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Firehouse Productions Taps Riedel for VMAs, Latin Grammys

Firehouse Productions, a provider of live-sound support for concerts and live award events, selected an integrated solution of Riedel’s Artist digital intercom matrix and new Performer Digital Party Line (DPL) for the MTV Video Music Awards. Faced with the challenge of coordinating setup for a preshow performance on the roof of 30 Rockefeller Center—80 stories above the streets of New York City—and with no roof access to analog or copper wires, Firehouse used Riedel’s Artist 64 and DPL to provide intercom communications during the show.

“The building had fiber optics installed from the ground floor up to the roof, so we just plugged in at the ground floor and set up the entire system,” explains Mark Dittmar, vice president/system design and engineering at Firehouse. “With the Riedel system, there are no distance limitations; it sounds as good 10 feet away as it sounds 4,000 feet away.”

The Artist platform is a digital matrix design for intercoms as well as the distribution of analog and digital audio and TCP/IP data signals. The series provides three mainframe sizes with a maximum number of 32, 64 and 128 ports per frame. As many as 128 matrix mainframes can be connected by dual optical fiber rings to form a single large, full summing, non-blocking distributed matrix. The system is scalable from 8×8 to 1,024×1024 ports, and the maximum distance between nodes is from 1,650 feet to 12 miles, depending on setup. Each control key panel is connected by coax, CAT5 or fiber, always providing AES3 broadcast quality audio on the panel. Riedel’s Performer DPL series is an integrated digital matrix and party-line intercom. Though completely digital, it still maintains all the features found in a traditional analog party line system, including daisy-chaining.

For the MTV Latin VMAs in Mexico City, Firehouse was able to complete setup in one day by using Riedel’s technology solutions. Rather than having to run substantial amounts of copper wire, Firehouse ran two fiber-optic cables, providing the crew with instant access to inputs and outputs for intercom connectivity.

“One of the major benefits to using the Riedel system is you end up running a lot less wire,” says Dittmar. “You run a couple of long fiber optics, and that replaces thousands of pounds of wire. It makes transport and installation much easier for the setup crew.”

Along with streamlining the installation process, Riedel’s technology eliminated traditional intercom noise. “When used with the Digital Party Line, the Artist matrix eliminates background noise and buzz, so you are not communicating with something that sounds like a telephone 10 hours a day,” explains Dittmar. “The system has a nice, full frequency response and minimizes the fatigue factor.”

Satisfied with the Artist’s and DPL’s performance, Firehouse used the technologies at the Latin Grammy Awards—using up to four Artist 64 frames for this show. Similar to the configuration at the Latin VMAs, two fiber optic cables were run to front of house and backstage, with setup complete in about a day-and-a-half.

For the Latin Grammy Awards, as well as with other projects using Riedel systems, the crew felt that it was readily prepared for last minute changes. “Going into a show, you need flexibility to quickly adjust,” Dittmar says. “Other intercom systems are much more restricted and require a lot of wires. With the Riedel system, you can set up communication with anyone on the system. This allows us to make changes or additions instantaneously.”

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