TORONTO, ONTARIO: With Bespoke Audio Visual’s depth of knowledge and capabilities for providing customized virtual events for clients, they were an absolute lock for the task of providing Zoom support for interactions between the hosts and nominees for the Opening Night festivities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the JUNO Awards – an event that’s very much in Bespoke’s wheelhouse and requires exactly the kind of customized solutions they’re known for.
“We were asked to facilitate the video conferencing side of the event by Producer e=mc2 events,” explains Bespoke’s Technical Manager, Andrew Bernacki, who served as the company's technical lead for the show. This was a very specific, highly customized system, he adds: “One we built out from scratch in our warehouse space. As we’ve often said, if we don’t have what the client needs within the four walls of our building, we'll build it!”
Bespoke AV brought a significant amount of expertise to the task and used an innovative conferencing solution that they created in 2020 that leverages technology supplied by GerrAudio Distribution, including a DiGiCo SD12 console and a substantial amount of Clear-Com products.
As one of several firms working on the opening night ceremonies, Bespoke played an integral part in making the event fluid and successful, using a similar approach and workflow they’d applied to an earlier awards show staged in 2020.
"But there was more complexity for this event," Bernacki notes, since rather than handling the entire show, they were feeding real-time video and audio to Dome Production’s broadcast truck for the final broadcast product. “We had to hand off substantially more audio and video to them than we would if we were doing everything in-house.”
For the broadcast, Bespoke handled forty-one separate Zoom calls, using a system created and deployed specifically for the Awards to facilitate the same kind of flow and energy that would happen during an in-person event using multiple ‘stations’ in their warehouse. “There were thirty-seven awards handed out that night, with multiple remote award presenters and five or more nominees calling in separately, but all brought in via Zoom. We were responsible for hosting each of those calls and handing them off as needed to Dome’s truck, so the nominees could be part of the live show.”
To do so, Bespoke created and deployed three identical stations in their warehouse - each using five computers and each responsible for providing the broadcast truck with the audio and video for the five nominees dialing in from separate locations for each award. “We jumped from one station to the next throughout the evening using the first station for awards number one and four, the second for awards two and five, and so on. We rotated through those stations throughout the evening to provide the video and audio signal to the truck to be able to create that composite and feature the winner.”
The system consisted of two major components, Bernacki explains; “We used the Clear-Com Eclipse HX Median matrix Intercom Frame – similar to what we use to run the entire setup in our building - but as an entirely separate intercom system for this show specifically because we didn’t want to disrupt the rest of the building’s operations and also because of the number of cards we needed to put into it.”
In all, Bespoke loaded the Eclipse with six cards: an MVX-A16 for backup connectivity to and from the truck’s intercom system, two E-Dante cards for connectivity to all forty-one laptops (each equipped with Audinate Dante Virtual Soundcards), two E-MADI cards – one for connection to the truck intercom and one for connection to the DiGiCo SD12 and one E-IPA-32 card to connect their Clear-Com FreeSpeak II and FreeSpeak EDGE IP transceivers and belt packs, four Clear-Com VI-PNL-32L panels and five VI-PNL-12L panels.
“Then we used the DiGiCo SD12 to sub-mix of all of the ‘rooms’ and hand them off to the truck. We had a tight timeline as far as the execution of this, so we decided we’d have everything completely done and dialed in to create a ‘sub show’ so we could hand off as few things as possible and as quickly as possible, to the truck on show day.”
Clear-Com’s new FreeSpeak EDGE belt packs and transceivers utilized in conjunction with Bespoke’s FreeSpeak II systems provided clear benefits, says Bespoke Director of Production, Tristan Tidswell, who acted as Production Manager for the JUNOs project. Clear-Com gear was used to connect to the truck and staff working on the event.
“The major thing for me was the exceptional clarity of the audio. It was like having the person you’re talking to standing next to you whispering in your ear. As a production manager, I'm listening to multiple channels and parts of the show while multiple things are happening all around me. Without any kind of distracting background noise, I could focus entirely on what was being said and respond appropriately and immediately. There wasn’t even any noise when someone else triggered their mic to talk on a different channel. It was perfectly clean throughout the show.”
“We’re a DiGiCo and Clear-Com house,” Bernacki puts in. “That’s what we’re familiar and comfortable with,” but, he adds, both companies’ products made their work on the show easier. Citing the SD12 specifically, he adds: “I’m sure, with some research, I could find different ways of doing this, but DiGiCo just makes it so easy. We had forty-one separate aux’s we had to create, and I don’t know of another console that would be able to do that as easily.”
Beyond Bespoke’s expertise and experience with DiGiCo, the functionality and the seamless workflow the SD12 allowed, were extremely important. “The flexibility DiGiCo offerss when deciding how many channels are required, and the ability to adjust those as needed, was absolutely crucial for this event.”
As was the support of GerrAudio. He continues, “We have a Clear-Com Eclipse frame that runs all of our other control rooms throughout the building, so we decided to purchase a second system for the JUNOs specifically.” Owing to the tight timeline, however, Bespoke needed all the gear in place more quickly than some of it could be shipped. He explains, “So, GerrAudio provided us with some hardware from their demonstration inventory, giving us everything we needed to be successful. They were extremely helpful in that regard."
Over the past fifteen months, Bespoke AV has dramatically upped the ante when it comes to providing virtual solutions that are custom-tailored to the unique nature and needs of every event and client they work with. And, although the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in a far different experience than everyone involved with the JUNOs would have preferred, given the depth of connection and interplay offered during the ceremonies, the 50th Anniversary, from opening night onward was a rousing success, with the end result lauded not only by viewers but by those involved. Of the feedback from other stakeholders, Bernacki says: “We’ve heard directly from e=mc2 events, Dome Productions, and CARAS and they’re extremely happy with how everything went.”
Written by: Kevin Young