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FreeSpeak II Hits the High Notes at Live MTV Video Music Awards


Firehouse Productions, the New York/Las Vegas Audio and Communications vendor, has for the first time selected Clear-Com® 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 (MSG) on Sunday, August 28, 2016. The VMAs featured performances, interviews, red carpet coverage and extensive social media exposure with A-list music industry 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 MSG venue thanks to 20 integrated Transceiver Antennas and 25 wireless beltpacks.
As the U.S. music industry’s premiere music video event, “the MTV VMAs are incredibly challenging to produce live,” said Vinny Siniscal, Director of Firehouse’s RF & Communications Division. “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. We knew it would work well in advance, thanks to the FreeSpeak II’s innovative site survey mode.”
“Having been involved with production equipment for the VMAs in one form or another since 2000 – previous years, coverage of this spread-out event has required a huge amount of wired and wireless infrastructure,” added Siniscal. “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 wireless intercoms are particularly welcomed 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.”
Firehouse Productions also likes the 18 hour per charge endurance of the small FreeSpeak II wireless beltpacks. Each one can support up to five configurable channels per unit, plus they come with a convenient bottom-mounted LED flashlight.
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 said.
With all the details that must be coordinated to produce the 2016 VMAs live, setting up the FreeSpeak II wireless intercom has proven to be a quick, stress-free experience for the Firehouse Productions team. “Everyone here loves this system,” said Siniscal. “It works every time!”
“Clear-Com is honored to have its FreeSpeak II system associated with such a major event as the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards,” said James Schaller, Clear-Com’s Regional Sales Manager, Northeastern USA. “The FreeSpeak II wireless intercom system has worked flawlessly in many A-list Award Shows and Live TV broadcasts. It is definitely the de facto standard in wireless intercom systems for Live Event productions.”