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Sennheiser And Wireless First Take On MTV's Video Music Awards

(September 19, 2001)
Held at the stately Metropolitan Opera House in New York's Lincoln Center on September 6, the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards delivered over three hours of seamless performances both on stage and at the presenter's podium. The infrastructure and policing in the behind-the-scenes world of wireless transmissions grew in direct proportion to the event's media hype and degree of technical complexity, leaving Wireless First's wireless guru Kevin Sanford with a job worthy of his talent. A truckload of Sennheiser gear and 200-plus frequencies later, the show went off without a hitch, letting viewers concentrate on outfits, Moonmen, and the somewhat concocted antics of their favorite pop stars and comedians.

MTV hired industry-leader Wireless First to coordinate frequencies and to set up the entire wireless intercom, microphone, and in-ear systems before and during the show. On top of negotiating the complicated RF terrain of New York City, Sanford also had to dodge the copious RF claims made by the Lincoln Center's three other theaters and police all of the "foreign" ENG crews who came to the event. After "choreographing" the show, Sanford composed "the Bible" of "who-gets-what-wireless-system-when" and then saw to its proper execution during the show. Wireless First also handled MTV's Total Request Live and the pre and post-show events outside the Met, adding fifteen more Sennheiser systems to the thirty in use inside.


To pull off such a monumental task without a hitch, Sanford relied on flexible, powerful equipment and plenty of "homework". He began with a list of bad frequencies for New York in general and then contacted all of the sound engineers at Lincoln Center's various stages to find out what frequencies they use. "That gets you ninety-percent there," Sanford commented. "However, the blessing and the curse of this industry is that it's never the same twice. We work out most of the final details on the spot. That's part of the reason why I like Sennheiser so much; their equipment is agile and robust. For an MTV event, I ask myself 'where is the last place anyone would think to use this microphone?' So I figure out where that place is and ensure that the system will work there. Sure enough, when it comes down to it, the producers are saying, 'let's put the host up in the third balcony!' Sennheiser's extra twenty to thirty milliwatts of transmitter power always turns the trick." For the VMAs, Sanford had four of Sennheiser's frequency ranges working!

After years of consultation with Wireless First and other RF professionals, MTV submits a request of largely Sennheiser equipment for their events along with any special requests from the performers themselves. For the VMAs, Sanford used twenty-four SK 50 transmitters with a dozen MKE 2 sub-miniature lavalier microphones and as many DPA headsets. He hid two SK 250 transmitters with MKE 2 microphones in the podium so that MTV could move it around without any hassle. Presenters used six SKM 5000 and SKM 3072 handheld microphones.

Sennheiser wireless were the main microphones for the event. They were used by the main host, Jamie Fox, all of the presenters and other hosts, in addition to performers Alicia Keys and Missy Elliott. In total, Sanford used eight SKM 5000 handheld microphones and six 3000-series in-ear monitors (used by U2). The SKM 5000s held custom ME 5005-K (for "Kevin") capsules designed by Sanford and Sennheiser to have a slight high-frequency roll-off. "That's another reason why I'm a Sennheiser supporter," commented Sanford. "If I have a problem or a question, I just call up John Falcone, president of Sennheiser, and get it solved or answered. Everybody there is great! This is the second version of my capsule - we've adjusted the internal equalization to match my specifications, and the response from the TV engineers has been very favorable." All of the Sennheiser systems used the SAS Antenna Distribution Amplifiers.

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Related Keywords:MTVs Video Music Awards , Wireless First, intercom, microphone, in-ear systems, Kevin Sanford

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