Communication System Design

Communication System Design

The Hobbiton Movie Set is one of New Zealand’s must-see tourist attractions, with iconic sets that featured in the Peter Jackson directed The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy films. Occupying 12 acres in the midst of a working farm, and with over 200 staff members, the set sees up to 3,000 visitors a day in peak season. Fully guided tours take staff and visitors all over the site, often out of range of cellphone coverage. With current health and safety requirements and various groups of staff collaborating to create a seamless and authentic experience, reliable communication is a must. To this end, Alcom was called in to advise on the best communication system design.

The Movie Set staff had an existing Tait analog radio network that operated on a single channel with no repeater, which made coordination a challenge when navigating a site filled with rolling hills. To coordinate amongst themselves, “we basically had to jump in a vehicle and drive around the site”, says Mitch King, Food and Beverage Manager. With business rapidly growing, better communications became an increasingly pressing need within and between various groups such as operations, food and beverage, and maintenance staff.

Alcom was called to advise and in the first instance arranged to meet Mitch onsite to fully understand the operation’s communication needs. A portable repeater demonstration clearly showed how coverage and reliability could be enhanced by upgrading from the current analogue, single channel system to a customized digital multi-channel system.

After some discussion we recommended and supplied a Tait DMR Tier 2 solution with TP9310 radios and a Hytera repeater. Now, the team works on three channels – tour guides are in one group, food and beverage staff in another, and the grounds and maintenance team are in the third. Supervisor radios are programmed to be able to monitor and priority call their teams if necessary, while colour-coded terminals facilitated ease of use and quick recognition for teams on the go.

Transitioning from Tait analog to a digital system has provided the Hobbiton Movie Set with clear and reliable voice communications. “Many others seeking to find a cost effective, customized communication system for improved operations and safety could benefit from this approach”, says Vernon, from Alcom. “We were able to identify the issues and talk through solutions together before building the final system”. Mitch King adds that Hobbiton now has “coordinated communications across the whole site, which means a massive improvement in health and safety preparedness, and ability to respond to any incidents. Ultimately, the new radio system has made a huge difference in our ability to ensure a quality experience”.

Story (edited version) courtesy of Tait Communications