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.”
Australian psychedelic hypno-groove melodic 5-piece, Tame Impala, will traverse the U.S. through June in support of last year’s Lonerism release. Wanting to carry his own desk for the tour, the band’s new FOH engineer Parker had the challenge of sourcing a compact console that would fit within their adjunct trailer, alongside the group’s gear. After surveying the options, he chose a road-ready SD11 in a flight case plus a DiGiCo D rack (32 x 16) with a 75M CAT5e cable housed in an additional Pelican case for the job. Not only did the SD11’s size fit the bill perfectly, but additionally the console was able to sit atop the venue’s house console without having to alter the existing setup within the venue’s FOH areas.
“I spoke to Alex Hadj at UK sound company Wigman Acoustics,” Parker recalls, “and asked for advice on a small format desk, which would work in a variety of show sizes. He put me onto the new SD11, which was tiny (19″) but powerful. I’d used DiGiCo consoles quite a few times before, and remember getting a good result when mixing [songwriter and Strokes’ frontman] Julian Casablancas on an SD7 in Switzerland a few years ago. Then I saw the SD8 on a few TV session-type shows with Franz Ferdinand and so by the time I came to cover The XX band for a couple of weeks last summer, I was able to jump onto Rik Dowding’s touring SD8 and be fairly familiar on the general use of the board. An afternoon running a multitrack of the band back into the showfile helped with other details.”
Parker’s running a total of 32 inputs for the gig, comprised of “28 lines from stage, a couple of FOH ambient mics out front and my space echo. To make a few more faders available, I run as much as I can in stereo which then leaves me space to have the house board slave into me with a few inputs (to take care of the support band). Because we are using in-house PA’s each day, my only outboard gear is single space echo pedal for delays; all other FX are done onboard. I prefer to tune the PA with parametric EQs rather than graphics, and the SD11 gives me four bands on the matrix outputs and four on the master. If I need more I assign through more stereo groups (with the fader at unity), which drive the matrixes, each of which will have another 4 bands… Very flexible! The only other gear I am carrying is a mics pack. During the day I set up the PA using parametrics rather than the onboard graphics. By running matrixes for the outputs I can get 4 on the matrix and then 4 on the master, which tends to be enough, but if not, I can then assign the matrixes to another stereo group and then that group to the master group which gives you another 4… Very flexible! I also have my laptop and an RME MADIface for multitracking and virtual soundcheck purposes, via MADI.”
One of the features that Parker’s getting a lot of use out of on this tour is…. “this little button next to the pan encoder that flips the signal hard left/hard right or center instantly and is good for making peoples brains explode…! Tame Impala is a psychedelic rock band so the more extreme the effects we can do the better. I’ve got snapshots for reverb on the full mix, pitch shift on the full mix… The kind of things they say you’re not really supposed to do!
“Another thing worth mentioning is the DiGiCo sound. It has been said many times before but this is a GREAT sounding desk.”
Parker makes use of the desk’s Macro buttons extensively for dialing in details. “I’ve got macros for pulling up a grabber graphic on the left and right and one on the center vocal group. We are using an old Sennheiser 441 through an onstage delay pedal, which results in loads of shimmery top-end. Having a graph at hand is useful during the show to deal with anything that pops out. I also have macros to pan the guitars super wide or back to nearer the center, which can sound pretty cool—especially if you’re in the middle of the room. The ease of the layout system means that I can have a mixture of VCA’s, input channels and groups on the same page so I don’t have to jump around from bank to bank during the show much – all my important stuff is right there on 12 faders.”
Sure Shot Transmissions is a mobile production and satellite services outfit with offices located in New York, Dallas, and Youngstown, Ohio. Last fall, owner Dennis Kunce added a fourth 40′ full-service expandable truck to its offerings. The Cynthia Lee, outfitted with DiGiCo’s SD10B console, will handle sporting and entertainment events under the direction of EIC Kory Loy. Kunce picked the SD10B based on a recommendation from one of the audio principals at ESPN, as the console has been a mainstay in X Games’ submix trucks for the past several years at events around the globe.
Since hitting the road back in September, the Cynthia Lee has made its debut handling install feeds at a host of high-profile events including the 39th Ryder Cup for the UK’s Sky Sports News, the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship and the Daytona 500 for ESPN in the U.S., as well as the 2013 Super Bowl for Nippon TV in Japan. The console’s ability to interface with the other trucks via MADI and fiber networks, as well as its easy learning curve, made it a natural fit for these fast-paced events.
“Our intention when we built the truck was to meet ESPN’s need for a mid-level production truck; one that was more like a 6-8 camera production rather than the typical 10-15 one,” explains Sure Shot owner, Dennis Kunce. “We worked closely with ESPN to determine what audio board would be suitable for them in this specific application and DiGiCo is what they recommended and gave us their blessing. The people at DiGiCo worked with us to meet our price point to stay within the budget. But more importantly, the SD10B’s footprint, versatility, and power—all those things came into play in our decision. DiGiCo was also very supportive with their training; they came to our facility in Ohio and worked with Kory and our chief engineer Scott Tucker to show us the things needed to make the board workable out in the field. You’ve got to have a console that is very user-friendly or else you’re in trouble and the DiGiCo console offers us the kind of flexibility and versatility we have to have as an independent contractor working with all the major networks including NBC, Fox, Turner, ESPN, Sky Sports… right down the line. The exposure we’re getting by having the board in our truck has been very positive. Overall, it has been a very positive experience across the board.”
