Gearhouse Broadcast has provided this year’s I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! with a custom-built wireless audio system, writes Kevin Hilton.
Technical facilities for the production in the Australian rain forest are provided by the equipment rental and projects divisions of Gearhouse Broadcast. Flyaway packages have been used to equip two audio control rooms, a large production gallery, a master control room, a VT/EVS suite and a communications area.
This tenth series of I'm a Celebrity..., produced by ITV Studios, is the first to be shot in high definition but the audio feed is stereo. Being able to hear all that is said is a crucial part of any reality show and for I'm a Celebrity... a sophisticated, custom-made RF aerial combining and distribution system has been installed to link up to 25 radio mic aerials with seven Lectrosonic wireless receiver racks.
This network covers the two celebrity camps, the Bushtucker Trials challenge areas and the TV studio. "In all this gives a massive area coverage, particularly bearing in mind that most of this takes place in dense and very humid jungle conditions," explained Simon Atkinson, Gearhouse Broadcast's technical director.
Working in parallel with the RF system is a fibre optic audio network. This offers up to 11 nodes, which link the camps, the challenge area and five audio consoles. "It enables us to place the head amps for all the mics in the relevant areas where they are sourced, which minimises analogue cable runs and reduces noise," said Atkinson.
The audio network routes the radio mics worn by the contestants - Lectrosonics with Countryman B3 capsules - and up to 40 effects microphones positioned round the camps to two Yamaha M7CL consoles, each with a DM2000 as a sub-mixer. The sound is split into two streams, which allows up to six mixes of individual conversations to be created. One M7 is used as the master desk for EQing and processing the radio mics and re-inserting them into the audio network.
A Calrec Omega with Bluefin processing is the main broadcast output desk and is connected to the network by MADI. All mics, from the studio as well as the camps, are available on this for the live shows.
The final mix is embedded as a stereo signal into the HD video, ready for transmission over satellite back to ITV's transmission centre in London.
The wet and slimy nature of many of the Bushtucker Trials calls for the contestants' radio mics to be changed regularly for waterproof versions. Atkinson says the regular audio crew on the show has "developed many weird and wonderful soundproofing systems" over the years, including extensive use of self-amalgamating tape on every joint.
A critical piece of equipment on the production is a Pipeline audio and video delay system, which is supplied by ITV and used as a five-second profanity filter when the show is broadcast live in primetime. "Celebrities are really suffering in the jungle when they do the trials," explains Atkinson, "so they often express their feelings in a forthright manner!"