Clear-Com keeps crew connected at MTV VMAs

Firehouse Productions selected Clear-Com’s FreeSpeak II digital wireless intercom to connect the live production crew during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), which aired live from Madison Square Garden on Sunday (28 August 2016).

The VMAs featured performances, interviews, red carpet coverage and extensive social media exposure with A-list stars. Despite the massive viewership of the VMAs, expansive zones of coverage and numerous 2.4GHz devices in use simultaneously, Firehouse Productions was confident that FreeSpeak II would cover the entire venue due to the presence of 20 integrated transceiver antennas and 25 wireless beltpacks.

“The MTV VMAs are incredibly challenging to produce live,” said Vinny Siniscal, director of Firehouse’s RF & Communications Division and involved with production equipment for the event since 2000. “With all the action taking place on stage, behind-the-scenes, and all over the arena, we’ve got 20 stage managers using the FreeSpeak II to stay on top of what’s happening, with the lead stage manager, Garry Hood, calling the shots. The FreeSpeak II was able to support these 20 wireless positions, plus five more tech positions without any dropouts or dead spots.”

“[In] previous years, coverage of this spread-out event has required a huge amount of wired and wireless infrastructure,” Siniscal added, “but thanks to FreeSpeak II’s ability to extend its wireless footprint merely by adding more transceiver antennas, we have created reliable, full coverage using a single Clear-Com Eclipse HX-Delta digital matrix equipped with two E-Que-HX cellular frame cards to elegantly enable the integrated FreeSpeak II wireless intercom solution.”

Capable of operating in both the 1.9 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands, FreeSpeak II is particularly useful in crowded RF spaces like the VMAs. “We are happy to be able to run our FreeSpeak II wireless intercoms in the 1.9 GHz band,” Siniscal continued. “This has allowed us to pull these vital communications out of the unpredictable UHF band, while leaving 2.4 GHz open for other signals like lighting control and WiFi devices.”

The per-user configurability of the FreeSpeak II wireless beltpack means that Firehouse can put each stage manager on a common channel, and then configure each beltpack’s remaining four channels to connect to whatever groups they are associated with. “Whether they are handling cues for the talent, the rigging, or automation, I know that each stage manager can connect seamlessly to the people they need to talk to anytime,” Siniscal concluded.