As part of a video production technology upgrade initiative, the team at Harvard Athletics chose Clear-Com®’s intercom solutions to enhance their production value and improve their remote production flexibility.
Home to 42 intercollegiate sports teams and one of the largest Division 1 athletic teams in the country, the Harvard Athletics team is driven by the mission of education through athletics. The Harvard Athletics Content & Strategic Communications department, led by Associate Director of Athletics, Imry Halevi, plays a dynamic role in live game broadcasts, video board productions and other related multimedia activities. Putting on a live college sports broadcast production takes a village, including the technology, the talent and energy from a full-time multimedia staff, as well as the contributions of students and recent graduates from local colleges.
The ability to connect an entire sports event production team located in many different places calls for an innovative approach, which is why Harvard Athletics chose Clear-Com’s intercom solutions. “In the fast-paced world of sports production, efficient communications technology and coordination between our team is critical,” comments Imry. “The Clear-Com intercom solutions are the backbone of communications between the entire production team. With 20+ team members working on a sports production on many different tasks at any given time, it’s imperative that people can talk and communicate with each other; whether it’s the camera team at the venue, the commentators, the band and music directors, the marketing and promotional team on the field, or the technical production team in the control room.”
To address this crucial communication workflow, Harvard uses the Clear-Com Encore® Partyline analog intercom system with a MS-704 base station in the control room, which in turn supports up to 55 beltpacks or 10 speaker stations and 4 channels. The five-channel, full-duplex FreeSpeak II® wireless intercom system enables the team to also have an untethered communication system in place so the team can roam freely through the event production.
“The most recent Clear-Com addition to our setup is the FreeSpeak II system, which has made a huge difference to our football games in particular,” Imry says. “Due to the sheer size of the stadium and the amount of people involved in the production, having the ability to have wireless communications has been a significant shift for us.”
The ability for the production team to communicate via both a wireless and wired workflow that allows them to share the same resources provides them with an immense amount of freedom and mobility. Likewise, they can be confident they will stay connected anywhere and everywhere throughout the entire event. Although football is typically the most complex production for the university, Harvard uses Clear-Com solutions for all its games and athletics, including water polo, fencing, rowing, sailing, soccer, basketball, swimming and many others.
Both the control room and the stadiums/venues are equipped with Clear-Com LQ® Series IP Interfaces, allowing Harvard Athletics to move their communications onto their campus network. By using the LQ devices in conjunction with Encore and FreeSpeak II, the production team has been able to greatly simplify the production process.
“We are heavy users of the LQ Series,” says Imry. “We have 4-channel LQs in our two control rooms, and 2-channel mobile LQs at our nine or ten different venues where we play from. These LQ units allow us to tie together all the communications from those different locations for sending back to our control rooms where production happens.”
And for times when users are away from the main facility or stadium, they have access to Agent-IC®, a mobile app that connects to an LQ via WiFi or cellular connection, and provides communication access on mobile phones or tablets.
“[With Agent-IC], I can call in on my phone and be a part of the conversation, as if I was still in the control room,” Imry continues. “This ease of use and flexibility has given us so many more communication options.”
Long gone are the days of setting up for a local production at the venue or stadium. The tech team simply sets up camera operators at the game, with all other gear staying centralized in the control room. With over 325 home games a year, sometimes five or six games going on at once, and truly remote events such as out-of-state ski or rowing competitions, this remote production application extends the reach of the system, allows for scaling of productions when necessary and proves that when it comes to their communications, distance is immaterial.
Imry believes that connection and mobility are key when it comes to a successful (and sophisticated) intercom communication system. “The ability to connect different Clear-Com systems from multiple places and buildings, support an IP workflow, remove complicated cable runs, and incorporate wired and wireless into a single infrastructure as well as the assurance of low latency and reliable communications has truly enhanced the way we approach our productions,” he says. “I also appreciate the resiliency of the Clear-Com products, and when we do need their help, their customer support is exceptional. Plus, they’re always innovating.”