No football fan wants to hear a bad call, especially during the Super Bowl, but a true fan can’t deny that picked up flags and poorly-judged pass interference calls are simply part of the game.
With the stakes as high as they are during the Super Bowl, it’s necessary that referees are equipped with microphones that will enable fans to hear every call, good or bad.
James Stoffo, chief technology officer at Radio Active Designs, was contracted for the 16th time to handle all wireless systems for the on-field portion of Super Bowl 50 festivities. He selected the Shure Axient Wireless Management Network to ensure audio from on-field referees was clear and efficient. Perhaps one of the most important microphones on the field, Stoffo needed a reliable wireless mic system that could adjust to changing conditions and common frequency interferences at Levi’s Stadium.
“[The Axient System] has a much more robust front end than any other wireless mic out there, which is my first consideration for an event like this,” says Stoffo in a Shure press release. “Of course, the coolest thing is having the ability to change transmitter frequencies—or any transmitter setting—remotely. That’s a life saver.”
Axient stands out from other professional wireless systems in its ability to offer true frequency diversity. Furthermore, its interference detection algorithm alerts the operator to changing conditions, which made life much easier for Stoffo, who had to change channels on one ref’s mic several times during the game.
“Anxient can do that automatically, but I’ve got it set up to give me visual alerts, so I have the final say and full control over any change. That’s just my personal preference,” says Stoffo in the news release.
ATK Audiotek of Valencia, Calif. supplied six channels of Axient. Referee Clete Blakeman was equipped with two AXT100 bodypack transmitters, which each sent to a separate dual-channel Axient AXT400 receiver. According to Stoffo, that is normally all that is needed. For the Super Bowl, however, he wanted full hardware redundancy as well.
For even more reliability, a custom antenna system was set up to accommodate the Axient ShowLink remote access. Custom helical antennas were set up on the sidelines of the 35-yard lines to help ensure a solid RF link no matter the referee’s location on the field.
With the help of Anxient, Stoffo was able to overcome the major frequency challenges that Levi’s Stadium’s location created. Situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stoffo says white space device and other RF testing by the area’s tech companies caused unidentifiable RF sources to show up on his spectrum analyzers. The UHF band was nearly full as well, but Stoffo overcame these challenges by reusing frequencies throughout the game.
For example, when the national anthem was over, that frequency was reallocated. The referee’s Axient bodypacks were also shut down remotely at half time, and those frequencies were then used for musical performers, and then switched back for the second half.
According to the press release, pregame and halftime entertainers are typically allowed to use their personal wireless microphones, but the scarcity of viable UHF spectrum and the interference potential of the LED stage floor at halftime necessitated firm equipment choices in other areas. Shure PSM 1000 was selected as the in-ear system for all musicians, and Stoffo cleared 30 channels of UHG frequencies by using narrowband RAD UV-1G intercom systems that operate in the VHF band to provide enough spectrum for the musicians’ wirelesses.
With the help of Shure Axient Wireless Management Network, RF issues were nonexistent, and viewers were able to clearly hear every explanation behind each penalty flag (justified or unjustified) and enjoy the musicians at halftime, too.