Monday, February 15, 2016
PK Sound Celebrates Successful 2015 Trinity Launch
New line array is field-tested at events from Shambhala to Lightning in a Bottle festival to Countdown NYE with satisfying results.
It was 5:30 in the morning of Sunday, June 21, 2015. PK Sound front of house engineers Rory Stewart and PJ Miller, along with Arlen Cormack, vice president Touring and Production, were on an emotional high fueled by exhaustion and excitement.
For three days, running from 7 at night until these early hours, the largest electronic music festival on the continent had drawn more than 100,000 fans a day to the eight adjacent stages on the Las Vegas Speedway.
It was the Electric Daisy Carnival, an Insomniac flagship event, and for the first time the producers had selected PK Sound for one of its most technically innovative stages for 2015: BassPOD.
PK, in turn, deployed its brand new Trinity system – 16 modules per side – reinforced by 69 dual 18-inch CX800 subwoofers at the front of the stage and 8 SW215 stage wedges for vocal stage monitoring. Another 4 CX800 subwoofers and 6 VX10 compact line array supported the DJ booth as monitors. Fully armed and ready to go, all it had to do was deliver as promised. In true Vegas fashion, the stakes were high. In the words of Cormack, “There was no margin for error.”
Throughout the hours of intensive, enveloping bass that the aficionados had travelled here to experience, and the relentless heat and sand of the Nevada desert, Trinity proved to be everything the company had envisioned; from the transparency of the sound to the ability to sculpt and focus the sound field remotely. It helped make BassPOD the top pick of the festival by LA Weekly.
Popular website reviewer thatDROP cited PK Sound among its “10 Reasons EDC Las Vegas 2015 was the Best EDM Festival of All Time”, stating that “ The Trinity rig brought technology that allowed audio engineers to manipulate sound to reach where it is intended, engulfing listeners in a bubble of auditory bliss capable of rattling every cell in their body.”
It validated the decision to go with PK for one of Insomniac’s most innovative stages ever by executive producer Forrest Hunt, who concluded, “Working with PK’s new Trinity system on the bassPOD stage this year was an absolute pleasure. The system focused the energy cleanly and clearly onto the dance floor and we received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback about the sound quality over the weekend.”
In the days leading up to the weekend, 2000 miles away in Orlando, PK’s founder, Jeremy Bridge, Paul Magnuson, VP of business development, Adam Lewis, production manager, and Jon Bichel, R&D specialist, were at Infocomm 2015, officially unveiling Trinity amid a crowd of over 40,000 industry professionals from more than 108 countries. While the visual hook of the exhibit was the remote-controlled movement of the speakers, Bridge and the team were quick to emphasize that the most important result of a “no compromising attitude” at PK was the sound.
“I’m absolutely most proud of the sound,” said Bridge. However, extolling sound quality virtues of a speaker on a tradeshow floor is akin to talking about a Lamborghini’s handling ability in a showroom. There would be much more convincing to be done.
It was a long journey, from the spark of an idea years earlier to this exceptional week in June. But there was no doubt: PK Sound – and Trinity – was ready. Over the course of the year, Trinity would be deployed at more than 135 events across Canada and the US, continuing to win fans and demonstrate PK Sound’s innovative technology.
Although he takes credit for the initial concept of what would become Trinity, Bridge is adamant about sharing credit with those who have joined him at PK Sound since the company’s formation in 2005, and who are now employee-owners. The culture is driven by their desire to take the connection between artist and audience to the next level.
“Trinity is the future of sound reinforcement,” says Bridge. “By giving front of house engineers the ability to sculpt the sound field in all three dimensions, we are able to achieve precision and accuracy that was previously unobtainable.”
It was this culture of mutual support and the agility of PKs relatively small size as a company, which fostered exploration of technologies that had seemingly been passed over by the bigger established players in the industry. From the very beginning, PK set its collective sights on building a few high-quality innovative products rather than a wide range of imitators.
Given Bridge’s engineering mindset as a musician and producer, it is also not surprising that in his quest for better sound he would look at the traditional, cumbersome and hazardous methods of flying line array systems and say, “There’s got to be a better way to do that.”
