The FreeSpeak II system has integrated effortlessly into the Wharf Theatre's existing Clear-Com wired system
Australia - In live theatre, communication between the stage manager, sound and lighting operators, stage hands, fly crew and all the other people behind-the-scenes that bring a show to life is paramount. In an environment where half a second can mean the difference between an audience crying or laughing, it's absolutely vital that the command to 'go' on cue comes through clean and clear.

Ben Lightowlers, head of sound at Sydney Theatre Company's Wharf Theatres, had been looking for almost two years for a digital replacement for their aging wireless comms system, but kept coming up against the recurring problems of sound quality and digital signal latency. "There were teething problems in digital wireless technology," he related. "Latency was a problem across many brands, and the audio quality just wasn't there. Latency was particularly troubling; if there's someone sitting next to you talking on comms, you'd be hearing them talk and then hearing them again 500 milliseconds later in your headphones. It's very distracting, and as far as getting your cue right, it's a pointless exercise."

Late in 2014, Clear-Com released FreeSpeak II, a digital wireless comms system operating in the globally license-free 1.897 to 1.933GHz range. Ben was intrigued, and trialled a demonstration system provided by Australian distributor Jands. "We did a demo and it sold itself," he said. "It has low latency, it's clear, and its wireless coverage is impressive." Sydney Theatre Company invested in one FreeSpeak II-Base base station, eight FreeSpeak II Beltpacks, two AC-60 Battery Chargers, and three FreeSpeak II Active Antennas.

Ben and the team have configured their FreeSpeak II system to run four communications loops; show loop, stage management loop, sound loop, and lighting loop. Each Beltpack is capable of receiving five separate loops, and accesses them through four programmable push buttons.

The FreeSpeak II system has integrated effortlessly into the Wharf Theatre's existing Clear-Com wired system, giving technicians the option of staying wired at control positions or going mobile. "Our regular lighting operator has gone over to the FreeSpeak Beltpack," Ben reported. "He keeps it plugged directly to the charger, but at interval, if he needs to do a preset or leave the board, he can unplug and stay on comms without any trouble."

(Jim Evans)

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