Professional Wireless tackles Super Bowl
Thursday, 28 February 2019
super-bowlSuper Bowl LIII wireless team: Brett Valasek ATK GM, Kasey Gchachu PWS RF tech, Jim Van Winkle PWS GM, Cameron Stuckey PWS RF tech, Gary Trenda PWS lead RF tech
USA - Professional Wireless Systems (PWS) handled all wireless microphone and IEM systems management for pre-game, half-time entertainment and post-game, along with the wireless microphone utilised by the referee, during Super Bowl LIII held in the Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta.
This is the 22nd year that ATK Audiotek has tapped PWS to provide wireless support for the Super Bowl.
“It is pretty amazing to think about all of the changes that have occurred in wireless technology over the course of 22 years,” explains Jim Van Winkle, general manager, PWS. “This year was no different in that we implemented a number of new systems that helped us handle the exceedingly crowded RF environment in Atlanta - where the TV repack hasn’t even happened yet.”
As in previous years, PWS started planning back in October, with a site visit to Mercedes-Benz stadium. Van Winkle and Gary Trenda, lead RF technician for PWS, made the trip along with ATK Audiotek team members Paul Liszewski, Brett Valasek, Kirk Powell, and George Schwartz. The site survey provides critical information about the physical site and local RF environment that Van Winkle and Trenda need to design the game day wireless system.
This year, the main RF equipment location was on the NFC champions side of the field near the southwest 20-yard line. From there, the PWS team deployed the antennas necessary for the wireless microphones and in-ear monitors to provide state-of-the-art audio for one of the most-viewed television events of the year.
“With the available frequency spectrum shrinking, we’re starting to look for alternate areas to operate in.” explains Trenda. “This year, we deployed a specialised antenna system in the 940-960 MHz STL band. The STL band is only available to licensed users, but this 20 MHz of spectrum can be similar to having three unused TV channels to operate in, depending on location. We decided to deploy a system of PWS 950 MHz Helical Antennas and utilise wireless microphones operating in that range.”
Ultimately Trenda and team deployed four PWS 950 MHz Helical Antennas to support a Shure STL band Axient digital microphone system operating in Quadversity mode. There were also four PWS UHF Helical antennas to support a UHF band Axient digital system. RF signal distribution from the antennas was handled by a pair of PWS 4X4 Quad Multicouplers.
The master antenna system also connected to racks of Axient analog and Sennheiser digital microphones. A rack of Shure PSM-1000 in-ear monitor transmitters, managed by PWS technician Kasey Gchachu, rounded out the RF package, feeding more than 40 in-ear packs on the field.
A Wisycom MFL RF over fiber (RFoF) system allowed for much longer runs than traditional coaxial cable and with minimal signal loss. The Wisycom units were used for both receive and transmit applications. This allowed for a second pair of receive antennas, along with additional IEM transmit locations. Wisycom provides a wideband optical link for up to four RF channels multiplexed on a single strand of fiber optic cable.
“We used the Wisycom system last year and were very pleased with it,” adds Van Winkle. “Not only is it incredibly reliable, but it allowed us quite a bit of flexibility, which is necessary during an event of this magnitude. When connected to the Axient Digital microphone system, it offers clarity and reliability in crowded RF environments like Atlanta.”
Van Winkle concludes: “It’s a group effort that has been taking place for 22 years, which is a testament to everyone involved. Deploying new technology, working with show-stopping half-time entertainment, and addressing any challenges that arise - it’s always a terrific event and something we are quite proud to be a part of.”
(Jim Evans)

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