by James Delhauer
Today’s productions move faster than ever before. With larger budgets and pre-determined release dates, efficiency is the name of the game like never before. That is why a centralized communication system is essential. Gone are the days when a simple walkie-talkie setup will suffice. With so many moving parts on set, the average member of the crew needs to be able to monitor several feeds and discussions simultaneously in order to do their job well. That is why PL/Comms Technicians in Local 695 have turned to Cine-COMM Inc. and the Riedel-powered Bolero systems in order to facilitate advanced communications throughout the production process.
Cine-COMM was founded in 2021 by Local 600/695 members Simon Jayes and Eduardo Eguia. The impetus for its inception came when Simon found himself working as a Camera Operator on Wonder Woman 1984 and needed to remain in communication with multiple departments at once. To facilitate this, he was forced to wear two traditional intercoms with a headset on each ear, a Comtek, and a walkie, ALL at the same time. With two ears and four devices, this obviously posed a problem. And it wasn’t a unique problem. Conversation with other department heads across multiple productions revealed that this was becoming a systemic issue on set, especially as members of the crew needed to communicate with remote workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Somehow, communication had become more of a hinderance than a convenience.
PL and communications work has long been within the jurisdiction of Local 695 and our members have done this work consistently in live broadcast, sports, and TV studio-based productions for decades, but narrative and episodic productions present unique communication challenges. Shooting on location or sound stages that weren’t designed with comms in mind can make it difficult to set up point-to-point systems, and not all locations are equipped to provide consistent AC power supply. This is why walkie-talkies became the standard in the first place.
When setting out to create a better communication system, Simon and Eduardo found that there was really only one product available on the market that met the needs of modern productions: The Riedel Bolero wireless intercom. This unit serves as a portable, all-in-one communications tool that can be custom programmed to distribute up to seven audio feeds to a single beltpack, eliminating the need for multiple pieces of equipment per user. What’s more, the Bolero Standalone System can support up to one hundred uniquely programmed beltpacks in a single networked deployment and, if used with Riedel Artist, it can support up to two hundred and fifty, meaning anyone and everyone on set can have a customized communications device to service their specific needs.
Cine-COMM Inc. harnesses the potential of the Bolero system to create and deploy turnkey wireless systems specifically for the film and television industry. Beltpacks can be programed to interface with one another, but can also communicate with existing systems such as Production Sound, Voice of God (VOD)systems, IFBs and Earwigs, Audio Playback, and even Bluetooth audio devices.
Bolero’s high-clarity voice codec provides higher speech intelligibility than standard walkie units and a robust RF system designed to keep units functioning in challenging environments where other systems might fail. Unlike conventional walkie-talkies, the system supports Duplex communication, meaning that multiple speakers can communicate simultaneously. This allows for more conversational usage and eliminates the age-old problem of one person accidentally drowning out an entire walkie channel by holding or setting their device down in just the wrong way.
Most importantly, this system is far more secure than open band communication systems. When relying on traditional walkie-talkies, productions leave themselves vulnerable to clever members of the press and paparazzi who might source walkies with the same channels in order to monitor on set communications, resulting in production and casting leaks before studios are ready to make such announcements. However, by encoding all communications, Riedel’s system protects the security of the production and ensures that no one whose device isn’t on the same network can monitor chatter throughout the day.
Cine-COMM systems are highly customizable and are individually tailored to the needs of a given production. The company packages all necessary components for a given shoot, providing both the hardware and configuration services to ensure proper implementation on set. Though the company was founded in 2021, its services have already seen widespread usage on major productions. Films and shows like The Mandalorian, Our Flag Means Death, Thor: Love and Thunder, Barbie, Black Adam, Interior Chinatown, Ahsoka, Mayor of Kingstown, and many more have implemented Cine-COMM systems into their workflows. Thor: Love and Thunder director and Our Flag Means Death creator Taika Waititi has become something of a power user within the company, using Cine-COMM systems to facilitate both communications, VOG, actor line feeds via earwigs and music playback on set.
As wireless intercom systems like those provided by Cine-COMM become more prevalent, a new generation of Local 695 PL/Comms Engineers will become necessary. That is why our Local has partnered with Simon and Eduardo at Cine-COMM in order to provide training to members who are interested in taking on this sort of work. This partnership allows for productions renting Cine-COMM systems to correctly staff the communication positions on set, while also ensuring that those hired to facilitate communications have the training necessary to service productions from start to finish.
At one time, the megaphone was considered a breakthrough in communications technology. Then came the walkie-talkie and point-to-point comms systems. The Cine-COMM Inc. Bolero-based system is the newest evolution in connecting members of the set with one another. It presents a wide variety of solutions to age-old problems and offers productions a future-facing option to tackle the issues of tomorrow.
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www.cine-comm.com, where you can find more information on Cine-COMM Inc. and the various products they offer.