INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA: When Late Night with Jimmy Fallon took over the Hilbert Circle Theater in Indianapolis during the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVI, the city fell head over heels for the undeniably charming host. In turn, Fallon helped the nation fall in love with Indianapolis, a city in need of a morale boost (the bitter irony of hosting professional football's greatest event after the Colts finished an abysmal 2-14 season was a bit much to take). The show hired Wireless First/Clair Global to deliver technically flawless audio, as well as frequency coordination in an airspace that was saturated in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. True to form, Wireless First/Clair Global came through - both for the prerecorded shows and Super Bowl Sunday's live-to-air show - using state-of-the-art proprietary technologies, including the new Clair Global CF 1090 Fractal Antenna and CM 22 dual twelve-inch floor wedge. On short notice, the company even built a custom wireless microphone for Fallon in the retro style used by The Match Game's Gene Rayburn.
The production team used the Clair Global CF 1090 fractal antenna with almost every RF application. But its most memorable use was for Shaquille O'Neal's "walk of shame," in which Shaq paid off a bet with Fallon by walking from outside the Hilbert Circle Theater all the way to the stage in a pink bikini bottom emblazoned with the word "Jimmy" on the butt. "We were told about the specific details of Shaq's stunt at the last minute, and making it happen required overcoming a number of technical challenges," explained Nathaniel Hare who was both the event's sound designer and the show's FOH engineer. "Other production companies would have grumbled, but the Wireless First/Clair Global team immediately flew into action, generating ideas of their own to make the stunt successful." Although viewers' eyes were drawn elsewhere, Shaq was wired up with a Shure UR1 bodypack with a lav element and a PSM1000 IEM so that he could talk to Fallon during the walk from outside in Hilbert Circle all the way into the theatre. The coverage was flawless.
"The overall consistency of the throw and the evenness of the gain within that throw are what make the CF 1090 unique among the best-of-the-best RF antenna systems," explained Kevin Sanford, president of Wireless First/Clair Global Broadcast. "Its design evolved over several years as we tweaked and optimized every component so that it would be utterly reliable and predictable in the trenches, say for example, when you're following a gigantic, pants less NBA star in and out of environments in an RF-clogged city. That is, I'll admit, one use that I hadn't envisioned when we were designing the CF 1090."
As an "I-didn't-think-it-could-get-any-better" follow-up to Clair's industry-standard 12AM floor monitor, the company is on the verge of releasing the Clair CM22, which includes a double-twelve-inch low-frequency component that will, in the words of Paul Klimson, Fallon's monitor engineer, "blow you away." It will do that with the utmost fidelity and the mission-critical pattern control that separates a great floor monitor from a misplaced loudspeaker. "Most wedges howl at particular frequencies and it takes a lot of fidelity-sapping EQ to make them behave," explained Klimson. "Clair's CM22 is different. It's loud and clean and admirably flat." The audio team used the CM22 for the musical guests, Nas, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Flo Rida to great effect.
With just over a week's notice, Clair Global constructed a "Gene Rayburn Style" microphone for Fallon (the mic was evidently hard to obtain even in The Match Game's heyday) and, making it wireless, did Rayburn one better. "Jimmy had one of those mics that he loved, but ours was damaged during a taping in New York, and it was never the same," recounted Hare. "Kind of as an aside, I let the folks at Clair Global know how much he would love a robust replacement. To my amazement, they came back with two such custom-built mics complete with finished cases!" Sanford added, "The engineering department at Clair Global never ceases to amaze me. They take any challenge to relish and reliably exceed expectations. It's perhaps the greatest aspect of Clair's acquisition of [my formerly independent company] Wireless First: I'm like a kid locked in a toy store after hours on Christmas Eve - every toy that I could possibly hope for or dream of has been given to me."
Because Late Night with Jimmy Fallon requires several mix locations - including FOH, Fold Back Broadcast Music Sub Mix, and Broadcast Mix; Wireless First/Clair Global partnered with Stage Tec to use their Nexus system to deliver comprehensive, flexible digital routing for nearly 350 microphone inputs. If you include console returns from the mix positions back into Nexus' matrix, the overall matrix size was 1728 inputs by 1984 outputs. Sanford also enlisted Solotech to help supply some of the Meyer speakers and processing spec'd by Hare. Sanford noted, "of course on most projects we are competitors, but their effort and technical help on this event was excellent."
"The combined complexity of the technical systems, routing, and speaker systems was significant. A similarly complex show, like a Broadway show or Vegas spectacular, would be executed over many, many months. Wireless First/Clair Global helped to pull off our show in just a week," said Hare.
Even though the Hilbert Circle Theater is a mile from Lucas Oil Stadium, Clair Global still checked in with the NFL coordinators to ensure that the show's nearly 150 active frequencies wouldn't interfere or be interfered with. To allow comprehensive confirmation and pre-listening of wireless channels, the team placed two 15-inch LCDs at each mix location, one of which ran Shure's frequency management software and the other of which ran Sennheiser's. Between them, all the frequencies in use were covered, and a Riedel panel below the screens allowed the engineer at a particular location to pre-listen to any channel.
Fallon received tremendous ratings during his tenure in Indianapolis, and everyone was pleased with how smoothly things went. "I've worked with a lot of sound companies in my day," said Sanford. "But Clair Global is something special. It is inspiring to work with people who are so genuinely excited by and proud of their work. When everybody on the team has that attitude, how can you lose?" Both Hare and Klimson seconded Sanford's opinion. "The first rule of comedy is to always say 'yes and...'" said Hare. "You never shut down a member of your comedic team; you always agree and take the scenario forward. I've adopted the same rule for sound design, and I was happy to find the same attitude in Wireless First/Clair Global's tremendously competent crew. We were fully supported in what was a momentous undertaking."
ABOUT WIRELESS FIRST, A CLAIR GLOBAL COMPANY Wireless First, a Clair Global Company, has decades of experience in handling wireless communications for television and theatrical productions, concert tours, corporate events and themed environments; servicing all the major television networks and production companies, including ABC, NBC, MTV, NBA, Buena Vista Pictures and Radio City Productions. Under the auspices of Kevin Sanford, Wireless First has offices in Mt. Vernon New York, Nashville and Los Angeles.
Photo: © 2012 NBC/Lloyd Bishop