Clear-Com Scales Up for the European Games with The P.A. People
Designing a communications system for an event as enormous as the opening ceremony of the inaugural European Games is a daunting task. Hundreds of technicians, stage managers, performers, and ancillary staff need to be able to communicate clearly, quickly and flexibly across multiple sites, in multiple configurations, without missing a beat. Paul Barret of Pdb3 specialises in creating turnkey solutions for major event communications, and was on the job in Baku, Azerbaijan, in June, working with Sydney’s The P.A. People to ensure the spectacular celebration of Azerbaijani culture and European harmony was a major success.
The demands on the comms system were vast, and Paul relied on the scalability of Clear-Com to get the job done. “The P.A. People had two Clear-Com Eclipse HX-Omega digital matrix systems, two Eclipse HX Median Digital Matrix frames, nine HelixNet Master Stations, 70 HelixNet Beltpacks, more than 200 Clear-Com V-Series Intercom Panels, and Freespeak II with 80 wireless beltpacks, all interfacing into 100 two-way radio channels using Clear-Com FOR-22 cards and GPI cards,” Paul counted. “We had on-site support from two Clear-Com engineers for two weeks. They had never seen programming of this complexity before. The factory support was excellent; we had software changes made with a 24 hour turnaround. It’s nice to have a manufacturer that cares enough about their product to put those kind of resources behind it.”
Being able to interface so many different types of comms and expand or contract according to demand was key to the choice of Clear-Com equipment. “Clear-Com is my preferred solution for scaling systems like this,” he explained. “Clear-Com is a comms system, and their whole approach is focused on comms, whereas other companies tend to approach their designs as a signal distribution system that also does comms. Ultimately, Clear-Com gives us more flexibility to do our job. I know I can put a Clear-Com V-Panel on a couple of kilometers of Cat5, or use a copper telephone line, and it will work.”
Because of the scale and distances involved, Paul and the team made extensive use of Clear-Com’s ability to connect over IP. “The IP network was extensive,” Paul continued. “Fibre optic cable was run from the main stadium to the boulevard on the Caspian Sea, where there was a secondary cauldron and a secondary fireworks display. We had V-Stations on the other end, and were also sending and receiving timecode and CCTV. The system was so large we were using multiple frames, and being able to do that linking with IP is unique. I like Clear-Com’s approach in being able to move everything onto IP, but still having the option to go back to analogue; it makes everything really flexible. And HelixNet works on standard mic cable; you don’t need to run AES cable. For any existing venue, that’s a big selling point and a big cost saving.”
One of the most innovative parts of this vast comms system was the integration of the 80 full duplex wireless Freespeak II beltpacks. The Freespeak II system at Baku won widespread praise from all of the assembled technical staff for its clarity and functionality. “We found that in a system using Freespeak II, HelixNet, and keystations, we couldn’t tell who was on what,” Paul observed. “The clarity was unnerving to start with. It’s strange to have people on wireless that sound as good as wired comms. It’s such a massive step forward. Because of Freespeak II, I’m specifying all of my future jobs as Clear-Com now.”
Back in Australia, Paul will be integrating Freespeak II systems into a variety of major corporate events such as AGMs and results reporting. “All my customers want full duplex to handle shareholders and questions,” Paul illustrated. “Two-way radios aren’t a good fit in the corporate environment. The nature of the venues these events take place in mean you need distributed antennas. Freespeak II is like having a keystation on your belt; it has all the functionality of sitting at a desk, but mobile. It gives you so much more flexibility to put people on wireless. The other big reason is the sound quality.”
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