NORTH BAY, ONTARIO: As Digital Media Engineer for Canadore College’s School of Art and Design, Quinn Pelletier has to ensure the technology used by students and instructors will work well, for not only a variety of disciplines but also where those disciplines intersect.
That’s one reason Canadore purchased and installed a new Clear-Com system for an ongoing project at the College Drive Campus in North Bay, Ontario; the refit of a pre-existing space to serve a decidedly multi-purpose 125-seat theatre for multiple programs. Chief among them, Pelletier says, is their acting program, “But, within the media arts program umbrella, we have the graphic arts, computer game design, digital cinema, and television broadcast programs.”
“We also do post-production with a Dolby Atmos sound system, we have a music production program and studio, and we’re building a 10-seat E-Sports arena and TV studio,” Pelletier continues. “In the theatre, we’re going to be putting in lighting and sound, cameras, and TV production systems as well. The Clear-Com Eclipse system was built from the ground up for all of our productions.” While the system is in play currently, the yet to be named theatre is still under construction. “Right now, we refer to it as ‘G Wing Theatre’, but it’s a shell. The project is still rolling out in front of us as we go,” he says.
The Clear-Com system will be used across the campus in a variety of other spaces: their TV control room, the three-story Sony Atrium (which is used for TV shoots and also houses the E-Sports arena), as well as their music recording studio. “We have built-in antennas in each of those, and one for our mobile, ‘flypack’ FreeSpeak II system, which works really well on location.” As an example, Pelletier cites a series of Lacrosse games on the campus Canadore shares with Nipissing University, for which they provided a four-camera system and used the mobile Clear-Com rig for comms.
Comms can also be used for other areas/purposes via a spare, bookable antenna, he explains: “We’re expanding our footprint throughout the school, so, for example, D-Wing has a teaching kitchen with a camera setup, so they can do a ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ type of thing. And, when they want to do more advanced production and add more cameras, they book out the antenna, plug it in, and VLAN it right into their comms system.”
All of that falls under Pelletier’s purview, as does specifying and implementing the technology for those programs – consequently, for Pelletier and his crew, integrating the new Clear-Com rig is a hands-on effort.
This is all part of an ongoing effort to provide the college with a rock-solid reliable comms system, one that’s occupied Pelletier in one way or another since he started at Canadore as a broadcast engineer in the mid-2010s. “When I showed up, there was an old Clear-Com matrix system in here; a two-wire system that was integrated with a hodgepodge of panels, and wireless headsets that had been used on the sidelines for football games.” Not only were they less than suitable for his purposes, Pelletier adds, “Nothing was working. It was in the racks and turned on but none of the stations were hooked up.”
The system was in such disarray that he abandoned it and rented comms systems as necessary when events such as telethons required them, but Pelletier continued to look for a system that would fit the bill more effectively.
Initially, he intended to deploy an RTS system, similar to what they’d rented previously from CTV and were already familiar with. But although prepared to go in that direction, he remained open to finding technology better suited to their needs at the time that would also help future-proof their comms infrastructure.
That’s about the time he came across Clear-Com’s FreeSpeak products at NAMM 2015. “It was the last day of the conference, FreeSpeak was new and they were showing it off at Clear-Com’s booth,” Pelletier says. “It was the first time I saw something that could work very, very well for us.”
The first system they purchased was used as a standalone system for Canadore’s TV program. Comprised of a 4-channel FreeSpeak Base Station, a single transceiver antenna and splitter, and a small complement of belt packs and headsets, it functioned as their mobile comms rig. But that initial purchase ultimately led them to where they’re at currently, Pelletier explains: “Originally, there were nothing but complaints about feedback, so we used new panels and tried to integrate those with the cheap belt packs I mentioned, and they fell apart under student use.”
And now? “Well, this is the thing about FreeSpeak. We’ve had that system for five years and it stands up - no problem – it’s just the right product. As soon as we got our hands on FreeSpeak it was incredible. We set it up, started using it, and all the faculty complaints went away, but we kept, and keep, expanding our footprint in the school,” he continues.
When funding became available for the new theatre in 2019, Pelletier and Canadore saw it as an opportunity to upgrade, ultimately purchasing an LQ-4W2 2-channel, 4-wire, IP LQ Interface, and an Agent IC single-user license to augment their TV Production system, and, for the new theatre proper; an Eclipse HX-Delta Frame, a 32-port IP and Eclipse-HX 64-channel Dante card, three FSII 1.9 Gigahertz FreeSpeak Edge IP Transceivers, and ten FreeSpeak Edge wireless beltpacks and additional single and dual headsets.
“Now we have this nice IP system here that works phenomenally well. The new beltpacks are amazing; we’re assigning roles, so a professor shows up, the students assign themselves the roles of the class they’re in on the beltpacks and from there all the permissions are set up for them. And because it’s an IP system it allows us to expand wherever we need to. Plus, the ability to have up to ten belt packs per IP antenna is a huge bonus. Everything here is Dante, and the Clear-Com/Dante integration is fantastic. That’s a game-changer in itself.”
This year, he adds, has been the easiest as far as functionality of their comms system goes, since Pelletier started at Canadore. “What’s remarkable about the Clear-Com system - the thing that’s blowing us away - is that there are no longer complaints from the faculty. In the past, we had nothing but problems. Now, there are three or four programs that can utilize the new theatre space and also provide content for other programs, with students in different courses of study, working alone and together. Clear-Com makes that possible, just like that. It’s definitely a powerful system for us.”