Lollapalooza needs wireless everywhere, with eight stages spread across a full mile of Chicago's lakefront (photo: Cambria Harkey)
USA - Keeping one of summer's biggest festival weekends running with flawless wireless across eight stages in the middle of downtown Chicago is not a job for the faint of heart.

For the second straight year, C3 Presents, organizer of Lollapalooza, hired Frequency Coordination Group (FCG) to coordinate wireless throughout the three-day festival in Grant Park. Since its founding by RF specialist Brooks Schroeder in early 2013, FCG has earned a solid reputation for successfully managing the mission-critical wireless needs of some of the most challenging installations and events.

"For a big outdoor festival, especially in a place like downtown Chicago, wireless can get out of control in a hurry. That can turn any show into a disaster," says Brandon Sossamon, C3 production manager for Lollapalooza. "We consider having Brooks and Frequency Coordination Group on site to be a necessity."

The challenge is to ensure that all performers and backstage crews, plus emergency services and the media, each have the wireless channels they need, when they need them. With roughly 150 bands playing eight outdoor stages, all within line of sight of both the Hancock and Willis Towers broadcast antennas, the challenge is considerable. "Those DTV antennas look right down on us. In terms of RF, it's definitely a high-noise environment," says Brooks Schroeder.

With an average of 350 active frequencies in Grant Park during show hours, preparation is the key to wireless success. Months in advance, Frequency Coordination Group obtained a Part 15 FCC license for Lollapalooza, which reserves key UHF channels for the festival and affords protection against white space devices. In addition, all bands and media are asked to submit their wireless needs to the Frequency Coordination Group website. Finally, all wireless users, both performers and media, are required to check in with Frequency Coordination Group upon arrival at the festival site.

"We ask them to tell us in advance what systems they're bringing and how many channels they need, and what date, time, and stage they're playing," says FCG founder and project manager, Brooks Schroeder. "The frequency landscape shifts throughout the day. It's a constantly moving target, so the more information we have prior to the event, the better our chances of accommodating every request."

Lollapalooza's eight stages stretch across nearly a mile of the Chicago lakefront, covering 115 acres of Grant Park from the Art Institute to Buckingham Fountain. "It's a notoriously crowded RF landscape, but in some ways, that works in our favour," notes Schroeder with a chuckle. "If a band's engineer decides to scan for his own frequencies, it's pretty much guaranteed that they won't find any. Once they see the situation, they're more than happy to work with us."

Beyond wireless microphones and in-ear monitors on stage, another critical aspect is coordination of the 2-way radio systems used by crew, media, security, and life safety personnel. "We work closely with the radio vendor, Communications Direct, to make sure everyone is tuned to a clean frequency," says Schroeder. "It's just as important for communications to go smoothly backstage as it is for the performers' gear on stage."

"An event like Lollapalooza is always a challenge," says Schroeder. "Every year, the channel count tends to grow. The big problem this year was that the RF noise floor in Grant Park was about 10 dB hotter than last year. It was definitely our most challenging event here, but overall, it went pretty well."

Festival production manager Brandon Sossamon of C3 Presents agrees. "It went great. Wireless was basically trouble-free - which is an amazing feat. One reason we bring Frequency Coordination Group on site is, they do a lot more than frequencies - which is tough enough. It's more about constantly providing solutions for all wireless-related problems, putting out whatever fires might pop up. They have a pretty g

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