The NHL Winter Classic is a throwback to the bygone days when professional hockey was played outdoors in the chill wintertime air. But more than that, it is the NHL’s so-far-successful attempt to claim New Years Day in the same way that baseball claims July 4th and football claims Thanksgiving Day.
This year’s contest took place at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia between the hometown Flyers and their rivals, the New York Rangers. Despite the Flyers’ loss, the 47,000 fans in attendance enjoyed the experience, as did the nearly four-million viewers who watched on NBC.
Clair Global provided house sound and a broadcast mix for the between-period performances by hometown superstars, The Roots. They used three unique, Clair-conceived and Clair-deployed solutions: mobile speaker carts that allowed the line arrays to be lowered and flipped out of site lines as needed; custom modular diffusion/absorption panels that were used to convert an equipment room at Citizens Bank Park into an acoustically favorable studio control room environment; and the Clair CF 1090 Fractal Antenna for the RF system.
“The NHL and broadcasters in general have strict height requirements so as to maintain sight lines and a clean broadcast image,” explained Kevin Sanford, president of Wireless First, a Clair Global subsidiary. “With only two week’s notice, we engineered and constructed a brilliant solution to meet these guidelines.”
“We brought in ten rolling carts that allowed us to lower and flip the PA out of site lines as needed and that allowed us to easily roll them into position on the field,” said Jason Spence, music engineer with Clair Global.
“The NHL team was very impressed by how well we stayed out of their way. The ability of Clair Global to conceive and construct such an involved solution in just two weeks is, to me, as impressive as the solution itself. I don’t know of any other company that could pull it off.”
News of Clair’s accomplishment spread quickly, and the carts are already rented for future events like the Jets halftime entertainment and upcoming Canadian sports events.
“A music truck wasn’t part of the plan at the NHL Winter Classic, so we needed an acoustically-controlled environment in which to prepare a broadcast mix,” explained Spence.
“Again, Clair Global rose to the challenge and constructed modular mobile acoustic panels that we could use in whatever space we encountered. It turned out to be an equipment room. Where others may have thrown a bunch of packing blankets around to simply suck the life out of the room, the Clair panels offered frequency-balanced absorption on one side and diffusion on the other. We turned the equipment room into a well controlled room that sounded really nice.”
But the line array trucks and custom sound panels weren’t the only Clair innovations at the NHL Winter Classic. The new Clair Global CF 1090 Fractal Antenna provided transmission to the Sennheiser 2000 Series wireless personal monitors worn by Patti LaBelle, who sung the U.S. National Anthem, Melanie Fiona, who sung the Canadian National Anthem, and, of course, The Roots.
Despite its unusually robust coverage, the CF 1090 Fractal Antenna is so small that it did not offend the aesthetic sensibilities of television crew. Additional wireless equipment included Shure wireless microphones for the performers.
The expert team deployed by Clair Global included sound designer and FOH engineer Tommy Holmes; system engineer Monty Curry; music mixer Ron Reeves; monitor mixer Chris “Koz” Costello; RF engineer Jeff Briggette; and technicians Anson Moore, Richard Schoenadel, and Paul Cervenansky. They used Avid Profile consoles at FOH and in the broadcast mix room and a Yamaha PM1D at monitors.
Because of the challenge of firing line arrays upward from the ground to the tiered stands at Citizens Bank Park and because they tied into the stadium’s house PA system, the Clair technicians were careful to time align the entire system for maximum impact. “It took time and expertise, only the latter of which we had in spades,” laughed Spence.