Tallahassee, FL (November 19, 2020) — Black News Channel (BNC) launched in February, but nearly as soon as its brand-new headquarters facility went online, it had to shift to a remote production workflow due to COVID restrictions. The flexible, IP-based comms system from Clear-Com, which had been installed in the facility by BeckTV, was able to handle the production switch.
Kenneth Thomas, director of OTT/IT Operations for BNC said, “The comms system was a priority from the facility’s inception, and I knew it would include Clear-Com.” BNC equipped its facility with Clear-Com’s Eclipse HX Digital Matrix with V-Series intercom panels throughout. Dante and MADI interface cards offered a variety of I/O to other audio, video, and routing equipment, and E-IPA IP interface cards enabled AES-67 for FreeSpeak II wireless. The E-IPA cards allow for flexibility by providing IVC IP connections for the Agent-IC Mobile Intercom App and LQ Series Interfaces hosting SIP telephony and remote site connection capabilities.
In the Fall of 2019 and Winter of 2020, Black News Channel staff spent time with Clear-Com’s Applications Engineer, Jonathan Sorensen, to familiarize themselves with the system and to finalize custom integrations for their workflows. When it became time to rethink aspects of the system to accommodate remote workflows, BNC relied on prior training to make the changes.
“I can’t say enough about how Clear-Com was there when we needed them, whether it was Saturday night or first thing on Tuesday morning,” said William Bennett, sr. network engineer for BNC. The Agent-IC Mobile App was used in the transition to much of BNC’s staff relocating into their homes. Agent-IC can integrate with traditional intercom systems, like the Eclipse HX digital matrix in BNC’s headquarters. The app can operate anywhere in the world over 3G, 4G, LTE and WiFi networks, allowing remote team members to connect with the core intercom system.
“The flexibility of the IP-based system, and the amazing support from Jonathan and the team at Clear-Com, allowed us to seamlessly transition to remote production without a hiccup,” concludes BNC’s director of Network Operations, Jefferson Walker.
Burnsville, MN (October 23, 2020)—RTS has introduced its RTS Digital Partyline with the debut of its new OMNEO Main Station (OMS), a hybrid IP/digital/analog main station for partyline intercom systems used in theaters, houses of worship, broadcast, AV rental, industrial facilities and entertainment/event venues.
Presented in a 1RU enclosure, OMS can interconnect both wired/wireless and IP/digital/analog devices; full TCP/IP connectivity is supported. OMNEO IP technology – incorporating Dante (audio transport), AES70 (device control) and more – allows OMS to interconnect with RTS Digital Matrix products (including ADAM, ADAM-M, ODIN, KP series keypanels and ROAMEO DECT wireless) and forthcoming new members of the RTS Digital Partyline family. This aims to provide users with a path from legacy equipment to the latest technology, allowing users to migrate to an IP infrastructure while protecting the investment value of their existing analog partyline hardware.
OMS is available in five configurations — Advanced, Intermediate and Basic digital (each with OMNEO), as well as Analog Plus and Analog (main station options for analog-only partyline systems). Software upgrades allow for increased capacity and functionality as needs evolve. Users requiring both analog and digital should upgrade to OMS Intermediate or OMS Advanced.
All OMS configurations feature a full-color front panel display and an icon-based menu structure for system configuration and control. The panel layout has dedicated color-coded controls for each channel (talk/listen/call/volume); each of the four button sets can be programmed to function with any destination in the system. The AC power supply has a locking IEC connector, and due to its low power draw and venting, it does not have any cooling fans
Support for four ports of analog AIO four-wire, four ports of analog two-wire (equipped with echo cancellation), two program inputs and one stage announce output are included. Ethernet connectivity is via copper or fiber (for OMS Intermediate and OMS Advanced versions with OMNEO). Additional OMNEO expansion audio ports are included for networking with other OMS units. OMS Intermediate and OMS Advanced configurations support the TIF-2000A digital telephone interface.
New York, NY (October 22, 2020)—It would be easy to overlook the intercoms necessary to capture the annual Kitten Bowl, a popular pet-adoption broadcast event that airs during Super Bowl weekend every year. After all, the stars of the show don’t need them and the sets are relatively small, right? In fact, they’re always necessary, and when it came to creating and capturing the show to be aired this winter, COVID precautions were in place, so production company 3 Ball Productions used Clear-Com Agent-IC Mobile App and LQ Series IP Interface technologies in a unique configuration to keep production moving.
Daniel Farmer, co-owner and DP of KatFarm Productions, has combined his cinematography skills and love of cats to handle the technical production for the last seven Kitten Bowls. Forced by COVID restrictions to shift to a remote workflow for this year’s event, he worked with Gotham Sound & Communications to deploy the Clear-Com gear.
