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Super Bowl LVIII: Backstage, the Riedel Comms System Was as Spectacular as the Big Game Itself

20/02/2024

Super Bowl LVIII: Backstage, the Riedel Comms System Was as Spectacular as the Big Game Itself The DECT spectrum range is leveraged to build a combined-network infrastructure By Dan Daley, Audio Editor

Tuesday, February 20, 2024 - 10:15 am

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At Super Bowl LVIII, the focus was on the game, of course, and Usher's Vegas-worthy spectacular halftime show. Behind the scenes, though, another audio production of similarly grand scale was unfolding: the event's sprawling and boundary-testing intercom system.

As in the past, Riedel Communications provided the bulk of the comms for the event. However, this year took the effort a large step further.

Working with two key comms providers, Riedel's Managed Technologies division sought and received access, from the FCC, to frequency bands in the lower register of DECT spectrum, used primarily by mobile providers T-Mobile and Verizon. These custom frequencies, within which a version of Riedel's Bolero system can operate, included 14 carriers in the range from 1897 MHz to 1919 MHz, available via a custom regional license on the antennas provided by Riedel.

These frequency carriers were evenly split between the two primary comms companies at Allegiant Stadium: ATK/Clair Global provided the sound system used for both the game's in-venue sound and the halftime production, and SAV Entertainment was the equipment-rental vendor hired by Van Wagner for the Opening Night production. This was done to ensure that each production company had its own exclusive frequency bands to deploy for its Bolero system, eliminating the need for timeslot sharing and vastly reducing the potential for interference between the two productions.

NFL game officials used a separate frequency range during the game, on North American DECT bands of 1.92-1.93 GHz, to ensure that there was no overlapping and sharing of timeslots in the DECT bands with the other two productions.

One Huge Network More broadly, the two systems made up a single combined-network infrastructure, using one external Evertz Microsystems 5700MSC-IP IP Network Grand Master Clock and video master-sync generator to sync the systems for precision time protocol (PTP) and the two individual Bolero networks.

This is a major game-changer for this year's Big Game, says Tommy Bridwell, senior project engineer, Riedel. Our team put in the hard work to make this happen. It took more than six months of planning and organization, including multiple conversations with the FCC, T-Mobile, and Verizon; signing NDAs internally; and assignment of a personalized PIN code for each Riedel engineer to activate the custom-region licensing in the Bolero UI.

He notes that the comms infrastructure extended to the NFL's officiating crew, including beltpacks; the in-house replay-booth crew; and Riedel Artist direct trunking to the Art McNally Gameday Central replay center in New York City (to which all NFL stadiums are connected). In addition, ESPN deployed a smaller Bolero system in the stadium for its own pre/postgame shows.

In the wireless command center at Allegiant Stadium, Riedel Bolero beltpacks await the start of Super Bowl LVIII.

To create this massive infrastructure, Riedel supplied a dozen Artist nodes, some as large as 1,024 I/O, across more than 2 miles of fiber-optic cabling and more than 800 ports. In addition, 62 Bolero antennas were deployed for 153 Bolero beltpacks and 16 C44 system interfaces, among other components.

Lots To Coordinate Coordination is always one of the biggest challenges when it comes to events as large as the Super Bowl, Bridwell points out.

With so many wireless beltpacks deployed throughout the stadium simultaneously, he explains, it's pertinent that you account for any potential coverage spots you may encounter. Some areas may see higher volumes of foot traffic, so adding extra antennas in those areas for density purposes is crucial; some areas may already be occupied by Bolero antennas from another system, so proximity between each system's respective antennas needs to be taken into account to prevent intermodulation or [other] interference. Also, allocating enough timeslots in the DECT band for beltpacks from each system to use requires some calculation.

With all these Bolero systems in the facility, he continues, you need to be able to depend on their being in sync with each other. Bolero requires a very precise clocking mechanism to allow seamless handover of beltpacks between antennas when a user is roaming around the venue. We use PTPv2 to coordinate sync between all the end devices, controlled by one Grand Master Clock across the entire network.

Halftime Comms Prior Super Bowl events have always had RF traffic issues, says Matt Campisi, senior project manager/engineer, ATK. He cites last year's edition at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ, as one of the most challenging, with numerous dropouts and other issues, all due to the density of the RF environment.

I've been doing Super Bowl for 24 years, he says, and, every year, it's the wireless that's the most critical but also the Achilles heel of the show because it's the hardest thing to make work.

Among conventional ways of working around the implicit constraints - the DECT spectrum typically has about 50 timeslots in any given single space (specific areas of the stadium, such as tunnels and production areas) at a given time - would be sharing timeslots by having some users on the game side, including some NFL officials, turn off their devices when the halftime event began so that their counterparts on the entertainment side could use the spectrum. (Adding more area or spacing can open more timeslots for additional packs.)

Las Vegas - whose hotels, casinos, and venues eat wireless like an endless buffet at Caesar&#
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2024/02/20/super-bowl-lviii-backstage-the-...
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