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DiGiCo SD10 Tames Mega Monitor Mixes On Frampton’s ‘Guitar Circus’

Peter Frampton reclaims his guitar throne on the blockbuster ‘Frampton’s Guitar Circus’ tour, which kicked off at the end of May in Nashville, TN at the Ryman Auditorium. The guitarist-turned-frontman/singer is sharing the stage and going toe-to-toe with a dizzying array of axemen on the summer outing including Steve Cropper, Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Don Felder (formerly of The Eagles), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Vince Gill, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Davy Knowles, Roger McGuinn (founder/lead guitarist of the BYRDS), Richard Thompson, Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Vinnie Moore (UFO) and Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), with B.B. King, Steve Lukather, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Sonny Landreth trading off opening the shows.

With Clair Global providing the consoles and a full stage package, Frampton engineer Matt Fitzgerald—who has worked with Frampton for the past four years, and with Ringo Starr and Blue Man Group prior—kicked off the tour with a new audio footprint at monitor world to handle all of the ramped-up monitoring requirements. Fitzgerald chose a DiGiCo SD10 for Frampton’s 5-piece band and the guest guitarists.

Heading into rehearsals with the new system, Fitzgerald was a bit hesitant at first, but his fears were allayed once he powered up on day one. “This was my first experience using one of the new SD consoles in-depth,” he explains. “I’d had lots of mixing experience on a D5 working with opening acts. But for this summer tour, I opted in favor of a smaller footprint and more flexible solution by trading up two linked digital desks that I was using prior for an SD10. Not only was it difficult mixing inputs between the two desks, but it was sluggish also as I had to treat each one as an individual mixing surface.

“Obviously making a big switch was a bit nerve-wracking. Peter’s the kind of guy that wants to be able to walk into rehearsal and just go. I did a lot of research and spent time with DiGiCo’s Ryan Shelton in Nashville and worked with the offline software to build my big session files. We had a decent amount of rehearsal time, about two weeks, because the band was learning the other guitar players’ material, so that was of huge benefit to me. I was able to get really comfortable on the desk, storing snapshots, making scene-to-scene files, etc. Literally after the first day, I was shocked and awed at how easy it was to get around on the desk and how small the learning curve was. I felt like a burden was lifted off my shoulders and I was able to just concentrate on mixing, not on the new gear. I was really blown away by the desk and really liked that everything was laid out so naturally. The buttons were right where I needed them, not to mention that the features are fantastic and you can have the channel strip wherever you want and create the desk to make it the way you want it to be. It’s really comfortable and I really enjoy it.”

With all of our band on Westone ES2 in-ears, Fitzgerald was looking at a lot of variables with the guest guitarists—some would be on ears, some on wedges; some had big stereo rigs and others had simple combo amps, acoustic guitars, etc. “I wanted to have a lot more flexibility and room to grow. With the SD10, I’m able to build a bigger show file as well as have extra wedge and ear mixes built-in. And it’s been awesome as far as changing the layout of the desk from show to show. For instance, we just played with Steve Cropper, who uses wedges, and I was able to move my wedge mixes to my top layer and restructure my file, and it was so cool and easy.”

Fitzgerald makes use of all of the onboard effects from the desk: reverbs for drums, acoustic guitars and keys, slap delays for vocals, plus a bit of multiband compression for vocals and DiGiTuBes on the bass for a little bit of drive. The only external effects he’s employing is an Eventide H3000 harmonizer for the acoustic guitars.

One of the challenges is creating a controlled environment on a day-to-day basis, blending the audience mics and stage sounds in everyone’s in-ears. “The tonality, spaciousness and imaging are really great and big-sounding on this desk. There’s a real clarity to the sound. Any inputs like Peter’s LCR Marshall and stereo Leslies for is his guitar rig, the Hammond organs and keyboards that are hard-panned left and right, sound so clear and natural. The imaging is excellent and sounds like you don’t have ears in at all. I’m able to fine tune the EQ of the audience mics to each room, so the audience sounds the same even though you’re in an arena, theater, or event hall… When someone in the audience yells in between songs I want Peter to be able to look into the audience and know where and who is yelling and make eye contact with them. With the SD10s imaging and clarity I can pan audience mics exactly where I want. It’s as if I’m mixing the audience just as much as I mix the band. Peter’s mix is a very full range, dynamic mix of the entire band with his inputs just top,” he adds. “He wants to hear everybody and what they’re playing. If someone solos I ride my programed control groups to give them a nudge in his ears so he hears all important parts of the songs…”

With the tour well underway, the feedback on the new console among band and front man has been unanimously positive. “This band is so great to work with because they respect my input and ideas as we move forward with this new console. I try to open up the spectrum in their ears and create a ceiling for them instead of monaural mixes. I want it to sound as natural as possible and at the same time have full control of what’s going on onstage so I’ve created a big open stereo spectrum with Peter in middle and the guitar players panned on each side to create that image of what’s really going on onstage. If you take your ears out, that’s what it’ll sound like. And the fact that I’m able to recreate all of this in the in-ear monitors and have it sound so natural is really cool.

“And Peter, being an audio guy himself is great to work with, he is very particular about his sound,” Fitzgerald continues. “He’s involved in a lot of choices in the audio spectrum and loves this desk, too. He’s blown away with it and loving the sound of the desk in his ears. Peter and his band are all on in-ears monitors and we have a couple of subs onstage for feel. I’m able to have a nice, controlled environment and a lot of good mixing. So far, it’s been a seamless transition and awesome!”

