Big Brother is listening

Big Brother has returned to UK TV screens to watch and be watched and, as ever, audio is playing a big part in keeping the contestants under surveillance, writes Kevin Hilton.
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Big Brother has returned to UK TV screens to watch and be watched and, as ever, audio is playing a big part in keeping the contestants under surveillance, writes Kevin Hilton. The celebrity version of the reality show began on Channel Five, last Thursday (18th August) with a new transmission chain and a change in wireless mic system. This is the first outing for Big Brother on Five, which eventually picked up the programme after it was dropped by Channel 4, where it had been broadcast in the UK since 2000. The House, where a motley group of "celebrities" is kept in isolation from the outside world, put under scrutiny and given tasks, has again been built at Elstree Studios outside London. Location facilities company Roll to Record (RtR), which also worked on the C4 shows, is providing the "production infrastructure" as part of a two-year deal with production company Initial (a division of Endemol). Much of Big Brother's success in the past has been due to viewers being able to see and hear almost everything the contestants do. Specialised cameras and lots of microphones, including wireless units, are key components. RtR, part of the NEP Broadcasting group, is using 24-channels of radio mics on the contestants, with Sennheiser 5212 transmitters replacing the Trantecs used for previous series. Each contestant wears a Countryman B3 lavalier mic fitted to an elastic lanyard. For the eviction show on Fridays host Brian Dowling - a BB winner in 2001 - uses a Sennheiser 5200 wireless stick mic fitted with an omni-directional head. The systems, which RtR audio supervisor Peter Vasey describes as "very resilient", were installed by Plus 4 Audio. Spin-off programme Celebrity Big Brother's Bit on the Side is using eight channels of Trantec S5000 radio mics, partly, Vasey says, because RtR has spares for this system. Presenters on both shows wear Sennheiser G3 in-ear monitors. A reality gallery set up at the House features a Soundcraft B800 audio console. Vasey explains that this analogue desk is being used because it is "very reliable". The OB set up for the live shows and Bit on the Side use Calrec Zeta digital desks. Highlight programmes are compiled, edited and played out from Elstree using an EVS media recorder-player system. For live broadcasts material is recorded and then transmitted with a delay in case of any profanity. Communications for the main production area are based on a Telex ADAM system, while Bit on the Side uses a smaller Telex Cronos set-up. All equipment is connected over fibre with copper and CAT5 back-ups.


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