Serving 180 countries in 25 languages and boasting a social media following of more than 650 million people, WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) creates and delivers original content 52 weeks per year and is a recognized leader in global entertainment. WWE performs more than 350 live events a year within the U.S. and overseas, and the production team for those events is using Pliant Technologies Tempest900 Wireless System for crew communications.
"I was the one who brought the Tempest900 Wireless System on board several years ago," says John Schueler, Technical Manager, WWE. "One of the reasons we brought the Tempest in, was that we were able to use five BeltStations instead of the standard four from previous systems that we looked into. Another key feature was being able to use the system in a Shared mode, which allowed us to add unlimited stations with some of the channels that we are using."
Tempest BaseStations operate in one of three modes: Normal, Shared and Split. Normal mode supports the use of five BeltStations with full-duplex (dual-talk and dual-listen) capability. Shared mode permits an unlimited number of BeltStations to be used with a single BaseStation, with five talking at any time. Split mode allows up to four BeltStations in Normal mode and an unlimited number of BeltStations on one shared conference where one BeltStation may talk at a time. This sort of versatility is exactly what Robbie Feasel, Lead Comm Engineer for WWE productions requires.
"We use Tempest primarily for the lighting and video screen departments, and they're able to have their own conversations without being isolated from the other communications," adds Feasel. "The crew members are tied into four different channels: there is a channel for the lighting guys, a separate one for the screen guys, another for the spotlight operators and a general communications channel. The Tempest BaseStation for the lighting channel is running in Shared Mode with about eight BeltStations total, and five of those can talk at any time."
WorldStage, one of the longest-established AV and event staging companies in the United States, provided the WWE with the Tempest900 system and helps support the organization with all of its RF needs. Using Tempest900 as part of its overall RF solution, the WWE is able to free up frequencies it can then use for other wireless needs for the shows.
Tempest wireless intercom systems operate license-free in the 2.4GHz band worldwide, and also the 900MHz ISM band is available for use in North America. Unlike traditional fixed-frequency wireless intercom systems, Tempest employs Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology, whereby the system frequency changes hundreds of times per second, which allows compatibility with other RF devices located in the same area. Operating in the 900MHz and 2.4GHz ranges avoids the portion of the UHF spectrum typically utilized by wireless microphones, opening up bandwidth that can be used for additional talent mics, IFB or other devices required for the production. This eliminates frequency coordination between intercom and wireless microphone systems.
"We use the 900MHz system and the range works very well for us," says Schueler. "What's important to us, is seamless communication between all departments for show cues. We have been told by some of our lighting engineers that they could be in an elevator on the 6th floor and still hear the communications, which is great compared to other systems that we've had in the past."
The WWE's sets and arenas have evolved over time, becoming more extravagant as the years have progressed. Currently, the WWE tours around the world and performs in some of the most iconic entertainment arenas ranging from Madison Square Garden and Staples Center to Manchester Arena and London O2 Arena.
"We work in large venues; with the Tempest900 I can have two antennas inside the rack for the two bases, and we can reach an entire hockey arena up into the rafters," says Feasel. "That's big - I don't have to put out additional antenna or cabling. For some of our bigger shows in the larger arenas, our lighting guys have to be way up high in the grid. I have no worries about sending them up there with a wireless pack, and I am not worried about dropouts or about them being able to communicate. There have been times where the guys had to go up and throw confetti from the sides of the grid onto the crowd and they came back saying how everything sounded so clear. I think this is the ideal system. It has the flexibility of the four channels, the range of coverage we need, and no need for cables or remote antenna. It's a perfect system for us."
Schueler adds, "It's a set and forget system, which is huge for us because we have several hundred different frequencies in other systems and two-way radios. One of the benefits that I see with the Tempest is that it does not need frequency coordination, which is key because we have special coordinators come in, do a scan of the room, have to coordinate several hundred frequencies, scan the frequencies out to our other engineers that can program their BeltStations, and their wireless mics. It's important to us that the Tempest doesn't need that. It pretty much works on its own frequency grouping."
More information about Pliant Technologies is available at www.plianttechnologies.com.