State-of-the-art Clear-Com communication technology recently enabled prehistoric creatures to communicate – or rather, the production team operating 18 life-size dinosaurs in an ambitious $20m worldwide touring show, ‘Walking With Dinosaurs – The Arena Spectacular’.
Based on the award-winning TV program of the same name, the live show features life-size physical recreations of prehistoric creatures including 18 dinosaurs, the largest of which weighs 1.6 tons and takes three people to operate. The show has already visited over 250 cities worldwide and entertained a total audience in excess of 9 million people.
The production relies on a large crew who in turn rely completely on the ability to communicate clearly throughout the show. The scale and size of the dinosaurs means that safety is uppermost in everyone’s minds, so reliable communication is imperative to ensure the well-being of the crew and the audience.
Enter Sonalyst, one of the UK’s premier suppliers of production services, which was tasked with providing a range of technical elements for the show including lighting, audio and communications.
Established in 2004, Sonalyst has made a name for itself supplying a diverse range of live productions including Ricky Gervais Live, Monty Pythons Reunion Live and the Queen musical We Will Rock You, as well as television shows, outside broadcasts, films, exhibitions, conferences, corporate events, private parties and installations.
Already long-established Clear-Com users, Sonalyst selected Autograph Sales & Installations to supply a complete new Clear-Com communication solution, centered on an Eclipse HX-Delta 32-port Matrix Frame. The system is also equipped with ten HXBP-II HelixNet beltpacks, 31 FSII-BP FreeSpeak 1.9 GHz digital wireless beltpacks, two HMS-4X HelixNet Main Stations, two FSII-BASE-II digital wireless Base Stations plus a comprehensive range of integration accessories, transceivers, chargers and batteries.
With each venue comes a different set of potential challenges, but the comms equipment set-up was designed for easy roll-out at each stop.
“The venues change but the set does not, so we always put our equipment in the same positions relative to the set,” explains Alex Bryson, System Engineer, Sonalyst. “The physical infrastructure of the comms system is built into the same cable package and touring racks as the audio system, so this all gets distributed and installed by default.”
All of the panels are built into operating positions while the beltpacks travel in boxes dedicated to the operating positions; wireless duplex, IFBs and radios are packed in custom charging drawers. This makes it very quick for the team to distribute and connect the equipment at each new venue: “Apart from frequency retuning, no set up is really required – we just distribute and open the cases,” says Alex.
During the show, various crew including stage management, the show caller, the lighting team, video and audio teams and the puppeteers all need to communicate to and from the stage and remote operating positions.
“We use a mix of wired panels for primary operators, wired belt packs for operators in specific positions, and 1.9 GHz wireless duplex beltpacks for roaming crew on stage, which is approximately 20m x 60m,” Alex explains. “It’s a big, noisy area to operate in, but the audio clarity and roaming capability of the FreeSpeak II system is such that we can all hear each other perfectly, right across the venue.”
He concludes, “The Clear-Com solution has been a great success – the complete rig delivers the huge point-to-point comms solution demanded by the production and keeps our team connected. Autograph’s support has also been first class throughout the process, they have ensured that all elements supplied worked perfectly as required throughout this unique tour.”