A Clear-Com system supplied by Major Tom, played centre stage in Ed Sheeran’s record-breaking international Mathematics tour.
Typically, artists of Sheeran’s status tend to add more players, more instruments, and a fair bit of backing tracks to satiate their audiences’ demands.
As ever, Sheeran takes a different approach, creating a grand spectacle utilizing innovative and unique staging and production elements while primarily performing alone, using a custom loop setup to generate accompanying sounds live in the moment.
Mathematics plays out on five stages placed around the floor of the venue, usually a stadium: one center stage with a revolving rim allowing 360-degree visibility for (and of) Sheeran, and four platforms for members of his band.
Saying there are a lot of moving parts to the technical side of the production is putting it mildly. And that’s where Clear-Com comes in.
To pull off this technological extravaganza show after show, city after city, every member of every department – lighting, audio, video, stage management, riggers, and automation – need to be in constant communication.
Designed and implemented by David White, Looper and RF Tech for Sheeran, and Adam Wells, Audio Systems Engineer, the intercom system for the Mathematics tour consists of five 4-channel HelixNet® Digital Network Partyline remote stations, FreeSpeak II® Wireless Intercom System, and LQ® Series IP Interfaces to distribute over the IP Network.
HelixNet beltpacks are distributed across six remote camera operators, and an antennae splitter distributes the IP network to three different transceivers across the show grounds.
All the various departments utilize the same system on their own dedicated HelixNet channel.
Comms are increasingly integral to any show with multiple departments, even in a traditional single stage setup. Multiply that by five separate stages, and it’s obvious the deployment here is out of the ordinary in terms of scale and the degree of collaboration required.
Here, they’re even more critical given that the production crew is spread out, with some beneath the stages, some at FOH, and others not even in the room; among them, follow spot operators controlling spots remotely and video crew working from outside the venue. Put bluntly, without rock-solid, reliable comms, this wouldn’t be possible.
With his background in live theatre, Chris Marsh, manager for audio production company Major Tom and production manager for Sheeran, contributed to an artistic production style.
Beneath the main stage during shows, cues are being given as if this were a theatre performance for lighting, video, sound, pyrotechnics, and operation of the massive moving halo above the main stage
On Sheeran’s ÷ (Divide) tour, only audio and lighting crews used Clear-Com, with the video crew integrated via another system.
Autograph’s Ben Turnwell (who, has since joined Clear-Com as the UK Regional Sales Manager) visited the crew during the tour and presented the FreeSpeak II demo as an upgrade to their then-analog two-wire system from Autograph Sound.
While that hybrid system worked for a while, ultimately, the crew favored Clear-Com’s ultra-low latency and crystal-clear sound and decided to expand the system to all departments to unify them for subsequent tours.