The result is a system that you can fly straight with just one or two people, hook up your laptop, and make all the adjustments in the module by remote control. This can save up to 75% of the set-up time – which is critical when schedules are tight on major tours, and which then allows the luxury of more time to concentrate on fine-tuning the sound. Whether it’s saving time, or being able to adjust the angle of a speaker even in the middle of a show, everything about Trinity contributes in one way or another to a better concert experience for the audience.”
PK’s patented 3D Wavefront Control permits full control of all DSP functions and the vertical/horizontal directivity of the array, instantly. This advancement is coupled with other critical improvements such as actuating horn flares and the CMI (Coherent Midrange Integrator) Waveguide that combines mid and high frequencies with precisely spaced low frequency apertures. None of this matters to the average concert-goer, of course. What does matter – to fans, artists and promoters – is that using Trinity at an event guarantees the maximum number of best seats in the house.
Before launching Trinity, the team resolved that there would be “no allowances for failure.” Research went into every component, every nut and bolt, which led to sourcing from Europe and around the world. The cabinet itself underwent numerous iterations to ensure that it was absolutely weatherproof to withstand the invasive sand of a desert windstorm or the relentless water of a coastal downpour.
“I would go home at night thinking about all we had done that day to improve the prototype, and how hard everyone had worked,” says Bridge. “Then I would come back in the morning with more ideas, and say things like, I’m sorry guys, but we have to make the cabinet lighter. In the end we were able to package all the additional technology and keep it lighter than our competitors”
By 2014, Trinity was ready for field-testing, and for PK Sound there was no doubt it would be Shambhala, an annual weekend event in August in the interior of BC. All the conditions were there: the tightly adjacent stages that necessitated keeping the sound bleed to a minimum; the extremities and unpredictability of mountain weather; and most of all, the uncompromising artists, including Grammy award-winners and their fans, who demanded to be connected without the slightest hint of audible interference. At the end of the weekend, the Shambhala tribe had heard, had conferred, and had embraced the newest PK addition.
Cormack, who was heading up the San Francisco office while development continued back in Calgary, recalls the trial runs leading up to Infocomm and EDC. “We Beta tested it with Safe ‘n Sound in September and October 2014, then took it on the Excision tour early in the new year. The first real test of the final DSP settings, was the Lightning in a Bottle festival, held near Monterey, California in May 2015. The neat thing about LIB is it was all high profile bands; seven or eight of them per day, and so it was the ideal way to demonstrate the true transparency of Trinity – the true potential. We had no problems getting the vocals to ride on top of the instruments in the mix, because of the headroom and power of Trinity. As PK’s first full-time employee, back in 2008, I had faith in the team, but I still wondered if Trinity could cross the threshold.” It did. “I fell in love with the speaker,” says Cormack. “It showed a bright future for the company.”
Throughout 2015, Cormack’s love for Trinity began to be shared by a growing number of respected industry leaders, performers and fans. Tours and events included Mad Decent Block Party Tour, Full Flex, Life in Colour, Excision, Paradiso, Zeds Dead Red Rocks, Escapade, Lightning in a Bottle, and Insomniac’s Halloween and New Year’s Eve celebrations, among others. Musicians including Skrillex, Major Lazer, Die Antwoord, Aluna George, Excision, Diplo, Datsik, Jack U, Flume, Tycho, SBTRKT, Odesza, Kiesza, NAS, J.Cole, Raekwon, Nero, Bro Safari, Zeds Dead, Keys ‘n Krates and Stylust Beats put the system through its paces.
The tours took Trinity to major cities across the continent, from LA to New York, Houston to Toronto. J.Paul Jackson, sound engineer and tour manager for Keys N Krates, concluded, “When it comes to my job, nothing makes me happier than walking into a venue or festival and seeing the PK logo on the mains and sub cabinets. My happiness level jumped to complete excitement at EDC Las Vegas when hearing the new Trinity speakers in full flex. I’ve never been more impressed technologically and sonically by an array in my life.”