“This DiGiCo desk is amazingly ‘analog’ sounding,” raves Frampton. “It’s very warm and, with its full band width, has incredible smooth high-end response. Matt can run monitors and multi-track record every show with ease. This is due to the foresight of design. It’s like not having ‘ears’ in but instead, listening to a really great pair of studio monitors. But… I’m playing live on stage!”

The variety of the material from night to night and city to city has kept Fitzgerald on his toes and had made for a musically stimulating tour. “The fact that we’re doing both Peter’s material but also songs from the other guitarists, has been a bit of extra work for me and the band, but it’s been really fun overall. It’s made for an exciting, unique and fun tour. Again, having the flexibility on this desk has allowed me to simply have fun mixing… Needless to say, I’m really in love with this desk.”

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Alicia Keys Sets The World On Fire With DiGiCo & Clair Global

With over 50 international dates on the horizon in support of her latest outing Girl on Fire, Grammy award winning artist Alicia Keys has surrounded herself with an adept team of engineers with support from Clair Global and DiGiCo mixing systems. With a total of five SD racks (two for FOH, two for monitors, and one for opening artist, Miguel), they’re also carrying a pair of SD10s (one at FOH and monitor world) to handle the eight-member band including the headliner. Newly positioned at FOH is Tim Colvard, who took over the European leg of the tour. Although Colvard’s employed DiGiCo consoles for many of his clients international tours, this was his first time on an SD10 (as well as his debut outing with both the artist and with Clair Global). He joins Clair FOH tech Randy Weinholtz and monitor mixmaster Antonio Luna for the already-in- progress global tour.

The challenge of a one-day rehearsal prior to his first live show could’ve been cause for a bit of nail-biting. However, Colvard’s extensive previous hands-on experience on an SD7 with Madonna, Usher and others lent itself to getting up and running quickly on the new console and Keys’ eight-piece outfit, comprised of keys, bass, drums, guitar, also the group’s Musical Director), and a trio of background singers.

“A phone conversation with Alicia convinced me that she really cares about her sound,” says Colvard. “And being intrigued by her music made joining an already-in-progress tour an easy decision. With Alicia having one of the most powerful and dynamic voices in the industry, DiGiCo’s dynamic EQ really came in handy for smoothing everything out, especially when she’s really belting it out in the high-end. Also, I’m maximizing all of the dynamic compression available on the SD10 for all of the Pro Tools channels.

“It is also important for me to use snapshots, which I time to run consecutively. This allows me to do certain mutes on the piano, particularly when it goes down the lift in the middle of the song and gets disconnected, as well as for other microphones in different parts at the stage. Using these features gives me more time to mix instead of trying to remember what inputs should be muted or un-muted.”

Colvard’s also carrying a rack of external effects, including a TC Electronic 2290, TC D2, Eventide H3000 ES, a couple of Yamaha 990s and a Lexicon 960L, which gives him “a variety to cover most algorithms needed to do duplicate the album effects.”

“We love the flexibility of the SD10 desk,” adds Weinholtz. “The dynamic EQ is really nice and having the ability to create a fader bank of multiple input/outputs, and whatever your brain can think of, is great.”

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the tour’s audio specs is Antonio Luna’s employment of an Aviom personal monitor mixing system—typically found in House of Worship, theatre and studio settings primarily, but not so much in touring. Luna’s using this in tandem with his SD10 to allow the band to customize and control their own individualized monitoring needs.

“The Aviom has been pretty cool,” he says. “I didn’t think I’d ever use it again after Aerosmith in 2009 but the musical director wanted to and so we figured out a way to incorporate it and it’s been working well since day one. I’m able to send 16 sends to the primary band members, who are all able to mix themselves, which means I get left alone to mix the three background vocalists and the singer. The band doesn’t ask me for anything during the show, so I can concentrate 100% on the artist. I would assume there are other engineers out there using Aviom, although I just don’t know anyone off-hand who’s doing it. It’s definitely made my job easier and I’m still able to deliver quality mixes to the band via that source. The band seems really happy with it, and if they’re happy I’m happy.”

Concentrating on Alicia, Luna keeps the effects to a minimum, relying mostly on the internal effects, with the exception of a TC Electronics M4000 plug-in via AES at 96kHz. “That reverb sounds really good on her vocal and we really like it. But everything else I’m using with her is internal. I find I use a lot of compression on her vocals. She has a lot of dynamic range, so I need to take that down a little bit to make it fit when she’s singing loud or soft. Because she’s primarily a piano player, the mix is very important. The piano can easily get lost or washed out if you have too much vocal or too much ambient sound. So the vocal and piano are the important parts of the mix, and the rest follows those two key elements. I make sure I can always hear the vocal and the piano, and if I can always hear the vocal and the piano, with the band fitting in nicely underneath, we’re going to have a great day!”

They’re also tracking 80 inputs on Nuendo at monitor world and FOH and 80 channels of Pro Tools to split off the stage racks.

Another technological advance on the tour is the use of a Signal Hound RF Spectrum Analyzer. “When we were deciding the gear spec, Scott Evans introduced me to the product and we decided to get one for the tour,” says Luna. “We’re getting really good results and the manufacturer has been fantastic. They’re excited for the feedback because apparently no one in our industry is using it, so it’s kinda cool to be breaking new ground like that.”

