Last fall, there was a conference for almost 20,000 Analytics and IT Professionals that included training sessions, speakers, certification exams and more. “It was an enormous event,” states Nick Barton, Account Manager at PRG; his firm handled the lighting needs for the expo floor, a specific space in the conference. “The expo floor was enormous this year; it included expo booths, customer activations, there was a broadcast room, a podcast room and, on top of that, there were 60 to 70 breakout rooms throughout the venue,” says Barton.
The lighting design was done by Michael Creason of Visionary Light & Media; Creason, Barton and PRG have partnered together for several of these branded events. For this year’s annual event, the lighting gear was expansive: 386 GLP Impression X4’s, 24 Chroma-Q Color Force II 72s, six Chroma-Q Color Force II 48s, 60 SGM P-1 RGBW washes and eight Arri SkyPanel S60s for the broadcast studio.
For the project, Creason needed to “Avoid under carpet hardwired DMX connections, eliminate excessive cable trusses and rigging and to simplify last minute lighting location changes. We also needed to have the ability to quickly add last-minute lighting positions, such as adding the control of the broadcast area from the main control area,” says the lighting designer. There was also the problem of exposed power cords as well.
Creason had a solution to all these issues. A wireless solution from RC4 Wireless; specifically, their 900MHz series of products that are designed specifically for busy wireless environments. Creason has been working with RC4 products for several years; Barton was an RC4 Wireless virgin. “The RC4 gear worked flawlessly; there were no issues whatsoever, they delivered and it did exactly what they said it would do. It was perfect,” says Barton.
Working in the 900MHz frequency was key to the success of the project. “The 900MHz frequency was another reason we went with RC4. We had to be in that frequency because of the numerous amount of wireless and different frequencies throughout that venue; we had audio in that building that was using wireless, not to mention all the surrounding 40 or 60 breakout rooms, a keynote session and wireless headsets for demos; there was a crazy amount of stuff,” admits Barton. Lighting Programmer/System Tech, Robert Spehn adds: “I can tell you that RC4M-900MHz is the only wireless DMX connection I have seen work this easy without any hiccups.”
For the expo floor, Creason used eleven RC4Magic-900SX DMXio-HG Data Transceivers in transmitter mode and 25 RC4Magic-900SX DMXio-HG Data Transceivers in receiver mode. Spehn has more details: “We needed eleven universes of wireless DMX. There were multiple locations where we had up to five transceivers that were transmitting flawlessly because of the setup done by RC4,” he says
From a wireless standpoint, the project was extremely collaborative. “I contacted RC4 inquiring about a full turn-key system. I conveyed to Jim [James D. Smith, CEO and Chief Product Developer at RC4 Wireless] the system needs and shared a full set of ground plans indicating RC4 transmitter and receiver locations. In turn, Jim designed and configured the power settings and masking for each transmitter based on the ground plan details. Jim had also set up and tested the full system before shipping,” says Creason.
There was extensive work done in-house at RC4 Wireless before the product was shipped to Creason and his team on site. “We had to individually program forty 900MHz DMXios spanning across 11 active universes and one spare universe operating under nine channel masks,” explains Anna Shelton, System Configuration Specialist at RC4 Wireless. Channel masking is a configuration process that adds another level of data security and enables the device to avoid other signals in that band. Shelton continues: “Some of the masks overlapped, but the distance between them in the 861,230 Sq. Ft. convention center enabled them to operate without interference. It took careful planning, universe matching, and studying the customers blueprint. We didn’t really have time to fix anything if it went wrong – this had to be right from the get-go. Also, since we programmed everything to the last detail, the user did not even have to press a single button or set up anything that required specialized knowledge. It was quite literally plug and play.” Creason adds: “Upon receiving the order, Robert noted that the packaging and labeling was very comprehensive and easy to understand. All and all, we hit the easy button with RC4.”
In terms of his experience with RC4’s customer service, Spehn notes: “There was always someone friendly and ready to help each time I have called.”
Creason has only good things to say about RC4 Wireless. “I have had almost zero luck with wireless gear until I started using RC4. Knock on wood – I have not had one problem with RC4 gear. We powered up the system, and it all worked!” he says. Spehn adds: “Hands down RC4Magic-900 is the best wireless DMX and they are only products that I would put my name behind in a mission critical environment.” RC4 Wireless made an impression with Barton as well. “We will definitely be using RC4 again for future projects.”
In the end, Shelton confides, “I’d like RC4 to be known as a reliable provider of the best wireless technology on the market, and I think this particularly daunting and intensive project is a shining example of our abilities to be just that. I’m honestly not sure if any other company has devoted their entire being to doing what we do and the way we do it. It says a lot that a customer can be free to come to us with their craziest ideas and we make it work. Jim is impressive in the way he is able to provide people with the most customized products that exactly fit their needs, and we are there to help the user every step of the way in making it an easy — and even enjoyable — process to make their vision come to life.”