SVG Sit-Down: Riedel Communications’ Joyce Bente on Supplying Remote Audio Necessities

The company’s Bolero wireless intercom system has played a vital role

Since COVID-19 flipped the sports-video community upside down, teams and organizations have looked for new ways to create and distribute content to their fanbase. With staffers working from home, maintaining internal communication on various projects or productions became a constant hurdle. SVG spoke with Joyce Bente, president, Americas, Riedel Communications, to discuss how the company is helping clients stay on the same page throughout the pandemic.

Riedel Communications’ Joyce Bente: “We’re looking into ways to facilitate remote productions and to allow companies to reopen while keeping their workplace and employees safe.”

What challenges come along with working in a remote setting?
Luckily, well before this started, we started using Microsoft Teams. It wasn’t immediately adopted well within in the group, but now we are constantly doing everything through that platform: all of our meetings and trainings with customers, our own internal training, and mostly [collaborating] with our colleagues since most of us are working remotely. In some cases, it has actually increased our collaboration within the group as well as with our customers, given the ability to share projects, designs, and ideas through the platform. This has made access to each other and our customers way easier and more streamlined.

The one difficult thing has been doing demos and POCs [proof of concepts], but we have found some innovative ways for doing these with online racks and theater, allowing us to bring our customers into the interface online. Obviously, virtual demos don’t really replace a live product demo, where the customer can touch and feel the product, but, at least, it gives them something that comes close.

What are the current projects that the company is involved in? How have some been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Live projects — sports, theaters, etc. — are definitely being affected, but there are still many that are going through, which have included some last-minute design changes to facilitate remote operations.

Then there are the projects that have to be finished, such as the NFL Network, which is utilizing our MediorNet IP edge devices and gateways as well as our Artist Digital Matrix and Bolero comms. We’ve also recently installed MediorNet in the Prudential Center, where we replaced their aging signal and communications infrastructure with our distributed network along with our Intercom backbone. But it certainly hasn’t been easy as we’ve definitely had some challenges finishing up new stadium builds like Allegiant Stadium with the Las Vegas Raiders and the SoFi Stadium with the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, due to some COVID-related issues, but, luckily, much of what we can do can be done remotely.

What solutions are being given to customers to produce content from home? Do you believe that these remote workflows will continue to be leveraged after the pandemic?
We have been working diligently with our customers to come up with some different and new workflows to help them continue with their projects. Remote productions are not a luxury anymore, since it has been a priority since March. We’ve always had the ability to remote panels over a wide-area–network connection, and we also have virtual control panels for PCs as well as apps for iOS and Android devices.

While everybody is being forced to do at-home workflows, they are still seeing that they can get the job done. It’s sometimes with added efficiencies, not only with our audio products but also our main IP video line. With our purchase of Embrionix, we now have a box called the Fusion 6B. This unit can be placed on a camera, and the signal can be sent back to the studio via IP with an SDI 2110 gateway. As you can see, on the video side as well as on the audio side, we have a lot of very good remote solutions.

How has technological progress been maintained despite the current circumstances?
Our R&D initiatives have not slowed down at all, and, in fact, they have actually increased. This company is all about innovation — always has been and always will be — so we’re not only looking into ways of improving our current technologies to facilitate these remote productions by addressing issues like improved audio quality and increasing security, but we’re also working on some technologies to allow companies to reopen while keeping their workplace and employees safe.

For example, one of our R&D hubs located in New Zealand typically focuses on GPS tracking devices for high-performance water sports, like sailing and kayaking, by designing and creating hardware and software solutions to help coaches and analysts boost their athletes’ performances. [It has] developed a new distance-monitoring device called DisTag. DisTag can alert employees when they’re not keeping safe distances from each other visually, auditorily, or with haptics.

We also have another R&D hub in Germany, which had already developed a real-time crowd-management system and now [has] incorporated thermal body testing. Instead of having your temperature taken by someone in front of you, you walk up to this scanner, and it reads for body temperature and will display on the screen a green light (go) or red light (stop).

Overall, [founder] Thomas Riedel is a highly creative engineering-driven man. He likes to see innovation, and he definitely likes to keep things moving and shaking. It can be a crazy place to work, but I really love it.