US’s Largest Faith-based Live Theatre Upgrade to Pliant Technologies’ Tempest900

With locations in Lancaster County (Pennsylvania) and Branson (Missouri), Sight & Sound Theatres is the largest faith-based live theatre company in the United States. Recently, Sight & Sound has upgraded its Lancaster County location to the Tempest900 wireless intercom system. The Tempest system, supplied by Dale Pro Audio, serves the density of users the Sight & Sound production crew requires as it adapts to any production.

The current Sight & Sound theatre in Lancaster County was englufed in flames in 1998 after a fire destroyed the Sight & Sound Entertainment Centre on the same site. Lancaster’s Sight & Sound Electronics/Animatronics Designer, Warren Keeney spoke more specifically about the venue: “The theatre is a large complex with a little more than 2,000 seats and a panoramic, 300-ft. stage that wraps around the audience. The old centre started with UHF wireless communication. But as we grew, adding equipment from various manufacturers, eventually we couldn’t keep it all working. Also, indeed these days, available bandwidth is shrinking. Given that we also run about 60 wireless microphones besides the intercom systems, we compete with audio to manage bandwidth and fit all the wireless systems into a smaller (RF) space. That drove us to Tempest for a digital system in the 900MHz range.”

Three Tempest900 BaseStations and 32 BeltStations help Sight & Sound delight its theatre-goers at every production. The Tempest900 digital wireless intercom system operates license-free in the 900MHz band, where the system’s longer wavelengths can transmit through structural objects. So large is the theatre that techs who work under the stage must communicate with people above-stage and in other areas of the building – and the Tempest900 system makes it happen.

Usually though, the people who use the coms stay in the same general area much of the time and other digital systems the theatre tried gave poor results. Warren and the team had trouble handling the number of users and having sufficient bandwidth in that common area. Only Tempest900 stepped up with full coverage and quantity of packs. Now three BaseStations cover the whole facility and easily integrate with the theatre’s existing wired system. Remote Transceivers are over the stage, yet the system works in the basement and in third-floor offices with no problem.

Interestingly Tempest intercom systems employ Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) Technology, in which frequency changes between a predetermined set of frequencies, 200 times per second, thus allowing it to coexist with other wireless systems nearby. Depending on the mode of operation, a Tempest900 system can have as many as five BaseStations supporting from 25 full-function BeltsStations. Right now the Lancaster-based theatre has 32 Tempest900 BeltStations.

The reason for the abundance of Tempest900 BeltStations is few are spares and packs for people here on different days, but Kenny confirmed the majority are used on most days. Gary Rosen, Global Sales Manager of Pliant Technologies, creators of the Tempest wireless intercom systems, also commented: “Even with the additional packs the theatre don’t worry about interference or people talking over one another and if the BeltStations need to be reconfigured to receive different channels on the fly, it’s easily done.”

The 32 users all are accommodated by using Tempest’s Shared Mode. Tempest offers three software-selectable modes. Normal Mode can run five BeltStations with all features with one BaseStation. Split Mode allows for four BeltStations with access to all features, plus a single channel with unlimited BeltStations listening to one person talking at any time. Shared Mode, the most appropriate for Sight & Sound Lancaster, allows any BeltStation user to listen to any of the four channels, and as many as five BeltStation users on each BaseStation to talk at a given time. Thus the system can support a complex audio communications environment at a low cost per user. Sight & Sound Lancaster has three Tempest BaseStations, but could easily run all 32 Belt Stations from a single BaseStation. Adding more BaseStations opened more flexibility in the number of intercom channels available for the users.

Keeney concluded with an overall evaluation: “Obviously wireless communication is the key to our doing what we do. Tempest900 is the venue coverage we need because it allows for all the additional packs, and we don’t fear anyone talking over anyone else. If someone needs to change a position, or does something out of the ordinary, it’s not an issue as anyone can communicate with anyone. All-in-all, that’s probably the main advantage of the digital system over analog. It‘s a good, clear, solid communications.”