You're mixing a show, and a wireless microphone drops out. The performance is marred. The whole audience notices, remembers, and likely talks about it after the show. You go backstage and encounter the angry actor and management, grumbling—perhaps yelling—about what happened. Of course, we've all had similar experiences on a more commercial level, without giving it a second thought: You make a call on your mobile phone, and when your call is dropped, you're not usually surprised. You dial again, and life goes on. It's a wireless double standard, to be sure. We all know wireless microphones must not go down. They just can't, yet, as we all also know, they do.
Enter RF Guru, new software from Stage Research and developed with sound designer Shannon Slaton. On the surface, it is a basic radio frequency coordination program that does one thing and does it well: coordinates RF. Go figure. Behind the easy-to-use interface resides a world of information: a library of equipment, frequencies, zip codes, inter-modulation equations, and FCC broadcast libraries. You enter the gear you're using and where you're using it, unleash the Guru and within seconds, your new best friend tells you what frequencies to use and which ones to avoid. Badda boom—you just tuned your RF system for optimal performance given your location.
I am doing sound for a new musical in Dallas, where we are using the venue's 12 channels of RF, and we brought eight channels with us from a rental shop. The venue also has four channels of wireless intercom and, oh yes, an opera house right across the street that has a national tour currently playing. Someone who has a full understanding of RF might say, “Wow, you're in trouble.” Someone who has no clue about how RF works might not even consider the numerous perils of this situation. I won't say where I fit on that spectrum, but I will say that I had the RF Guru on my desktop and—knock on wood—so far, so good.
Check out Williamson's full look at RF Guru in the March issue of Live Design.