San Antonio, TX – July 2011… As any broadcast professional knows all too well; dirt, dust, and moisture can be the kiss of death for electronic equipment. Toss in what many would simply refer to as physical abuse of the product, complicate matters further by requiring the gear to perform over an extended range, and you begin to grasp the challenges of outfitting the Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (PBR) performers with wireless microphone technology. Make no mistake: this is a dirty job, and it’s a challenge routinely encountered by audio engineer Mark Harrier and his crew as they outfit not only the bull riders, but the bull fighters—the guys who keep the bull from killing the rider once he is thrown to the ground. So what kind of wireless equipment endures this type of handling? You guessed it—Lectrosonics.
As a freelance audio engineer and owner of San Antonio, TX-based Soundcheck Technologies, Harrier is tasked with the job of capturing audio for the PBR’s Built Ford Tough Pro Bull Riding Tour, broadcast on either NBC or its sports-oriented cable television channel Versus. For outfitting the bull riders, Harrier employs Lectrosonics’ legendary Digital Hybrid Wireless® technology. He uses twelve SMV Variable Power Super-Miniature transmitters and, on the receiving side of the equation, he has two Venue mainframe receiver systems—each fully stocked with six Lectrosonics VRS receiver modules. To facilitate communication between the production staff and the sideline talent (the reporter who interviews the riders before and after each ride as well as the bull fighters), Harrier relies on several Lectrosonics IFBT4 frequency agile IFB (interruptible foldback) transmitters and R1a beltpack IFB receivers. He discussed the challenges of deploying the equipment in this type of environment.
“The SMV transmitters are placed on the bull rider’s vests,” Harrier explained. “The vests are a requirement of the PBR and are sturdy, protective units that keep the riders from sustaining the full blow of a bull’s kick and help distribute the weight of the bull if and when a rider is stomped on. Most of the rider’s vests have an external pocket where the transmitter is placed. The mic cable is then wired through the vest up to the collar where the Countryman B6 lavaliere microphone is clipped. These microphones are used to capture the sounds of the rider in the chutes right before the ride, during the ride, and then immediately after the ride, which is usually the most violent part of the experience. The television viewer gets a real up close and personal perspective through the sounds we capture, which includes a lot of grunts and groans, the sounds of a furious bull, and the thud of hitting the ground.”
Harrier commented on his choice of Lectrosonics equipment for use in this brutal environment, “Lectrosonics wireless technology is the industry staple in the live television world. The gear we use has to be as bullet-proof as is possible, and both Lectrosonics’ sound quality and build quality are as good as it gets. On that note, there was really no other logical choice.”
Harrier also reflected on Lectrosonics’ well known reputation for frequency agility and range. “The PBR travels to cities all over the country and we can, on occasion, be in some pretty harsh RF environments,” he said. “We’ve found that as long as you do a decent job scanning your location, keep up with your frequency coordination, and find the optimum spots for antennas, you can get some pretty surprising range with the SMV’s. Likewise, we’ve never been disappointed with the sound quality and range on the Lectrosonics IFB’s.”
As he prepared to focus on the business of the day, Harrier offered these closing thoughts, “We took delivery of this equipment in January and we knew from the start that the Lectrosonics equipment was the right choice for our particular application. The company’s technical support has been extremely helpful and the equipment’s performance has been nothing short of exceptional. The gear is all still in great working order after the first half of the PBR season. That’s really impressive when you consider it’s been trampled, kicked, crushed, and pitched thru the dirt.”
To learn more about Mark Harrier and Soundcheck Technologies, visit www.soundchecktx.com. For information about the Professional Bull Riders, Inc., visit them online at www.pbrnow.com.
Well respected within the film, broadcast, and theatre technical communities since 1971, Lectrosonics wireless microphone systems and audio processing products are used daily in mission-critical applications by audio engineers familiar with the company's dedication to quality, customer service, and innovation. Lectrosonics is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Visit the company online at www.lectrosonics.com.