“It was a massive year for us,” says vice president of business development, Paul Magnuson. “We went from a relatively unknown company with a foothold in western Canada and the West Coast to industry-wide recognition in North America and beyond. We are both humbled and thrilled by the response to Trinity and the growing interest in PK Sound, and are now receiving requests that will challenge us to keep up with demand.”
The success of 2015 is apparent by the packed schedule for PK in 2016, which shows its demand by top artists and promoters, its close affiliation with and respect for the people involved in the tours and events, and the adoption of Trinity by more and more music genres outside of the EDM.
That’s not to say that Trinity is the ultimate achievement for PK Sound. “The people in our company who got us this far aren’t going to stop now,” says Bridge. “We’ll accept the accolade that we launched the most innovative speaker in 2015, but we won’t stop there. Pushing to new heights is always the challenge, and what keeps us coming to work every day. Success is great, and we can see where we’re going. But I have to tell you, we’re just as proud of where we came from. We never want to lose that. It’s about people and the love of music. It should always be about that.”
The 6 Categories Of Tours
If you’ve never been on a real tour, it’s easy to think that they’re all like U2 or Alecia Keys, but there are actually a number of different types, categorized by their duration. This excerpt from The Touring Musician’s Handbook outlines the differences in each.
Tours can be divided into six general categories of duration; local shows, one-offs, fly dates, mini-tours, full tours and corporate gigs. Let’s look each one.
The Local Show
Local shows are easy. You get to sleep in your own bed, you probably have a good bit of the day (at least the morning) to attend to personal matters, and you get to play in a familiar venue in front of friends and family. You can’t really call a local show part of a tour (unless you happen to be passing through town during a real tour), but these types of shows are frequently used as a warm-up before the tour starts.
It’s a good time to fine tune the set list, hone the production, and tighten the band. It’s a sweet gig, but there’s never enough of them and they’re all too short. Fun, though.
The one-off is a single show where you return home after it’s completion. It can be relatively local or it can be half-way around the world, but regardless of how long it takes you to get there, you’re still only playing a single show.
The typical one-off generally means that there’s at least some travel time involved (you might arbitrarily say a couple of hours) which basically means that your entire day is consumed leading up to the gig. If you can’t do much else in your day but travel, sound check and play the show, you’ve experienced a one-off.
The Fly Date
The Fly-Date is the most desirable type of one-off that you can get, and means that you’re flying on a plane out of town for the show, then directly returning either the same day or next (it might take a little longer it your gig happens to be in an exotic place). You may do a series of fly-dates, but you’re always returning back to your home base after the gig.
Acts like Aerosmith and Madonna might only do fly-dates for an entire tour, but they have private jets that can take them exactly where they need to go and bring them back to their airport hub directly afterwards without having to worry about the rigors of commercial aviation. That’s not the case for the players in a touring band, who may have to fly commercially, although it may be in business or first class.
Anything that’s two dates to a week on the road is considered a mini-tour. This means that you’re away from home for that entire duration and don’t see your bed at home until you return. If a band from Boston books a show in New York and then returns directly home after the gig, that’s a one-off. If it books shows in Providence and New Haven on the way and doesn’t return home to Boston after either one, that’s a mini-tour.
Mini-tours are inefficient and difficult to make money on since there are are few economies of scale with labor and rentals. The bus, bus driver, techs and tour managers usually cost more since everyone would rather take a longer gig for the job security, and a short gig might get in the way of that happening. Aside from the money aspects, it is a desirable gig, since you’re not away from home for very long.
The Full Tour
Once you get past a week out on the road where you don’t return home, you’re on a full tour. Tours can range from a week to a couple of years, in the case of a major act with a hit album. If the album continues to sell, the tour will keep going in order to take advantage of the sales momentum, even returning to play the same city a second and third time.
Many touring musicians refuse to sleep at home even when a tour travels through their home town, preferring to stay in the mood and rhythm of the tour. Even though it might feel good to sleep in your own bed, it can be mentally disruptive, not to mention financially harmful since the business manager might decide that you don’t need the per diem for the day since you’ve telegraphed that you didn’t use your hotel room. It’s OK to go home to do your laundry and check in on things though.
