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A High-flying Audiovisual Backbone, Part 1

Oct 12, 2010 12:00 PM, With Bennett Liles

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I can imagine all the calculations that would have to be done, because not only do they have to figure the weight in the g-forces, but they also have to calculate the arm that is the distance of the weight from the center of gravity, which would have a big effect on how nose-up or -down the plane wants to fly. Now I understand you also set up a complete mobile airport with control tower and everything. How long did it take for you to set that up, and how many people were involved in that?
We have a team of 22 people doing this project, and it takes about 10 days to set up. And then you have some days of rehearsals and the show, and then another couple of days for de-rig, so basically it's about 14 to 16 days in one location in total. [Timestamp: 7:30]

And you're not only providing communication for the production crew along with video and live sound from the aircraft, but you were also providing communication for the control tower and handling the aircraft.
Yeah sure. That's something really special in this event. While you usually find independent setups for the broadcast guys as well as the event and the safety and security people in completely independent systems, at the Red Bull Air Race, this was built up in one solution. So basically the firefighting department could listen to the TV director as much as the local organizers could talk to TV guys or to the safety person. I think this is the only way to make such an event work when a large group of people—and it's around 400 people in the core team, plus 1,000-plus local people on top—to really have them communicate efficiently needs to be done in one solution, and that's exactly what we have set up. [Timestamp: 8:33]

And the control tower—I assume they have show supervisors, and do they also have FAA air traffic controllers as well?
Yes, yes it's a team of people in the tower. And the tower really acts as a real tower at an airport, but this is combined with a group of people for the local event for the competition as well as the side acts. So you have a group of experts from the aviation end, as well as from the event and entertainment broadcasting end, all working together. And yeah, basically, FAA people are involved here as well, and that really makes the whole setup very unique too and really have that group of people also mixing global people—meaning that's really a part of the team which does all the events together with local people, which are only for that one event in that group. [Timestamp: 9:29]

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A High-flying Audiovisual Backbone, Part 2
The Red Bull Air Race is one of the most exciting TV events ever produced with live video from the planes, giant viewing screens for thousands of fans, and a huge job of RF transmission and audio/video networking on MediorNet...

Yeah, just the air-space situation is considerable. Most of these air races happen over highly populated areas, and of course that's why they put them over the water. They've got commercial air space right over where the race is going on. I've always been curious about one thing in watching these, though. I know the pilots want to hear their scores right away. I know they have to hear the controllers, but who tells them their scores?
Basically, that's the race director. Technically, there are several people who could talk to the airplanes, since it's also part of how our communication's set up, but the one who really is authorized and really is capable and able to do so is the race director. We really try to try to keep the number of people who really can talk to the planes as small as possible, so usually it's the race director, and there's a couple of more people just in case of an incident who could also talk on that channel. [Timestamp: 10:22]

And that has to be laid out in planning and puts a huge responsibility on the controllers and on the communications design to make sure you don't have a big tower of Babel going on.
Well, you just said something about the air traffic and managing this. Managing all the kind of communication signals and signal distribution is a kind of complex task, which is like the task managing the air space. And basically, that is a very, very interesting picture of seeing that task being a similar thing like what we do with our MediorNet. [Timestamp: 10:56]

A tremendous job of coordination. Thomas, it's been great having you on here for part one, and in part two we're going to get more into Riedel's MediorNet and how you did the audio for the crowd and how you feed those huge video monitors. So it's been fabulous having you here and we'll see you again in part two.
Yeah, thank you very much for now.

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