“As the engineer in charge of the mobile unit,” explains Loy, “I’m tasked with ensuring that all the pieces of equipment in the truck are up and running for the freelance crew to operate—everything from the audio console to the video switchers to the cameras. So, even though I’m not one of the hands-on operators at these events, I do have to train, or at least show the different operators how to use the console, with only a couple days training. A lot of our events are setup, shoot and strike and in a single, 10-hour day and I’ve got to give individuals that have never operated the console before a generic overview in 45 minutes to an hour time before I have to move on to doing other functions in the truck. And I believe I’m able to do that rather well because the console is very easy to use.”
This spring, Sure Shot will be covering a host of major league baseball and basketball events for the major networks and ESPN, as well events as for the NHK channel in Japan. “We will be handling a lot of split feeds for them, the same thing as we did for the Super Bowl,” Loy says. “Nippon TV operator Shuhei Anraku took generic feeds from the NFL, supplemented by several of their own cameras, to create and produce their own game with their own announcers, which was fed to the broadcast headquarters in Japan.”
Loy says the fact that everything can connect via fiber is a huge bonus for them. “Another benefit is that the console is scalable, you can literally have as many inputs/outputs as you want. So, if we ever find a need for more ins or outs, we can add a few and connect them via fiber. Having MADI available in and out (the SD10 has 2 MADI ins and 2 MADI outs), also makes it very flexible to integrate either into a router or an intercom system. Another added benefit of DiGiCo is being able to assign any input to any fader on the console.”
For Janice Stief, a 30-year audio veteran who has worked on sporting and entertainment events ranging from the Olympics to the most recent Ryder Cup in the Sure Shot truck, this was her first outing on a DiGiCo of any variety. “I was handling cut-ins for the Sky Sports news show back in London. I had about 8-10 mics set up around the course, from stick and RF mics to in-studio lavalieres. I was handling EVS inputs into my console for playbacks, as well as program feeds from NBC and the world feed, which added up to about 36-40 inputs on the console in addition to mikes I was controlling. Prior to getting started, I was given a quick tutorial from Kory, who was fantastic and very knowledgeable. There’s a lot to the console that clearly you have got learn over time; you can’t learn it all on one show. It has a lot of depth. I liked that once I would attention a fader, I could do most of my adjustments to that fader input right from the corresponding touchscreen strip, without moving to other areas of the console. Adding delay, which we often need to do on golf in order to sync up on-air talent to RF cameras, is quick and easy.”
“I think the neatest feature of the DiGiCo SD10B is the ability to have MADI interfacing to the trucks and Optocore to the SD Racks,” adds Shawn Peacock, who was the main console operator for the Daytona 500 and has worked with DiGiCo consoles on several X Games events in Los Angeles. “The ability for us to talk across MADI in these situations is huge.”
Ultimately, however, the measure of a good manufacturer goes beyond that of its gear, and Loy says DiGiCo’s customer support is stellar. “When every single thing in the truck is a computer, chances are stuff is going to fail. It’s how a manufacturer supports its products after the gear is sold and installed that gives a good or bad impression. DiGiCo’s training and customer service in that area is exceptional.”
Pink Floyd remains one of the most influential rock bands of all time. Known for their mind-blowing theatrical shows with mind-blowing lights and unsurpassed sound, it was no easy feat to bring such a story to the stage. Annerin Productions did just that with The Pink Floyd Experience (PFE), combining the band’s music, sound and lights in an intimate, theatre atmosphere. The production is gearing up to hit the road in early 2013 and DiGiCo will shine on again as another proverbial brick in the band’s audio production wall for the second year, with Greg Clinton riding shotgun on an SD8-36 at FOH and Chase Tower on a similar system at monitor world supplied by Sound Art Calgary. The tour commences in February of 2013 and runs through March with dates in the United States and Canada.
Chase swapped another digital console with the SD8-36 for monitors during last year’s tour and Greg followed suit at FOH. Both had heard good things about the consoles but hadn’t spent any extensive time mixing on one.
LtoR: Chase Tower & Greg Clinton
“I’m a huge fan of the Dynamic EQ’s DiGiCo has made available,” raves Chase. “Our bass player is really particular about the way he sounds in his ears. As soon as we were dialing things in at pre-production he knew something was different… for the better. DiGiCo has made my job easier in helping translate what he is wanting to hear. I can in turn be more precise in how I give him his sound. I really love the custom fader banks. Once I had mixes dialed to a point, I could create custom banks for each guy with their primary inputs that change song to song. Its brilliant really the way DiGiCo has laid out the fader banks and layers. The Snapshot architecture on this console is very simple and straightforward. I’m always in the situation where I am needing to propagate changes to every snapshot, and DiGiCo makes that very easy in editing the range of snapshots I had. I was running up to 20 snapshots for the 1 hour/45-min set. Additionally, I loved having access to three rows of encoders at once per input/output. Most other desks out there only have one row of encoders. I still tend to mix monitors on faders, but I still loved having access to other mixes or comp/gate parameters at the same time if needed.”
Because of the plethora of onboard effects available at the touch of a button or two, he was able to get everything he needed onboard. “I was carrying one of my favorite multi-effects, an SPX990. I ended up using it for a little bit of sax reverb in one song, for the rest I relied completely on the internal effects.
“As far as the sound,” he adds, “I have always found DiGiCo to be above the rest when it comes to the console’s sonic quality. I love the workflow of the SD8. After touring with the SD8 I really don’t find a comparison that can compete. I mean all the digital consoles out there have great features and have a place. DiGiCo in my mind just goes above and beyond.”