The Corporate Gig
The corporate gig is a somewhat modern event where an artist or band plays what amounts to a private party for a corporate entity. Once upon a time this type of gig was frowned upon and deemed a “sell-out,” but as the touring business has become more mature and financially aware, the corporate gig is now the industry’s cash cow. It’s now become commonplace for a Fortune 500 company to hire superstar acts and pay them sums that exceed their normal nightly take when on tour, but much smaller acts (including many that don’t have national visibility) benefit immensely as well.
Corporate gigs are normally one-offs and fly-dates, since most are so lucrative that they’re worth playing even if the artist or band is not currently on tour.
Read and comment on the original article here.
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blog. Go here to check out The Touring Musician’s Handbook.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Special Considerations: Working With True Singers
Welcome to mixing monitor sound for a singer. There are many kinds of professional entertainers, songwriters and celebrities, but when working for that breed of performing artist who sings exceptionally well, a refined audio approach helps them do their best on stage.
When she’s in her zone, a palpable connection to every member of the audience produces goose bumps and wet eyes. She’s easily identified because she holds the microphone in her hand.
For singers, the microphone is the handle for the entire sound system, pro audio’s “mother of creation.” Young singers may not prefer a particular mic, but eventually become attached to a specific model. All other equipment is easily substituted, but that same mic, in the palm of her hand, provides daily consistency and confidence to sing her best.
With young singers, it’s possible to try different vocal mics, but after using one model for years, its sound, balance and weight feel familiar and it’s simply a comfortable pair of shoes. Changing mics for older singers is a huge challenge that should never be tried on a day with the pressure of a show later.
While hard-wired mics provide the best performance and value, today’s singer often requires wireless freedom of movement. Improved companding helps wireless sound more like wired, and digital wireless provides noise-free audio without companding at a cost of three milliseconds of latency.
As a result, choosing a vocal mic often includes choosing a wireless system. Adding to Shure’s wide assortment of industry-standard vocal capsules, many mic makers have offered capsules that fit Shure handheld transmitters. Lectrosonics in turn released a handheld transmitter (below) that fits Shure-compatible capsules, Sennheiser and Neumann capsules using an adapter, as well as its own HHC condenser.
Dynamic mics have advantages on loud stages, are more rugged and don’t need phantom power, but true singers favor condenser mics for their transparent, accurate sound. Condenser mics are detailed and crisp, but tend to pick up nearby sounds, so some distance between singer and band helps on loud stages.
Mics with tighter supercardioid or even hypercardioid polar patterns better isolate the singer’s voice on louder stages. Hardwired condenser mics must be used with their high-pass and pad engaged, as its proximity effect is too boomy and her voice is too loud for the capsule on big notes.
Safely store the show mic until she arrives on stage. Use the spare when you need to talk into her channel so you’re not putting your germs in her mic. If her channel seems a bit quiet when you speak into it, that’s because she produces more level than most. And I probably don’t need to tell you that there’s no smoking anywhere near the stage until the singer has left the venue.
While frequency response can be tailored with EQ, polar response and handling noise can’t be adjusted electronically, making them important features, the best reason for choosing the right vocal mic is that it can help their singing.
Money Channel Evolution
Vocal compression is a trademark of pop vocals. and yesterday’s analog front of house engineers always inserted a vocal compressor, ranging from dbx and Drawmer standbys to vintage or boutique tube and optical compressors.
Singers hate compression, but engineers use it to create the “studio sound” that exemplifies pop music by reducing the natural dynamic range to something that can sit comfortably in a mix while a singer goes from a whisper to a scream and the band moves from acoustic ballads to up-tempo rockers. Without compression, even Tony Bennett would startle the blue hair in the front row.
Besides a compressor, inserting a graphic EQ into the lead vocal channel is an old trick that allows quick EQ choices beyond a console’s 4-band EQ. Enterprising engineers would even insert one channel of a stereo GEQ and use the other channel before the compressor’s side-chain or “detector” input, causing a strident part of the singer’s upper register to be compressed early by pushing that frequency in the detector.
