Sydney / Australia,

Sydney Opera House Upgrades Wireless Infrastructure With Next Level Technology From Shure

Axient Wireless Management Network Underpins Unprecedented Cultural & Educational Performance Experiences for Australia And The World

Sydney, January 2015 - Recognized internationally as a symbol of modern Australia, the Sydney Opera House is not only an iconic architectural masterpiece but also one of the world’s busiest performing arts centers. For over four decades the World Heritage-listed site has been the leading cultural institution of the nation, hosting over 1,800 performances, events and programs each year - from theatre and opera, to classical music, popular music, dance, talks and more. To ensure it continues to meet the expectations of artists and audiences, and to bring the venue in line with present and future artistic, commercial, and operational needs, the Opera House had to address a key issue in the area of infrastructure: Due to the spectrum change that took full effect across Australia on January 1, 2015, all existing wireless microphone and in-ear monitoring systems had reached the end of their operational life.

Getting Ready for the Future
While the transition to a much narrower spectrum made all existing UHF wireless systems redundant, the change also offered a great opportunity – the Opera House could make crucial technological progress and upgrade its sound facilities with new and innovative solutions that would allow enhanced functionality and operational flexibility.

Jeremy Christian, Head of the Sound / AV Services Department at the Sydney Opera House explains, “Although the project was born out of the need to comply with the new spectrum requirements, it quickly expanded to not just wanting to replace old for new, but properly planning for and working out our requirements for the future.” He added that, “Over the years, wireless systems were installed on several occasions as need arose. Without proper planning this eventually resulted in an overall infrastructure consisting of multiple layers and also multiple brands of wireless mics and in-ear monitors. Not only was it troublesome to manage all our assets, but it also made RF plotting more complex than it needed to be. As such we decided to take a clean slate approach to this project with the idea of installing the most optimized, single networked system across all theaters.”

After a detailed analysis of current and predicted future needs with regards to system features, functions, and performance, the Sydney Opera House ultimately turned to Shure as their preferred partner for this project and chose the Axient Wireless Management Network and PSM1000 Personal Monitor to future-proof the RF infrastructure for many years to come. The Opera House also opted to use the SB900 Rechargeable Batteries with their PSM1000 Systems which, together with the rechargeability of Axient, delivers significant operating cost reductions over the years, as they are no longer reliant on single-use battery solutions.

One Wireless Solution For The Entire Building
The Opera House comprises six interior venues and theaters, as well as external forecourt areas which are regularly used for special outdoor events, TV productions and more. Jands, Shure authorized distributor in Australia, supplied a total of 94 channels of the Axient Wireless System and 38 channels of the PSM1000 Personal Monitor System to these sites, configured as a combination of both permanently installed as well as mobile racked receivers.

Mr. Christian commented, “From the outset of this project I wanted an integrated system that could provide for everyday use of wireless microphone and in-ear monitoring at all our six theaters. We required a turnkey solution that could serve our current productions and events which take place regularly across those spaces and make up 80 percent of our wireless needs. The expandable mobile solution should cater for the remaining 20 percent when additional RF channels are needed, but with only minimal setup and configuration. My rationale was to roll the mobile systems into any theater with service ports allowing them to operate with the installed system. With Axient and PSM1000 we now have an integrated wireless solution that is scalable in each venue so we can build up from a baseline system to a very large system should the need arise.”

In case channel capacity above the in-house capabilities are required, the installed RF distribution system is further configured such that additional hardware can easily be integrated, offering true scalability and flexibility.

Comprehensive Software Adds Sweeping Functionality to Advanced RF Technology
One of the biggest challenges that the Opera House faced in the past was to coordinate frequencies not only between its multiple venues, but also with incoming production companies. It is not uncommon for third party production companies to bring in additional wireless audio systems for various events, and previously this often created interference to the in-house systems. With the Axient Spectrum Manager and Wireless Workbench 6 (WWB6) such complex RF environments are no longer an issue.

The single rack-mounted AXT600 Axient Spectrum Manager provides the Opera House with precision wide-band UHF spectrum scanning and on-board compatible frequency coordination for any number of wireless channels. For added flexibility, it also monitors and ranks a live list of backup frequencies and deploys them instantly and automatically to the Axient receiver in case interference is detected.

Wireless Workbench 6 offers a software platform that complements the Spectrum Manager, working together to make the system even more powerful. A rich graphical interface allows to manage every facet of an event. Prior to a performance, the software can be used for detailed RF planning and the frequency coordination feature allows to create and assign a list of clean, viable frequencies as well as backup frequencies for all of an event’s wireless channels. During a show, WWB6 enables live remote adjustments to networked hardware for instant changes to frequency, gain and RF output power. Controls for audio and RF meters, battery life and volume provide quick response options to solve interference issues when detected, or for battery life and RF signal strength conditions.

Commenting on the systems’ added benefit of maximizing team resources, Mr. Christian added, “With the previous, fragmented wireless assets being used all over the Opera House, the tech staff operating the equipment used to spend a lot of time walking from one location to another when carrying out their work. The Axient Spectrum Manager and Wireless Workbench significantly improve time management by allowing us to remotely manage house-wide RF activity in real time from any computer on the network.” He concludes, “We now have a world-class, integrated wireless microphone and personal monitor system that provides the Opera House with the best possible RF infrastructure to deal with any RF challenges.”

Some quotes and content of this article were reproduced from a previously published article in Pro Audio Asia magazine, Issue Jul-Aug 2015, with permission from the original author, Richard Lawn.

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