Ezo / Japan,
Rising Sun Rock Festival 2014 in Ezo, Japan
Rising Sun Rock Festival 2014 in Ezo, Japan
Shure Axient Wireless Management Network Navigates Harsh Outdoor Environments and Transition to New Frequency Band Allocation
Ezo, August 2014 - The Rising Sun Rock Festival started in 1999 and, thanks to its growing popularity over the years, has now become a large-scale annual event and one of the top rock and roll festivals in Japan. The festival takes place in a special outdoor area overlooking Ishikariwan, Otaru, Hokkaido, and attracts around 60,000 visitors every year. Over 100 different musicians and bands, from well-known artists to up and coming groups on their way to fame, perform on six stages throughout the two-day event.
With the event taking place at the height of summer, with large temperature differences between day and night, both the audio equipment and staff face rough working conditions every year. In the 2014 edition of the festival, over 50 wireless channels were required and the wireless environment further presented a variety of challenges. Japan is currently undergoing the transition towards a new frequency band allocation and the wireless equipment had to operate in both new and old frequency bands, while same frequencies were used simultaneously across multiple stages.
“Multi-channel applications are required more and more often in Japan, and users demand increased operational flexibility and strong RF performance,” said chief engineer Tadaki Sakamoto of sound reinforcement company WEEKEND, headquartered in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Mr. Sakamoto has been in the business for more than 20 years and knows the crucial role of balancing sound quality and functionality. As the most effective means to ensure successful execution of the event and prevent any equipment malfunctioning, he turned to Shure. The Axient Wireless Management Network with SM58 Handheld Transmitters was chosen as the primary wireless system, paired with Wireless Workbench 6 software for spectrum management.
“Axient was crucial in tackling all the issues that we faced and it resolved problems even before they arose,” said. Mr Sakamoto. “In addition to the advantages in sound effect and user experience, the system’s ability to skillfully handle the challenging multi-channel setup was another reason for us to choose Axient. I had tried the system on several different occasion, even before the Rising Sun Rock Festival, and I was most impressed with its Interference Detection and Prevention feature. It automatically detects interference and switches promptly to a compatible, clean frequency,” added Mr. Sakamoto.
Due to the large number of wireless channels operated throughout the event, the sound team was worried about speaker malfunctions due to interference. To ensure that this adverse effect could be avoided, the sound engineers brought in additional technical support from the team of Shure Japan. The application engineers managed the wireless network and formulated a plan for all wireless microphones used. To simplify this task they turned to the Wireless Workbench 6 (WWB 6) software, a strong add-on tool within the Shure product portfolio.
The WWB 6 software enables the coordination of multiple parameters in the given wireless environment. It automatically calculates the available, ideal frequencies within a given frequency band, considering guard bands as well as radio waves emitted by other equipment. The software also constantly monitors and analyzes radio signals in real time, boasting high reliability and a wide range of features.
Mr. Sakamoto further commented on the advantages of Wireless Workbench, "the tailor-made software makes wireless applications much smoother. The software not only provides vital information on spectral scanning and remaining battery life of the equipment, but is also well designed with an easy-to-use interface and many useful features. It is truly a work of art."
In addition to the wide-ranging wireless network management capabilities of Axient and WWB 6, Mr. Sakamoto pointed out several other advantages of using Axient, including Frequency Diversity, which enables simultaneous transmission on two independent frequencies. If the signal quality on one frequency is decreasing, the system automatically switches to another clean frequency to maintain uninterrupted, clear audio. "Naturally we wanted to confirm this functionality, so during the testing phase we intentionally released signals on identical frequencies to create interference. The results showed that optimization was achieved instantly, and the sound was not affected at all. At that moment we realized the hard work and excellent wireless technology behind Shure systems,” said Mr. Sakamoto.
“The RF performance of Axient is astonishing. But most importantly, the system has to deliver great sound,” said the chief sound engineer. “I can still remember my excitement when Shure launched the UHF-R system - the sound quality rivaled that of cable microphones. The performance of Axient is even better. When I first listened to it, I was very surprised when I found out it was a wireless system, because I didn’t hear any difference to a regular cable mic. When we were tasked with providing audio solutions for this large event, the idea was to bring quality sound in its most original form to the audience. As such, selecting the right sound input device - the microphone - was one of the key tasks. As an engineer, I have always been fond of the SM58. It’s the essential standard against which all microphones are measured, though no other mic compares to it. It’s completely versatile and never picky about the sound or instrument. One cannot go wrong with it.”
Talking about the wireless SM58 microphones, Mr. Sakamoto added “I also really liked the well-designed remote control functionality for the transmitters. Our team did not have to run to a microphone when there was an issue. They could control the device via the AXT610 ShowLink Access Point located next to the stage, which was a significant step forward.”
Mr. Sakamoto further emphasized the huge advantage of using rechargeable batteries. "Until now, I always had to replace batteries before every rehearsal or performance, so I wouldn’t have to worry about low battery power while using the equipment. I used to be a firm believer in this approach, although it did always hurt to see so many discarded batteries. Shure has changed this reality. The operating cost of using rechargeable batteries is negligible, and the practice is a lot more environmentally friendly. In terms of managing the systems, the remaining battery life is accurately displayed in minutes, and it doesn’t take long to recharge low batteries either. Live performances must follow a predetermined schedule, and by using rechargeable batteries we can easily predict and schedule for operation."
The Rising Sun Rock Festival 2014 closed with a perfect ending. Mr. Sakamoto concluded “over the years I have tried a wide variety of products, and Shure remains the number one choice for me. I had a lot of confidence in Axient and the Wireless Workbench, and I wasn’t let down. We didn’t experience any problems at all. For our company, and for me personally, choosing Axient for an important event like this was inevitable."