Mixing FOH for the PFE for the past six years on both analog and digital desks, Greg was completely satisfied with the addition of the SD8. “I am pretty familiar with the big 3 digital console companies, and I have found that the DiGiCo SD8 is hands-down my favorite digital console to use. The best features of the desk are in the preamp! Sources just sound GREAT, and don’t need sugar-coating. I have found the dynamic EQ and compressors to be very musical, and really help to smooth out a couple of the dramatic inputs. A personal favorite is the ability to assign faders, both inputs and outputs, in any order that I want, on a custom fader page… very cool!
“At the end of the day, my job is to make our ‘show’ dramatic and memorable for the audience,” Greg continues. “Because we are a tribute show, the audience already has a specific expectation in regard to the character and quality of sound. The SD8 has been the most satisfying desk to work on, both in its logical layout and useful features. The sound quality is not just exceptional, but it’s the ability to achieve a mix that has depth in the stereo field, impact and clarity, and reminds you of that ‘Pink Floyd’ sound!”
Chase says that the DiGiCo SD8 has quickly become his go-to console for its flexibility, onboard features and sonics. “It’s helped to increase the overall sonic quality of the mixes I’m providing to the guys and for that reason, the SD8 has become my go-to desk. I will always spec it on upcoming tours and at some point, I would really like to get out on the SD7, too! I hear amazing things about the new Mach 3 enhancement.”
The Who‘s 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia—which sets the tale of teen Jimmy Cooper amidst the global sociocultural upheaval and psychological angst of the times and the rivalry between Britain’s mods and rockers—has been reprised in a multimedia display on the band’s latest outing. The 37 date tour, which began in November and runs through the end of February, celebrates the four-decade anniversary of the album’s release and marks the band’s first major North American tour in four years. Even long-departed drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle make cameo appearances, joining remaining original members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. Entwistle’s virtuosity and famous bass solo on “5:15″ are showcased in live footage shot at the Royal Albert Hall in 2000, which streams onscreen. They also pay tribute to the late Keith Moon; their performance of “Bell Boy” incorporates video footage of a 1974 performance, with Moon’s vocals dubbed in from the LP (one of the only times in Who history his vocals were heard on an album).
The Quadrophenia tour also reunites the band with production partners Eighth Day Sound, who have worked with the iconic rockers on their last three major tours. This time out they’re carrying a pair of DiGiCo SD7 desks (each running the latest MACH III software) for FOH and band monitors, plus an SD-Rack at FOH and a d&b audiotechnik J-Series PA. The audio crew is comprised of longtime Who FOH engineer Robert Collins, Simon Higgs on monitors with support from Eighth Day’s Senior Audio Engineer Mark Brnich, and sound techs Drew Marbar and Carl Popek. [Pictured: Popek, Marbar, Collins, Higgs and Brnich.]
Collins started with the band in the late 1990s-early 2000s, and has also worked with Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend on their solo projects, trading tours with engineer Paul Ramsey in between tours with Eric Clapton and others. “Paul used to look after me; he was my systems tech on The Who. I made sure the team was put in place, you know, ‘cause an English band should have an English engineer—or British, I should say. I’m Welsh, though. So here I am back. They wanted to get me back for this, and luckily it worked out timing-wise with the schedule. It’s worked out with Eric so I can go do that as well this year.”
A relative newcomer to the SD7, Collins is certainly no stranger to DiGiCo (he’s an early D5 adopter and part of the DiGiCo family). Collins says he wouldn’t part with his trusty D5 until this tour. “She’s been really good to me. Y’know? Obviously, I’ve grown up with the D5, so I was like, ‘I’ll just stay on my D5, thank you very much.’ I wasn’t ready to go to the SD7 until I knew we had the new racks… and honestly I couldn’t justify going to an SD7 working with a four-piece (like Clapton) playing blues and such, you know? I mean, that thing can run a small country, can’t it?! But for this tour, it seemed like it was time.”
Right out of the gate, he was floored by the SD7’s sonics. “It just sounds great, doesn’t it? And the biggest thing for me personally with digital desks is, I’m old-school. I come from the old analog school. I feel like I’m a part of the band. I learned the music. I’m into the music. I do the music. I know what everybody plays, what everybody does. That’s my thing. I’m not into the technical side. I just want a bass drum to sound like a bass drum. I want the piano to sound like a piano. And if you don’t get a feeling off a desk… I find that this console is musical. I feel musical on it. I feel as if I’m doing something on it. Not to mention any names, but there are other digital desks and I don’t get anything out of them. It’s like working a laptop, for God’s sake! That’s one thing about all the boys at DiGiCo: they came from the old school. They knew what we wanted. They spoke to engineers. But they didn’t just speak to them like every other company; they listened to them.
“I think DiGiCo consoles are the best out there. What you can do with this one is way beyond me. I don’t need to go down that line. Don’t tell James [Gordon, DiGiCo’s managing director], but I’m still not using Snapshots! I still do it all myself; I like to do it myself. I want to be part of it. I want to switch the guitar on when it’s supposed to be on. I feel part of it, and that’s what I want to feel. I don’t think in the digital domain.”
Monitor engineer Simon Higgs presides over the other SD7 at stage left, managing approximately 112 inputs for IEMs and such for the nine-piece band. He’s also a veteran Who member, starting in ’98 with Townshend on his Lifehouse project. He’s a diehard DiGiCo engineer, having also used the consoles since their release a decade ago.
