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Sight & Sound Theatre

Sight & Sound Theatres Improves 'Com System

For the Sight & Sound Lancaster theatres, Tempest900 was a great choice because they needed a high density of users and had a limited budget. The 32 users can all be accommodated by using the Tempest’s Shared Mode. Tempest offers three software-selectable modes. Normal mode can run five BeltStations unrestricted with one BaseStation. Split Mode provides the ability to use four BeltStations with access to all features, plus a single channel with unlimited BeltStations listening to one person talking at any time. Shared Mode, which is the most appropriate for Sight & Sound Lancaster, allows any BeltStation user to listen to any of the four channels, and as many as five BeltStation users can talk at a given time. This all allows the system to support a very complex audio communications environment at a very low cost per user.

Sight & Sound Lancaster has three Tempest BaseStations but they could easily run all 32 BeltStations from a single BaseStation. Adding additional BaseStations allowed more flexibility in the number of intercom channels available for the users. They chose distribute a common production channel to all of the BaseStations and users, and also have several unique intercom channels for various production communication needs. For example, there could be 10 users on one BaseStation and 11 on another BaseStation and 11 on the third BaseStation. These bases can have a channel — for example channel A — as the show program, fed to all users. The first BaseStation can then have channels B, C and D that are completely separate from channels B, C and D on the other BaseStations. So BaseStation one might have a production channel, audio, and stage manager while BaseStation two might have the production channel plus lighting, and the audio channel on another channel. Depending upon how they are connected, they can either get four identical channels or split them. It’s a tremendous amount of flexibility.

The Tempest900 system operating in the 900 MHz band was appropriate for Sight & Sound Lancaster because it has inherently greater range than other systems, especially through barriers such as concrete walls. The theatre is a very large facility, and there are techs working under the stage that need to be in communication with people above-stage and in other areas of the building. The Tempest900 system is perfect for this particular application because it enables the users to reach all areas of the facility with reliable communications.

What helps Tempest to coexist with other RF devices is a system called FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum). This technique allows the RF to change frequencies hundreds of times per second, avoiding conflicts with other RF devices. Additionally, we use a technique called TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access), which makes for a very efficient digital RF signal.  As Warren mentioned, by moving the intercom out of UHF into the ISM bands Tempest’s RF design and frequency range allows the facility more UHF spectrum for talent microphones and other devices that are better suited for UHF.

Though Sight & Sound Lancaster is a professional organization, many religious organizations rely upon volunteer help. Crews can change daily often with non-technical users. Tempest is very simple to set up and operate so the BeltStations make an excellent choice for this environment. We spent a great deal of time on the engineering side to make sure that a sophisticated device has a simple and easy-to-use interface.