Going Off-Grid with Be Productions and JBL EON ONE Compact

Be Productions, based in Northern Sydney, often find themselves working outdoors. They’re open-air cinema specialists and the Australian distributors of German-made AIRSCREEN inflatable screens. They’re also known for large scale projections, brand activations, and event management, all of which usually involve being out in the elements.

And you don’t get much more outdoorsy than doing a gig an hour north of Newcastle, near the historic town of Stroud, in a valley called Gunns Gully, where around 500 dirt bike enthusiasts have converged to ride the Transmoto Enduro.

The Transmoto Enduros are a calendar of eight and 12 hour endurance races for amateur riders taking place on dedicated tracks in rural areas all over Australia. Pitched as events where you can ‘Race Your Mates’, competitors descend on the sites on Saturday to pitch their tents and prep before challenging each other on a Sunday. As a gig, it’s big, it’s loud, and comes with all the logistical challenges of being remote at the same time.
“We are no strangers to outdoor events like the Transmoto Enduros,” says Marc McAvoy, Director of Be Productions. “For production on these kinds of events, if a piece of gear can have a battery or run wirelessly, it’s a plus. That’s why we carry 60 different models of battery-powered lights!”

With every event on the calendar a sellout, covering the huge sites with audio for communications, announcements, and the race call is a challenge. “We have the audio coverage in the central operations hub sorted,” elaborates Marc. “That’s all run with cabled passive speakers, and the Enduros tour a small 25kVA generator to power it all. That area includes management, sponsor tents, a stage, and the finish line. The trickier issue we had was to get audio to the camping area 300 metres away, where they’ve decided they don’t want the constant hum of generators.”

As part of their continuing research into battery-powered solutions, Be Productions got talking to the audio team at CMI Music & Audio and had their attention caught by the JBL EON ONE Compact. It’s a self-powered two-way, kicking out 112dB SPL, with onboard four-channel mixer and processing, Bluetooth capability, app control, and an all-important rechargeable and hot-swappable battery with up to 12 hours run time.

“We thought the Enduros would be a great test of the JBL EON ONE Compact as a battery-powered audio solution,” relates Marc. “So, we bought six units and an extra six batteries so we could recharge and hot swap without interruption. We put in an FM transmitter at ops that broadcast to the whole site, then ran a rechargeable FM radio receiver on three of the EON ONE Compacts at the campsite that charges off the EON’s USB port; very handy capability, that. We then hardwire signal to the other EON ONE Compact in each pair via the analogue passthrough.” 

With the EON ONE Compacts rigged on-site in weatherproof bags, the Enduro was up and running. “The charge on the battery was very reliable,” observes Marc. “The first day, we were running full whack and didn’t have to swap batteries until that evening. We had a tech looking at the on-board battery indicator every hour, and they were fine. The hot swapping was really the key to success for us, as we could do it quickly and easily without having to de-rig the units. In terms of sound, the speech intelligibility is very good, and they absolutely cut through. For the full range programme, the output is very impressive for a battery-powered unit. I’m very happy with their coverage, and I’d say the EON ONE Compact is the way forward for us in these applications.”

Weighing in at just 8kg and measuring 291 x 255 x 399 mm, the EON ONE Compact’s portability and flexibility will likely see it end up running in some unusual applications. Literally. “I’ve just been designing and quoting for a running festival with a requirement for runners to be kitted out with a backpack and a speaker,” chuckles Marc. “The idea is that they look like the other competitors, but they’ll be blasting audio synced via phones, connected to the speakers via Bluetooth, with the JBL EON ONE Compact sitting in the backpack. We’ve pitched that to the event, and we just hope they don’t expect us audio techs to run the half marathon with them!”


by Jason Allen CX Magazine

Related articles