“It’s the only digital console that I really care to use and the only one I really like,” Higgs explains. “I used a D5 with the Los Angeles band Sparks when they did 21 albums in 21 shows back in 2007, and that was the first time I really used the D5 for an extended tour… 150-odd songs, all programmed in. The Who’s monitor mix was analog for a long time until it started getting bigger and bigger and we realized we had to move to digital. So we started using two D5s, but that filled up quick. We currently are using an analog console for Pete, who has his own operator, and I look after the rest of the band on the SD7.”
With nearly 112 channels of odds and sods, Higgs says he has a lot going on managing the band’s in-ears, a few random wedges around the stage and submixing stems for Townshend’s mix. “My desk is pretty full; 112 channels and they’re pretty much filled up. A lot of outputs. I’ve still got some floor monitors up there. I’m mixing down to the analog console as well, which is just a 16-channel desk, so I’ll mix all the drums, drum floor monitors, drum sub, floor shakers [drum thumpers] under his seat…”
Having everyone on in-ears has made his job a bit easier. “Roger decided that in order for The Who to work again, he had to get used to in-ears… he couldn’t have a half-dozen wedges all around him like he used to. So he’s gone through the whole process of getting used to in-ears. They’re all on Jerry Harveys, and that’s really enabled the band to work again. Pete’s still got conventional fill monitors; he’s got four around him, just split up, one doing vocal, a stereo pair doing something else, and there’ll be acoustic guitar in the wedge, and then a monitor behind him that has sound effects for ‘Quadrophenia’ or the loops that are in ‘Who Are You’ and ‘Baba O’Riley.’”
For effects, he’s primarily using what’s in the console, save a few outboard pieces, including a Lexicon PCM 60 for the snare drum, and a Bricasti M7 reverb for Roger’s vocal that he says “is absolutely amazing.”
‘Amazing’ is often the tone of reviews streaming in from critics and fans, not only heralding the show but also the durability of both Townshend and Daltrey. Their “My Generation” anthem notwithstanding (”I hope I die before I get old”), the founding members did just that (both are now in their late ‘60s) and if the Quadrophenia tour is any indication, they still have a lot of rockin’ left to go. As for engineer Robert Collins, it’s a full-circle homecoming of sorts, having grown up on their music.
“I got a good memory on me,” he laughs. “It’s very short. But The Who have been part of my musical thing. Them, the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks—that’s what I grew up on. In fact, I was pissed off at them, actually. As a teen, I queued up in the top rank in Swansea in Wales to see The Who, and they didn’t fucking turn up! I was pissed off. They had a fight or something. This was the ‘60s. But it’s kind of funny… Who’d have thought that when I was growing up trying to play in little bands and not very good, listening to all these great singers, that I’d end up engineering for many of them?”
UK manufacturer DiGiCo held the coveted position as console provider for the second year in a row at the annual GRAMMY® Awards this year. The 55th installment of “Music’s Biggest Night” was overall a bigger show musically, with 20 acts on the schedule, up from 2012′s 18. As the show’s live performances have expanded, so has its audio footprint. With audio production facilitated by ATK AudioTek (and consoles provided by Hi-Tech Audio), the digital desk count handing both music and production included five DiGiCo SD Series desks: four SD7s (an upgrade from last year’s SD10s) and the addition of an SD5, as well as 11 SD Racks (up from last year’s six).
At the MusiCares event the Friday night preceding the GRAMMYs, engineer George Squires manned a DiGiCo SD7 with four DigiRacks at monitors to provide 170 inputs to 28 stereo ear mixes and 30 wedge mixes. Delicate Productions handled the audio production. On the 85th installation of the prestigious Academy Awards, ATK provided audio production with a Peterson-designed system comprised of three SD Racks, an SD5 at FOH helmed by Pat Baltzel and an SD10 run by Mike Parker. Hi-Tech Audio provided console support for all these events.
The GRAMMY and Oscar systems were both designed by ATK’s FOH Tech Jeff Peterson. On the GRAMMY event, Peterson also served as the system tech with assistance from Andrew “Fletch” Fletcher. The GRAMMY audio team again included consultant Ron Reaves mixing all of the live performance elements at FOH on an SD7, and ATK’s VP of Special Events Mikael Stewart on an SD5 managing all the nonmusical production assets. At stage right (“A”) and left (“B”), respectively, Tom Pesa and Mike Parker facilitated artist monitor mixes using a pair of SD7s (with an additional “guest” rig used for sets by Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars). [Pictured LtoR: ATK FOH Tech Jeff Peterson; Leslie Anne Jones, The Recording Academy®, Producers & Engineers Wing®; Production Mixer Mikael Stewart, ATK; Andrew “Fletch” Fletcher, Audio Consultant; FOH music mixer Ron Reaves (seated).]
“Overall, we have a massive total of 276 mic preamps and 176 outputs distributed between five consoles and 11 DiGiCo SD Racks,” explains Peterson. “Those four consoles, plus eight SD Racks, are on one optical loop, each connected to one of ATK’s 56-pair splitters. The guest monitor SD7 console is on its own optical loop, with three more SD racks. Also new is JBL’s newest line array, the Pro VTX V25 3-way system (powered by Crown ITech 1200 HD amps).
