Production Communications in a Shrinking World


Gary Rosen TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
i

Communications today is a critical issueno matter if you are producing broadcast television, doing a live festival or rock concert outdoors, setting up a musical on the West End, or producing a local school play. Over the last few years, the proliferation of cell phones and other wireless devices has made it clear that most people prefer to communicate untethered.

One of the best examples of this shift is evident when attending any grade school play. If you had seen a child ten years ago using a wireless microphone, you would have been impressed. Today, it's not uncommon to see a dozen young students running about the stage with full wireless microphone support. Of course, it then follows that professional production requirements are an order of magnitude more complicated. One thing is clear, no matter the size or setting of the production, all users prefer wireless communication, and that trend is nearly certain to continue. The demand for wireless spectrum will only increase as time goes on. And of course, there are only so many available frequencies for our use and we all have to share them.

Governments around the world have discovered how lucrative it can be to sell the precious frequency spectrum we have long used for production. In addition to this hardship, production communications are faced with the ever-present pressure to provide more technology with less budgetmore mics, more in-ear, more intercom, more users, more range, more of everything wireless.

While all areas of professional productions have to compete for wireless frequency spectrum in order to broadcast, some areas like intercom, are more forgiving than others in its requirements. When it comes to performance applications, there are very specific requirements. On-air or on-stage talent wireless microphones, IFB (interrupt fold back), IEM (in-ear monitors), wireless instruments, and other live audio support must have reliability, fidelity and near zero latency. These applications actually use one-way transmission to a receiver, also known as simplex communications.

In contrast, full-duplex crew communications requires simultaneous sending and receiving of audio. This allows collaborative communication; all parties can speak at any time to deal with urgent, time-sensitive or critical production elements. However, full duplex communication requires a very different set of requirements than simplex does. For example, full-duplex users often need to have multiple conversations with one or more groups of people. Again, this is very different from wireless microphone technology.

Luckily, some of the absolute requirements of talent microphones and in-ear monitors do not necessarily constrain production crews. Lower bandwidth and some small latency is quite acceptable and is the norm for all digital intercom systems. In practice, neither of these issues actually inhibit the production crews, as the audio is quite clear and intelligible, and the minimal latency does not have a real impact in application. Because of new digital RF technology, a number of manufacturers have been able to provide advanced digital full-duplex intercom systems that provide great new functionality, albeit with some minor compromises that are actually quite tolerable for the production staff to use in the professional communications world.

These new systems can be placed in frequency spectrum areas outside of those required for performance microphones and monitoring, which frees up valuable RF spectrum for talent needs. Many systems are also compatible with other digital RF devices in the same frequency range. Most of these systems provide communications in frequency bands that do not require licensing from end users.

Advancements in RF are extremely important and necessary for successful communications, but there is another dramatically important aspect of duplex crew communication: the intercom system itself. Unfortunately, many current and new duplex intercom systems are based on fairly old intercom technology.

In many cases, wireless intercom systems are designed as accessories for a larger wired intercom system. Some can operate as standalone systems, but these have significant restrictions for signal path and they still require the addition of a wired intercom system for any sophisticated signal routing or large deployment. Generally, party line or matrix intercom are the most common types of wired systems in use today. Party line is fast, easy, inexpensive and reliable. It is also extremely limited in functionality. Matrix systems provide great functionality, but they are expensive and require a lot of wired infrastructure and a knowledgeable operator. Often, wireless intercom systems are just connected to these types of systems as a simple add-on. Its actual functionality may be limited to just being a wireless link to the existing intercom system.

Interestingly, there are some new approaches to wireless communications that solve numerous issues while meeting the many demands of productions today. These new approaches utilize the RF spectrum efficiently in order to have enough users and range for todays productions, and they offer significant intercom functionality that allows the complex communications paths that are vitalall without requiring users to spend a tremendous percentage of their budget on additional intercom components to get this flexibility and routing. Some systems can now provide over 1,000 individual intercom signal paths for intercom conversations, in addition to providing network-distributed intercom conferences and many RF access points to provide both RF and audio connectivity where you need it. These networks can go as far as 10 km (6.2 miles) on fiber.

