Stage Sound Services, one of the UK’s leading audio and video rental companies specializing in theater and live events, recently expanded its existing Clear-Com® inventory with a significant investment in HelixNet digital network partyline and FreeSpeak II digital wireless solutions. The systems – which are already in use on the Old Vic’s production of A Christmas Carol, the Blue Man Group’s world tour and the critically acclaimed musical Come From Away – were supplied by Clear-Com’s Partner Amber Sound.
“We have used Clear-Com systems for a long time – they are really the industry standard for theater, people always ask for Clear-Com for their communications,” said James Lewis, Commercial Manager, Stage Sound Services. “We have a lot of analog partyline inventory, and while people still use it – particularly when budgets are tighter – when it came to selecting new equipment, it made more sense for us to invest in digital systems.”
The company purchased six 4-channel HelixNet main stations and 26 HelixNet 4-channel remote stations, with 24 HelixNet beltpacks and a number of 2-wire and 4-wire interface modules, and Ethernet modules. The order also included seven FreeSpeak II base stations and 50 FreeSpeak II beltpacks, plus transceivers, splitters and battery chargers. The FreeSpeak II systems all work at 1.9GHz to avoid the traffic issues experienced by many theaters at 2.4GHz.
“We already had a number of FreeSpeak II systems that we’ve been very happy with, so that was an easy decision; and HelixNet opens a whole new avenue of different options, with the ability to utilize and add so many more channels than before,” Lewis said.
The systems are already being put to work on three high profile yet very different productions. London’s renowned Old Vic theater presents an acclaimed production of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Jack Thorne, whose credits also include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. While the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future tell their stories to Ebenezer Scrooge, a FreeSpeak II system with five wireless beltpacks provides the non-ghostly communications for the production, which runs until the end of January 2019.
The internationally renowned Blue Man Group has just embarked upon a ten month world tour, starting in Cologne, Germany. The show will play mainly in larger theatres, which means wide areas to cover. This set-up features two HelixNet main stations and eight 4-channel remote stations with 20 FreeSpeak II beltpacks to ensure the crew can roam freely. The system is also easy to set up and de-rig, which is important with a show that moves regularly to new venues.
The Tony award-winning musical Come From Away is set in the week following the 9/11 attacks and tells the true story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small towns of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. While the musical continues a US national tour, a British cast is bringing the show to Dublin during December 2018 and January 2018, and then transferring to the Phoenix Theatre in London in February 2018. Stage Sound Systems has provided a HelixNet system for the Dublin and London shows.
“It has been great to get the new systems straight out and working, and the reason we can do that is their reliability. Communications for live theater is one of those things that just has to work – and we know we can depend on our Clear-Com systems,” Lewis concluded.