“In addition, we have more than 50 wireless microphones this year,” he adds, “which take up an entire splitter. We have almost an entire splitter dedicated to what we call high-level items, which are things like playback from the truck, Pro Tools lines, all of the production elements, and the podium mics (that are not for use with a band) are down the fourth splitter. The first two splitters are dedicated just for band inputs, one for stage right and one for stage left. This year we’re using AES outputs directly from SD racks in three locations to drive the amplifiers to the PA system. So it’s a whole digital system path again. What we eliminated was a second optical loop just to do the amplifiers. So everything is on one optical loop, with the SD Racks and the consoles.”
The transformer splits themselves are where the copper stops, Peterson explains, and are the dividing line between the live PA side with the DiGiCo SD racks and the trucks. From the ATK splitters, the signals go on to all of the different head amps: one to the two recording M3/Music Mix Mobile trucks, one to the main Denali broadcast truck, and one to the head amps for the DiGiCo consoles. “From there, it’s all various flavors of fiber, whether it’s Optocore to us or MADI to the M3 truck, or Hydra to the Denali. Once it leaves the transformer split, it’s pre-amped and converted to digital from there on. So the inputs come from the stage and then they are split up and sent to multiple destinations. The broadcast truck gets all of the raw microphones the same way we do. They do their mix, package it together with the broadcast items, the show elements and the production elements and send it out for broadcast. They also generate a lot of signals that we take out here: all of the videotaped packages, all of the music play-ons and play-offs, any band’s Pro Tools backing tracks—all of those are generated and routed from the truck through another splitter system to the rest of our consoles.”
“The SD system worked flawlessly,” sums up FOH production mixer Mikael Stewart. “The flexibility of the SD5 and SD7 are exactly what is needed for a show like the GRAMMY Awards.”
“I have continued my love affair with the DiGiCo console,” adds Ron Reaves, “having done quite a few gigs this last year on both the SD10 and the SD7. We started using these last year, and decided that this is all we wanted to use moving forward. This year, both monitor mixers switched from SD10s to SD7s, and that worked out great. The SD7 continues to be the best tool for my particular job at the GRAMMYs, and helped contribute to another great-sounding show out at FOH. I’ve particularly enjoyed the new dynamics package, and feel that between the new de-essers, and the dynamic EQ (a gift from the sound gods), that there’s no vocal ‘problem’ that can’t be tamed with this console. I’ve enjoyed some of the best vocal sounds I’ve ever gotten, too, thanks to this console.
“This year, there was a bit of extra pressure put on us at FOH to get mixes together faster in soundcheck,” Ron continues. “The demand has grown to have the first pass of a song be as close to the full band sound as possible and the console has helped me to accomplish this with the use of presets. I use a lot of presets and pre-dial pretty much everything so I’m never starting from scratch when we start rehearsing a band. That’s been a very helpful tool to have. The addition of the “presentation performances,” where a performer does a song and then introduces another performer, was also tricky and another place where the console excelled. I wrote separate snapshots in order to switch between these segments instantaneously and that worked great. For example, Hunter Hayes performed out on that dish stage in the middle of audience. When he finished, he immediately introduced Carrie Underwood—and bang, snapshot change. The console did what we hoped it would do with no glitches in the audio. In the time it took the audience to applaud, the console had already switched and we were ready to rock on the next act. It was really cool. That was a great example of how quickly this console can switch snapshots and turn on a dime.”
After two years of working on a DiGiCo SD10, the process of building snapshots was made much easier for engineer Tom Pesa, who handled the inner monitor workings on an SD7 this year on the A-Stage at stage right. “It begins with a strong template,” he explains, “a snapshot that is laid out to accommodate anything that comes down the pike with 10 A-stage acts to soundcheck. The common functionality between the DiGiCo platforms means that session structuring, labeling, grouping, building macros, etc., is all very familiar. I had only two days to dive into my SD7 on-site and plan a basic template based on the volumes of band info. Each act provided input lists, band plots, monitor layouts and in-ear requirements. Once my fellow monitor crew created the plan on monitor wedge quantities and in-ear assignments, I added that info to the input list to create the snapshot for that band. Each act is so different when it comes to instrumentation, microphone type, mono mixes and stereo mixes, but the ability to truly customize each snapshot with every parameter being specific to that act means that almost any request can be satisfied. If time permits I try and get ahead of the game by focusing on individual processing for each input, high-passing, EQ and compression as well as FX presets and mix content. The availability of powerful processing onboard the SD7, including the dynamic EQ and multiband compression, allows me to keep things well contained and sonically tight, which is important, especially when creating smooth, coherent in-ear mixes. There is no doubt how good the dynamic range is with the new generation of DiGiCo consoles. I knew how good mixes sounded on SD10 and the SD7 continues this experience for me, just on a much larger and customizable platform.
“Once again this year at GRAMMYs, the entire FOH and monitor consoles were on an Optocore loop utilizing shared head amps. Monitors were in charge of band input gain and FOH was in charge of RF vocal and production mics as well as Pro Tools inputs. We have worked hard the last two years to create a system of trust when trimming each other’s gain while soundchecking, and it has worked well. Once everyone is happy with where the individual inputs of gain are, we switch to digital trim and can fine-tune our own inputs and not affect anyone else. This whole symbiotic relationship of all the mixers at the GRAMMY Awards is why session saving, snapshot updating and recall scope is so important, and all of us have done well in making sure everything is as it should be through soundchecks, dress rehearsal and show. All in all, the use of the DiGiCo systems at GRAMMYs continues to be a leap forward in how everyone’s mixes sound and the sheer utility of how they create those mixes.”