However, emphasizing a frequency in a compressor’s side-chain still causes the entire signal to be compressed. The move towards brighter-sounding condenser vocal mics and a compressor’s difficulty reducing transient sibilance encouraged the use of dedicated de-essers to keep live vocals sounding natural.
Outboard de-essers provide a single tunable band of dynamic EQ focused to reduce very high frequencies in the 4 kHz to 10 kHz sibilance region. Soon the idea of dynamic EQ for other frequencies became popular and the BSS 4-band DPR-901 became the hallmark FOH outboard vocal processor in the 1990s.
Touring FOH engineers have also used premium multi-function studio “channel strip” processors that combine a mic preamp, compressor, de-esser and/or EQ. There are also a variety of channel strip plugins and digital live sound environments for building custom strips from a wide variety of plugin emulations.
Many engineers call the Waves C6 (below) their one indispensable plugin, reducing and even replacing vocal channel EQ. The C6 is a six-band compressor with a “paragraphic” user interface. It combines four channels of multiband compression with two additional floating bands that can be used for de-essing sibilance and de-popping plosives. Multi-band compression is also standard built-in processing on many premium digital consoles.
A chanteuse will often have repertoire with a large vocal range and phrases ending in big notes. As singers move from their lower to upper register, their voice responds differently and tailoring the sound system’s response to match produces smoother transitions.
Sustained notes to which vibrato is added produce rich overtones. Singers benefit from frequency response tilted towards the highs in their monitors to help them control register change and vibrato.
While FOH engineers can endlessly tweak, snip and polish a singer’s voice in the house mix, monitor engineers have fewer options.
Vocal compression is never used in the singer’s monitors, as it makes it harder to sing. So when a singer hits a big note, the stage monitors faithfully reproduce it, while the voice gets knocked back in the mains by 3 to 10 dB by the FOH compressor.
The result is that the singer hears the sound jump out of the stage monitors on big notes, while it collapses in the mains. The singer hears softer notes resonate in the venue, while big notes dip and move onto the stage where the uncompressed sound is dryer, other than its reverb, but with fewer acoustical reflections.
Good singers put up with it. Great singers learn to cheat the compressor with mic technique. They know which big notes FOH compression will suck up and momentarily pull the mic away from their mouth, using the inverse square law to reduce the power of their voice by increasing the distance with their arm.
When the mic is pulled away on big notes, the singer avoids the compressor and the vocal collapses far less from her perspective. Younger singers have difficulty understanding this; older ones do it instinctively.
The vocal sound reflecting back from the venue is a vital part of what singers using wedge- or side-fill-based monitoring hear on stage, making it important that FOH engineers keep the vocal and its reverb well on top of the band in the main mix. Not only does sound bounce back on stage from venue walls and ceiling, it comes back on stage from the sides and back of the mains.
Point source arrays lose directivity in the lowest octaves and often have a midrange side-lobe, so the main vocal is already loud on stage at those frequencies. Reducing those frequencies in the vocal for the singer’s wedges and side fills keeps it sounding natural on stage. Delaying the singer’s wedges and side fills in relation to the mains can help them sound more like a single system.
Line arrays have better pattern control than point source arrays at lower frequencies, due to improved LF coupling, but only with arrays of sufficient length to control their lowest frequencies. While women don’t sing much lower than 250 Hz (B3), tenors’ lowest notes are an octave below. That means a male singer in a venue with 6-box line arrays will feel significant amounts of their mic’s proximity effect on stage from the mains (and his acoustic guitar wants to feed back at 160 Hz).
Most real singers generally dislike in-ear monitors (IEMs). Putting something in their ears blocks sound in the venue from reaching their ears directly, but also destroys the binaural effect of sound laterally cross-feeding. It’s fatiguing to wear IEMs for long periods of time because they sound unnatural to a brain that’s built to hear binaurally.
