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FM Systems Selects Shure Axient® Digital Wireless for Grey Cup

The Canadian Football League’s 106th Grey Cup took place in Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium on November 25, with the Calgary Stampeders claiming the 2018 title with a 27-16 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks. The event featured outstanding Canadian musical talent performing on two stages, with audio production supplied by Calgary-based FM Systems. All wireless systems selected were by Shure, including Axient® Digital systems and PSM® 1000 in-ear monitors.

During pregame festivities, there was a concert performance by The Reklaws. In addition, the national anthem was sung solo by Shure artist endorser Brett Kissel. The pregame coin toss also required miking. The halftime show was an even bigger production, featuring a performance by singer-songwriter Alessia Cara. Because the pregame and halftime stages were at opposite ends of the field, each received a separate, dedicated wireless setup.

“Being outdoors on live TV, the Grey Cup is a big challenge for wireless, which is why they specified Axient Digital for the music,” notes Josh Burnett, General Manager of FM Systems and the project leader onsite. “It’s a very crowded RF environment, with lots of channels and limited bandwidth. It’s exactly the type of situation we were preparing for when we invested in Axient Digital about six months prior. Along with great sound quality, it has the ability to stack quite a few channels into a narrow slice of UHF spectrum. All the artists performing were also fans of Shure, and use it on tour. So, both stages had separate, independent, and all-Shure wireless setups.”

Overall, 16 channels of Axient Digital were deployed by FM Systems, half on each stage. Most channels were AD2 handhelds with either the premium KSM8 or classic SM58® capsule, depending on artist preference. AD1 bodypacks were used for the coin toss and for wireless guitars. On one stage, a Shure UA845UWB antenna distribution system was used, while the antennas were cascaded through the AXT600 Spectrum Manager at the other end of the field.

In-ear monitors were also an all-Shure affair, with 20 channels of PSM 1000 split between the two stages. PSM 1000 was selected for the outstanding reception provided by the twin-antenna diversity reception of its P10R bodypack. FM Systems used Shure PA821 antenna combiners to route the channels efficiently.

Among broadcasters, on-field entertainment, intercoms, and visiting media, there were hundreds of RF channels in use. “The Grey Cup hired an overall frequency coordinator, who input all our systems and provided the master coordination,” notes Burnett. “We took the frequency sets they assigned and deployed them using Shure Wireless Workbench. As things evolved during rehearsals, there were no changes needed from our end, as we had solid signals everywhere. It all went according to plan.”

Wireless Workbench (WWB) is Shure’s industry-leading frequency management software. Because the Grey Cup was providing the overall coordination, FM Systems used WWB to quickly program and deploy assigned frequencies to the Axient Digital receivers, then used the system to monitor all its Shure channels throughout the event.

“The event itself went entirely according to plan. Our frequencies were solid, and we never had any interference or a dropout all day,” notes Burnett. “The equipment operated flawlessly, and we had a great show.”

Interestingly, during rehearsals, FM Systems used Shure solutions to create a wireless talkback system. With one channel each of Axient Digital and PSM 1000, they enabled easy communication between each stage’s “wireless world” and the FM Systems technician handling stage management and channel patching. Audio from the tech’s AD2 handheld was relayed from the mixing console to the stage, with responses similarly routed via the mixer to the tech’s P10R bodypack receiver. This facilitated smooth communication across long distances on the field, highlighting the flexibility and range of Axient Digital and PSM 1000.

“Our stage patch technician used the system to direct traffic during rehearsals, getting people on and off the field,” he notes. “We were literally using handhelds from one end zone to talk to people at the other end of the stadium, well over 100 yards, and there were zero dropouts all week. The range was actually quite remarkable, and really demonstrates how solid the wireless signal is on these Shure systems.”

Josh Burnett knows that, as wireless frequencies become increasingly scarce, Axient Digital will prove to be a strong long-term investment for FM Systems. “We do large scale festivals, tours, and special events all across western Canada – everywhere in North America, really,” he says. “With the sound quality, high channel density, and interference detection that Axient Digital gives us, we feel well-prepared for any situation that might come up. The Grey Cup is a great example. It was a difficult wireless situation, but the equipment operated flawlessly, and we had a great show. You can’t ask for more than that.”


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