“Honestly, no other console is touching what DiGiCo can do right now,” declares Peterson, who, since last year’s GRAMMYs, has also worked extensively on SD5s and SD7s for a host of award and music shows, from the Oscars to The X Factor. “You can’t network the other consoles the way you can the DiGiCos, so there’s really no other game in town. On shows like these, half the engineers coming in that we work with are jealous that they don’t have a DiGiCo, and the other half come in and are thankful that we’re using them now.”
Photographs courtesy of The Recording Academy®/Wireimage.com © 2013.
In 2012, a DiGiCo SD7 was installed in Jiguchon Church in the South Korea’s Bundang New City. Such was its success that four more of the company’s mixers have now been installed in another church in the city, demonstrating how DiGiCo mixing consoles are making significant inroads into the country’s house of worship market.
Featuring a state-of-the-art technical specification, the new Manna Methodist Church has a seating capacity of 4,000, with around 10,000 worshippers attending each week. Services feature a live band, choir, organ and orchestra, so the audio system needed a high input channel count, as well as facilities to mix live audio for broadcast on its own Internet channel.
The church consulted DiGiCo’s South Korean distributor Soundus Corporation, who supplied and installed an SD7 console at Front of House, with four SD-Racks and an SD8-24 to take care of the live broadcast mix. In addition, Soundus supplied an SD9 for a mobile audio system and an SD11 for the church video editing suite.
“The decision to use DiGiCo consoles was based on the SD7’s ability to handle more than 200 input channels, the dual engine offering stability, reliable redundancy and excellent sound quality,” says Soundus sales manager Byung Chul Park. “The church also needed additional mixing consoles and it was an obvious decision to stay with the same manufacturer.”
Utilising an Optocore fibre optic network, this solution made for a seamless solution throughout the church.
“The system is very versatile and is easily expandable for any future requirements,” concludes Byung Chul. “The church is very happy with it.”
The perennially touring Lady Gaga is at it again. The five-time Grammy winner is in the midst of the Born This Way Ball tour, a seemingly endless succession of dates that will hit virtually every corner of the globe for more than a year—or longer. The elaborately gothic-inspired production was birthed in Seoul, Korea, in April of 2012 and has received glowing reviews (“the best live show you will see this year,” per the UK Sun newspaper) and was honored as Major Tour of the Year at the Pollstar Concert Industry Awards.
Eighth Day Sound is again at the helm of the production, coordinating multiple universal stadium systems that at times are air-freighted with the stage set, leapfrogging across several continents to meet the tour.
“Each tour system is comprised of two DiGiCo SD7 Mach III systems at FOH outfitted with Waves and two Waves servers, with one running on a UPS for redundancy,” explains Eighth Day Chief Technology Officer Jason Kirschnick. “A 192kHz DiGiCo SD Rack at FOH is loaded with 32 analog ins/32 analog outs, as well as 24 AES ins/outs for local I/O. At the stage end for FOH are two more 192 SD racks loaded with 48 analog ins, eight AES ins, eight AES and eight analog outs. We are deploying an Optocore switcher so there are three fiber loops for FOH—one loop of all three racks for FOH is connected to a Route 66 Optocore fiber router device. The primary console is in a loop with the two respective engines to the Route 66 as well as the second SD7 at FOH in a loop with the Route 66. This enables us with a push of one button to move the entire rack loop between the two FOH consoles for support acts and dual redundancy. At the monitor end is another SD7 running two Waves 9 servers (with one running on a UPS). There are two more 192kHz SD Racks at monitors loaded with 48 analog, eight digital inputs, 40 analog and eight digital outputs each.”
The PA system is d&b audiotechnik, comprised of 96 d&B J Series made up of a combination of J8 and J12s (4 x hangs; 24 boxes deep), 32 d&B Flow J subs (4 x hangs of 8 deep), 48 d&B B2 subs on the ground (stacked on each side of the stage and along the front of the stage), 12 d&B Q7 front fills (spread across the front of the stage), with a stadium delay system consisting of 4 x hangs of 12 d&B V8 and V12s. [pictured: Chris Rabold FOH with Eighth Day Sound Chief Technology Officer/Project Manager, Jason Kirschnick]
“The system is all-digital at 96kHz,” adds Kirschnick, “with a complete analog backup comprised of Dolby Lakes and LM44s with wireless control of the complete system. The d&B amplifiers are all monitored and controlled remotely through the entire system as well.”
The five-piece band consists of bass, two guitars, a sizable drum kit and a lot of stereo bass and keyboard elements, plus a programmer who supplies various stems. There are 70-some inputs at FOH, including talkbacks and audience mics and Lady Gaga’s various headset and handheld mics.
“I came onboard between legs of the tour,” explains Chris Rabold, whose previous gigs include stints with Beyoncé, The Fray and Widespread Panic. “I knew I’d only have a couple days of rehearsal before the first show so I went ahead and put a plan into effect that would ensure that I’d be as close to show-ready as I could be once we hit Bulgaria, the site of the first show on the second leg of the tour. I spec’d an SD7 for me at FOH above all else for its sonic quality. It has a million and one great features but at the end of the day, it’s the sound of the desk and the sound of my mixes through the desk that matter the most. The DiGiCo consoles simply sound better than anything else out there. There are several strong platforms in the digital console realm, but this is the one. Period. [pictured: FOH Tech/Recording Engineer Wayne Bacon; FOH Engineer, Chris Rabold; Systems Engineer, Mike "Stacker" Hackman]
“I built the console offline on my computer and sent the file to the guys at Eighth Day, who prepped the desk. From there I was able to get on the console in Los Angeles for a few days, where I worked with the tour programmer on some tracks. The desk then bounced back to the Eighth Day shop in Cleveland where I worked some more on it, concentrating on some of the finer details with routing, system integration, etc. By the time we made it to load-in, I had a basic gain structure in hand, my EQs were at a decent starting point, I had a good idea of what dynamic processing I needed, snapshots written for each song, effects laid out… Basically every last detail was in place before I even saw the band—and this was on a show with a pretty sizable number of inputs. All of the work I was able to do beforehand was absolutely invaluable.”
