Clear-Com FreeSpeak II performs flawlessly for Garth Brooks at Notre Dame

Garth Brooks made history on 20 October 2018 by providing the first non-football event to be held at the University of Notre Dame’s famed Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana. The in-the-round concert aired as a primetime TV special called Garth: Live at Notre Dame! on CBS on December 2. Audio Intercom Services provided GTC sponsor Clear-Com's FreeSpeak II wireless intercom system for the Brooks’ production team and the television crew, covering an extremely large area and performing flawlessly despite rain and snow. 

Brooks’ entire world tour setup was used for the event but there was initial scepticism about a wireless system being able to cover the massive Notre Dame Stadium, which has a capacity of 77,622 and a very large bowl.

"There was a tremendous amount of distance to cover,” said Tony Bandelato, owner of Audio Intercom Services. “The largest portion was in connecting the massive lighting team, which had spot operators strategically located around the entire upper level of the stadium. Plus, they would need lighting gaffers roaming all over the venue. The technical manager and the tour lighting director were both sceptical about using a wireless system, based on past bad experiences, thinking the coverage area was way too large, especially in reaching critical positions.”

To ease everyone’s minds, Bandelato made use of FreeSpeak II’s distributed transceiver system, using all 10 available outputs, a splitter and 24 1.9 GHz beltpacks.

“We spent a day roughing the FreeSpeak II system in and fine tuning,” explained Bandelato. “The second day, there was intensive lighting programming, and discussions about putting the light crew on wireless. To prove that FreeSpeak II could do what I promised it could, we had someone walk around the bowl with the technical manager sitting in the front of house mix position on a FreeSpeak II beltpack. To say he was surprised is an understatement — it sounded like a hard-wired system. This was the moment when everyone realised that digital wireless technology had advanced to the point where this was possible.” 

Even surprise requests during set-up were no problem for Bandelato and FreeSpeak II. 

“The lighting board operators wanted a higher point of view to see their effects, and permission was granted to use one of the sky boxes at the top level of the stadium, so the operators could look down onto the field,” said Bandelato. “We needed to get comms to them, so we set up two antenna transceiver positions for them using the fibre connectivity of the system and interconnecting to the stadium’s fibre wall box with single mode fibre to the box to a transceiver splitter. The ability to extend the range of the system using fibre is important when working in large sporting venues, not only to hit locations like boxes, but also to hit the television production truck. There was no time anyway to have done massive cable runs, and fibre did a great job.”

One of the main things that Bandelato likes about FreeSpeak II is its ease of setup.

“The front of house riser was close to our compound, with lighting, sound, and concert video control all located under a large tent,” added Bandelato. We just put antennas at each corner of the tent and the entire area was covered. Even connecting the sky box to the FreeSpeak II network only took 20 minutes.”

Then, the weather took a turn for the worse.

“It was the night before the show, we were doing a light dress rehearsal for the Notre Dame students and the rain came in – but Garth just played in the rain. He even sent his band away and continued to play — just him and his guitar — for over an hour,” recalled Bandelato. “For the actual show, we had pouring rain again that eventually turned to snow. All of the FreeSpeak II beltpacks were out in that weather. While some were under rain gear, most were not. There was no issue with water damage or any failure with any beltpack or antenna. We had no weather or water-related issues of any kind.”

“We love hearing stories about how crews use our systems to the fullest,” said James Schaller, regional sales manager, Northeastern USA, Clear-Com. “Knowing that FreeSpeak II could do everything that was needed for this event, and perform perfectly in rain and snow, gives other users the confidence they need to push their systems to the limit.”

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