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Optocore Festival Box Prepares for the New Outdoor Season

A number of rental companies across Europe are streamlining their hire fleets for the coming touring and outdoor seasons by acquiring Optocore’s unique Festival Boxes. These are available in Grand (12 SFP) and Petit (6 SFP) fiber transport platforms in order to convert and send multiple signal formats down a single fiber.

One leading international hire company, Major Tom, first saw the device at the ISE Show in Amsterdam, and after being given a system to demo they knew right away that this would become an essential tool in their inventory. “Why run six cables when you only need to run two,” reasons Major Tom project manager, Andy Banks. “It makes total sense even on non-festival shows; we can run PA returns on AVB, and then multiple consoles for headline and opening acts on just a single snake with a pair of fibers … rather than multiple runs.”

Banks confirms that he was certainly looking beyond festivals when he made the initial acquisition. “We had several other jobs in mind for it as well. Since acquiring it in July 2021 Festival Box has been in constant use, including TV awards ceremonies such as the MOBO’s, as well as at several festival sites.

“Also, by running one smaller snake on tours it cuts down on load in/out time and complexity, as well as truck space if we’re only carrying one small snake case for everything.”

Other than vast savings in time, Major Tom can fit more functionality into less space. “This makes it a winner all round,” says Banks. “We are about to send one on a world tour where it can easily handle the headline act’s console, as well as fiber comms lines, PA returns and still have space for whatever consoles opening acts turn up with. It means we’re covered for most eventualities while still only running the same single snake run.

“We will definitely be looking at purchasing more of these systems in the future.”

Chris Hill, co-founder of Wigwam (a Solotech company) is a long-term user of Optocore solutions, who became another early adopter of Festival Box. “It immediately dug us out of a couple of holes, and proved to be a very useful tool,” he says.

Hill recalls, “For the Spice Girls we put Festival Box on as a data tunnel so we could put comms, video, the support band console and remote aerials through it. It got used heavily, and proved to be very flexible, reducing the number of cables to plug in at front of house.”

For Billie Eilish, Festival Box took on an entirely different role. Production had wanted to run their system over Cat5, since their Allen & Heath console sits on that network, and all available fiber ports had already been used. So instead of wrestling with a system rejig, thanks to Festival Box they were able to carry on as they were, with no issues of distance, no reconfiguration or software changes necessary.

“Their production loved it,” confirms Hill, “because they could work the way they wanted to work. Festival Box introduced them to a really simple way of getting out of a problem. You don’t need a laptop and another screen—you can plug in more SFPs and put other formats down it.”

Alex Hadjigeorgiou of Optocore dealers fac365 (a former Wigwam tech himself) has been a prime influencer of Festival Box, as well as being digital system adviser on those Wigwam tours. “I like to think we add value by providing exceptional support for any sale,” he says.

He has again been working closely with Wigwam on the upcoming Coldplay 2022 World tour. Aside from adding two further Festival Boxes fac365 have supplied five Optocore AutoRouters and a pair of M12-BNC MADI converters for this tour.

Chris Hill will have all seven systems in use, for FOH and Stage—some on the fiber advance systems, some as data tunnels. “They have solved some complicated patch scenarios.”

Meanwhile, Alex Hadjidgeorgiou recently reconfigured prominent UK monitor engineer, Neal Allen’s own Festival Box Petit for a short series of dates with Mel C. He had previously used it successfully for a Russell Watson / Lulu show aboard the Queen Mary, where it was adapted to OpticalCON at FOH (from the DiGiCo SD10) to HMA at the Festival Box / SD racks at the stage. “This meant that Neal didn’t need to carry a separate set of cables,” says Hadjigeorgiou.

Over in Poland, Warsaw-based GMB Pro Sound are another leading sound production company that has put Festival Box to good use. Janusz Klimowicz first heard about Festival Box back in 2018 while still in prototype phase—and the concept immediately sparked his interest for deployment during festivals and concerts requiring a substantial number of connections between stage and FOH. He promptly detailed it for Open’er Festival in 2019. The solution was pretty self-explanatory and so easy to use that we could introduce it right away.” So convinced by the demo system were GMB Pro Audio that they immediately ordered a set.Festival Box also went out on the Męskie Granie tour 2019. “Once we adjusted it to the tour’s needs, we could start using it immediately,” notes GMB’s Michał Sikora.

“All the sound engineers and system engineers have been impressed by the idea behind it,” confirms Janusz Klimowicz. “Festival Box is now our go-to device when working at festivals and concerts with many artists that use different mixers.”

Both men pinpoint the tremendous saving on time and cables. “This should be sufficient to convince every sound company producing large events to purchase it. It is as important adevelopment as replacing XLR cables with the multicore solution was in the analogue era.”