Todays most advanced systems are offering network based-technologies that do the following:

  • Support dozens of access points for the RF signal of dozens and even hundreds of users
  • Utilize new and efficient RF techniques for users to all connect reliably
  • Provide advanced audio signal routing to meet users communications and intercom connectivity requirements

In addition to these features, the truly advanced systems have been designed to allow easy setup and operation, without extensive end user training and without the expense of a dedicated intercom operator. A simple system should be able to be set up in just a few minutes, without requiring a dedicated engineer for operation. More complicated systems can be designed and engineered properly offline or in real-time because of innovative software. This means that live event crews are able to quickly and easily have wireless communications available to help expedite show set up.

As this new generation of intercom systems roll out and expand, they will provide a whole new level of functionality with dramatically improved cost per user. The communications features that users require are becoming available in flexible and innovative productsproducts made by companies who understand the limitations facing production crews today, and who have designed products to sound better and go farther than ever before. From small schools and corporate or church events to full-on TV, concert or festival productions, youll be seeing more wireless communication and less wired users in the future, to be sure.


Tags: iss127 | pliant | comms | intercom | duplex | Gary Rosen
Contributing Author Gary Rosen

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Pliant Technologies CrewComm Wireless Intercom at IBC 2017

    Pliant Technologies CrewComm Wireless Intercom at IBC 2017

  • Pliant Technologies at IBC 2016

    Pliant Technologies at IBC 2016

  • Pliant Technologies at NAB 2016

    Pliant Technologies at NAB 2016

  • Cobham satellite EXPLORER products at IBC 2014

    Cobham satellite EXPLORER products at IBC 2014

  • Telestream Vantage support for DPP at IBC 2014

    Telestream Vantage support for DPP at IBC 2014

  • Mobile comms from Clear-Com with LQV4 software and Agent-IC shown at BVE 2018

    Mobile comms from Clear-Com with LQV4 software and Agent-IC shown at BVE 2018

  • Intercom over AES67 with V-Series IRIS from Clear-Com at IBC 2018

    Intercom over AES67 with V-Series IRIS from Clear-Com at IBC 2018

  • Glensound show Beatrice the AES67 Network audio intercom beltpack at IBC 2018

    Glensound show Beatrice the AES67 Network audio intercom beltpack at IBC 2018

  • RTS Intercoms show Roameo and Omneo intercom and keypanels at BVE 2018

    RTS Intercoms show Roameo and Omneo intercom and keypanels at BVE 2018

  • Telos Infinity IP Broadcast Intercom from Telos Alliance shown at BVE 2018

    Telos Infinity IP Broadcast Intercom from Telos Alliance shown at BVE 2018

  • Glensound Dante Intercom System at IBC 2017

    Glensound Dante Intercom System at IBC 2017

  • 32 Keypanel Intercoms from Clearcom at NAB 2017

    32 Keypanel Intercoms from Clearcom at NAB 2017

  • RTS Intercoms at BVE 2016

    RTS Intercoms at BVE 2016

  • CLEARCOM IOS INTERCOM at NAB 2015

    CLEARCOM IOS INTERCOM at NAB 2015

  • PARADISO Lite commentary unit from Glensound at BVE 2018

    PARADISO Lite commentary unit from Glensound at BVE 2018

  • Clear-Com LinQ at IBC 2014

    Clear-Com LinQ at IBC 2014

  • Clear-Com FreeSpeak II at IBC 2014

    Clear-Com FreeSpeak II at IBC 2014

  • Studio Technologies at NAB 2014

    Studio Technologies at NAB 2014

  • Clear-Com ProGrid at NAB 2014

    Clear-Com ProGrid at NAB 2014

  • Clear-Com HelixNet Partyline at NAB 2014

    Clear-Com HelixNet Partyline at NAB 2014

  • RTS Omneo at BVE 2014

    RTS Omneo at BVE 2014

  • Trilogy on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Trilogy on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Riedel Communications on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    Riedel Communications on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Clear-Com: Tempest at NAB 2013

