BRUSSELS — As part of the “Tournée Minérale” campaign, commercial radio station Joe persuaded much of its audience to join its “no alcohol-month” group. On Wednesday Feb. 28, to celebrate the conclusion of the month-long campaign, Joe broadcast its evening drive from an underwater on-air studio.
“Tournée Minérale” was launched last year by the Stichting tegen Kanker (the Foundation Against Cancer) and the DrugLijn (Drug Line), which promotes February as “alcohol-free” month.
For Joe, Rani De Coninck and Raf Van Brussel, weekday presenters from 4 to 7 p.m., became the advocates of the initiative, convincing listeners to join their group. In turn, the radio-tandem then faced a special defy — to broadcast from underwater at the end of the challenge. This year, in total, more than 100,000 people registered and participated in the special event.
To celebrate the campaign’s conclusion, the station organized an underwater broadcast. The technical aspects for show were developed by Medialaan Radio project engineer Iann Castelein, with visual support from Medialaan Production Facilities’ project engineers Frank Santermans and Hans Van Kerckhoven.
In the Nemo 33 diving center — the world’s second deepest indoor diving pool — the Joe team installed an on-air studio in a diving bell, at a depth of 5 meters in the 33-meter deep pool.
The bell was set up for the broadcast of a one-hour radio show and the presenters were equipped with Sennheiser HMD26 headset-mics and tablets displaying the program schedule.
“All equipment (mics, headsets, tablets, cameras) were packed in waterproof Peli-cases.” (Pelican?)The station installed a waterproof Wi-Fi access point inside the underwater bulb, creating a local Wi-Fi network serving the presenter’s tablets.
“The diving bell studio’s signal is connected over fiber to our MLO1 outside broadcast van’s radio setup using a Lawo MC²36 console. The content was returned to the mobile radio set-up, next to the diving pool, and then channeled to the main Medialaan studio using a Prodys ProntoNet codec plus a redundant Mayah Centauri 3001 ISDN codec back-up connection,” explained Boone.
“The mobile studio is equipped with a Studer OnAir 3000 console and a Dalet+ playout system.” Both the mobile radio studio and the mobile video truck connected to the Medialaan broadcast center using PSTN intercom lines.
The underwater broadcast was also captured by eight cameras serving Joe’s website, app, YouTube and Facebook Live video streaming using a WMT video codec. The underwater camera footage was directed from the OB van’s control room with a SynchroSound Aqua IIB underwater speaker in the pool giving instructions to the diver.
In the weeks preceding the Tournée Minérale event, presenters Rani and Raf took diving courses in the Nemo diving center.
On Feb. 28, some 100 Joe listeners witnessed Raf and Rani’s live broadcast from the diving center. During the one-hour underwater program, presenters Sven Ornelis and Anke Bukinckx were the “dry-hosts” in the mobile studio. The program’s playlist featured water-related tracks like Abba’s “Waterloo” and Dire Straits’ “Twisting by the Pool.”
“The biggest challenge was broadcasting from an underwater studio, in a glass sphere bowl, where temperatures exceed 35 degrees Celsius and there is 100 percent humidity.” said Castelein. “This is not at all evident.” In addition to the audio, Joe also had two cameras in the sphere capturing images for live feeds and streams.
“Outside the diving bell, a cameraman operated a RED camera. In total, we had a technical crew of 15 people working here for a week, so this event was quite a big production,” Boone added.