Richard Brooker has a long history as an acclaimed sound designer on some of the industry’s biggest theatrical performances, including such credits as Jesus Christ Superstar, Never Forget, The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Chess, Daddy Cool and many more.
He has witnessed his job evolve as audience expectations and the theaters themselves have changed, and recently he has come to rely on tools from Waves Audio for both live situations and his personal studio.
His use of Waves features prominently in the sound design for the new stage musical I Dreamed a Dream (based on the real-life story of opera crossover superstar Susan Boyle) and the upcoming The Bodyguard (an adaptation of the award-winning Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner film).
For I Dreamed a Dream, Brooker’s console of choice is a DiGiCo SD8 powered by the fully-integrated Waves SoundGrid platform for real-time processing; for The Bodyguard, he is using a DiGiCo SD7 with SoundGrid.
“I began working with Waves tools at home in the studio on my Pro Tools rig,” notes Brooker. “I love them, and they are always a part of building my mix. They are unbelievably well-thought-through products, with something available for whatever you want to do. And of course they are great sounding plugins too, which is probably the most important issue.”
Brooker reflects on the difference between using Waves for theater versus a rock performance, as well as the shifting dynamics of the audience’s relationship to a show:
“In theater, the sound design should support the storyline, the emotional journey of the characters and the score itself. We must draw the audience in during the dialogue, in order that they can commit to the show emotionally.
“And we have to push them back into their seats and overwhelm them in the big numbers. Traditionally, sound designers have taken a ‘less-is-more’ approach in musical theater. That is still partially the case, but we have seen the role of the sound designer evolve moving into the current era.
“Audiences today tend to be a bit more demanding of things like a fully-produced sound, a surround-sound layout and special effects. It is a challenge, but Waves tools have helped me make those transitions. As intense as it can be, I love my job and it’s tremendous fun. The addition of Waves to live consoles is like opening up an Aladdin’s cave for me.”
Brooker’s favorite Waves plugins include the Renaissance Compressor, Renaissance Reverb, Bass Rider, SSL G-Equalizer and SSL G-Master Buss Compressor.
He also uses the CLA (Chris Lord-Alge) Artist Signature Collection in his recording studio. He is also fond of the IR1 Parametric Convolution Reverb, as well as the One Knob Phatter and One Knob Wetter.
His go-to “problem-solver” is the Renaissance Compressor. “It is transparent even when working really hard,” he notes.
The new Susan Boyle musical has presented some unique challenges, as Brooker points out.
“This is a tricky show. There is a range of intensity. All of the show is amplified using lavalier microphones and wireless transmitters, with miniature DPA mics hidden in the actors’ hair or wigs. After the show is done, we present them with a full-on concert-style, epic set of numbers.
“Susan will personally make an appearance at some, singing into a handheld unit. That portion is really a great big sound, so we need to be set up for a range of dynamics. The Renaissance Compressor is perfect to place Susan just where she needs to be in the mix.
“To the audience, it is imperceptible, but they would certainly notice if it weren’t there. Then, the band sound is shaped by the Renaissance Reverb and SSL Buss Compressor, with a little bit of the SSL G-Equalizer for good measure.
“I am a DiGiCo man through and through, currently using the SD8 and SD7, and the Waves plugins enhance what is already an amazing sounding console. DiGiCo and Waves are the perfect combination.”