Both the artist and management have been happy with the production, both onstage and off…. And are verbal about it. “We’re getting a lot of compliments,” Luna offers, “and a couple of shows ago Alicia said it sounded wonderful at soundcheck… I’m not used to getting that kind of positive feedback from artists, so it’s refreshing, especially coming from Alicia, because she’s such an awesome talent.

“Other than that I’m really grateful that I’ve got a good relationship with the vendors, not just with sound company, Clair Global, but with DiGiCo as well,” continues Luna. “It’s a killer combination for service. I feel confident that no matter where I am in the world, if I need something, it’s going to happen. Thanks to both Clair and DiGiCo for helping me out on this tour… it’s very been appreciated.”

“In today’s touring industry where cost of gear and truck and rack space are ongoing issues,” adds Colvard, “it’s important to have a console that can solve many of these challenges, the DiGiCo SD10 meets all of the needs for getting on the road—from the sonics of the sound to the dynamic EQ, dynamic multi-band compression overdrive [DiGiTubes] and delay on channels, to its great gates and ducking capabilities. Having these tools makes the selection of DiGiCo consoles live an easy choice for me.”

Photo Credit Tim Colvard: Kathy Beer

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DiGiCo SD8 Brings Oktophonie Opus To Light At NYC’s Park Avenue Armory

Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s electronic masterpiece OKTOPHONIE made its New York premier at the end of March at Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan. Stockhausen was a compositional pioneer who grappled with spatial music as he bent the rules and redefined the listening experience. The German composer’s magnum opus “Licht” (or “Light”) OKTOPHONIE is a trailblazing electronic musical experience where the audience is surrounded by eight groups of loudspeakers, enveloping them in a sonic environment. The piece was performed by Kathinka Pasveer, an early Stockhausen collaborator, and Igor Kavulek who has been Stockhausen’s personal sound technician since 1998. A DiGiCo SD8 and Meyer sound system was specified by Kavulek for the show and provided by Production Resources Group.

Staging the work as the composer originally intended—in outer space—artist Rirkrit Tiravanija was commissioned by the Armory to create a ritualized lunar experience, a floating seating installation within the Armory’s soaring drill hall that heightens the listeners’ octophonic experience and transports them to another realm. The audience donned white cloaks for the journey, carried along by the all-encompassing score, which was broadcast from the SD8 console placed at center stage.

Pasveer has worked with DiGiCo consoles (SD7s, SD8s and D5s) over the last several years on previous performances around the globe and has been impressed with their ease of use, flexibility and reliability.

“Igor always specifies DiGiCo consoles and Meyer loudspeakers on our technical rider because they sound fantastic together and translate the music the way the composer wanted it to be heard,” explains Pasveer. “Oktophonie encompasses 64 channels that were mixed down to eight tracks, which were totally spacialized and played back from a laptop into the console. This very simple but sophisticated sound system gave us huge sound but was not too loud. The DiGiCo SD8 being so compact and flexible is very easy to work with and we use it often for our large productions. You can set it up exactly the way you like and individualize all the channels very easily. And the sound was so beautiful in the Armory. I think everyone was impressed by the sound and sound quality.”

About Park Avenue Armory
Part palace, part industrial shed, Park Avenue Armory fills a critical void in the cultural ecology of New York by enabling artists to create—and audiences to experience—unconventional work that cannot be mounted in traditional performance halls and museums. With its soaring 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall—reminiscent of 19th-century European train stations—and array of exuberant period rooms, the Armory offers a new platform for creativity across all art forms. Since September 2007—Aaron Young’s Greeting Card, a 9,216-square-foot “action” painting created by the burned-out tire marks of ten choreographed motorcycles—the Armory has organized a series of immersive performances, installations, and works of art that have drawn critical and popular attention. Among the highlights are: Bernd Zimmermann’s harrowing Die Soldaten, in which the audience moved “through the music”; the unprecedented six-week residency of the Royal Shakespeare Company, in their own theater rebuilt in the drill hall; a massive digital sound and video environment by Ryoji Ikeda; a sprawling, gauzy, multisensory labyrinth created by Ernesto Neto; the final performances of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company; and the New York Philharmonic performing Stockhausen’s Gruppen with three orchestras surrounding the audience. The most recent project was the event of a thread, a site-specific installation by Ann Hamilton.

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Kinky Boots Has Broadway On Its Feet

With songs by rocker girl Cyndi Lauper and story by celebrated actor/playwright, Harvey Fierstein, Kinky Boots has Broadway on its proverbial feet. Based on the 2005 British flick about a struggling shoe factory that reinvigorates business by making fetish footwear for drag queens, the show opened to rave reviews—and a TONY award nom on the horizon. In keeping with many award-winning shows on the ‘Great White Way,’ sound designer John Shivers opted for a DiGiCo SD7T to handle the production, after becoming familiar with the system on his previous productions for Bonnie & Clyde, Sister Act and The Lion King overseas. The SD7′s powerful system and diminutive size made it a perfect fit for the new show.

“A few years ago, I saw a brief demo at Masque Sound when the SD7 first became available,” he recollected. “Seeing the feature set and the redundant engine and power supply all onboard got me interested. When designing The Lion King for Singapore in 2010, part of my negotiation involved suggesting that we swap out the Cadacs with SD7s in New York and London for both creative and financial reasons. Before I knew it, I’d gotten an email telling me to move forward. Within 6 weeks of that conversation we were implementing the SD7s on the New York show and a month after that we were doing the same in London. I’ve been using SD7s pretty much on every show since.”