Rabold cites the flexibility of the snapshot section as one of the main features of the desk that aids in his daily workflow. “With a big pop show like this that is scripted very carefully, the goal is consistency and more or less perfection every single night. I don’t think we’ll ever get the perfection part of that equation down, but we can sure get the consistency through the use of snapshots. The SD7 is so much more configurable than other platforms. You can tweak it snapshot by snapshot, not just globally across all snapshots because automation is and isn’t recall safe. This is tremendously helpful and keeps you from being tied to an all-or-nothing kind of mindset. For example, if I know I want to handle a bass guitar input in the traditional sense and just EQ on the fly for a few numbers, I can do that. But if I also know that by snapshot 17 I want it to have a very specific sort of treatment, I can have it where the recall safe feature comes off and suddenly that input is recalling precisely what had been written previously. It really allows you to be flexible when you need to be and by-the-book-exact when you want to go that route, all on a per-song basis.”
Asked about outboard gear, he says he’s using a combination of outboard and onboard plug-ins. “I basically use some of the same analog things I’ve used on and off for years on certain inputs just because I know they work for me. Lead vocal and drums see the outboard devices. I use the console’s onboard complements of EQ, effects and dynamics for the real nuts-and-bolts work. The overwhelming majority of the inputs see nothing but onboard processing. As far as plug-ins go, I try to use the Waves server more as an effects device. I pull a lot of delays and specialty things from there and it’s definitely a crucial part of the mix structure. I use C6s on the playback stems. A lot of times tracks can be overly bright or overly boomy for what really works live. These allow me to reshape certain frequency ranges yet keep the overall feel and intent of the tracks in place. These are my go-to problem solvers for playback stems in the live pop world. I use the Super Tap delays and H Delays as well. They sound great and can be synced to a song’s BPM. Both of these are very flexible with how you can color them and how you can manipulate individual left and right sides of a stereo delay. Very cool. I use an L2 limiter on the output of a two-track mix as well. This is very handy when I know a board mix might be taken from the night and then played back by the artist right next to fully mastered album mixes. I want my mixes to sound competitively loud with anything they might be referenced to. You never know. Little stuff like that can go a long way toward keeping everyone happy.”
Rabold says he multitracks nightly, mainly just for virtual soundchecking and to tweak his mixes during downtime. “When time permits, I can play back a show and tweak things in the mix. I do rely on this ability and have for several years now. Soundchecking in an empty room can be pointless. Listening to a mix with nearfields or headphones that have a response that you’re familiar with can be way more helpful when it comes to listening critically and judging what’s needed in a mix. We go standard MADI out of the desk and convert that to optical MADI via an RME MADI Bridge. From there the signal goes into SSL Delta-Links, where it is converted to HD so that we can record to Pro Tools. Pro Tools 9 is running on a MacPro with a ridiculous amount of memory due to the staggering track count. Because there are so many tracks and because we’re recording at 96kHz, we split the audio files across three SSD drives.”
Ramon Morales, who’s mixed monitors previously for Beyoncé as well as other A-list artists including Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige and Pitbull, handles monitors for the band members, all of whom are on Sennheiser 2000 series IEM systems (with JH Audio JH16 custom in-ears), as well as the audio techs. He oversees a total of 12 stereo mixes, flown side fills, bass and drum subs, two mono mixes (for drum subs and thumpers on bass and drums) and several stereo FX sends. [pictured: Monitor Engineer, Ramon Morales; Audio Crew, Lee-Fox-Furnel; Audio Crew Chief/Monitor, Tech Klocker]
“Everything about the console is great,” he enthuses. “Sonically, it’s one of the best consoles out there and definitely my favorite. I can have as many ins and outs as I need or want, and having the backup console mirrored—as well as all the other features it has—what else would you want? I’ve found the Macro feature to be very useful. We’ve set many of them up to do specific things for the show and no matter where I am on the console, I can access what I need on the macro section without having to scroll through aux sends or layers and banks. Our show intercom system is also routed through the monitor console, so the techs that need show comms in their mix can have it and plenty of talkback mics using the macros.
“I’m also using many of the built-in effects including Waves to add different colors to the mix. My favorite has to be the SSL channel and the C4, which I mainly use for my vocal inputs, since the console itself sounds great. I just use them to enhance what is already there. The only outboard gear we’re using is a TC Electronics 6000 reverb system for a vocal verb. It’s a Gold Plate and one of my favorites for vocals; it’s very smooth and cuts through just enough to hear it and not overpower anything else going on in the mix. I also use it for a drum verb.”
The console’s ability to receive a video feed aids both Morales and Rabold in managing the spontaneous stage antics of the mercurial artist. “This is crucial when mixing monitors from under the stage,” says Morales, “and having limited sightlines. Having a program feed straight into the console really helps.”
“I barely even look at the stage now,” adds Rabold. “This especially comes in handy when I have to watch for the moments where she yanks off her headset mic and goes for the handheld. There’s no cue for that and being able to see it on a screen two feet in front of my face sure beats trying to see what she’s doing 150 feet away across a sea of fans!”
