Reality TV is all the rage these days and one of the most enduring shows of this genre is Big Brother. With Big Brother Canada, a group of contestants, known as HouseGuests, are sequestered in the Big Brother House, under the surveillance of cameras and microphones. Each week, the HouseGuests vote to evict one of their own until two HouseGuests remain on finale night. The winner is decided by the last seven evicted HouseGuests, known as the Big Brother Jury. Capturing the interactions of the contestants is a key element of the show and, for audio, much of the responsibility lies in the wireless microphones—all of which rely on Digital Hybrid Wireless technology from Rio Rancho, NM-based Lectrosonics.
P.A. Plus Productions in Toronto is the equipment rental provider for Big Brother Canada, which is produced by Insight Productions. Adrian Sterling and Robert Kennedy—both of P.A. Plus Productions—have been actively involved with the show’s equipment, providing 19 Lectrosonics WM series watertight beltpack transmitters and three fully stocked Venue VRMWB wideband receiver mainframes outfitted with VRT receiver modules.
Adrian Sterling, the Audio Systems Operations Manager for P.A. Plus Productions, commented on the challenges of the project and why he chose Lectrosonics WM transmitters for the show. “One of the challenges we had to consider during pre-production was that there would be no audio personnel allowed near the talent during the run of the show,” he explained. “The durable build quality of the WM packs was a big seller for us, as they are in use 24/7. The fact that they are watertight—with a watertight connector—sealed the deal and we hope to make use of this feature on future projects.”
“Since we have no access to the cast, we needed a very robust transmitter,” adds Dave Vanderploeg, one of the audio mixers on the project and the RF technician for Big Brother Canada. “The Lectrosonics WM transmitters have exceeded our expectations, by far. The transmitters have been submerged in water numerous times and not once has there been an issue. They have been dropped, dragged, and generally abused far beyond what would be considered normal for a ‘standard’ television production. We are extremely happy with how robust they are.”
“As for battery life,” says Sterling, “the WM’s are exceptional. “These transmitters are capable of 250 mw of transmit power for a duration of 7.5 hours, which makes them a very good tool for anyone’s wireless kit. The cast changes their own batteries and they were able to pick this up very quickly. The fact that the transmitters continue to operate on a single battery has proved to be a really useful feature, as we have uninterrupted audio, even during battery changes.”
Sterling was equally complimentary of Lectrosonics customer / technical support services, “Dealing with Colin and Joe from Lectrosonics Canada has been a good experience for P.A. Plus. Lectrosonics is a new product line for us and their expertise and knowledge has been very helpful in guiding us when making choices regarding accessories and deployment.”
With Big Brother Canada up and running on the Slice network, a division of Global TV/Shaw Communications, Vanderploeg summarized his experience with the Lectrosonics systems. “The RF performance of the Lectrosonics gear has been rock-solid,” he said. “We’ve been able to run at the lowest power setting (50 mW) and have not had a single dropout throughout the first several weeks of the show. We couldn’t be happier! It’s clear to me that the technology behind these systems is in a league of its own and the ‘extra effort’ put into the designs pays off handsomely—especially for a mission-critical production such as Big Brother.”