BitFire, Holley Video Connect American Idol Contestants to Loved Ones

For the 20th season of American Idol, Arizona-based BitFire Networks and California-based Holley Video Consultation partnered to engineer a solution to connect families with contestants during the production’s socially distanced audition process.

Dubbed the “180 Room,” the setup features a three-segment screen and open area in the middle for the contestant to stand. Oversized video feeds of families, friends and pets are displayed around the contestant, creating real-time emotional and memorable moments for the show. The 180 Room lets contestants talk to loved ones who couldn’t travel to California due to social distancing and travel restrictions.

American Idol needed a new solution to bring families together remotely due to COVID protocols in California,” says Bob Sullivan, president and CEO of BitFire Networks. “Working with our partners, we provided the technology to ensure families could experience these life-changing moments together.”

As the search begins to find the country’s 20th singing sensation, NEP Sweetwater and Pacifico Television helped make this complex vision a reality with BitFire.

The contestant’s families and friends were provided with a simple web link that connected them to BitFire’s FireBridge platform. Using their own devices, their video and audio signals were transmitted directly to the American Idol production. Onsite Holley Video routed the feeds through BitFire servers to display on the 180 Room screens.

Camera feeds of the contestants onsite were routed back through BitFire servers allowing families to seamlessly watch, hear and interact with their loved ones.

BitFire’s communication solution was also integrated with the setup allowing show producers to talk directly to each remote guest and prepare them for their moment in the show. With BitFire’s Network Operations Center onboarding each family, the Idol production was able to streamline their workflow. BitFire could prep and test multiple guest signals and then route each guest to the production when they were ready for their moment on-air.

“Working with American Idol was a team effort,” says Zak Holley of Holley Video Consultation. “There were many moving parts with about 15 remotes per city. Holley Video built a rack loaded with Bitfire’s powerful servers and worked with NEP Sweetwater to display the families on a 180-degree wall.”

The 180 Room solution was used in each city on Idol’s annual audition tour, including Austin, L.A. and
Nashville. BitFire and Holley Video will continue to support the show as they build up to the live finale,
as our servers will facilitate live feeds to off-site executives and production teams.

“Pulling off an event like this for one of the most popular shows in the country, requires the right
technology and broadcast veterans to ensure everything runs flawlessly,” adds Sullivan. “When you
have Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lionel Ritchie and Ryan Seacrest watching, there is no room for error. Our
success is a testament to the team and our ability to find flawless, state of the art solutions when our
clients need them most.”

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