Game Time Plays To Win With
Telex Coaches' Intercom
by Dan Daley
Tech Focus: Intercoms Move Deeper into Networked Mode
The broadcast sports community looks to finally make the transition to IP
By Dan Daley, Audio Editor
Intercoms have been transporting audio over IP for a decade. Broadcast sports, however, has been playing catch-up in the category. “We’ve been seeing this on the entertainment side for some time, where they’re more used to trying new things,” observes Vinnie Macri, product marketing manager, Clear-Com.
However, he adds, the sheer scale of intercom for sports productions puts IP bandwidth costs out of reach for all but the biggest, which require dedicated bandwidth from ISPs like Comcast. For the vast majority of broadcasts, such as the hundreds of collegiate games done each year, rented trunked IP would not be cost-effective.
The Internet is an alternative but not for complex productions. “You can’t put Dante or AES67 on the Internet; a Dante stream is 1 Gigabit,” Macri adds. “The benefit of the network is the ability to share [data] over LANs and WANs, especially from venue to venue, such as at the Olympics.”
Bexel’s Rod Allen sees in IP the potential for an intercom tool for budget-challenged sports distributors.
However, the use of Internet connections for moving comms audio on a larger scale appears inevitable, and Clear-Com is looking to its LQ Series interfaces, which can connect two-wire and four-wire audio and call signaling over IP networks as a solution. Macri cites Golf Channel proof-of-concept tests during a tournament at the Doral Golf Resort in Miami last year: eight IP interfaces sent four four-wire comms and IFB audio to the network’s broadcast facility in Orlando. Golf Channel tested a similar configuration of the LQ interfaces at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, GA, last April.
Andy Cocallas, owner of Game Time Communications, sees IP-based intercoms as a solution to disappearing RF spectrum. Game Time has provided intercoms for all 32 NFL stadiums and London’s Wembley Stadium, as well as for numerous Division I, II, and III colleges and high schools.
“Aside from the lower latency and better sound we’re experiencing with audio-over-IP, it’s also more affordable because it eliminates the need for base stations: you can take a direct feed from the beltpack to a network switch,” he explains. “That helps sell it to high schools and smaller colleges and broadcasters, which accelerates its uptake.”
It’s not a perfect solution for large networks. Cocallas cites the need for IT knowledge to keep large networks up and running, as well as the fact that a full-duplex intercom system can cut into network bandwidth. However, each active source on a 100-Mbit VLAN network uses only a fraction of a percent of that bandwidth.
“A system can be used on an existing network and uses only a small part of available bandwidth and does not degrade the host network,” he points out. “It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.”
Loss of spectrum is a concern for wireless comms and IFB. Broadcasters and manufacturers alike are phasing out systems that use UHF spectrum, reserving what’s left for wireless microphones. “We’re looking at newer technologies, digital technologies, and higher frequency ranges to address the issue,” says Macri.
According to Rod Allen, senior project manager, Bexel — which sells, rents and manages communications systems for broadcast and other productions — migration to IP-based transport is taking place across the range of intercom types. Two-wire beltpack-based systems have been moved further in that direction by Clear-Com’s HelixNet partyline system, he says, adding that four-wire systems have been using IP-based systems from Clear-Com, Riedel, and Telex for various applications for some time. In particular, he notes how many organizations have been using RTS’s RVON interface to connect VoIP into their ADAM intercom frames.
In terms of wireless communications, Allen points out that the 1.9- and 2.4-GHz ranges are already proving to be viable alternatives to the disappearing UHF bands. He notes that such systems as Clear-Com's recently upgraded Free Speak ll wireless intercom systems and CoachComm's Tempest systems, which use an antenna system that can be rolled out over Cat 5 and Cat 6 cabling, can provide comprehensive wireless intercom systems for widely dispersed events.
Looking over the horizon at the potential for WiFi systems, Allen says that products like IntraCom’s V.Com system, which lets personal devices like smartphones plug into a network and act like beltpacks, point toward an intercom tool available to budget-challenged sports distributors, such as small and midsize collegiate and regional sports networks.
Intercoms are one more part of the broadcast-audio ecosphere that’s moving from the circuit to the network. And, even though it’s taking place as the price of copper drops to record levels, the upshot will be faster, simpler, clearer communications.
Spring Issue AFCA 2019
When it comes to coach-to-coach communication along
the sideline, football coaches across America know their
headsets must perform on game day and during practice
if they want to win. Nothing is more frustrating than
implementing and deploying the perfect game plan, only to
be thwarted by your own technology when it matters most.
Football coaches have identified four major factors that
influence their choice of sideline communication systems:
ease of-use, reliability, versatility and price.
In each of these categories, the Vokkero Guardian C2C
System reigns supreme, and it should come as no surprise.
Just a cursory review of Vokkero’s roots demonstrates the
company’s pedigree. Vokkero is owned by Adeunis. For
football coaches who don’t know, Adeunis connects soccer
referees on a global scale, allowing them to communicate
with each other during some of the most contentious and
visible soccer matches in the world.
But don’t just take Vokkero’s word for it. Football coaches
across the U.S. who currently use Vokkero’s Guardian
C2C System have testified on the platform’s ease-of-use,
reliability, versatility and price.
These days, coaches like to practice how they play. That
means gearing up with headsets for not only games, but
practices. Jeff Gough, head coach of Hudson (Ohio) High
School, loves how easy it is to configure and manage the
Vokkero Guardian C2C System.
“Setup time is two minutes or three minutes, period,” says
Gough. “We’ve had other boxes where it takes two people
installing cables and making sure they have power stations
set up, where we have to install antennas, suction-cupped to
the glass or clamped on. It’s just not feasible.”
Charlie Wilburn, head coach at Buckhorn (Ala.) High
School, says he loves the Vokkero Guardian C2C System
because he knows it will work when he most needs it.
“We had a situation two years ago with a different system;
we were playing at a stadium in Huntsville, and we’re about
five plays into a series and all of sudden, I can’t talk to my
staff on the sideline,” he says. “You have one incident like
that and you realize, buying headsets is a major investment.
The thing you’re investing in is dependability and the fact
that they’re going to work every time. With Vokkero, I was
really impressed by the quality of their people, the quality
of their sound and the quality of their product.”
Blake Annen is head football coach at Carmel Catholic (Ill.)
High School. He brought the Vokkero Guardian C2C System
into his program just last year, and it’s paying off in terms of its
versatility. Because the system doesn’t have a base station and
is so easy to set up, coaches can use the system during practice
so teams can practice like they play. On top of that, if the
master unit is on, then all of the other units just work.
“No base station was a big selling point for me and my
coaches,” says Annen. “I don’t need an IT department to set it
up. We don’t have to worry about how many coaches we have
in the press box, how many are on the field, and so on. If I have
a coach who’s in the box at halftime and I want him to come
down to the field I don’t have to worry about switching headsets
and wondering who’s got what and where. It’s really flexible.”
In addition to its glowing reviews, versatility, reliability
and ease-of-use, Vokkero’s Guardian C2C System still
remains one of the most affordable sideline communication
systems available to football coaches.
“With Vokkero, the quality is great, the ease of going back
and forth on channels, nothing was interfered with, no
frequency mismatching. It was all really good,” says Gough.
“Then the price point was right where we want to be so it’s
worked out perfect.”
For more information, visit https://vokkerousa.com/.