2017 marked the 50th year for IBC, the largest international conference and exhibition for the media, entertainment and technology industries. IBC’s Technology and Events Team turned to Clear-Com for the second successive year to provide a comprehensive communications solution to serve both the IBC TV operation and the live events held in the Auditorium.
Live Events Reliability
The Auditorium plays host to a range of events during IBC, including keynotes, conference sessions, Big Screen film screenings and of course the prestigious IBC Awards ceremony. “I’ve heard it said more than once that if it’s not the best cinema in the world, it’s certainly no less than the second best,” says Matthew Tomkinson, Deputy Director Technology & Events, IBC. The Auditorium features Dolby Vision laser projectors, Dolby Atmos sound and the very latest screen technology. However, the existing house comms system was not able to accommodate IBC’s needs for the various events.
“Our requirements for the Auditorium were fairly simple, but clarity and reliability were absolutely essential,” says Matthew. “We had teams on the balcony and behind the stage, as well as sound engineers at the front and back of the seating area, so they needed a system that enabled them to talk to each other very quietly but still be heard.”
The system for the Auditorium comprised of an Eclipse HX-Delta digital matrix platform, a HelixNet digital partyline system and an integrated FreeSpeak II wireless system working on the 1.9GHz frequency, connected via the E-QUE-HX wireless controller card within the Eclipse frame. The HelixNet main station and V-Series keypanels were installed in the projection booth and on the balcony, and the FreeSpeak II wireless transceiver antennas and beltpacks enabled the team to move freely around the auditorium while remaining connected.
“With all live events you need a communication system that helps you to stay in control and in contact, to ensure everything runs smoothly,” says Matthew. “That’s exactly what the Clear-Com system does – it’s simple to operate, it is very reliable, and the audio clarity is excellent.”
Connecting Production TeamsFor IBC TV, which produces live and packaged shows throughout the event, the requirement was also, of course, for clear and reliable communications – but across a wider area.
“We had the main IBC TV studio plus a control room and studio gallery, and we were also filming continuously in three of the conference rooms,” says Andi Goodman, Technical Manager, IBC TV.
The Clear-Com solution here was an Eclipse HX-PiCo digital matrix with a V-Series panel installed in each conference room – a new feature of the installation for 2017. A 1.9GHz FreeSpeak II base station was placed in the control room, with two transceiver antennas supporting eight wireless beltpacks for the production team.
“We had a lot of people on the studio floor and the FreeSpeak II antennas and beltpacks gave them the opportunity to be mobile but still be able to hear and speak to the director,” says Andi. “It gave us a lot of flexibility – for example the lighting cameraman needed to be able to set and move lights and operate the lighting console, so it benefited him to be wireless rather than stuck on a camera position.”
The addition of the V-Series panels made a big difference to this year’s comms set-up. “It was very straightforward to install the panels in the conference rooms and meant that we could contact the operators easily,” Andi adds. “For example, if we could see in the control room that the audio was low or the lipsync was out, we could ask them to put a delay in. They could also communicate with the director to let him know if there was a delay in the start time of the session or whether to start from a picture or from black.”
Andi hadn’t used Clear-Com systems before, but was impressed with the functionality and ease of use. “I thought the control panels were very intuitive. Freelance operators and production teams experience many different types of talk back panels, depending on the facility they are working in for any particular production, so it is a great benefit to sit down in front of an intuitive panel that can be easily operated straight away,” he says. “I’m sure I only scratched the surface of what they can do but they certainly delivered what we needed.”
To facilitate the transporting, routing and distribution of the intercom, audio and video signals throughout the RAI convention center, Clear-Com recommended BroaMan to provide a fully reliable and redundant fiber-based audio and video network backbone. The Clear-Com and BroaMan combination has been previously installed in a number of broadcast and live production customers with great success, so the workflow was already proven; and IBC TV decided to implement it.
“We were very pleased with the deployment and the solution introduced a simplified workflow. Taking a video and audio feed via BroaMan from each conference room and adding them to the programme content – and having the comms linked into the same system – worked really well,” says Andi.
In terms of set-up and support, Matthew and Andi both pay tribute to Ibrahim (Ibi) Ali, Clear-Com’s Application Engineer, who set up the system on site and was available throughout the show.
“Ibi is highly knowledgeable, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about the kit,” says Matthew. “He’s one of those quiet people that just makes it happen – there’s no fuss, you barely know he’s there and suddenly it’s all set up and ready to go.”
Andi concurs: “I wasn’t familiar with the configuration software, so Ibrahim spent a good three hours showing me how the system worked. He was also happy to come down at any point to help with any issues, and was available to me on the phone over the four days.”
As the show evolved through rig day and rehearsal day, Ibrahim also worked closely with David [Spencer, the director] to deliver the more complicated aspects that he needed, such as setting up separate 4-wires to enable the sound assistant to speak to the sound supervisor, and the floor manager to talk back to the director. “The right communication links were important to make the show easier to operate,” adds Andi.
Phil White, IBC Director of Technology & Events, was equally happy with the communications set up. “2017 was another record year for IBC and key to our technical success is the continued support of Clear-Com,” he said. “Communications on site are essential; from the gallery and control rooms transmitting live IBCTV, to the conference and show feature operational areas – this is critical in keeping the live programmes flowing. For the IBC Awards in particular, it is the Clear Com that holds it all together. Not only is the equipment first rate, but also the support on site from their team is second to none. A totally professional operation.”