Toronto-based Bespoke Audio Visual has always emphasized providing services that are custom-tailored to the unique nature and needs of every event and client they work with. During COVID-19, this means bringing people together by means of elevated virtual events. Bespoke AV has applied their wealth of industry experience and leveraged their substantial inventory of Clear-Com® technology to allow for a depth of connection and interplay well beyond your average video call.
The effect the pandemic has had on live performance events has been profound, however, the corporate sector has been greatly impacted as well. Bespoke AV continues to cater to this industry, which relies heavily on a wide range of in-person events for their success, by providing technology solutions that offer a high degree of customization and sophistication.
“Our challenge (now) is to encourage clients to come out of the last few months and get back to putting on well-staged, well-thought-through events,” said Mike Wilson, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Bespoke AV. “Even if they’re not coming into our studio space, we’ve outfitted all of our control rooms with Clear-Com products that are allowing us to connect to everyone. Our key focus is to increase the quality of the message our clients are putting out. Our clients are very thankful that we're approaching this in the way we are, by taking their normal needs, goals, and wants and accommodating them in this locked-down environment.”
Once Bespoke realized they would not be able to do in-person events for an indefinite time, they came up with a vision to continue to work effectively in the virtual space, while maintaining quality and brand integrity. “Our clients essentially came to us and said, ‘obviously the show we planned isn’t going to happen, but we still want to do something – what can we do?’ So, from there we distilled that down to what we have now,” said Technical Manager, Andrew Bernacki.
That solution relies on remote production control rooms, which are able to communicate with remote participants, producers, other control rooms, and even in-person event sites, all facilitated by a Clear-Com Eclipse® Digital Matrix intercom system. That system allows each room to produce a managed, high-quality end product that combines the collaborative, real-time elements of live in-person events with the remote viewing experience required by these unique times.
The intercom mainframe consists of a Clear-Com Eclipse HX-Delta, with one E-IPA-HX IP card (64 Ports). “That’s the most important card in our system. It provides connectivity to our AES67 Iris™ Panels, AES67 FreeSpeak II® IP Wireless Transceivers, Agent IC® Mobile App connectivity, and the LQ® box connections we use for HelixNet® and other LQ interfaces. We also have IVC Connections for any V-Series™ panels we need to deploy outside our facility over the Internet, and an MVX-A16, 16 Port Analog Card as our analog Audio I/O for smaller control rooms that don’t have Dante functionality.
Additional Clear-Com products include an LQ-2W2, which acts as a bridge between the HelixNet Digital Partyline System and the Eclipse Matrix System, an LQ-R4W8 as a SIP Phone Bridge for the Eclipse, which provides 8 phone lines for less technically inclined producers to get into each control room’s Party Line, and a Dante-64 card for sending and receiving audio from the multitude of Dante enabled devices throughout the control rooms.
Similarly, their wireless intercom depends on Clear-Com AES67 FreeSpeak II IP transceivers and beltpacks, ten Agent IC clients that remote producers, operators, and/or venues access via their mobile device. For wired intercom, 12 VI-PNL-12L V-Series Iris, two VI-PNL-32L V-Series Iris Lever Panels, and four HXII-BP two-channel HelixNet beltpacks are deployed. Further connectivity is also available with Bespoke’s additional LQ-2W2 units that can be sent to remote venues to integrate their intercom systems with Bespoke AV’s matrix over the internet, if required.
“For Bespoke AV, an apt way to describe this innovation is a natural, if virtual, extension of their work,” Bernacki says. “The big pivot, for us, was moving from one-directional webcasts with a time delay to a two-directional, remote presentation experience with low latency – and one that incorporates a virtual audience so everyone experiences the show in real-time. With fluent communication between operators, producers and talent everyone can interact with each other, on stage and behind the scenes, just like an in-person event, and the system can be customized as needed depending on the show.”
As of September 2020, Bespoke AV has completed five control rooms in their Toronto office, with more to come. “If you don’t fit into one of those control rooms, we’ll build whatever works for your show in the same way that we would in any given room where an event was being held,” explains Bernacki.
It all depends on the type of event and the level of experience and interactivity a given client requires, be it offering a more effectively branded and polished experience than your average online meeting, “Like a university on-boarding new students, where they just need us to inject PowerPoint slides and mix in a presenter from a remote location,” Bernacki continues, to a full-on gala dinner and awards show that, although mounted entirely remotely, involved a level of connectivity rivaling the real thing.
“Every virtual table was its own, separate call where the people at that table were able to talk to one another. Then we piped in other participants to each of those as necessary and our hybrid event studio space acted as the main stage. When someone at a table won an award, we took video and audio from that, broadcast it to the other participants, and also allowed those on stage to interact and have an ongoing conversation with the audience. The producer for that event didn’t stop there,” Bernacki adds. “Catered meals were sent to the homes of each of the people in attendance!”
In another application, Bespoke AV deployed individual video displays (one for every 50 virtual audience members) for the host, so they could experience and react to the audience’s facial expressions and feedback in real-time. “That made a huge difference to the host’s energy and comfort level and, I think, made for a better experience for the audience as well.”Although Bespoke AV relied heavily on their existing inventory of technology, Bernacki cites the company’s relationship with GerrAudio has been instrumental. “GerrAudio is top-notch. The reality is, aside from Clear-Com being a superior product, the continuing support we get from Gerr made Clear-Com, and by extension, GerrAudio, a no-brainer choice for us. That level of service always seals the deal for me. GerrAudio is my favorite distributor to work with, not only because they’re lovely people, but because they’re personally invested in our success.”