Brown Note Productions uses Clear-Com’s FreeSpeak II for the production of a virtual music festival
In early September, Brown Note Productions (BNP) teamed up with their client to deliver a virtual music festival in Colorado. 7,500,000 fans tuned into the concert, hit play, and plunged into the first-of-its-kind immersive experience. BNP supplied all audio gear required for festival production, including Clear-Com®’s FreeSpeak II® Digital Wireless Intercom.
In a normal summer, Denver-based BNP would execute live events around the country but given the social distancing requirements implemented by COVID-19, companies like BNP are developing new ways of producing events within these requirements. In this case, that meant producing the festival onsite as if it were a typical live show, all while keeping the crew and artists socially distanced and streaming the content to an online audience. BNP brought on Denver local John Kendrick to assist with the comms solution.
“This concert series was unique in its nature because it was live-streamed with no crowd, so it was going to be unique in its comms solution as well. The producer of the show asked for a completely wireless solution, and I had honestly never done that before for a live show,” Kendrick explained. “But this was a fun experiment, and it worked!”
The event featured two renowned headliners each night, who played to a crowd of production staff and executives, while their main audience tuned in online. The seating area ahead of the FOH mix position was converted into the main stage, whereas the venue’s main stage was used as the production area and for side stage needs, like hair and makeup. Audience interactions were in chat windows on the concert’s website as well as over social media platforms—viewers could choose emojis and make comments or requests that would then be projected on the venue walls via video projection, which was the primary way of bringing the removed audience into the show in real-time.
After a quick consultation with Clear-Com’s application engineering team, it was decided that FreeSpeak II, operating in both the1.9 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands, would be the most appropriate wireless solution. The system was comprised of two FreeSpeak II bases, one operating only 2.4 GHz, the other operating exclusively in 1.9 GHz, 10 1.9 GHz FreeSpeak II transceivers (with two splitters), 10 2.4 GHz FreeSpeak II transceivers (with two splitters), 25 1.9 GHz FreeSpeak II beltpacks, 25 2.4 GHz FreeSpeak II beltpacks, and various lightweight, single-muff and double-muff headsets.
“Getting everyone over to wireless was actually ideal for COVID because it allowed the layout of the tech worlds to be very spaced out to account for social distancing,” stated Kendrick, “And I can’t speak highly enough of the FreeSpeak II Base II CCM. Being able to make every necessary change to a comms pack via my phone, iPad or computer is invaluable in helping maintain social distance and continue working while in this pandemic.”
Key personnel who would require the most point-to-point connections, including directors, production executives, LX board operations, and broadcast audio, were all on 1.9 GHz packs, while support staff including projector technicians, dimmer technicians, and camera operations were on the 2.4 GHz packs and used a 4-wire or 2-wire ties between the systems, creating multiple partylines to get them the calls they needed. Production communications largely relied on six partylines for audio, video, cameras, spots, electrics and the production team.
Aside from ensuring the comms solution was effective, it also needed to be conducive to a safe working environment, in compliance with COVID requirements. “The producer of the show was very proactive in maintaining the health and safety of the artists and the on-site team members,” Kendrick explained.
All traveling staff had to complete COVID nasal swabs prior to travel, all locals were nasal swab tested onsite; daily temperature checks were mandatory each morning and masks were worn at all times. Everyone was assigned their own beltpack and headset to use for the duration of the event, and after the day’s work, batteries were dropped off, sterilized and redistributed the next morning. “Everyone was great about the conditions as I think we were all just happy to be at work and doing the thing we have spent our lives doing. I know for me it was amazing to be back at work and enjoying live music again,” said Kendrick.