Vocalists also have a requirement to interact with their audiences, responding to calls from the fans: “We love you!” IEM engineers attempt to add this to the mix with hard-panned downstage audience mics that are fadered-up between songs to help singers hear and localize fans accurately, but it’s a poor substitute.
The Sensaphonics Active Ambient system (below) gives performers back the natural sound of their ears by embedding binaural microphones in custom molds to add natural sound back into their ears when desired with the flick of a switch on their bodypack.
IEMs force performers to hear through a monitor engineer’s mix, placing a higher requirement on getting everything to sound natural through miniature transducers squeezed into ear canals. Besides individual instruments and voices being heard directly at the ear instead of in an acoustic space, reverb itself must replace a venue’s acoustics, requiring a powerful, natural sounding reverb.
Reverb plays an important role in a singer’s monitors. Algorithms with dense Early Reflections (ER), as well as a 4-way crossover are preferred. Turning down the reverb and listening to the ER for a natural sound helps audition reverb presets.
The 4-way crossover allows the reverb to be tailored to complement a venue’s natural acoustics. Shortening lower frequencies that already dominate the stage helps. Leaving high mids the longest helps brighten the room for the singer.
Next, EQ the reverb to sound natural, cutting each region that sounds metallic or artificial. Finally, pre-delay is the critical adjustment; it must vary from 20 to 30 milliseconds, depending on the room. Like any special sauce, a little bit goes a long way – don’t overdo it.
There are many designs and approaches to wedge-based monitoring for different types of performers, but for singers, it’s about their mic and their reverb.
But first, carpeting the stage is recommended. Inexpensive indoor-outdoor carpet comes in 6-foot rolls and, not only makes the stage sound better, it feels good. Even one piece across the downstage edge can help.
Stereo wedges should be a dozen feet apart and facing each other so the sound comes from each side, maximizing the reverb’s stereo effect. With the back of the wedges propped up with a two-by-four, their horns are on-axis when standing downstage center.
She travels to the sides of the stage so a second wedge, similarly angled, is needed about 12 feet past the first. This second pair can be a mono mix, as she’ll only hear one at a time. This mix can be high-passed more than the others, as lots of low-frequency energy is coming off the mains at side-stage. The so-called upstage “butt-fill” is a fourth mix that helps when she steps towards the band.
The main thing that goes in the singers’ mix is her vocal and its reverb. In reverberant halls, a small amount of piano for pitch and maybe kick or hi-hat for time may be needed.
See you in catering.
Mark Frink is an independent engineer who has mixed monitors for a few singers and is available this coming summer.
D.A.S. Audio Delivers At 2015 Capital One Orange Bowl Halftime Show
ACT Productions deploys UX-221A subwoofers with Aero 38A and 40A line arrays for 68,000 spectators—with a 6-minute setup
On Dec 31, 2015, the 2015 Capital One Orange Bowl football game took place at Sunlife Stadium between the Clemson University Tigers and the University of Oklahoma Sooners football teams.
The halftime show at this 82nd annual event, with 68,000 spectators in attendance and millions more watching on television, was supported with sound reinforcement loudspeakers from D.A.S. Audio.
In recent years, the artist roster has included Taylor Hicks with Gladys Knight, ZZ Top, The Doobie Brothers, Kool and the Gang, and Train, to name just a few. This year’s headliner was the singer, songwriter and guitarist John Fogerty.
ACT Productions of Miami Beach, FL, was tasked with coordinating the logistics for this year’s halftime show. Carlos Henao, technical director for ACT Productions, was responsible for overseeing the implementation of all audio, lighting, video, and staging for this year’s event. To ensure the proper number of D.A.S. loudspeakers required for a project of this magnitude would be available, Henao arranged for product to be drawn from the inventories of Miami’s Interface Sound and Dynamic Productions of Hallandale Beach, FL. He discussed the project and its various challenges.