Under normal circumstances, the production team builds up to five custom sets, including the main football field set, bars, locker room, parking lot for tailgaters and more. “Usually we use the existing comms system and tech structure in whatever studio we’re filming in that year,” Farmer said. “This year, we were using a raw, empty studio, and we had to build the show systems in flypacks.”
For 2020, the set was scaled back to only a main stage and a cat-scession stand with fewer crew members and kitten wranglers allowed on site. As an added challenge, the director and executive producers couldn’t travel to the New York location as planned, but still needed to view the set and communicate with the production teams.
“The director needed to see the live feeds of multiple cameras remotely from his home,” Farmer said. “We had been testing other equipment that could do this prior to COVID, but nothing worked with a separate walkie system, three comms channels and a separate video channel, all seamlessly and within a limited budget. Plus, with our accelerated timeline, we couldn’t afford any mistakes.”
Peter Schneider, VP at Gotham Sound, recommended the Agent-IC and LQ Series interfaces. He suggested using Agent-IC as everyone’s virtual interface, working with the hardwired LQ on-set, with programmable buttons that could be hit to switch between camera views.
During the event, the on-site production team maintained social distancing in the control room and studio, with everyone else working remotely. “It was no different than all of us being in the same room,” Farmer said. “The system became invisible. Everyone wondered, ‘How is it working so well? There is no delay.’ Our communications were actually cleaner and crisper than anything we had used in prior years.”
The Riedel solution enables officials, coaches and production personnel to communicate safely during NBA games played in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The NBA Bubble is a strict isolation zone created to allow the 2019-2020 basketball season to continue while protecting NBA players from COVID-19.
The on-site deployment consists of a dozen Riedel Artist intercom nodes, providing nearly 500 active communications ports to support 113 master panels; 57 Performer C3 intercom beltpacks; 116 Bolero wireless intercom beltpacks; and 186 analog 4-wire connections to six onsite OB trucks. Deployed in a fully redundant fiber ring configuration, the Artist nodes are able to support users communicating via Bolero beltpacks throughout the vast ESPN complex, including players, coaches, and officials in the green zone, where games are played on three venues, and the yellow zone, encompassing the technical and broadcast compound.
“This was a complex installation,” said Vinny Siniscal from Firehouse Productions. “Working with the Riedel team, we were able to design a truly elegant and integrated solution that enables crystal-clear communications while also ensuring that officials, coaches, and producers maintain safe distances from each other.”
Luis Espinal, intercom curator for the Firehouse team, built custom logic functions into the Artist nodes that allow specific mic feeds to be routed to specific broadcast trucks. The onsite Bolero universe, based on two fully redundant hub-and-spoke networks of Luminex switches, offers up to 128 multicast flows, giving the deployment room to grow as more beltpacks are needed.
“The ability to add custom logic to the Artist network was a huge plus because it allowed us to build in more redundancy and ensure effective monitoring for the entire intercom ecosystem,” said Siniscal.
The Seongnam Arts Center is a cultural hub in South Korea that prides itself on being a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose performance facility. Ease of use, durability and reliability of equipment are what make one venue the preferred choice over another for visiting performers, and this mounting pressure for technological excellence in Korea was a major driving force behind the Arts Center’s decision for an audio overhaul. Having recently installed a new audio system, the 1,808-seat capacity focused on an intercom systems upgrade comprised of Clear-Com’s®HelixNet® Digital Network Partyline and FreeSpeak II® Digital Wireless Intercom. The new system would be implemented across three performance halls: the Concert Hall, the Ensemble Theatre, and the largest of the three, the Opera House.
Seongnam Arts Center partnered with One-Up Solutions for the integration of the intercom upgrade, but there was some trepidation over transitioning from the existing analog system infrastructure, to a fully digital intercom system—a growing trend in Europe and other Western markets. One-Up referred them to Clear-Com’s work with the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which had designated Clear-Com equipment as a standard by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), helping to put their minds at ease.
The venue had been using an analog intercom system that was already operating at max capacity, and demand for a bigger system, with more channels and more flexibility, was only continuing to grow. Andy Jae Hyung Ryu, Chief Technical Director of One-Up Solutions explained, “Based on the requirements of international and big performance teams we can predict that performance venues in Korea will need to provide larger systems which will mean that digital intercom systems will have higher demand…so they decided to upgrade.”
