June 7, 2004
Nearly two decades after discovering the wreck of the world’s most famous ship, pre-eminent explorer and scientist Dr. Robert Ballard is set to revisit the 12,000-feet deep resting place of RMS Titanic in May and June 2004. From June 4th through June 9th, four live programs per day will be transmitted from the expedition to children across the country through Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (MAIFE)’s Immersion Project in a series of programs entitled Titanic Live! On Monday, June 7th at 9 p.m. (ET/PT), the National Geographic Channel will nationally broadcast a one-hour special, “Return to Titanic”. Both the Titanic Live! and National Geographic Channel efforts will originate from aboard the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research vessel Ronald H. Brown. The expedition benefits from the coordinated resources of the NOAA, MAIFE, The University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography National Geographic Society, National Geographic Channel and JASON Foundation for Education. The broadcast and intercom technology tying these facilities together will be from Telex/RTS, assisting with every detail from the unprecedented live underwater transmissions from Titanic’s wreck site, to the communications between the crew on land and at sea.
Dr. Ballard’s expedition will focus upon the deteriorating effects the ocean and humans have had upon Titanic in the nearly twenty years since her discovery. This research will be the subject of the Immersion Project, an ongoing interactive educational project first launched by MAIFE in 2002 that will bring Dr. Ballard’s expeditions live to children in after-school settings like the Boys and Girls Clubs, public institutions like Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, and other partner sites around the United States.
As former Director of Operations at IFE (now Manager of Operations for the Deep Submergence Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Cathy Offinger worked with Dr. Ballard for nearly 30 years. She commented:
“Last year we had control vans specially designed and built, for which Telex provided all the intercom equipment. This was the first time we’d been on our own audio network. Last year was our learning curve, and now we’re familiar with the equipment and continue to be very pleased with its performance. We were in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea last year using the same system. The Telex equipment is like the glue that holds our internal communications network together, allowing us to enter a new level of production and broadcast sophistication, as characterized by the MAIFE’s interactive Immersion Project for schools. We were also very pleased to have a vendor come on site – Michael Brown (Telex/RTS) provided us with a very high level of attention to detail and hands-on involvement towards ensuring the success of last year's project.”
Brian Doros works for Dr. Ballard as Senior Technical Director at MAIFE. He described the intercom systems being used for this year’s expedition:
“Telex/RTS equipment is quite extensively deployed in this current project, at Mystic, aboard the ship, and in the command and satellite vans at Wood’s Hole, from where the live telecast will originate. The project revolves around wherever Dr. Ballard is at any particular time at any of the locations, be that under the water, at Mystic, The University of Rhode Island, or at the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution. This is why the intercom needs to be seamless and fully integrated between sites.”
“The human voice is really the sole audio portion of the Immersion Project program Titanic Live! However, this isn’t a typical production, with microphones used to pick up dialog from talent. There’s very little ambient audio from below the waterline – all the audio is intercom chatter, which essentially becomes the program of audio for all these feeds. There’s also the separate production entity and the live broadcast from the ship on the National Geographic Channel: all the intercom support for the production end of this event is also from Telex/RTS, centered around the compact ADAM CS matrix frame. We’re using TIF2000 phone interface technology, creating a bridge between the land-based production and the ship-based production, the effectiveness of which is of paramount importance to the success of the live shows – both the big TV event and the daily shows. These daily shows take place four times a day for 20 minutes, going to multiple venues throughout the United States, one being the theatre here at Mystic. The system at Mystic is an RTS Zeus II trunking capable digital matrix intercom system, used to enable multiple audio cues to the multiple theatres on the campus here immediately as the live audio packages come in from the live production team on the boat. This two-way voice communication is essential to the live interactive segments of these shows – assisted by the wireless headsets connected to the intercom via a TIF2000 unit at Mystic that dials us out to our technology sponsor EDS in Texas, where our phone bridge is provided for audio back channel to the ship. The intercom system is a very important element of the whole production, both on the ship-based level of program audio for the event, and on the land-based side, in terms of interactive capabilities and the talkback channel to the ship. It all sounds complicated, but the Telex/RTS equipment makes communication simple.”
In closing, Brian Doros considered an added value of working with Telex/RTS equipment - customer service: “One thing that needs to be emphasized is the high level of end-user support that Telex/RTS provides.
"We have some pretty complex configurations here at the Aquarium, and Michael Brown played an essential role in both setting up the intercom and making sure the gear was deployed to the various bases on time. As a non-profit organization focused on public outreach and education, our resources are limited, and having Mike on hand helped us maximize them, especially in terms of preparing for these trips, checking the integrity of the systems, etc. This really is an added value of Telex/RTS equipment: not only does Mike stand behind his products, he’s there to ensure that they’re being utilized to their fullest potential for our particular applications. For our next trip we’re considering integrating VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology – I’m confident that will work out just as well as our current equipment.”