AVS Provides Aerial Images for ABC’s Niagara Falls Tightrope Stunt Broadcast
Nik Wallenda’s successful walk over Niagara Falls from the U.S. to the Canadian side via a tightrope was a record breaking feat. To capture the visual and audio of the three-hour primetime event, ABC turned to Aerial Video Systems (AVS) to provide HD RF links, wireless mics. and comms.
AVS provided a total of eight HD RF paths, seventeen channels of wireless mics. and twelve channels of comms. The infrastructure included AVS’ RF over fiber system on both sides of the border. A temporary fiber optic cable flown across the falls parallel to Nicks hi-wire provided connectivity with backup RF links providing redundancy. This gave AVS the advantage of receiving all signals in AVS RF-1 at the TV compound. Additionally AVS provided the RF links for the Flycam and the Wallenda POV camera.
For the Wallenda POV camera, AVS used a waterproofed Toshiba HD RH1 cube camera, which was mounted on his balance pole. The camera was cabled to a customized “fanny” pack containing a mini-HD microwave transmitter and battery. “The camera and transmitter delivered the stunning shots I was looking for of Nik’s footwork on the wire with the raging waters and Niagara Falls below,” said Randy Hermes, president of AVS.
Overhead in a Twin star helicopter, one of AVS’ three Cineflex gyro-stabilized camera systems delivered pictures via a Link L1500 microwave system. The aerials not only captured the drama of Wallenda’s 1,850 foot trek across the wire but all the breathtaking shots and splendor of Niagara Falls. James Goldston, the ABC News executive overseeing the production, stated that it was “a truly beautiful spectacle.”
There was a large contingent of ABC-Good Morning America reporters on both the American and Canadian sides covering all aspects of the event. AVS’ mics. and comms. kept everyone seamlessly in contact with the show and each other. This included Wallenda’s comms, which made it possible for Nik to communicate with the show anchors and his father as he made his way 200 feet above the falls in route to the Canadian side. Nik was even overhead offering up some prayers….which were apparently answered.
As for the frequency coordination, AVS worked closely with the local coordinator in Buffalo, AFTRCC and the FCC on the US side and Industry Canada on the Canadian side. AVS used frequencies in the 1.4GHz, 2GHz, 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz and 6.5GHz bands along with numerous coordinated UHF channels.
In an email after the broadcast, ABC’s Goldston wrote the broadcast was “tons of fun,” and also “incredibly technically complex.”