Live and broadcast audio, communication runs over a Dante network
Known informally as the “Woodstock of fitness,” the CrossFit Games may owe more to X Games and their multi-site operations across a massive campus than the quaint one-tier primal music festival. The 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games will be held August 3-7 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin, where it has been held since 2017 and crowns “The Fittest Man and Woman Alive.” The complex venue includes an exhibition center, sales pavilions, a sponsors’ row, a beer garden and an outdoor competition area, North Park Stadium, which was purpose-built for the Games. As widespread as CrossFit games have become, their digital audio footprint is apparently smaller this year.
Hearcorp CEO Dave Bjornsona 10-year veteran of the games as A2 and A1, serves as audio supervisor and collaborates with Justin Gordon, head of sound enhancement provider Creative Technologiesand CP Communications Senior RF Tech Manager Frank Rafka to create a single Dante-over-MADI IP network for the audio needs of the entire event, including live sound and communications.
“Historically,” says Bjornson, “the audio, public address and intercom systems at this event were separate groups living in their own worlds. It wasn’t very efficient and didn’t always produce the highest quality end product. This year I approached [CrossFit Senior Coordinating Producer] Joe Novello and [CrossFit event producer Hamilton Road Productions] Principal Charlie Dube about the idea of sharing all audio from the event over a large Dante IP network.”
The network features eight live sound Yamaha consoles mixing L-Acoustics PA systems at each venue, all connected via Dante. NEP SS8 and SS4 mobile units will provide event-long outbound streaming for the CrossFit International program’s global feeds, as well as the two-hour broadcast on Finals Sunday via CBS Sports. The result, says Bjornson, is that most audio content will be available in real-time to and from anywhere. For example, racks of Shure Axient wireless microphones that were intended for specific campus venues are now available for each location and for either live sound reinforcement or broadcast.
Sound for secret events
This ability is especially important for the CrossFit games, where some of the events are kept secret until hours or even minutes before they are played. In some cases, such as For example, last-minute competitions on climbing walls, the only available audio assets may be installed crowd mics and wireless camera mics. In this case, Bjornson says, Hearcorp wireless lavalier and custom contact mics can quickly pair with CP’s Axient transmitters in local racks and be used as effects mics, mounted on a nearby wall or beam.
“A camera mic can get you started,” he says, “but once an athlete is 20 feet in the air, you’re left with nothing. Being able to temporarily throw a sink against the wall makes all the difference. And the same microphone can be used for live sound and broadcast.”
A campus-wide Riedel Bolero intercom system is deployed at the various venues and extended to external events via a 48-drop IP-based Unity intercom at all venues. Pooled at Nicholas Rec Center, Unity Connect includes both Talent and Effects mics and Talent IFBs.
“Everyone has a Bolero beltpack, and they can access either the Riedel or Unity intercom with a push of a button,” says Bjornson, whose Hearcorp also operates Tech 25, a non-formal after-school education organization that launched and teaches the basics of live events technology for nearly three dozen teens and preteens in Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood. The communications team includes Alejandro Olivareswho takes care of the Bolero/Riedel programming; Tim Kepner, who does the Adam programming; and Andy Strauberwho is responsible for bundling the intercoms of the two trucks, allowing programming of both trucks from a single location.
Connected cellular network
Rafka sees the CrossFit games as a good platform for CP’s major foray into cellular connectivity technology, which allows two or more cellular modems to be combined so that the end user can utilize the combined bandwidth. Cellular Bonding transmits live streams over multiplexed cellular signals when Ethernet or Wi-Fi are unavailable. Instead of satellite transmissions, multiple cellular modems are deployed to combine 3G, 4G, LTE, and other cellular signals to improve connectivity.
CP’s accessories for this year’s games include seven conventional microwave cameras with full paint control at all venues, one bonded cell camera with full paint control at all venues, and 11 bonded cellular cameras at Outside Events Group competitions, held in the Capitol Building by the pool at the Nicholas Rec Center. All have full paint control and video return, and use both Mobile Viewpoint and AVIWEST connected devices.