Recently, I reconnected with Henry Engineering products in an AH-HA moment.
Prior to teaching, I was in radio and products from Henry Engineering were everywhere. We used a ton of different tools depending on what we needed and they all seemed to be Henry Engineering. From analog to digital conversion to cough boxes, we used them all.
During a basketball broadcast, my play by play guy got choked up a bit and started to cough. Before I can mute his mic (I was producing that game), he snatched his headphones off and started coughing. As you know, there are very few things as startling and amateur sounding as someone taking off a hot headset but when you have to cough, you have no choice. I started researching inexpensive solutions and found more than I bargained for.
Henry Engineering Sports Pod is the solution I needed. The Sports Pod is an "announcer's mini-console" that gives each announcer control of his (or her) mic and headphones. Each announcer can turn the mic on or off, Talk-back to the Producer, and custom-mix their headphone audio. Now my talent can not only turn their own microphone on and off but they can communicate with me off air anytime they need do. Our previous setup required me to turn their microphone off and on as well as mute it to use back channels on the mixer for off air communication. This is ok 90% of the time but if the talent wants something from the producer, they have to give a visual sign or some other means of communicating. Using the Sports Pod allows my air talent to simply hit the talk back button and ask for a stat or whatever else they may need.
The unit is about the size of a small book and can sit flat or be placed on an angle with the optional desk mount. The front plate is simple - Three buttons (mic on, cough, talk back), Two knobs (local and return level controls for headphone mix) and Two switches that allow you to choose left, right, or center for local and return. The rear of the unit is a bit more complex but still simple enough to wire correctly in no time. There are Two 1/4 inputs and Two 1/4 outputs. The inputs are local audio (main mix from the board) and return feed (IFB - producer audio) and outputs are talkback (Off air communication with producer) and phones (audio for the talent headphones). There are Two XLR connections (input from talent microphone / output to audio mixer). There is also a 12v power connection on the back.
The Sports Pod as a stand alone is an incredible asset to our broadcast plan. We are able to have professional level communication and a simple user interface for our broadcasts but as a stand alone, we are limiting ourselves greatly!
Henry Engineering also let us work with the Multiphones II. This is really a game changer. The Henry Engineering website describes Multiphones II as a “multi user distributed headphone system.” So follow me closely on this one… the Multiphones II allows you to not only power the Sports Pod (up to 12 Sports Pods) via cat 5 cable but that same cable works as the return feed from the Multiphones II. As a producer, you have the chance, if you are using multiple Sports Pods, to send talkback audio to different people on your production team. Your talent can control their local (themselves) feed as well as the return. We use a Mackie Mixer so I took the control room feed from the mixer as the return feed. This allowed my play by play person to mix his voice with the color analyst and I didn’t have to try to balance those. I could just focus on the main mix.
The system is extremely easy to set-up. While Hank and the crew at Henry Engineering were more than willing to help, I wanted to take the task on without any so I can see potential pitfalls. Other than some basic wiring for the Multiphones II, there are no problems at all getting this system up and running in minutes.
The Sports Pod as a stand alone is amazing. I can certainly see those popping up at stadiums and gyms around the country soon because of the powerful broadcast quality tools and the affordable price. The Sports Pod is $595 and is available in a variety of outlets including http://www.henryeng.com. The Multiphones II comes in at less than $300. The two paired with a couple more Sports Pods will certainly take your live productions to the next level.