CMA Music Festival Celebrates With Radio Active Designs

Four Radio Active Designs’ (RAD) UV-1G wireless intercom systems provided rock solid communications for the Nissan Stadium stage during the recent CMA Music Festival in Nashville. With several country acts performing every day of the four-day festival, communication between stage managers and audio, lighting and video techs throughout the stadium was of extreme importance.

Sound Image’s Nashville office once again provided sound reinforcement for the festival – they have worked with the CMA Music Festival since 2013. The sound company tapped Jason Glass (Clean Wireless Audio LLC) to handle the responsibilities of radio frequency supervisor, coordinator and technician for the festival. A long-time user of the UV-1G wireless intercom system, he was delighted the Radio Active Design units were on hand for the event.

“The UV-1G belt pack’s use of the sparsely occupied VHF-TV band is extremely helpful when you’re coordinating approximately 250 frequencies n the UHF-TV band for each day of the festival,” Glass explains. “The base station’s wide tuning bandwidth in the UHF portion of its transmission scheme is also beneficial, since you’re not bound to small blocks of tuning range but rather can tune anywhere within the UHF-TV band.

“Having narrow occupied bandwidths for each UV-1G frequency channel allows the user to pack more discrete channels into less spectrum than previous RFPL technologies, and having six belt pack drops per base station allows larger system deployments with less hardware in the PL racks.”

Each year at the CMA Festival an antenna truss is deployed high above the stage which includes an omnidirectional ground-plane antenna to receive intercom belt pack transmission over a wide coverage area in the stadium. Those signal are then fed to the UV-1G base stations’ antenna splitter through 125 feet of low-loss coaxial cable.

“UHF signals would attenuate 4.3dB at 470MHz to 5.2dB at 698MHz (this is the full UHF-TV range) through these cables, while VHF signals attenuate roughly 2.7dB,” continues Glass. “The difference is just under twice the transmitted power through the line. This allows larger roaming range for these systems and more reliable links from belt packs to base stations without the need to resort to noisy active RF amplifiers to drive long cables.”

Sound image subcontracted CP Communications to provide intercom gear, which included the four UV-1G base stations and 20 RAD packs. Tim Kepner, intercom design and lead engineer (TLK Audio Video Services), worked with both Sound Image and TV Broadcast to provide them with an integrated comms design and implementation that would simultaneously flow well for both the live and broadcast portions of the show.

Kepner was responsible for all in house intercom and integration to broadcast facilities during the festival. Having used the UV-1G system in equally challenging RF environments before – the Pope’s visit this past year, Made In America, Univision Latin Grammys, Premio Juventud and Premio Nuestro shows, to name a few – he knew they were up to the task.

“One of the nice things about the UV-1G is that the feature set is familiar to non-technical production oriented operators so they can adapt to it very easily,” he explains. “The setup is also very straightforward with the added bonus of being able to program the devices on a PC, without having the systems on hand. When I get to the venue, I plug in my computer and dump the settings into them. If I have to make any fast changes to settings on the hardware, it’s relatively simple to navigate the menu and make it happen.”

The four UV-1G base stations were rack mounted on stage by the monitor mix area with 20 RAD packs in use throughout the festival. Radio Active Designs’ Enhanced Narrow Band technology provides each channel of the UV-1G with an occupied bandwidth of only 25 kHz – substantially less than a typical system. The RAD packs utilize the relatively unused VHF range for all belt pack portable devices. The combined result is more available RF for operation of other wireless devices which are in high demand.

More than 65,000 country music fans were drawn to the musicians performing at the Nissan Stadium which included Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan. Kepner adds, “This was the 45th anniversary of the festival and it broke all attendance records. That speaks volumes about the experience fans have during the event. Keeping lines of communication open is important and the RAD UV-1G was integral to making that happen.”