A great deal of time and planning was invested prior to launching the multiple systems in the field, to ensure the production ran as smoothly as possible with no margin of error. “I personally spent weeks researching and testing the fiber loops and to failsafe the redundancy on as many things as possible,” Kirschnick reflects. “I did this research and testing at our shop in Cleveland, and a great deal of time was spent making sure everything was running smoothly weeks before the tour embarked on its first show last spring. And now, with over six months of time logged with the systems in the field, the band and crew think the console and sound system sound incredible and unmatched.”
Eighth Day tour crew:
Chris Rabold: Foh Engineer
Ramon Morales: Monitor Engineer
Dan Klocker: Audio Crew Chief / Monitor Tech
Wayne Bacon: Audio Crew
Christopher Bellamy: Audio Crew
Bill Flugan: RF Tech
Lee Fox-Furnell: Audio Crew
Mike “Stacker” Hackman: Systems Engineer
James La Marca: Show Coms / Audio Tech
Matt Strakis: Audio Crew
The creative forces of Blue Man Group (BMG) have been working for two years to bring an all-new production to the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. This international entertainment phenomenon—one of many adaptations around the globe from Berlin to Boston—comprises a trio of blue men and an electrifying combination of music and inventive technology celebrating the more
A superhero and cultural icon operating out of the fictional American Gotham City, Batman is assisted by various characters including his crime-fighting partner, Robin in his continuous war on crime. Armed with a keen intellect, detective skills, technology and physical prowess coupled with an indomitable will to fight an assortment of villains from Catwoman to the Riddler, Batman is proof you don’t need superpowers to be a superhero. Adopted for the stage, Batman LIVE is a spectacular live action adventure filled with stunts, acrobatic acts and illusions. The show’s North American circuit started in the fall of 2012, following a popular and acclaimed arena tour throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and Latin America.
A DiGiCo SD7T at FOH was chosen by the show’s sound designer Simon Baker in conjunction with Clair Global, with a D5 local rack and DiGiCo stage racks connected via 500-feet of fiber optic cable. Two Apple Mac Pro’s with internal RME MADI cards run as hot, swappable redundant show playback machines, running QLab theatre control software enabling 48 channels of playback and flexible MIDI and Timecode programming.
The FOH system handles around 140 inputs overall: 24 channels of Sennheiser RF receivers, 2 x 48 channels of MADI playback, and 16 channels of external effects, as well as 22 zoned outputs to the FOH PA comprised of eight hangs of Clair Global i3 loudspeakers (56 boxes), 12 zones of Clair FF-2 boxes for front-fills built into the stage (26 boxes), two end-fire sub-arrays of Clair BT 218′s (12 boxes) and another 30 outputs for onstage and backstage monitoring in-ear monitors and press feeds. All effects are obtained within the console with the exception of an external Mac Mini running Apple’s MainStage 2 with a RME fireface interface for all vocal effects, and a TLA Audio valve compressor sitting across the vocal subgroups. [Pictured at right: Clair systems engineer Tim Peeling, FOH engineer James Meadwell, PA's Dane Barber and Kevin Leas.]
“The QLab machines send and receive MIDI signals back to the SD7 with pre-recorded Timecode to trigger all video cues, and some of the automation sequences,” says Clair systems engineer Tim Peeling. “We also pass MIDI triggers through the console exiting the stage rack to fire a hundred or so lighting cues. The comprehensive programming options available on the SD7T for this very snapshot-hungry theatre show are extensive. The powerful matrix, including the ability to delay matrix inputs, allows me to time-align the live mics separately to the track and sound FXs within the console. Sonically, the console is great as well, but where the SD7 really wins in this situation is the flexibility of the snapshot programming.”
“The SD7 is being used in a ‘control via MIDI’ mode with each of the snapshots assigned a MIDI value,” adds FOH engineer James Meadwell, who brings extensive experience mixing shows on London’s West End theatre district. “We then configured the desk’s NEXT and PREV buttons via the SD7 Macro page to send out MIDI commands to control the QLab’s Next and Previous functions. This created a loop with the desk triggering QLab, which in turn sent a trigger back to the SD7 recalling the snapshot needed. The music for the show has all been pre-recorded and we were able to get the SD7 snapshots to be recalled at exact musical points within the show. We programmed the QLab so the SD7 ‘reacted’ to the show’s sound cues, which makes mixing the show a very intuitive and enjoyable experience!
“We also used the SD7′s macro buttons extensively,” Meadwell continues. “We created a full set of transport controls for QLab, which meant that we could control both our main and backup machines simultaneously from the surface of the SD7. This was invaluable as it effectively did away with two computer keyboards and helped when cueing up to start from different points within the show. We assigned a whole page of macro buttons to trigger spot sound effects within the show. These were for moments that varied and therefore couldn’t be programmed into a set cue list structure. We assigned a MIDI note value to each macro button, which in turn, triggered a separate cue list of sound effects within QLab. An example of this in the show is where the Scarecrow walks around the stage on giant stilts. We follow his walk playing a sound effect with every step. Every performance is different, which gives the actor the freedom to do whatever he likes. Having the macro button as a sound effect button gives me total flexibility without having to jump around the show’s main cue list. We use the Alias feature heavily as a lot of the characters double up on inputs, so the ability to switch EQ settings between snapshots was great! Overall, I’d say the SD7T is by far the best digital desk for theatre I have ever used.”
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