TMZ, which has expanded beyond its online roots into broadcast television, producing daily syndicated programs such as TMZ on TV, TMZ Live and TMZ Sports recently upgraded its RTS-based intercom capabilities at its production facility in Los Angeles with an RTS ROAMEO wireless system.
Intercoms at TMZ studios have always been based on an RTS ADAM-M digital matrix system, KP-12 and KP-32 keypanels, and BTR partyline wireless beltpacks. However, the need to vacate the UHF frequencies used by the BTR system due to FCC rule changes saw TMZ, in consultation with Bexel, the organization’s broadcast integrator, they installed the new ROAMEO system joined by 12 TR-1800 beltpacks. Four AP-1800 wireless access points spread throughout the facility enable users to move between the studios, control rooms and post production.
“We needed a good, solid wireless system for our floor crew, and ROAMEO certainly is that,” says Brett Kotheimer, TMZ director of broadcast operations. “But this system really takes things to another level. It puts a virtual keypanel on your hip. It can access basically any crosspoint on the matrix, so each pack can be personalized for the user. That customization was a huge feature for us.”
ROAMEO uses a cellular wireless structure designed to foster seamless roaming between access points, and it operates in the license-free DECT frequency band (1.92 GHz). In terms of infrastructure, it can be integrated into any digital matrix in the RTS family (ADAM, ADAM-M, ODIN), connecting via a single Ethernet cable from the wireless access point for both power and data transmission. The only infrastructure change TMZ had to make was the addition of an OMI (OMNEO Matrix Interface) card to their ADAM-M frame to add full OMNEO networking capability.
The four AP-1800 access points are spread across TMZ’s production areas, including post production. “Now we have clear reception everywhere in our facility with no dark spots, with the system smoothly handing off the beltpack from one access point to another,” notes Justin Richardson, TMZ broadcast engineer. “There are no clicks or pops, no audible changes as the user walks through.”
“This is really helping our entire workflow,” adds Richardson. “With the OMI card installed, mobile users can now access the matrix frame and access Dante sources and destinations, just like a desktop keypanel. Yet it’s still compatible with the old two-wire IFB system we use on our interview stage, which really makes it an affordable upgrade.”
With the beltpack’s keypanel capability, wireless intercom routing options are now programmable. “ROAMEO packs are just as easy to program as any KP-12 or KP-32, and our users are already familiar with RTS keypanels,” says Kotheimer. “They love seeing the crosspoints showing up on their beltpack display so they can grab the sources they need. They picked it up really fast.”
TMZ also cites ROAMEO features such as the rechargeable battery system, 17-hour run time and upgraded codec for added sound quality. In addition, the platform has the ability to accept standard cellular headphones as an alternative to regular intercom headsets. “When a headset breaks down, it can disable an entire production,” Richardson explains. “With ROAMEO, you can just plug in your cellular headphones and finish the show. So essentially, everyone has their own backup now. It’s a simple yet very insightful feature – a sign of a really well-thought-out system.”
Kotheimer reports the TMZ engineering team and production staff are very pleased. “ROAMEO is the perfect upgrade for us,” he says. “It addresses our present needs without changing our RTS matrix, and it opens up new capabilities in terms of workflow and we’re ready for future expansion. We’re extremely happy with our investment.”
RTS equipment list for the project:
1 — OMI 16-port OMNEO matrix interface card for ADAM matrix
12 — TR-1800 four-channel DECT-based wireless beltpacks
4 — AP-1800 four-channel DECT-based wireless access points
4 — BP-240 rechargeable battery packs
3 — CHG-240 four-bay battery chargers