafka sees the CrossFit Games as a good platform for CP’s broad foray into cellular technology, which allows two or more cellular modems to be combined in a way that allows the end user to use the combined bandwidth. Cellular uplink transmits live streams via multiplexed cellular signals when Ethernet or Wi-Fi is not available. Instead of satellite transmissions, multiple cellular modems are deployed to combine 3G, 4G, LTE, and other cellular signals to improve connectivity.
CP’s addition for this year’s Games includes seven conventional microwave cameras with full Paint control in all venues, one linked cellular camera with full Paint control in all venues and 11 linked cellular cameras in the Outside Events Group competitions held in the Capitol and at the Nicholas Rec Center pool. All have full control over Paint and video playback and use Mobile Viewpoint and AVIWEST connected devices.