Shivers says the console offers a lot of flexibility, especially with the new “T” software, which he says brings features and functionality specific to our needs on theatrical productions as well as a solid sounding foundation in a very compact package. “The SD7T software has added these very beneficial features thanks to [award-winning sound designer] Andrew Bruce’s involvement in the development. Having onboard compression, gating and delay—along with the programmability and recallability of those parameters on every channel—opens up possibilities that you just can’t have with an analog console. It’s definitely been an upgrade for us from that standpoint. A positive byproduct has definitely been the size of the console, which allows you to get into smaller spaces and require less seats and has served as a large financial windfall for producers. For me, from a purely creative and design standpoint, it’s about the capabilities of the console. I’m not one to follow the crowd necessarily, but the SD7 has become a standard of our industry and the reason everybody’s using them seems clear. It has proven itself to be a very capable and reliable console.”

“The SD7 with the ‘T’ software option has indeed proven to be a very good investment for Masque Sound,” says Masque’s Scott Kalata. “It has near-universal client acceptance, unlimited flexibility and its small footprint make it the ideal choice for today’s theatrical sound designer.”

The show’s Associate Sound Designer & Production Sound Engineer David Patridge (pictured at left with Shivers) has mixed on virtually every make and model DiGiCo has offered since the D5 in his two decades on Broadway. He, too, raves about the increased functionality that the Theatre Software offers.

“This is the number one reason for using SD7 in my opinion,” he offers. “We really appreciate all of the work that DiGiCo has undertaken, in tandem with Andrew Bruce, in developing a purpose-built version of the SD7 software for the theatrical market. DiGiCo has been very responsive in listening to end-users and new features are added and perfected constantly along with the elimination of oddities and bugs.

“I could fill pages on all of the features and how we use them. Specifically, the Auto Update is a great feature on its own but when it is employed as part of the theatre software it is really powerful and allows the desk to remain automated to a much larger degree than other types of desks. Typically, when using a recallable desk, you would need to dumb-down many of the features in order to avoid constantly recalling entirely new settings each time a scene is recalled. With the theatre software, you can expect the desk to operate in a ‘manual’ way but with full and selectable recall ability from moment to moment. On other productions such as The Lion King, we have enjoyed using the Gain Tracking ability of the desk in a creative new way. There is no other desk that I know of where you can assign headamps to a redundant set of control channels dedicated to band monitoring and then have the digital trim of those redundant channels track changes to the headamp. DiGiCo has really stepped up by providing a console that provides us with the greatest creative freedom when doing theatrical sound designs.”

“We use the onboard processing extensively for band reverbs and dynamics, which really cuts down on the real estate at the FOH position. The only outboard gear we’re using is a couple of Avalon Tube Compressors for our lead vocalists to fatten up their vocals. We also have a TC6000 System and Eventide H3000 for Vocal Effects/Reverbs etc. We are not using Waves yet, but I am interested in doing this in the future.”

The show’s system inputs total 116 analog and 6 AES, in addition to 60 analog outputs and 14 AES outputs. The production uses a pair of DiGiCo SD Racks along with the local I/O and MADI for the QLab playback system. They took advantage of the onboard MADI Split on the SD Rack in order to provide audio to a Yamaha PM5D monitor console. “The new racks offer a host of features positioning them well for use where audio is being split to a number of places like OB trucks etc., without needing to tap into the topology of the SD7 audio engines.”

By its very nature, Patridge explains, the SD7T solves many of the issues that crop up when dealing with a theatrical piece. “The cuelist structure, MIDI implementation, onboard input and output dynamics, the desk footprint and the Auto Update features not to mention the desk’s excellent sonic characteristics make choosing an SD7T a no-brainer. And in terms of flexibility and ease of use, I would say that DiGiCo is at the top of the ladder. There is no other digital desk that offers the same degree of theatrical features. The desk is also designed in such a way that it is very simple and intuitive to explain it to a new operator. Sonically I would say that that DiGiCo is on par with the top of the marketplace. Often the weakest link in any sound design is things like the content, mic positions or the room architecture. I don’t get the sense that any of the available top-of-the-line digital consoles add much of a sonic signature, although certainly you get what you pay for. We have been very pleased with the results that we get from DiGiCo desks.”

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Rollin’ Across The Globe With Limp Bizkit, Rat Sound & DiGiCo

After two decades and over 40 million albums sold worldwide, Limp Bizkit is back with a new lineup, a new album (Stampede of the Disco Elephants) and a new tour hitting mid-sized venues in the US and Europe through the summer. Rat Sound is handling the production, consisting of a DiGiCo SD5 and a 16-input SD Mini Rack at FOH with a 56-input SD Stage Rack. ??Engineer Bryan Worthen spec’d the SD5 for the tour, following its use on a string of shows with the Foo Fighters promoting frontman Dave Grohl’s “Sound City” documentary.

“I’ve used the D5 extensively with the Foo Fighters since 2005 and with Limp Bizkit since 2009,” he states. “Now that there is a next generation of D5 available, I chose the SD5 for the Sound City Players shows because it was so great on that. Consequently, I brought it with me over to Limp Bizkit world from RAT Sound. I don’t have very much experience using other digital consoles, but enough to be able to say that the DiGiCo sounds a ton better than most. It’s versatile and all 3 screens are functional, giving me the visual of an analog console. The layout makes it very easy to make things happen fast.”

“Limp Bizkit is 43 inputs from stage,” he explains. “In front, I have a Left and Right out, with subs running sometimes off an Aux. Subs off two Matrix outs (sometimes when subs are stereo) and I also have I/O’s for three Avalon 737 preamps and 4 channels of XL 42 mic pres, plus nearfields at left, right and sub outs.

