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Zoellner Arts Center Adopts Riedel's New Bolero Wireless Intercom

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As the home of Lehigh University's music and theater departments, the Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is a showcase facility for the arts and a tremendous asset to the people of eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey – serving more than 55,000 people and counting every year.

The facility houses the 1,000-seat Baker Hall, the 300-seat Diamond Theater, and the 125-seat Fowler Black Box Theater, in addition to a two-story art gallery, state-of-the-art recording studio, and several large classrooms.

With all of these venues and spaces sharing the same technical infrastructure and equipment, the Zoellner Arts Center needed a crew communications system that could provide high-quality, wide coverage both inside and outside the arts center. The facility also needed a solution that would be easy to use while providing seamless integration with existing third-party partyline gear.

To meet these requirements, the Zoellner Center chose the all-new Bolero wireless intercom solution from Riedel Communications. Introduced in 2017, Bolero is an expandable, DECT-based wireless intercom system in the license-free 1.9GHz frequency range. Bolero runs over a standards-based AES67 IP network in which decentralized antennas connect to AES67 switches and then to Riedel's Artist digital matrix intercom frames equipped with AES67 client cards, providing a fully integrated point-to-point intercom ecosystem with seamless handover capabilities. To the system, the intercom beltpacks look just like Riedel panels but are wireless, providing the highest levels of flexibility, mobility, and programmability.

In one of its first U.S. installations, Bolero is now delivering comprehensive and reliable staff communications for all venues within the Zoellner Arts Center. Fully integrated with the Artist platform, Bolero offers a rich set of features and connectivity that can be applied three ways: as an exceptional wireless beltpack, as a wireless keypanel, and – in an industry first – as a walkie-talkie radio. The Zoellner Arts Center has taken the first approach, deploying 12 Bolero beltpacks to the production team. Bolero's Advanced DECT Receiver (ADR) technology enables full roaming for crew members across all three performance halls while a Riedel RiFace radio interface allows front-of-house staff, who use walkie-talkies, to easily communicate with Bolero users via the Artist.

Several key Bolero features allow the arts center to save money without sacrificing coverage or quality over so many spaces. First, Riedel's exclusive ADR technology improves RF robustness by reducing sensitivity to multipath RF reflections, making the system usable in challenging RF environments where other systems have great difficulty. Also, the exceptional range and beltpack density of the AES67-networked antennas mean the Zollner Arts Center is able to have full communications with fewer antennas. The Bolero high-clarity voice codec provides both higher speech intelligibility and more efficient use of RF spectrum supporting twice the number of beltpacks per antenna for the same audio bandwidth as other DECT-based systems.

As an early adopter of Bolero, the Zoellner Arts Center is also an outstanding example of the power of ADR for enabling bulletproof crew communications across a large and spread-out facility.

"Not only does Bolero meet our requirements, but now the communications in the theaters can be separated for concurrent performances as well as combined for large events that use all of the spaces," said Joshua Kovar, Production Manager, Zoellner Arts Center.

This article also features in the March edition of Broadcast Film & Video.

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