Firehouse Productions and Focusrite Serve Up Sound for 2017 International Indian Film Academy Awards Extravaganza
The annual International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) ceremonies are stadium-filling multimedia and live entertainment extravaganzas. Following the practice of international migration of the event between cities with strong local Indian communities, IIFA 2017 took place at the New Jersey/New York MetLife Stadium in mid-July. Redhook, NY-based Firehouse Productions provided audio support with a drive system powered by RedNet Dante™-networked audio interfaces from Focusrite, with the event providing a critical test that the network aced, according to Firehouse’s Luis Espinal, systems tech on the project. “This is it. It proved the point. The connectivity and how everything came up together – it was truly mind-blowing,” Espinal enthused.
Firehouse Productions provided all sound gear for the stadium and all communications for IIFA 2017. Firehouse senior audio tech Simon Welch and senior RF/PL technician Vinny Siniscal led the team of 12 “Firemen” onsite. “The most exciting part of the event was the ability to use our newly designed routing and network solution, built of Focusrite RedNet Products,” said Espinal. “We had a total of 18 RedNet devices operational on site. They functioned as the drive system, for routing I/O between locations through-out the stadium and for interface with the TV truck. We used RedNet D16R 16-channel AES3 I/O, RedNet A16R 16-channel analog I/O and RedNet A8R eight-channel analog I/O units to drive the PA through a large Dante network. We also used Focusrite’s RedNet AM2 stereo audio monitoring unit as a Dante listening device, so we could move on with the production part of the show and still follow line checks without the need to be next to guest mixers. The RedNet RedNet D64R 64-channel MADI bridge was used to interface through optical MADI, which then was converted to Dante that then fed 64 4-Wire ports for communications.”
Normal communications link connections would have required analog snakes with two twisted-wire pairs and a male and a female XLR per port – and four to five hours of setup and configuration. “It was a dream come true when we only had to patch a single ST Duplex MM fiber connection to the truck. Like magic, we had 64 bi-directional ports available immediately.”
That fiber link model was continued all around the stadium. “All locations were connected through fiber for an easy I/O distribution at any point throughout the venue – remarkable,” said Espinal. “There was pretty much no wire longer than 100 feet deployed, due to our large star network of RedNet devices.” That infrastructure helped Firehouse fulfill the client’s vision, even when that vision was a moving target on the second day of the event, as requests for a pair of speakers in a remote location under stage, additional foldbacks, the creation of an off-stage dance rehearsal area and other last-minute production demands came in rapidly. Espinal reported that, with the Focusrite RedNet system providing easily-implemented solutions, every challenge was easily answered within minutes. By avoiding much of the conventional and expensive connection and hardware infrastructure, and preproduction issues like software and firmware status, Espinal says the RedNet system “absolutely saved time, money and resources.”
The system efficiency and stability was remarkable to Espinal. “I’ve never seen this in my lifetime in broadcast,” he declared. There was rain during the setup and rehearsal days (causing the PA and video walls to be taken down) with no recovery issues like he would have expected with an analog set-up. “For seven days in a row, outdoors, with 100-degree temperatures and a live event, we never had to reboot/restart or give it a break,” he concludes, “RedNet surpassed our expectations.” Though each of the three RedNet-centric racks housing the drive system component had only one fan each, Expinal reported, rack temperatures never broke the 100-degree mark, unlike some of the other gear racks. “Finally, there’s a product that I don’t need to power cycle or turn off every night.”
The development of the project was spread across six months, reports Espinal. Phase one focused on the network infrastructure, making sure the Cisco enterprise-level 24-port switches would work the way he wanted. The large network solution designed by Espinal would carry internet access, intercoms, program audio and POE cameras (for monitoring temperature, rain penetration and gear indicators), with network functions split between multiple VLANs.
Adam Loesch, Firehouse senior audio technician from its Las Vegas location, brought his Dante network experience to the next phase of the project, joining Espinal in drawing up the initial system configuration. The concept was shared with Firehouse owner/CEO Bryan Olson, who Espinal describes as “very forward-thinking on new technology.” Even though Firehouse had limited prior experience with Focusrite gear, they trusted the brand and RedNet hardware designs enough to take the plunge. The system purchase was made, and two weeks later, 18 RedNet boxes were racked and tested. “This is where Firehouse was going to move if it was good,” said Espinal. The post show conclusion was an affirmation of the vision.
“We have officially moved to this as the only Firehouse drive system configuration,” said Espinal, adding that 14 more Focusrite RedNet units were subsequently purchased, and, as older systems have been retired, purchase of another 36 RedNet units is planned in a matter of weeks, “so we can have three fully networked drive systems.”
“RedNet truly shined on this project,” concludes Espinal. “We look forward to working with our next generation of Focusrite Rednet-based networked systems.”