‘America’s Got Talent’ has been at the forefront of prime time television for over a decade with a vast array of performers; from magicians to ventriloquists, dancers to singers, the show has it all. Since 2014, ‘America’s Got Talent’ has relied on the incomparable and iconic design firm, Full Flood Inc. for all of their Emmy-nominated lighting. The Full Flood team, headed by Lighting Designer Noah Mitz and Lighting Directors Michael Berger and Will Gossett, partnered with RC4 Wireless to provide AGT with all of their wireless dimming and DMX needs.
“Each week at AGT the creative team comes up with ideas that sometimes require battery-powered, wireless controlled devices,” notes ‘America’s Got Talent’ Best Boy Scott Beck. Full Flood then turned to the RC4 Wireless 900MHz series of products for their wireless needs. “We exclusively use 900MHz products on our shows,” comments Lighting Director Michael Berger. “There is so much else within the wireless spectrums here — cameras, microphones, internet, Clear-Com, and so on — that this was the safest spectrum everyone felt comfortable with.”
RC4 was the first wireless dimming firm to be authorized by the FCC to use the 900MHz frequency band. Beck is a fan of RC4’s 900MHz products as well. “They work great because their frequencies are far from other devices, so we don’t have signal conflicting issues and signal strength has been solid in large arenas.” adds Beck.
James D. Smith, Chief Product Developer and CEO of RC4 Wireless adds: “There are some important differences between what RC4 and other firms are doing in 900MHz; just saying we’re in the 900MHz band is like saying we are both driving on Interstate highways. Other firms with 900MHz are using much, much lower RF power levels, which will be limiting their range a lot compared to us. The RC4Magic-900 line of products can transmit with up to 250mW of power, delivering a range that has exceeded 1000 feet for many users.”
For ‘America’s Got Talent’, the team paired RC4 Wireless Series 3 DMX4dim with the Steadicam rig. “The wireless needs for this show derived from a controllable fill light we desired on the Steadicam rigs,” Berger explains. “We found ourselves in lots of tight places doing host intros where a traditional lite panel or key light source would not work; adding a controllable, lightweight LED rig directly onto the camera gave us an easily deployable solution which was always nearby even as things within the show structure changed.” Beck adds, “We had an SBS Lighting Steadi Fill Light on the Steadicam, which is 16v Bi-Color White LED light that fits around the camera’s teleprompter and driven by a 2 channel 900MHz dimmer–16v @1.6amps. ”The DMX4dim was a success on the set and gave Full Flood a new tool in their lighting arsenal. “The camera operators have responded well to the low weights of the dimmer units. Its success on this project has pushed us towards using it on other projects like ‘The Oscars’, ‘The Grammys’, ‘The Tony Awards’ and the ‘BET Awards’. Its size and reliability have pushed us towards incorporating the products into other aspects of the show. Including dimming practical props, incorporating pixel tape into musical instruments,” says Berger.
The Steadicam wasn’t the only place that the Full Flood team used RC4 Wireless products. “We had a wireless eye light on a moving golf cart, which was a 4’ run of SBS Lighting Bi-Color 240 LED. 12v 4amp at full driven by a 2 channel 900MHz dimmer. We also used an RC4 Wireless DMXpix receiver [in 900MHz] on guest performer Brian King Joseph’s LED pixel violin,” says Beck.
Beck handled the lighting wireless programming on the set. “Programming is a breeze with the one-click system to change DMX address and modes. However, I set the modes once and use the same settings on each show. So, I don’t often switch between modes or addresses.” Beck also has a tip to pass along: “By addressing my wireless receivers to the 450 and above DMX channels I’m able to be added a device to a lighting system after the programmer has patched numerous moving lights in the beginning of a DMX Universe.”
Vocalist Kodi Lee got the final nod from judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Gabrielle Union, and Julianne Hough and won this season of ‘America’s Got Talent’. The show has already been renewed for its 15th season.