    Clear-Com: Tempest at NAB 2013

  • Studio Technologies at NAB 2012

    Studio Technologies at NAB 2012

  • Clear-Com Eclipse at NAB 2012

    Clear-Com Eclipse at NAB 2012

  • Clear-Com HelixNet Partyline at NAB 2012

    Clear-Com HelixNet Partyline at NAB 2012

  • Riedel at BVE North 2011

    Riedel at BVE North 2011

  • Riedel at IBC2011

    Riedel at IBC2011

  • Clear-Com at IBC2011

    Clear-Com at IBC2011


Related Shows
  • RTS Intercoms at BVE

    RTS Intercoms at BVE


Articles
State of the Nation - November 2018
Dick Hobbs - new There is an interesting seminar called Size Matters at the KitPlus Show – organised by the publishers of this fine magazine – at MediaCityUK in Salford on 6 November. It’s a talk by cinematographer Alistair Chapman on the way that camera technology is changing, and in particular the size of the electronic device which creates the image is growing.
Tags: iss134 | cmos | 35mm | AJA | Arri | Blackmagic | Canon | Datavideo | GoPro | Grass Valley | Hitachi | Ikegami | JVC | Kinefinity | Nikon | Panasonic | Red | Sony | jpeg2000 | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
Using Wireless Transmission
Jeremy Benning Wireless acquisition is a staple of live sports, entertainment and reality shows where cable free capture permits shots not previously possible, for health and safety reasons, and gives the camera-operator greater artistic licence to roam. The same is increasingly true of narrative drama where cinematographers are keen to work handheld or Steadicam where that helps tell the story. Any equipment which frees their movement and time by being lighter, easier to use and reliable in performance is going to tick a lot of boxes.
Tags: iss134 | wireless | 4k | transmission | Jeremy Benning
Contributing Author Jeremy Benning Click to read or download PDF
An Epiphany Moment
Peter Savage 2 I had been negotiating the sale of my company and had reached the really hard end of the bargain. We were close to agreeing the final sum after a lot of too-much-give-and-not-enough-take negotiation. The solicitors were calling me, keen for a deal. It had come down to one sticking point and, in my hard ball “I am the Wolf of Wall Street” guise, I wasn’t going to let it go. It would make a value difference of 1.5% on the total outcome. Not much, you might think, but I had already nearly fallen out with the solicitors over their fees and I was giving my advisors an extremely hard time because the corporate adviser couldn’t see how I had already given more than an inch and the buyers were taking more than a mile. I was not going to let them win.
Tags: iss134 | azule | finance | Peter Savage 2
Contributing Author Peter Savage 2 Click to read or download PDF
University and Mental Health
Rhiannon Jenkins University study and mental health has been in the media quite a bit over the last year, and I’m sure there are many people wondering what is going on? The issues are complex, and I suppose the focus of employability off the back of a degree course has raised the stress stakes for a lot of young people. I’m only qualified to talk about this from my perspective, and my story began when I joined a course not knowing I had a mental health condition.
Tags: iss134 | portsmouth uni | mental health | student | tvfutures | Rhiannon Jenkins
Contributing Author Rhiannon Jenkins Click to read or download PDF
An Obituary to Timecode
Bruce Devlin - new A stoic and persistent character that stubbornly refused to change with the times, Timecode has finally passed on, but no-one has noticed. A long-lasting industry veteran, Timecode was brought into this world at an uncertain date in the late 1960s due to the needs of analogue tape workflows and the demand for synchronisation between audio and video devices. A joint activity between SMPTE and the EBU led to the work on Time and Control codes starting its journey to standardisation in the early 1970s.
Tags: iss134 | timecode | smpte | ebu | edit | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read