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Tower of power: Gilles Bouvard networks up a storm for Bastille Day [exclusive]

Radio France tasked GB4D with designing a sophisticated Optocore network for 14 July

France’s Bastille Day spectacular, held annually in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, again sparked off huge celebrations this this year. The 2015 quatorze juillet fireworks display took on an extra significance as its theme, ‘Paris Welcomes The World’, was geared very much to the city’s bid to stage the 2024 Olympic Games.

A classical concert in the Champs de Mars, presented by the French National Orchestra and Grand Choir of Radio France (plus soloists) was staged in front of over 500,000 spectators, with millions more tuning in to live broadcasts on Radio France and France 2 TV.

After experiencing problems with sound continuity in 2014, pristine signal transmission was essential, and in seeking an elegant optical transport solution Radio France’s head of sound reinforcement, Bruno Lompech, contracted Gilles Bouvard’s Events & Entertainment (GB4D) – a specialist in large-scale events – and tasked it with designing a sophisticated Optocore network based on a site-wide dual-redundant ring. The resulting signal transmission was largely over AES3 and digital MADI, with analogue back-up made possible by the deployment of Optocore DD32R-FX and XR6-FX-8MI/LO devices.

Bouvard, making his debut at the event, provided seamless network and audio signal transmission between several control rooms: FOH, broadcast, monitor and fireworks soundtrack. Mindful of the problems that had blighted last year’s festivities, he says: “The main requirement was to create a reliable optical fibre network to eliminate any risk of electromagnetic interference or use of galvanised cables between the various points to be connected.”

Out in the field, two Lawo FOH mixing consoles were linked to Adamson E15 line arrays via Lake LM44 processors, with an Innovason SY80 console down at the stage. Low latency was the top priority, and in this respect broadcast preferred an Optocore solution to other protocols used for delays out in the Champs de Mars. Meanwhile, analogue broadcast feeds were sent from a Studer Vista 5 in the Silence OB van.

The recommendation of Gilles Bouvard to Radio France had originally come from sound engineer Stéphane Pelletier, of PA company Lagoona, who had been impressed by GB4D’s deployment of the large Optocore network for the Joan of Arc Festivals in Orleans. (In fact, it was Pelletier who implemented the audio PA system for Radio France in Paris, assisted by Delphine Hannotin).

“Stéphane was captivated by the Optocore network, because of its simplicity, its audio quality and particularly its very low latency – and also the technical ability of François Iund, one of GB4D’s Optocore certified network engineers, who co-managed the Paris event,” explains Bouvard. Pelletier’s involvement led to the meeting with Bruno Lompech.

Following his appointment, Gilles Bouvard got to work designing a complex schematic which was presented to Laurent Fracchia, sound director at Radio France, and other FOH sound engineers, and the Optocore network principle was adopted.

This is part one of a two-part feature. Click here to find out how Gilles Bouvard mastered digital synchronisation, linked processors, amps and monitoring devices to the Optocore network and used it to route signals from ambient mics to a mobile recording unit – all with under 41µs of latency. Zut alors!