The spectacle of the Spiel auf dem See is the festival centrepiece, taking place on a gigantic floating stage on the lake itself
Austria - Twelve channels of Shure's flagship Axient wireless microphone system have been installed for use at Bregenz's international music and performing arts festival in Western Austria.

Situated on the stunning shores of Lake Constance, the month-long annual Bregenz Festival sees the picturesque lakeside town of Bregenz in Austria taken over by regular theatrical, musical and operatic productions, with the spectacle of the Spiel auf dem See (Music on the Lake) as its centrepiece, taking place on a gigantic floating stage in the lake itself.

As with most modern live stage, musical and operatic productions, the Bregenzer Festspiele has made increasing use of wireless microphone technology over the years. However, the use of RF at Bregenz has always been constrained by local environmental factors. The town is very close to borders with Germany and Switzerland ('border triangle'), all using radio frequencies in often conflicting ways. Furthermore, following the shutdown of analogue television locally and auctioning of the RF spectrum, the range of frequencies available for use by wireless microphones at Bregenz is more restricted than ever.

Rudolf Illmer - now head of sound - has been at the Bregenz Festival for 27 years, and is used to the problems presented by using RF in the 'border triangle. "It always requires very careful planning when it comes to spectrum management, and now the plans for the forthcoming stage 2 of the Digital Dividend will put still more spectrum beyond PMSE [Programme Making & Special Events] use. Most of our wireless mic systems are 15 to 20 years old, and we can no longer guarantee that they will operate free of interference."

Consequently, the period between the end of the 2013 Festival and the opening of the 2014 event in July saw the beginning of a wholesale renewal of the wireless systems at Bregenz. "We ran detailed live tests with systems from all of the major manufacturers," continues Illmer.

"Feedback from our engineers was decisively in favour of [Shure's] Axient by some margin, due to a variety of factors, including the clarity of sound, the extensive operating distance, the great range of frequencies usable by the transmitters and receivers, the intelligent battery technology, and the ease-of-use with the Wireless Workbench management software."

The 12 channels of Axient in operation at Bregenz so far are all being used on the floating lakeside stage, and RF systems specialist Wolfgang Streiter has already noticed the difference. "With the help of the Spectrum Manager and Wireless Workbench, we now have better control over what's happening locally in this very critical, demanding RF environment," he explains. "We rely absolutely on Axient's Interference Detection & Avoidance mode: during the festival, there are countless events locally that can cause us problems."

(Jim Evans)

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