Additionally, my recording is very minimal, used for virtual sound check purposes only. I’m recording out left and right to a hard disc recorder and multi-tracking to Logic with my MacBook Pro via the DiGiCo UB MADI interface.”

In the past year, Rat Sound has added DiGiCo SD5 and SD10 consoles to its rental inventory. “In our quest to provide our clients and engineer friends with the tools they desire and to maintain our focus on offering world class pro audio gear,” says president Dave Rat, “the SD5 and SD10 expand the diversity of premium consoles we offer. There are a lot of choices out there with a wide diversity of applications and preferences, and DiGiCo consoles are among the best of the bunch. The SD5 and SD10 are currently out on tour with Ed Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as well as Limp Bizkit respectively.”

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DiGiCo-Driven Broadway Shows Take Home Coveted TONY Awards

Building on the success of the DiGiCo D5T, still in current use on shows such as Cinderella, SD7T consoles have become a mainstay in the audio trenches on Broadway and in the West End (UK) for many a year, with their potently powerful hardware, Stealth engine and theatre software kit capable of handling the most intricate demands of theatre audio today. This June, a slew of the newest productions utilizing DiGiCo consoles took home coveted 2013 TONY Awards.

Using an DiGiCo SD7T:
Kinky Boots – Best Musical; Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Billy Porter); Best Choreography (Jerry Mitchell); Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics, Cyndi Lauper); Best Sound Design of a Musical (John Shivers); Best Orchestrations (Stephen Oremus).

Pippin – Best Revival of a Musical; Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Patina Miller); Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Andrea Martin); Best Direction of a Musical (Diane Paulus).

Matilda The Musical – Best Book of a Musical; Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Rob Howell); Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Hugh Vanstone); Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Gabriel Ebert).

Since his involvement designing The Lion King for Singapore in 2010, John Shivers has been using DiGiCo SD7Ts on just about every show since. The award-winning sound designer says the console offers a lot of flexibility, especially with the “T” software, which he says brings features and functionality specific to their needs on theatrical productions as well as a solid sounding foundation in a very compact package. ??

“The SD7T software has added these very beneficial features thanks to [award-winning sound designer] Andrew Bruce’s involvement in the development. Having onboard compression, gating and delay—along with the programmability and recallability of those parameters on every channel—opens up possibilities that you just can’t have with an analog console. It’s definitely been an upgrade for us from that standpoint. A positive byproduct has definitely been the size of the console, which allows you to get into smaller spaces and require less seats be removed and has served as a large financial windfall for producers. For me, from a purely creative and design standpoint, it’s about the capabilities of the console. I’m not one to follow the crowd necessarily, but the SD7T has become a standard of our industry and the reason everybody’s using them seems clear. It has proven itself to be a very capable and reliable console.”

Additionally, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which utilized DiGiCo’s 5DT, was awarded Best Costume Design of a Musical (William Ivey Long).

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‘DiGiCo Master Series: From Power On to Expert’ Seminar Provides Comprehensive Educational Resources To Pro Audio Community

DiGiCo has long been committed to providing comprehensive educational resources and support to the professional audio community. Working in conjunction with its US distributor Group One Limited, it recently launched a series of educational training seminars—DiGiCo’s Master Series: From Power On to Expert—focused on showcasing DiGiCo’s current line of SD Series systems.

Full Sail Live, an award-winning School for Entertainment Media located in Orlando, Florida, hosted the inaugural seminar on April 23-24, 2013, facilitated by DiGiCo/Group One’s top audio trainers, National Sales Manager Matt Larson and Technical Sales & Support Ryan Shelton.

Over 90+ people were in attendance—comprising a diverse group of systems integrators, audio consultants, production companies, houses of worship and performing arts center operators, as well as Full Sail students and faculty. Over the course of two days, they were given in-depth tutorials with the opportunity to get hands-on with virtually all of DiGiCo’s SD Series consoles (SD5, SD Ten, SD11, 3xSD9s, and an SD8). The training covered the gamut from basic system setup and cabling to features and operation, as well as a hardware and software review. DiGiCo’s, new to be launched at Infocomm13, SD software (V621) was showcased on several of the consoles (adding 96KHz capacity for the SD9 and SD11 on Cat5E as well as a offering a new MADI Router for all SD consoles).

Industry veterans Howie Lindeman and Mark Frink were also in attendance to answer questions and to share their real-world, hands-on experience and road stories. Lindeman, who is currently on tour with The Elvis Presley Concert Tour, has mixed in many iconic studios from the Record Plant to the Hit Factory and on tour with Roberta Flack, Natalie Cole and many others. Frink is the former Technical Editor of MIX Magazine and is currently mixing monitors on a DiGiCo SD10 for Grammy awarded artists, the Zac Brown Band.

“Our goal with the new Master Series is to take people wherever they need to go,” explains Shelton, “whether they’re already owners of our consoles or just thinking about investing in one. These hands-on training opportunities will take the intermediate to advanced production engineer deeper into our systems, provide a tool kit to sharpen their mixing skills, offer helpful tips, tricks and shortcuts for using our consoles and impart information as to what sets DiGiCo apart from the competition.”

