Clear-Com facilitates communications at National Geographic Explorer of the Year Awards

The National Geographic’s campus in Washington, D.C. takes up most of a city block. This condition poses a potential challenge to event communications. Recently, the venue has hosted the 2022 Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year Awards celebrations. To tackle the communication challenge, FC-Production deployed a digital Clear-Com system.

FC-Production included Clear-Com’s FreeSpeak II Digital Wireless Intercom and HelixNet Digital Partyline Intercom, distributed via 10 transceivers deployed across Nat Geo’s headquarters. While the main event was in the theater, there was a secondary space for overflow and an outside courtyard with a sound system and stage for DJs.

“Previously, those systems were parceled out to several different groups,” explained FC-Production’s Operations Manager, Joseph Foley. “Usually, that included vendors (for whom) intercom wasn’t a primary focus, which presented numerous challenges. The interface alone created headaches. Not to mention, vendors were bringing in a mix of analog and digital equipment, a mish-mash of different manufacturers’ products, and different ages of gear. So, this year, they brought us in from day one to avoid the inevitable problems and to streamline everything with FreeSpeak II and HelixNet.”

In all, FC-Production deployed 25 FreeSpeak II beltpacks and 20 HelixNet beltpacks. “Anyone who didn’t need to be mobile got HelixNet, and any of us that had to move from space to space were on FreeSpeak,” Foley said. A central master control was located in the theatre and ‘spidered’ out over fiber to the other viewing areas. Then, they distributed HelixNet and FreeSpeak over POE and Cat5, and deployed FreeSpeak splitter units at each location and transceivers for the FreeSpeak. “So, this was the first year they weren’t using long runs of copper XLR, 700feet across the campus, and trying to interface with individual strands of intercom from venue to venue.”

For the first time, National Geographic could have a centralized video director cut the streaming portion of the show and communicate with every operator, anywhere on site, a function that was greatly appreciated by event producers. “They were thrilled with the packs,” Foley said, “not only because they never dropped out, even in catering three floors up from where the main events were happening, but because they never had to worry about being able to reach the people they needed to.”


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