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Intercom solutions from RTS play key role in pushing IP-enabled remote broadcast production to the next level

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Intercom solutions from RTS play key role in pushing IP-enabled remote broadcast production to the next level
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Intercom solutions from RTS play key role in pushing IP-enabled remote broadcast production to the next level

One of the staples of large-scale remote broadcast production is the independent audio technician. Based in the Oakland-San Francisco area, Jeremy Katz is just such a freelancer, lending his talents to local, regional, and network broadcasters, primarily for sporting events. He is frequently seen handling a wide range of audio duties for the Pac-12 Network, a regional major college sports network headquartered in San Francisco.

A recent broadcast assignment that characterizes Katz’s use of RTS equipment for remote integration (REMI) production was the Winter Games, where he worked on the opening ceremonies in Beijing, then flew back to the U.S. to join the network’s REMI production crew based in Connecticut. In both locations, Jeremy took the role of Audio Guarantee, assisting the primary audio engineer on site (A1). His duties included working with the RTS intercom systems to ensure smooth production communications for the global telecasts.

"Whether I’m working back home in San Francisco or out on assignment, the RTS intercom gear we use is a constant,” notes Katz. “It’s found in pretty much every broadcast truck in North America, so we’re all familiar with it. It’s universally known and very powerful, which makes it the perfect choice for a global event like the Olympics.”

Initially, Katz was assigned to work in China throughout the Games but, due to COVID protocols, he was called back to the U.S. after the opening ceremonies. As a result, most of the events were covered using a REMI (remote integration model) workflow. But according to Katz, that change didn’t really affect his job much.

“From my perspective, the entire production felt seamless,” he notes. “I would type in an alpha on my RTS keypanel in Connecticut and it would pop up like it always does. Even though we were literally a world apart, operationally it felt like we were just on a normal remote, working in an OB truck together. The director would say something and the camera guy in Beijing would just react in real time, just like on any other broadcast. It was pretty cool.”

RTS technologies played a key role in this intercontinental intercom flexibility, including RTS Trunking, a unique technology that enabled the network’s ODIN and ADAM matrices at both local and global locations to interconnect and act as a single virtual location (a new feature -- Trunking Gain Control – now allows users to adjust listen-volumes for remote assignments as if they were local assignments). The network’s coverage leveraged additional RTS technologies including OMNEO high-quality audio for local communication, RVON for international comms, and VLink virtual matrix.

“Between the U.S. and China, we had over 25 ODIN and ADAM frames deployed, all working together,” Katz explains. “Production needs varied, ranging from the massive opening ceremonies down to smaller events with just an RTS keypanel connected via RVON with a couple of mics and IFBs. The comms team at NBC did a great job. Their system design made it easy for me to see everything in AZedit configuration software and address any frame on the network.” RVON (RTS Voice Over Network) is a proprietary VoIP technology for RTS intercoms that uses standard Ethernet, allowing users to communicate globally over the public internet with no distance limitations or latency issues.

By using RTS intercoms in a global network, the physical location of each participant was less critical. “I was using the same RTS tools I always do, and the latency from Beijing to NBC in Connecticut was insignificant,” says Katz. “In terms of the crew hearing the director and reacting, it didn’t feel any different from a typical live sports remote.”

For Katz, the Winter Games confirmed that the future of live broadcast production will be REMI. “Basically, the remote production model was coming; it just got a push from the pandemic,” he adds. “It’s already been in use on regional sports networks for a while now, and the ability of systems like RTS to scale globally is a big part of that. From my perspective, REMI production is already here; we’re just watching it grow.”