“The DiGiCo Master Class brought us together for one major purpose: DiGiCo consoles,” offers Lindeman. “The workshop gave us an understanding of what is new, what is coming, and the inner workings of these kick-butt consoles. Having each of the console models at our reach was invaluable in being able to understand the differences of each of their personalities—from the frame and up. Not only was it informational, but we also had a great time with lots of laughs and dinner too! Thank you Matt Larson and DiGiCo!”

For upcoming training seminars in your area, sign up for our online newsletter and/or visit our website (www.digico.biz) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/DiGiCo.Official) pages. DiGiCo also offers an extensive catalog of training resources available online at www.digico.tv.

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UC Irvine’s Celebrated Sound Design Program Adds DiGiCo SD9 To Curriculum

The University of California, Irvine is home to a celebrated Sound Design program created in 2006. Under the umbrella of the Drama department at the university’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, the program is spearheaded by Mike Hooker along with Vincent Olivieri, who is the head of the undergraduate sound design program. Late in 2012, the department added a DiGiCo SD9, DRack and UB MADI into its inventory, which made its debut on a series of student-designed programs this spring. One of those shows was the Festival of New Musicals, a unique partnership between the university and the Academy for New Musical Theater, a three-decade-old creative incubator. The alliance paired the talents of professional writers and composers affiliated with the ANMT with UCI students to create the fourth annual festival, staged at UCI’s xMPL – Experimental Media Performance Lab (featuring a flexible seating capacity of 25-150) this spring. One of the festival pieces, ‘Digital Natives’, featured sound design by second year MFA student, Matt Glenn. [Pictured L to R: UCI MFA student, Matt Glenn; Karli Blalock, Assistant Sound Designer; Vincent Olivieri, head of UCI's undergraduate sound design program.]

“One of the interesting things about the way we run our sound design program here is that, with little exception, all of the equipment we own is independent of venue,” explains Olivieri. “Most of the equipment is kept in storage, in workshop rooms, and when a show is being developed, the sound designers are able to choose the tools that they need for their particular project, and can spec what they need and just plug in and play.”

The SD9 was the first DiGiCo purchased by the school and was chosen by Mike Hooker, UCI’s Head of Sound Design, in conjunction with RSPE Audio Solutions. “We knew that we were looking for a digital console of a certain size,” Olivieri recalls, “something that was beefy and designed for live playback and mid-range in size. The SD9 fitted that bill perfectly as it’s great for a mid-size show like this.”

The ‘Digital Natives’ piece comprised a juxtaposition of technology and digital feeds against a backdrop of singers and piano accompaniment for a total of 27 inputs (mics, iPod feeds, playback audio off of multiple computers) and a dozen outputs. Glenn configured a deceptively complex playback system, complete with different sounds and setups configured on different templates within the console. Having the ability to recall these different scenes at the push of a button was huge. Additionally, the SD9 was the perfect console not only for its expandability and versatility, but also for its diminutive size for the small theatre space. And, for a first-time user, Glenn was able to get up to speed quickly by watching the online product videos prior to getting hands-on with the console.

“I wanted to keep the console size down, but I also couldn’t sacrifice the number of channels,” adds Glenn. “Back in the planning stages of this show, before I really knew what it was going to be, I didn’t necessarily know how many mics I would have or how big the pit would be but I wanted to keep open my options with the stage box. With the DiGiCo console, I could have up to 32 inputs from stage from just one D-Rack with the expandability for the future of adding another and you wouldn’t necessarily get that with other consoles. I also wanted an interface that I could intuitively navigate around. The SD9 has a structure similar to Pro Tools and other digital audio workstations (DAWs) and when I started playing with the SD9—my first time using a DiGiCo in a real setting—the way it’s laid out just made sense to me. I didn’t want to be fighting my own brain in the middle of tech, especially with this show, where it’s a really fast turnaround of only three-days. That, the expandability and the ability to write snapshots so quickly and easily, it just all came together with the SD9.”

Onstage, I have six Meyer loud speakers that make up the main system and a subwoofer, plus an additional six loudspeakers placed around the stage for various effects. I’m also using two different internal stereo reverbs that are feeding some of the main speakers. I’m also sending my playback channels to various places around the space to kind of give a surround sound for some of the cues, and they also add a bit of warmth for some of the voices onstage. During pre-production, every time I want to change an EQ or I how much reverb is on a person, I was able to program a macro to update the current snapshot I was working in, and quickly get to it without having to think twice about it. Having eight macro buttons is one of the things I love about this board. Beyond that, there’s so much more to explore with this console but honestly, this show is so fast-paced, I don’t get much of a chance to!”

Moving forward, Oliveiri says the console will serve them in myriad ways, for different productions in varying venues. “We do a lot of shows in a lot of different spaces, and the SD9 is going to be an excellent tool for us for mid-sized musicals and musical events. It’s also going to be useful for us on workshop productions, where the technical needs aren’t always completely known in the early planning stages. For those kinds of productions, the flexibility of a console like the SD9 is essential in order to allow the sound team to quickly respond to unexpected needs.”

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Rock & Roll’s Top Artists & Icons Get Amped With Firehouse & DiGiCo

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony returned to the West Coast for the first time in 20 years this April, to induct a new class of musicians and industry icons in a nearly 5-hour evening of music and merriment at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre. The class of 2013—Public Enemy, Rush, Heart, Randy Newman, Donna Summer, Albert King, Quincy Jones and Lou Adler—were honored by a who’s who of music past and present. For the 13th year, Firehouse Productions handled the audio portion of the show, with Mark Dittmar spearheading the onsite crew comprised of Production Mixer Barry Warrick, Music Mixer Ron Reaves (on a DiGiCo SD7) and Mike Parker handling monitors (SD7).

