The X-Factor judges, from left: Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Simon Cowell
FiberPlex’s LightViper VIS-1832 fiber-optic digital snake has been deployed for the internationally syndicated UK television reality show The X-Factor. According to sound supervisor Robert Edwards of Video Sound Services, the system provides a solution for a complex set at Wembley’s Fountain Studios production stage.
On Edwards’ recommendation, UK production company talkbackThames purchased the LightViper system to cover signal transport from mic to mixing console, as well as for talkback needs. With transmission to UK television networks ITV1 and ITV2, Video Sound Services needed an efficient means of delivering the sound from the studio floor to the control room and used the LightViper to create effective tielines over greater distances.
“There are 63 wireless mics plus a lot of LED lighting creating significant RF,” Edwards says. “From a [cabling] point of view, it’s a hostile environment. Some of the signals are hard to keep clean. We have some mics at the judges’ area, and the cable run from the podium in the middle and back to the wall boxes is not the cleanest. But the LightViper cleaned it all up; the short run to the head-end stagebox–bypassing the existing infrastructure–resulted in a much cleaner signal.”
Kelsey Acoustics, which distributes the LightViper System in the UK, manufactured short-run D-Sub cables and a custom 32/8 break-out panel to furnish feeds to the main studio.
The full system includes the compact VIS-1832 32/8 stagebox at front-of-house (accepting 32 XLR or TRS balanced or unbalanced mic/line signals), which connects to a rack unit at the house mixing position via a lightweight, multimode fiber-optic cable. All data transfers are at 24-bit/96 kHz, and optional optical outputs on the stagebox allow splits to a monitor mixer and recording/broadcast feeds.
The network was accomplished using multimode fiber terminated on the new Neutrik Optical Con fiber-optic connectors. The show’s sound production uses the majority of available inputs and all three gain positions, without the need for software.
“Aside from the benefits of using fiber over copper, the LightViper system is a self-contained plug-and-play system with both a remote [stagebox] and tail-end [mixing position],” adds Edwards. “It operates without the need for a laptop, so it’s quick to rig. The system is two-way, so we are sending zero-level returns to the studio floor and using the system as a glorified talkback to the musical director–otherwise the route would be tortuous.”