Wireless Audio at the sharp end


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Wireless Audio at the sharp end
It's noisy, it's very, very hot, but then often it can be cold or raining but it's still noisy and everything has to be de-rigged and moved to another country, sometimes in a different continent, every two weeks – did I mention it's noisy? Formula 1 motor racing has never been more popular – witnessed at the tracks by thousands and watched on the TV by in excess of 500 million more and this audience expects and gets the highest quality coverage.
Sky TV have invested heavily in Formula 1 since they won the main rights for this year and, alongside their colleagues at Gearhouse Broadcast, they have set out to redefine the way in which the sport is televised with a dedicated Sky Sports F1 HD channel and a completely new approach to the audio side. This has all audio being delivered wireless from pit-lane remotes to studio interviews. To achieve this Sky and Gearhouse Broadcast turned to wireless audio specialists Raycom who specified a range of Wisycom radio equipment including the new intermod-free transmitters in belt-pack and hand-held form which feature the widest frequency tuning range in the world of 232MHz for global use.
For receiving, a selection of rack-mount MRK960 dual receivers and camera-mount MCR42 dual-diversity receivers were specified with up to 370MHz available RF bandwidth. This ultra-wide bandwidth is of prime importance in Formula 1 as the whole show moves around the world to twenty different countries all with their own regulatory frameworks and different available radio bands. The advantage gained by using the Wisycom equipment was that one set of equipment would cover every eventuality; a feature unique to this manufacturer.
Whilst many may think that such a wide frequency range might mean that the receivers are susceptible to interference Wisycom have countered this with fully tracking narrow-band filters that automatically centre themselves on the required frequency. Other manufacturers make do with fairly wide 'switching' filters which still leave the receiver open to interference.
Gearhouse Broadcast's Group Operating Officer Kevin Moorhouse said “Raycom provide some of the best wireless microphone systems available today. Their products are well designed and they fulfil the requirements we have for this prestigious project for Sky which is why we chose them”.
The extensive use of wireless audio in Formula 1 coverage is just one example of how this is fast becoming the norm for TV productions the world over. Freeing the talent from cables be they microphone or talkback is key to flexibility, quality and safety. Rigging times are drastically cut, last minute changes of location are quickly accommodated, ageing plugs in ageing sockets induce crackle, rain brings with it more difficulties and people can't trip over radio waves! But it's not all sweetness and light; wireless audio brings along its own set of problems. Range is the major hurdle associated with radio microphone usage, especially over challenging terrain like a racing circuit.
The Wisycom equipment supplied by Raycom proved itself well capable of covering an entire circuit. Sky have a choice of receive antennas either at a remote site or at the operations base but it was during tests of this system before the inaugural race of 2012 at Melbourne that it was ascertained that the Wisycom transmitters would work to a single receive point from anywhere on the 5.3km public road circuit around the city's Albert Park.
Racing circuits tend to be very congested places when it comes to radio signals with all the broadcasters, security and organisers using radio equipment. It's very likely that some fairly high level signals could unexpectedly pop up right next to you. The tracking filters on the Wisycom receivers help a great deal here as does the intermod-free design of the transmitter that allows full use of all channels without bothering with clumsy intermod charts saving time as well as hassle. The Wisycom receiver's design has excellent high level signal handling properties and this, coupled with their good range makes them the broadcaster's weapon of choice for wireless audio in difficult conditions.

Tags: iss065 | mrk960 | gearhouse | formula 1 | sky tv | raycom | microphone | wisycom | N/A
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