Adding Footswitch Control to Clearcom

As I said in a previous post, we rely heavily on our Clearcom intercom system to have good lines of communication between all of the tech team and the band as well.

In each control room, we have a “director’s station” which has a 4-channel intercom where he/she can talk to all four channels of the intercom system: the tech team in Auditorium 1, the band in Auditorium 1, the band in Auditorium 2, and the tech team in Auditorium 2. All other intercom stations are single channel and that person can only talk on the particular channel they are wired for.

For the most part, this works great and does well to keep intercom chatter down and keeps the director as the funnel of communication. However, I have found that quite often, when we are doing smaller events in our smaller auditorium, that I am sitting at the video switcher with no way to talk to the band without having to get up and go sit at the director’s station behind me.

When our integrators built out the AVL for our new auditorium, they installed a Clearcom RM-702 2-channel rack mounted intercom into the rack room for Auditorium 2. I found that after a year and a half, we never use it there, so I decided to move it to Control Room 2, which is the video control room that drives operation for Auditorium 2.

Photo Jul 17, 2 52 42 PM
This is the RM-702, installed now into the control room.

As I operate the video switcher, I like to keep my hands on the switcher (and my streamdeck!). Reaching over to press an intercom talk button is an interruption to my workflow. The nice thing about the RM-702 is that it has an accessory port, which allows you to connect a footswitch to activate the talk channels!

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Here is a view of the accessory port with the cable connected that I purchased.

The accessory port is a DB-15 connector, so I bought an extension cable, along with a DB-15 plug. I bought these from Amazon:

I also bought two Yamama FC5 foot pedals.

photo-jul-17-2-52-59-pm.jpgTo wire everything up, I had to cut off the plug at the end of the pedals to expose the wires. The wiring is pretty simple. Clearcom has it well documented what the pinout is.

  • Pin 1: Ground
  • Pin 2: Talk Channel A
  • Pin 9: Talk Channel B

 

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Here is everything wired up.

The Yamaha pedal is a contact/no-contact switch, so it doesn’t matter which color wire goes to which pin.

 

Once I connected everything up, I realized that the Yamaha pedal works the opposite of what I needed: it was making contact when the pedal wasn’t pressed down (shorting the connection in the Clearcom, keeping the talk channel turned on) and then when I would press the pedal down, it would break the connection, turning the talk channel off.

I opened up the pedal and modified the two leads so that it would make a connection when pressed down. I basically just swapped the position of the two copper bands.

Photo Jul 19, 8 29 25 AM

 

Photo Jul 19, 8 29 46 AM
This is how the pedal looks like by default. It is connecting the two wires until you press down, which breaks the connection. The opposite of what I needed.
Photo Jul 19, 8 50 31 AM
By swapping the two leads, now I have a pedal that only makes connection when pressed down. I had to bend them a little bit to sit properly.

Voila! Now I have two footpedals that I can use to talk on either channel, hands-free! The next step will be labeling them and then taping them down to the floor.

 

Photo Jul 19, 9 20 06 AM

All in all, this was a very inexpensive improvement. The pedals were about $15 each and the cable/adapter was about $10, and the project was simple.

 

Bridging Traditional Wired Intercom with Mobile Devices

We have two venues running services simultaneously, with volunteers all over the place. Communication is essential to us staying on schedule and coordinating our efforts.

Our primary wired intercom is the Clearcom Encore system. Nothing too fancy – just your standard analog 4 channel party line system with main stations, remote stations, and single channel belt packs placed throughout the control rooms, auditoriums, and tech booths. In each auditorium, we use 1 channel for tech communication and 1 channel for the band in-ears. That takes up all four channels.

 

Photo Apr 29, 8 00 00 PM
Here is one of our four-channel stations for our Tech Directors to use. They can talk on any channel.

 

 

Photo Apr 29, 8 00 37 PM
Most of the volunteers have a single channel station where they can only talk on one channel.

 

Where we have really leveraged this technology is with our bridge to mobile intercom, using a software product called Unity Intercom. By itself, Unity is a Mac-based server application with remote clients (iOS, Mac, Android, Windows, etc.) that connect over the network. Version 2 was limited to 6 partyline channels, but Version 3 that was just released has an option to extend that to 128 partyline channels, which is impressive! The Unity Intercom software is a great solution for allowing mobile intercom use.

The flexibility for us comes with the bridge from our traditional wired intercom to the Unity system so that no matter which system we are using, we can communicate with everyone. There are a lot of ways to do this, like using a 2-wire to 4-wire interface, but we bridge ours using Dante (audio over IP) with a product from Studio Technologies, the ST-45DC.

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This interface comes with 2 standard 3-pin partyline intercom connections, and an ethernet port for the Dante network. It’s POE-capable, so if your network switch supports it, no other power supply is needed.

 

Photo Apr 29, 8 01 31 PM
You can see both 45DCs and our Unity Server Mac Mini here in the rack. They are powered by the network switch and everything is connected over the network.

 

With two of these 45DC’s, we can bridge all four channels of our wired ClearCom intercom to the Dante network. Our Unity server (running on a Mac Mini) has Dante Virtual Soundcard which allows us to bring in Dante network audio as audio input. You do need the “Advanced I/O” Module from Unity in order to bring your audio in/out.

 

Photo Apr 29, 8 03 07 PM
Here is a view of the inside of the rack. You can see the back of the 45DC;s, the Mac mini, and the intercom patchbay as well. I wired ours through the patchbay for ultimate flexibility, but it isn’t absolutely necessary to do this.

 

Intercom audio can now pass from the analog intercom system, through the Studio Tech 45DC’s, through Dante directly to the Unity server. Any audio that comes out of Unity goes back to the 45DC’s via a Dante subscription, and the 45DC’s take care of all audio nulling. A side benefit: With your intercom traffic on Dante, you can route it to other places too, like recorders, speakers, etc. Want to record a channel of intercom to be able to listen later and improve your production communication? With this setup, it’s no problem!

To use the wireless intercom, we usually ask volunteers to install the free Unity client app on their personal devices and connect to our server. We have campus-wide public wifi, so they can be anywhere in the facility and still communicate on intercom. The Unity server allows you to control which users can listen to which channels, and you can  control which ones they are allowed to talk  as well.

 

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We also have inexpensive tablets available for volunteers who may not have a personal device to use.

 

I had our IT department configure port forwarding which allows us to access the Unity server from outside the network (i.e. the Internet), which means we can be anywhere in the world and still communicate with the team in real-time, if necessary! This will be very helpful should we ever go multi-site or otherwise have an off-campus event that requires coordination with on-site volunteers.

Setup Recap:

  • You need an existing Wired Intercom like the ClearCom Encore System.
  • As many bridging interfaces as desired for the channels you want available to Unity
  • Mac computer to run Unity (you can dedicate a computer or just use one you already have)
  • Unity Server with as many licenses as you need, as well as the Advanced I/O License
  • Dante Virtual Soundcard software for the Unity server computer

If you are considering a wireless intercom workflow to use with your wired intercom, I hope this helps!