Live From PyeongChang: Riedel’s Marc Schneider on Wireless Communications at the Games
Starting with the Opening Ceremony, the company is overseeing very complex operations
If there is one country on the planet that is all-in on wireless technologies, it’s South Korea. Wi-Fi, and 4G wireless services are everywhere, and next-generation 5G cellular services are also top of mind. So, when the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday night kicks off 18 days of competition here, wireless technologies will clearly play a big role behind the scenes. And, alongside those efforts, Riedel will be working hard to ensure that things go well.
“The Koreans are more interested and open to using wireless technologies,”says Marc Schneider, director, global events, Riedel. “Here we have a standard range of signal distribution across the events with the Artist intercom system, and Bolero is being used for radio interfaces for the production side.”
Riedel has a 30-person team onsite to make sure that 60 wireless positions, 40 wired-panel positions, a couple of wired beltpacks, and upwards of 5,000 Masscast wireless units help all involved in production of the Opening Ceremony stay connected. The ceremony, like all recent ceremonies, is a complex piece of choreography, with cast members needing to be staged, sent in for the show, and gotten off quickly.
“Wireless is going to change things quite a lot,” says Schneider. “It opens some new doors for new ideas at these events.”
Those new ideas demand high-quality signals, and, on that front, Bolero delivers, says Schneider. It allows a higher number of wireless channels, six, to be used and also offers improved audio quality.
“It’s full-bandwidth audio and sounds like you are sitting at a wired panel instead of a beltpack,” he points out. The key is better handling of signal reflections, thanks to a major R&D effort by Riedel. “Wireless communication has never seen anything like this before.”
The Masscast in-ear pieces and receivers will play a key role in the Opening Ceremony, with thousands of cast members relying on the FM receivers for their cues. They are also low-cost, around $12 apiece; handing out 5,000 expensive devices would quickly add millions to the cost of a production.
This year’s Opening Ceremony does have a smaller headcount than previous efforts, so setting up the transmission system required only four cables to four antennas. Riedel relied on its local distributor, DYD, whose local knowledge allowed Riedel to assemble a quality team of South Korean staffers and also to have a steady presence during buildup.
The use of dedicated cellular networks is starting to play a role in productions at the Olympics, most notably in transmission of wireless camera systems from the bobsled at the bobsleigh events. The Opening Ceremony won’t make use of it, and Schneider says issues with such networks include how much harm public users can do to the robustness of signals and that there is no fallback mode in case the initial signal is compromised.
“They also use a PTP server to run the controls between the terminals and network, and, if you kill those servers, you have nothing,” he adds. “With our radios, if the sites go down, you still have direct modes so that the end-user devices are never useless. Radio-to-radio will always work.”
Riedel’s presence at the Games also includes helping Korean Telecom with gap cabling at the venues and providing audio and video support at the Nations Village, which is where nations like Switzerland, the U.S., and Sweden have their Olympic Committee Houses, where athletes and guests can relax and network.