The show has grown exponentially over the years into what Dittmar calls ‘fast and stupid.’ “And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way,” he laughs. “It’s just that this is the sort of show that keeps growing and giving and growing and giving, and they will never get smaller. There’s so much more desire for content, and there’s a lot more figuring it out on-site. Ten years ago you would spend a huge amount of prep time. Now you fly in and the producer’s like, “Oh, I just added a band.’ Last year they added Green Day, literally two days before the show and we’d already loaded in. We don’t get to say, ‘I’m sorry you didn’t tell us that three weeks ago, we can’t do it.’ You say, ‘OK, we have an hour to set them up.’ You look at what we do routinely now, and if you had asked us to do it 10 years ago, we would have freaked out. We simply didn’t have the tools or the technology to accomplish it. Two years ago we outgrew our Yamaha PM1Ds at FOH and in monitor world because the show kept adding inputs to the point that our only choice in inventory were the DiGiCo SD7s, and it was a logical move for doing these shows. The pace has become very, very fast and we have a great team and great tools in place now that can get the job done easily.”

The show’s drive system is all on fiber optics now with the SD7s and a trio of SD racks networked via Optocore. “Everything is digital, front to back,” Dittmar adds. “The signal path from the input of the SD7 into the amplifier is digital the entire way. You couldn’t easily accomplish that 10 years ago; we would’ve run out of horsepower with the consoles. Several yeas ago, we thought that we’d probably never fill a 96-input desk, and then we filled a 96-input desk… and more. Now that these things can do hundreds of inputs, the question is, ‘how much can a guy like Ron mix?’ You know, where does your brain give out and say, ‘I can’t find the fifteenth snare drum?!’ We’re doing things very powerful and very fast now, and a key component is the SD7, which allows us to do these shows. The SD7 is powerful and you can put a lot of inputs and outputs into it. Once you’re into an SD7, you no longer need to think about the layout. We just go very, very large with the splits, we give the mixers everything instead of having to repatch in the middle of the show. Parker and Ron don’t have to have a conversation about what they want to see where. We simply send everything to everyone and it’s very easy for them to deal with.”

“The challenge for me on a show like this, where I have a house band and artists walking on and off—as compared to one that’s a bit more ordered like the Grammys, where you have 20 separate bands and 20 different snapshots—is that you have to be a bit more flexible here because it’s all going to change… sometimes multiple times. This is an outstanding band, with some of the top session players, who’ve played on tons of hit records: drummers Steve Ferrone and Jim Keltner, bassist Will Lee, guitarists Waddy Wachtel and Ray Parker Junior, Greg Phillinganes on keys under the direction of Paul Shaffer… it sounds amazing! But for example, on day one of rehearsals, we were on version 10 of our input list. And it changed even more before we took the stage.”

“I’m using my basic Grammy template file because it’s a good starting point for music,” Reaves continues, “and I can just switch the inputs around from there. I’m landing about 112 inputs for the music performance. I do a lot of pre-dialing and I use a lot of presets on this desk, which enables us to go very fast, which is very important for doing TV. And as long as I have plenty of faders, I’m good. And that’s the beauty of the SD7. I can make it as big as I need it to be and can have 256 faders if I need them. I can put everything in the entire show in the console and have it there all night long. And no matter what anyone calls for at the last minute, it’s there. That’s why this is the perfect tool for jobs like this. You can build yourself a giant console so to speak, in terms of layers, and have everything right at your fingertips. These shows keep getting bigger and bigger because we keep pulling it off, but it would never have fitted on the consoles we were using previously. This is the perfect example of how the hardware helped fix the problem.”

At monitor world, it was only Mike Parker’s second time on an SD7, although he’d mixed numerous times on SD10 for events ranging from the Grammys to the Video Music Awards. He found the console’s updated software features exceptionally powerful in managing approximately 130 inputs and 84 outputs for the show.

“The DiGiCo platform is so versatile you can layout any show they throw at you and it can handle it,” he offers. “Not only does it sound good, but it’s probably the most advanced live mixing console in use today. I love the functionality and how you can route things… its quick, easy and very helpful. It enables me to sketch out the console in rehearsals and start dialing up the EQ.

“Monitors are in a critical place for shows like this,” Parker adds. “If the artist is happy with their monitors, chances are you’re gonna get a better performance. But it requires everyone: that means the house mix is good, the crowd reacts and the artist reacts off the crowd… it’s a loop. It creates a great energy that is not seen, but felt. When the monitors and house couple together it’s called a ‘lock’—when everything locks together. I’ve witnessed it several times and it’s magic.”

“This is one of my favorite shows,” Dittmar muses. “I’ve been doing this show longer than anything else in my career and it’s a night of amazing talent. The house band is incredible and you’re getting to hear your favorite bands growing up. Go on YouTube and watch Prince doing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from the ceremony several years ago… everyone’s jaw was just on the floor, including Eric Clapton’s!

“When we do large shows like this, I like having the cool tools like the DiGiCos. I like pushing the technological barriers and having the slick setup. But we also like when they work and the SD7s have been flawless for us. We also had a pair of them on the Tony Awards and not only do you have an immensely powerful platform, but you also have the reliability and that makes them very viable. They’re certainly the most popular desk right now, too!”

Pictured LtoR: Production Mixer Barry Warrick, FOH Tech Michael Bove, Music Mixer Ron Reaves and Production manager Mark Dittmar.

