‘American Idol’ Audition Tour Taps RTS for Comms

VALENCIA, CALIF.—As staff engineer for ATK Versacom, I provide production communications for a variety of events. Before each season, “American Idol” stages an audition tour, visiting cities nationwide to find vocalists for the next season. ATK Versacom is the intercom provider, and I was selected as PL Technician for their latest month-long tour, which included stops in Denver, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Louisville, Ky., New York and Los Angeles.

ATK Versacom had recently purchased two RTS ODIN digital matrix frames to upgrade our infrastructure to handle the latest digital hardware as well as legacy analog gear. We decided to use it on this tour, so in preparation I spent a few days getting familiar with the unit.


ODIN is a digital intercom  frame that uses Bosch’s OMNEO networking technology for seamless integration into IP-based networks.

ODIN is a digital intercom  frame that uses Bosch’s OMNEO networking technology for seamless integration into IP-based networks.

ODIN is a digital intercom frame that uses Bosch’s OMNEO networking technology for seamless integration into IP-based networks like the Dante standard we use. Programming is easy via laptop, and the GUI is pretty intuitive. ODIN can support 16 to 128 digital audio paths per unit, depending on licensing, and includes 16 connectors for analog keypanels. Versacom purchased units set up for 64 channels, which was plenty for this tour.

The most obvious advantage of ODIN is its compact 1RU size. It’s also very energy efficient, using less than 50W of power, and has redundant power supplies. Everything I needed fit in one small 13-space rack—a huge improvement compared to my multiple-rack setups previously. This makes ODIN a great fit for flypack operations.

There’s a lot to like with ODIN in both features and usability. The frame handles everything—multichannel beltpacks, legacy keypanels and wireless. For this tour—which had the same production setup in every locale—I loved the fact that I only had to program it once. Its OMNEO networking architecture takes advantage of key Dante features, like the ability to recreate your setup when you come back the next day—even if you’re in a different location.


After the first day, ODIN handled things automatically. My job was to make sure everything sounded clear and clean, and tweak anything that needed updating. During audition tapings, my main job was to monitor the comms system.

While the tour’s channel count for comms wasn’t huge, it was certainly diverse enough to put the ODIN to the test. It’s a full 6-camera shoot, and everything gets captured live. We had six legacy keypanels—Telex KP-5032s—and 12 Dante beltpacks. Those served our video village, plus the audio and lighting folks. For mobile techs, we had 12 wireless beltpacks (not RTS), easily interfaced into ODIN via its 4-wire ports.

The first stop, Denver, was the most stressful. It was my first time in the field with ODIN, so it took me longer than I planned to get everything set up and make sure all the gear was properly routed. After that, our comms were plug-and-play, every day.

Overall, my first experience with RTS ODIN was very positive. It’s Dante-friendly, easy to program, and plays well with others. Signals are clean and clear, and everything is controlled via IP. This is the direction our industry is going, and everyone at Versacom has jumped in and started using it on their shows. I look forward to using it again.

In 1999, Joe Watson started his career in the television entertainment industry as a comms technician. In 2004, he joined the ATK Versacom team as a staff technician and has been there since. He can be reached atjoew@atkversacom.com.

For more information, visitrtsintercoms.com.