Gearhouse Broadcast’s Event Communications team have designed, developed and implemented a custom intercom solution specifically for umpire communication at AFL and AFLW games.
Gearhouse Broadcast Event Communications Manager, Jason Owen, explained, “SportsCom was born out of our desire to develop and build an intercom solution that offered great flexibility as well as high-quality performance. We approached the AFL with our ideas for an alternative system but took care to fully understand the AFL’s needs, discussing both current and desired functionality at length, before sitting down to begin the final design.”
Although Owen developed and built SportsCom initially for the AFL, he then also expanded the system to be compliant for all other Australian sporting codes as well.
He continued, “The AFL had a very comprehensive set of requirements for SportsCom to meet. They wanted to be able to talk to individual umpires as well as a group. The system needed to provide a robust interface to both TV and radio broadcasting and improve the sonic quality and RF performance. They also wanted SportsCom to provide flexibility in how the AFL Match Day team’s workflow was delivered and to be able to record the audio mix for archival, post-match review and future training opportunities. It was quite the list but I’m happy to say we met all their requirements.”
The core element to the SportsCom system is a ClearCom PiCo intercom matrix which provides Gearhouse and the AFL with all routing and mixing capabilities along with managing the intercom panels in the system.
Owen added, “Supporting this is a suite of Shure Radio Mic and IFB systems and a BSS Blu 100 which delivers audio processing. The real beauty of SportsCom is that, even though the system is made up of three different vendors’ products, we have built it into a consolidated, seamless, high quality intercom solution.”
SportsCom will be utilised at all AFL fixtures for the next four years including the new NAB AFL Women’s League, JLT Community Series and the Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
According to Owen, the system setup, once SportsCom is in place, is particularly straightforward, another key selling point of the new system. As he explained, “Setup includes doing some basic frequency scanning and programming using Shure’s Wireless Workbench software. Umpires’ vests are easily populated with the Radio Mic and IFB belt-packs, range checked and then fitted on to the umpires. After that it’s ready to go. To provide an even more efficient solution for the AFL, we have also built a sizeable fleet of kits that will be semi-permanently installed at core venues.”
As a comms veteran, Owen sees technology-driven systems like SportsCom as the way of the future. He concluded, “SportsCom is class leading in terms of flexibility and RF performance. There is literally nothing like it anywhere else in Australia. SportsCom provides the AFL with an improved performance and for bigger projects we can easily connect multiple systems together to achieve one larger system. We can also provide multiple outputs that each have a different set of sources and finally, the icing on the cake is the performance of Shure’s RF products leaving traditional analogue systems behind.”