‘It Just Works’ – why Gearhouse Broadcast does the big gigs with Clear-Com
Gearhouse Broadcasts’ powerhouse Event Communications division has covered comms requirements for some of Australia’s biggest live events in 2016, and they’re relying on Clear-Com products to get the job done quickly and reliably. Their FreeSpeak II wireless, HelixNet partyline and Eclipse digital matrix systems have formed the backbone of mega-events like Hillsong Conference and the Queensland and Victorian Schools Spectaculars, ensuring these massive gigs and their live broadcasts run without a hitch.
Taking over Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena and most of its neighbouring venues in Olympic Park, Hillsong Conference was a four-day gathering of more than 30,000 faithful, with all of the production requirements of a massive arena show. Gearhouse Broadcast supplied and operated the comms system, which used 50 FreeSpeak II 1.9GHz beltpacks, one HMS-4X HelixNet main station running 12 HBP-2X HelixNet beltpacks, and an Eclipse Digital Matrix integrated with a second comms system via MADI.
“We had rented Freespeak II to Hillsong in Sydney and Melbourne prior to Conference,” says Jason Owen, manager of Gearhouse’s Event Communications. “It was a good fit for them. The Conference is such a large scale job, and their premiere event of the year. It was a big test for a big system, and it just works. With FreeSpeak II, you’re clear of most other wireless. The audio quality and coverage is better than the competitors, and the setup is easier – we get it set-up in half the time. Another great advantage is the flexibility. If we’re on-site and we need to add another antenna to extend coverage, we don’t need to reset the system, we just add an antenna and the system deals with it automatically. With the competitor’s product, you can’t do that in show mode; you have to take the system down.”
After Hillsong Conference, Gearhouse sent the same crew to Brisbane for the ‘Creative Generations’ Schools Spectacular at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on July 20, a huge show that saw 1,500 students take the stage. The comms system was almost identical in scale and design to Conference, including its digital integration to a second system. Two months later, Gearhouse sent a comprehensive system down to Victoria’s Schools Spectacular at Hisense Arena on 10 September, where it was ably deployed by Peter Cochrane of Articulate. 14 beltpacks of FreeSpeak II and a HelixNet master running 14 wired packs ran the show, while 3,500 students performed for both a live and broadcast audience.
“I had all the stage managers on FreeSpeak II, and the hardwired comms for the followspots and mechanised movement crew,” Peter Cochrane relates. “The most extreme cable run was almost 1,000 metres and I didn’t have a single problem. I had to build the entire system by myself, and the very quick setup made my life much easier. The FreeSpeak II system was key – I turned it on and it just worked. I ran it on four antennas, with one backstage. It sounded great and there were no dropouts. FreeSpeak’s true advantage is total cost of ownership; there’s no prep to do. You pick it off the shelf, take it to the venue, plug it in, and it works. For me, the cost of implementing it on the job was more than worth the cost of hiring it in.”
Gearhouse’s Clear-Com stock will continue its run of Schools Spectaculars when it rolls out on the biggest of them all, the New South Wales ‘Dream Big’ event at Qudos Bank Arena on 25 and 26 November, where both FreeSpeak and HelixNet will be used to coordinate almost 6,000 students, performers, and staff. Gearhouse’s Clear-Com stock has barely seen the warehouse in 2016, but has seen a lot of famous faces – FreeSpeak II in particular. The popularity of the system has seen it used at The Logies, The Australian Open, outside broadcasts for Channel 7’s ‘Sunrise’, and on production for Foxtel’s ‘The Great Australian Bakeoff’. As of the time of writing, FreeSpeak II was on its way to Melbourne for Channel 9’s AFL Grand Final Footy Show.