MCEC is Open for Business with Shure Axient Digital

The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) has come out of Melbourne’s extended lockdown of 2020 with renewed technology, facilities, and passion for live events. Last November, MCEC re-started the massive project to extend and upgrade their already formidable wireless microphone and IEM systems, and chose to do so with fully networked Shure Axient Digital systems.

“Radio mics are one of the most used pieces of equipment at MCEC,” explains Audio Specialist  Michael Pfundt. “On a normal pre-Covid day, we could be running anywhere up to 150 channels of mics and a few IEMs. On big days, we could be coordinating up to 230 channels. Even with the slowdown of Covid, we haven’t seen any decrease in the amount of radio mics required for upcoming events. We previously had 160 channels of mics in house, plus eight channels of IEMs. I ideally wanted to get us up to around 220 channels in-house with a few more IEMs to give us the capacity to deal with future growth.”

With bandwidth getting maxxed out and RF administration becoming more and more complex, Shure Axient Digital offers the tools venues like the MCEC need – advanced spectrum management, remote control and monitoring, plus both High Density and Quadversity modes for more channels in a smaller space, or guaranteed reliability over a wide area.

“We were starting to max out our bandwidth with our previous equipment,” continues Michael. “It was making it difficult to accommodate the large amount of external RF equipment that we often host in the buildings. Also, knowing that further reductions in available bandwidth are likely in the future, I wanted to ensure we were ready to deal with a more limited RF environment. On top of that, the features offered by Shure Axient Digital were really attractive.”

With the seed of the RF upgrade sown back in 2018, Scott Jamieson, Media and Entertainment Sales Executive at Soundcorp, A Diversified Company, was involved in the project from early on. “We’d supplied Shure UHF-R systems to the MCEC as part of the Digital Dividend process years ago, and we’ve been part of the conversation as Michael and the team started thinking about the future,” relays Scott. “MCEC have a really good understanding of what they wanted to achieve, and Shure Axient Digital fitted that perfectly. While this upgrade was delayed by the pandemic, it was amazing to see how quickly MCEC re-opened, got back up to speed, and start improving the venue again. In late November, they went back out to competitive tender, we applied successfully, then they called and said they’re ready to go.”

The rollout includes a large number of AD4Q four channel receivers and AD4D two channel receivers. These are fed by ADX1 bodypack transmitters and ADX2 and ADX2FD handheld transmitters. MCEC has racked up their networked AD4Qs, AXT600 Spectrum Managers, AD610 Showlink Access Points, UA845UWB Antenna Distributors, and SBC240 networked docking chargers, ready to roll in wherever they’re needed.

The AXT600 Spectrum Managers and the AD610 Showlink Access Points are where the magic really happens. In addition to constantly scanning the RF environment and deploying the best frequencies to Axient transmitters and receivers, the AXT600 also automatically ranks a live list of backup frequencies and can deploy them instantly if interference strikes. The AD610 Showlink Access Points enable real-time remote control of ShowLink-enabled ADX and AXT transmitters, giving sound operators the ability to change transmitter settings including gain and frequency without touching the hardware or interrupting the show.

The AXT600s have certainly made the tech teams’ day-to-day easier. “We’re quite lucky; the design of the building is something of a natural deterrent for external RF,” observes Michael. “But occasionally we’ve had some interference from nearby venues. Our biggest issue has been accommodating large amounts of RF from external companies when we were already flat out.”

On delivery to the venue, Shure distributor Jand’s local Business Development Manager Anthony Murdoch joined Scott Jamieson on-site to personally install new firmware on the entire fleet as the MCEC went through its asset management process. “That was definitely a big #firmewarefriday,” relates Scott. “What’s great is that it’s all networked now; the receivers, chargers, spectrum management and everything else. The next firmware update will just get pushed out over the network with the click of a mouse.”

All Axient Digital units at the MCEC are controlled and monitored across the network via Shure’s Wireless Workbench 6 software, giving techs access to every piece of gear, building wide. Even the charge status of the batteries in the networked SBC240 chargers can be viewed remotely. Audio signal is also distributed digitally, and the whole system ties in with the MCEC’s existing AMX control system.

With the network capabilities taking care of business behind the scenes invisible to the MCEC’s clients, their experience of Shure Axient Digital is all in the transmitters and exceptional audio clarity. “We needed a wireless product that was straightforward enough to be handled by our large technical team, and would also meet the expectations of all of our clients,” states Michael. “Shure Axient Digital ticks both of those boxes. The robustness of the units and the feature package that comes with the AD and ADX transmitters is really attractive, and the ability for them to easily integrate into our existing systems was a win.”