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Kinky Boots Has Broadway On Its Feet With DiGiCo

With songs by rocker girl Cyndi Lauper and story by celebrated actor/playwright, Harvey Fierstein, Kinky Boots has Broadway on its proverbial feet. Based on the 2005 British flick about a struggling shoe factory that reinvigorates business by making fetish footwear for drag queens, the show opened to rave reviews—and a TONY award nom on the horizon. In keeping with many award-winning shows on the ‘Great White Way,’ sound designer John Shivers opted for a DiGiCo SD7T to handle the production, after becoming familiar with the system on his previous productions for Bonnie & Clyde, Sister Act and The Lion King overseas. The SD7′s powerful system and diminutive size made it a perfect fit for the new show.

“A few years ago, I saw a brief demo at Masque Sound when the SD7 first became available,” he recollected. “Seeing the feature set and the redundant engine and power supply all onboard got me interested. When designing The Lion King for Singapore in 2010, part of my negotiation involved suggesting that we swap out the Cadacs with SD7s in New York and London for both creative and financial reasons. Before I knew it, I’d gotten an email telling me to move forward. Within 6 weeks of that conversation we were implementing the SD7s on the New York show and a month after that we were doing the same in London. I’ve been using SD7s pretty much on every show since.”

Shivers says the console offers a lot of flexibility, especially with the new “T” software, which he says brings features and functionality specific to our needs on theatrical productions as well as a solid sounding foundation in a very compact package.

“The SD7T software has added these very beneficial features thanks to [award-winning sound designer] Andrew Bruce’s involvement in the development. Having onboard compression, gating and delay—along with the programmability and recallability of those parameters on every channel—opens up possibilities that you just can’t have with an analog console. It’s definitely been an upgrade for us from that standpoint. A positive byproduct has definitely been the size of the console, which allows you to get into smaller spaces and require less seats and has served as a large financial windfall for producers. For me, from a purely creative and design standpoint, it’s about the capabilities of the console. I’m not one to follow the crowd necessarily, but the SD7 has become a standard of our industry and the reason everybody’s using them seems clear. It has proven itself to be a very capable and reliable console.”

“The SD7 with the ‘T’ software option has indeed proven to be a very good investment for Masque Sound,” says Masque’s Scott Kalata. “It has near-universal client acceptance, unlimited flexibility and its small footprint make it the ideal choice for today’s theatrical sound designer.”

The show’s Associate Sound Designer & Production Sound Engineer David Patridge has mixed on virtually every make and model DiGiCo has offered since the D5 in his two decades on Broadway. He, too, raves about the increased functionality that the Theatre Software offers.

“This is the number one reason for using SD7 in my opinion,” he offers. “We really appreciate all of the work that DiGiCo has undertaken, in tandem with Andrew Bruce, in developing a purpose-built version of the SD7 software for the theatrical market. DiGiCo has been very responsive in listening to end-users and new features are added and perfected constantly along with the elimination of oddities and bugs.

“I could fill pages on all of the features and how we use them. Specifically, the Auto Update is a great feature on its own but when it is employed as part of the theatre software it is really powerful and allows the desk to remain automated to a much larger degree than other types of desks. Typically, when using a recallable desk, you would need to dumb-down many of the features in order to avoid constantly recalling entirely new settings each time a scene is recalled. With the theatre software, you can expect the desk to operate in a ‘manual’ way but with full and selectable recall ability from moment to moment. On other productions such as The Lion King, we have enjoyed using the Gain Tracking ability of the desk in a creative new way. There is no other desk that I know of where you can assign headamps to a redundant set of control channels dedicated to band monitoring and then have the digital trim of those redundant channels track changes to the headamp. DiGiCo has really stepped up by providing a console that provides us with the greatest creative freedom when doing theatrical sound designs.”

“We use the onboard processing extensively for band reverbs and dynamics, which really cuts down on the real estate at the FOH position. The only outboard gear we’re using is a couple of Avalon Tube Compressors for our lead vocalists to fatten up their vocals. We also have a TC6000 System and Eventide H3000 for Vocal Effects/Reverbs etc. We are not using Waves yet, but I am interested in doing this in the future.”

The show’s system inputs total 116 analog and 6 AES, in addition to 60 analog outputs and 14 AES outputs. The production uses a pair of DiGiCo SD Racks along with the local I/O and MADI for the QLab playback system. They took advantage of the onboard MADI Split on the SD Rack in order to provide audio to a Yamaha PM5D monitor console. “The new racks offer a host of features positioning them well for use where audio is being split to a number of places like OB trucks etc., without needing to tap into the topology of the SD7 audio engines.”

By its very nature, Patridge explains, the SD7T solves many of the issues that crop up when dealing with a theatrical piece. “The cuelist structure, MIDI implementation, onboard input and output dynamics, the desk footprint and the Auto Update features not to mention the desk’s excellent sonic characteristics make choosing an SD7T a no-brainer. And in terms of flexibility and ease of use, I would say that DiGiCo is at the top of the ladder. There is no other digital desk that offers the same degree of theatrical features. The desk is also designed in such a way that it is very simple and intuitive to explain it to a new operator. Sonically I would say that that DiGiCo is on par with the top of the marketplace. Often the weakest link in any sound design is things like the content, mic positions or the room architecture. I don’t get the sense that any of the available top-of-the-line digital consoles add much of a sonic signature, although certainly you get what you pay for. We have been very pleased with the results that we get from DiGiCo desks.”

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