Sennheiser Benelux makes Utopia a reality8 July 2014
Utopia, the yearlong social experiment that has become one of the Netherlands’ most popular TV programmes, is using RF wireless audio technology provided by Sennhesier Benelux.
Created by Endemol and Talpa founder John de Mol, Jnr, Utopia sees 15 people abandon their normal lives for 12 months to create an ideal mini-society of their own on a plot of undeveloped land in Blaricum, near Hilversum. The contestants, or ‘Utopians’, are provided with limited amounts of money and livestock to get them started (pictured is an aerial view of the hangars, stables and grazing ground) – but the rest is up to them.
Responding to suggestions that the show is similar to reality TV stalwarts Big Brother and Survivor, Maarten Meijs, managing director of Talpa Media, explains to TBI Vision: “If you look at [them], they have assignments [and] need to do their weekly games. Here, it’s not about that – it’s not about producer against contestants. The spirit of the show is that we try to create a new society together.”
The challenge of covering the 12,500m2 area with audio/video recording equipment fell to a team from Dutchview, led by project manager Peter Slot. “We have a lot of experience in reality formats,” he says, “but the challenge of covering 1.25ha in an open field surrounded by a lot of trees was completely new!”
Dutchview opted for a single rack of receivers, along with eight antenna distribution combiners custom-built for Utopia. A master distribution combiner pair was installed with the microphone receivers and fed the antenna signals from six local distribution combiners – three diversity sets – accommodated in Utopia’s main areas.
In total, Dutchview installed:
• 24 SK 5212-II bodypack transmitters (of which nine are spares or reserved for guests)
• 24 MKE 2 clip-on microphones
• 12 EM 3732-II dual-channel receivers
• Four AD 3700 active antennas
• 12 A 3700 active antennas
• Four A 5000-CP circularly polarised antennas with AB 3700 antenna boosters
• Six ADC-41 custom-built local distribution combiners, each combining and distributing four antenna signals
• Two custom-built ADC-44 main distribution combiners, each able to combine up to four ADC-41 and distribute signals to four equal outputs
• 34 MKH 416 shotgun microphones
Utopia débuted in the Netherlands on 6 January on SBS 6, attaining an audience share of over 25 per cent and becoming the channel’s highest-rated première in six years. It has since been streamed 188 million times online, and was picked up almost immediately by Fox in the US for an American version.