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Reality Check
Posted on Thursday, July 31, 2008
Reality Check

Nashville Star Is an All-Shure Show


NASHVILLE, TN, July 31, 2008 — Produced by Reveille Productions and broadcast live from the Acuff Theatre at the Opry Entertainment Complex, Nashville Star  launched its sixth season on NBC with an extended two-hour episode airing on June 9. With 12 contestants initially vying for the reality-competition show's grand prize (a recording contract with Warner Bros. Music), veteran audio engineers Kooster McAllister and Tom Davis celebrated an anniversary of their own, coming to the show for the sixth year running as music mixer and production mixer, respectively.


"You never really know for sure what's going to be thrown at you until you get here," McAllister said, commenting on one of the biggest factors that keeps his assignment constantly engaging and interesting. "One of the most challenging aspects is the 'all-sing,' and that's where we have maybe a dozen people with wireless microphones onstage at once, and it's my job to make sure everyone is heard at his or her proper time, and that moment alone. If I were to leave all the mics open, it would sound like a big, hollow room. To do this right, you really have to treat it just like a tightly choreographed dance routine."


McAllister's creative arrangements as well as all aspects of alter ego Tom Davis' full production mix are guided with the help of an all-Shure stage blueprint, including UHF-R® wireless systems, PSM® personal monitors, and a host of selections from Shure's premium line of KSM microphones. On the UHF-R side of the input plan, contestants slug it out in front of judges Jeffrey Steele, John Rich, and Jewel, using SM58®-equipped handheld transmitters. With host Billy Ray Cyrus opting to place an SM86 capsule atop his UHF-R handheld transmitter, the three judges speak into hardwired MX418/C goosenecks mounted at each of their locations on the judging stand. Backup microphones for the judges falls under the care of UHF-R wireless again, with subminiature WL51 cardioid lavalier microphones being discreetly attached at strategic points within their wardrobe.


"Being the high-spirited personalities that they are, we like to be prepared for anything the judges may do," explains Tom Davis. "The WL51 lavs give us the freedom to accommodate any move they make. They do have guitars at the ready behind them as well — plugged-in on DIs — and it's not uncommon for them to entertain the audience during breaks."


Over the course of the last five seasons, Nashville Star judges have relied upon traditional broadcast-style earpieces and communication systems to hear what directors and producers are telling them from behind-the-scenes. In a major shift this season, Davis outfitted them with Shure PSM systems using beltpack receivers.


Fed from the PA mixer using a matrix side chain capable of ducking whatever program may be traveling to the judges' ears when a producer or director speaks, the PSM beltpacks have, according to Davis, brought genuine high fidelity to the judging stand that never existed before.


Led by John Bohlinger, the Nashville Star house band uses Shure KSM27 microphones on toms, SM57s on snare, a Beta 52A on kick drum, and KSM32s as overheads. Moving from the drum kit, the KSM theme continues to dominate with more KSM32s on guitar cabinets, which are used with venerable SM7s. A KSM27 surfaces again for pedal steel, while background vocals rely on hardwired SM58s.


"The changes we've made this season have made for a much better show," McAllister says, echoing Davis' own sentiments exactly. "As music producer, now I can fine-tune each song for broadcast. It's less like television, and a lot more like what you'd expect from a concert."


Along with a Warner Bros. recording contract, the winner this season on Nashville Star will receive a new pickup truck (hey, this is country, remember), and an opportunity to perform at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. For the first time in the show's history, a companion radio program, Nashville Star Radio, can be heard each Thursday night on XM's “Highway 16.”