In the Opera House, the digital intercom system includes a HelixNet system and a FreeSpeak II system. The design for the new digital IP system took into consideration the existing cable infrastructure, and they were able to upgrade their analogue system to a digital system with 12 channels (64 endpoints) while still using the traditional three-pin XLR cable infrastructure that was already in place. A HelixNet HMS-4X main station is installed on the Stage Manager desk, backstage, and the desk station unit and belt pack are configured in various channels like sound, lighting, video desk, and broadcasting.
A FreeSpeak II FSII-Base-II wireless base station, linked with HelixNet, is also installed on the Stage Manager’s desk backstage. The FreeSpeak II wireless intercom system connects 25 wireless belt packs via several 2.4GHz antennas distributed throughout the venue for seamless roaming.
Deputy Director of the Seongnam Art Center Stage Management Department, Lee Byung-kook, comments on the effectiveness of implementing high performance intercom into the venue’s overall technology upgrade. “When everyone can communicate clearly and in real-time, it comes through in the performance. FreeSpeak II and HelixNet allow us to synchronize all aspects that make up the performance — lighting, sound, video, talent and more.” Seongnam Arts Center is one of the first venues in Korea to upgrade to a fully digital intercom system, making it a truly superior multipurpose performance space.
CrewCom by Pliant Technologies is an incredibly capable wireless communications solution. The system consists of 2-channel or 4-channel radio packs, headsets, up to four control units, HUBs for copper or fiber distribution, radio transceivers and system software. We put the system to the test on productions staged for the National Black Theatre Festival, as well as a school musical at Winston-Salem’s historic Reynolds Auditorium, and overall, we had a great experience with the system.
Pliant CrewCom was able to interface with our existing 2-wire communications system by way of XLR connections on the control unit, preventing us from having to choose one system or the other. Each CrewCom control unit can support up to 18 radio packs, and when deployed in combination with wired comms, it really expands your system. As there are several components in the system, I’d say CrewCom is better suited for use in a permanent install. It would require additional cases to be practical for a temporary or on-location setup.
The front panel of the unit shows all the packs that are linked up. The name of the pack is displayed, along with battery life and RF strength. You can use the control unit as another wired headset location if needed, as it has a front headset port for monitoring.
We chose to keep all our board ops on our wired com and used the wireless as an expansion for our fly operators, props manager, stage managers and production manager, a setup that allowed for extensive flexibility for shows with a lot of movement.
We found the Pliant CrewCom system’s wireless packs incredibly useful during our school’s production of Peter and the Star Catcher. In our theater, fly operators have to travel up and down from the rail to get back to the deck level. Our main curtain operates from the stage level on stage right, while our double purchase fly system operates from up a ladder on stage left. In the past, they had to take off their headsets and packs to move to deck level and put on another set once they got there. Having wireless packs was an incredible benefit because they never had to disconnect.
Meanwhile, our stage managers help with major set changes, including moving the set on stage, which requires them to coordinate their movements. The wireless headsets allowed them to hear the call at the appropriate moment, keeping them in sync. Our production manager usually has to travel back and forth between backstage and front of house to check on progress with the box office and seating; the wireless system, allowed him to hear any questions or concerns from the production team while he was assisting with front-of-house duties.
In Pliant’s CrewWare system management software, you can assign packs to specific profiles, giving the packs individual names (and then labeling them) and assigning channels to them, setting channel options and so on. You can set system routing with a visual representation of your network connections and signal flow. Our radio packs were not preconfigured with a talk latch button like we were used to, but we were able to configure them with latching talk buttons in the profiles.
The packs themselves worked well. They are slightly bigger than some standard wired beltpacks but are still a manageable size, and we were able to integrate our existing headsets with them easily. The rechargeable batteries are simple to charge, but we found the battery hatch somewhat complicated. Aside from that, the packs were robust and seemed ruggedly built to handle the most challenging of situations.
Of course, the most important function of a wireless intercom system is communication, and this system excelled in this regard. The system’s range was impressive. The venue, Reynolds Auditorium, is a 1,900-seat classic theater built with plaster, stone and steel. Without putting up additional network infrastructure, I was able to post the receiver at backstage right, head out to our lobby and walk around most of the building without drop-outs. We did not notice any issues with interference. There was a bit of a noise floor with the wireless units compared to a wired com system, but you can set a noise gate on the unit that helps eliminate most of the white noise.
We had additional transceivers to connect via a supplied copper hub, but it was not easy to install it for a temporary review situation. Pliant uses a proprietary network, so it can’t piggy-back on something like a Dante network. If we were purchasing the system, I would do a permanent install and mount one in our dressing room area, one in the green room (located below the stage) and one in our lobby to ensure we had clear signal on the front of the building.
All in all, Pliant CrewCom was a reliable and easy-to-use system, and I would proudly use it again.