“For this year’s show, we deployed a total of twelve equipment carts outfitted with the various D.A.S. loudspeakers,” Henao explained. “Each cart consisted of one UX-221A powered, ultra-low subwoofer accompanied by four Aero 40A powered, 3-way line array elements or, alternatively, four Aero 38A powered, 3-way line array systems. Along each side of the football field’s length, we positioned four of these carts facing into the spectator areas. Similarly, we also placed two carts in each of the field’s end zones—facing out toward the spectators. We essentially had a 360-degree setup with each cart in the system positioned approximately 20 yards apart. On the stage, eight DAS Road 12A enclosures were used for monitors, along with three Aero 8A line arrays and one CA-215A subwoofer per side, for high output, compact side fills.”
The D.A.S. Audio UX-221A subwoofer as well as the Aero 40A and Aero 38A line arrays are all powered loudspeaker systems. Powered loudspeakers carry numerous advantages such as streamlined system cabling and power that is optimized for each type of enclosure. While these attributes certainly benefitted Henao and the crew responsible for deploying this huge system, there was one additional benefit of these powered loudspeaker systems that really came into play on the Orange Bowl project.
“Come show time,” Henao said, “the entire system had to be in place and operational in just six minutes. This meant rapidly moving the loudspeaker carts and cables from the storage positions inside the stadium’s tunnel passages onto the field, making the necessary connections, and having everything ready to go. Because the entire system was self-powered, heavy amp racks were eliminated and, as a result, setup time was minimized. Another benefit of using the self-powered loudspeaker systems was the space savings. Although we were working in a stadium, space is always at a premium. No amp racks meant more space for patrons.”
Henao also commented on the exceptional dispersion characteristics of the Aero line array systems, “In previous years, we used carts with five top boxes each, but sightlines became an issue, due to more seats being added to the lower level. Although four boxes per stack was less than that recommended by the acoustic models we created using EASE Focus, the system did a great job of covering fans seated 75 feet away on the lower level all the way to the people seated 300 feet back up in the ‘nosebleed’ seats. The coverage was consistent throughout the stadium and both speech intelligibility and music reproduction were excellent.”
With a large project of this nature, technical questions inevitably arise. In this regard, Henao reports that D.A.S. Audio’s support services are first rate. “While D.A.S. Audio has been easy to deal with all along,” Henao notes, “in recent years the company has added a very competent tech support staff to complement their sales team. As a result, any issues or concerns were addressed expediently.”
With the 2015 Capital One Orange Bowl now in the rear view mirror, Henao reflected on the project and offered these parting thoughts.
“The Orange Bowl was a really challenging event to say the least,” he said, “but the use of D.A.S. Audio loudspeaker systems yielded great results. We saw many happy faces and received numerous compliments—from both the spectators and the front of house engineers traveling with the artists. Each year the Orange Bowl project evolves, as do the D.A.S. Audio loudspeaker systems. It’s really gratifying to work with equipment that is so carefully thought out and well designed as D.A.S.”
Front Of House Engineer John Servies Chooses Metric Halo SpectraFoo
Forty-year veteran audio engineer and musician deploys analysis software for extensive project list, including NPR’s From the Top.
When he’s not taping for NPR’s From the Top, John Servies works front of house for Itzhak Perlman’s In the Fiddler’s House, Hankus Netsky & The Klezmer Conservatory Band, and a long list of one-off engagements.
In short, Servies is blessed with the opportunity to travel the world, working with brilliant artists to help them fully realize the emotional impact of their craft through faithful sound reinforcement and capture. A craft of his own, which is polished utilizing Metric Halo’s SpectraFoo sound analysis software.
“I’ve been an audio engineer and musician for close to forty years now, and I’ve spent most of that time passionately pursuing audiophile-quality capture and reproduction of live musical events,” said Servies, one of the team of audio engineers behind From the Top, which brings the stories of young musicians to 700,000 loyal listeners every week. “I enjoy systems that can impart the full intent of the artist, and I’m interested in the science of how that happens. I want to achieve a translatable effect from what the artist produces to what the audience hears; but there’s so much that can get in the way of that.”
What stands in the way of faithful sound reinforcement and capture?
“The list is almost infinite,” said Servies. “But some of the biggest issues involve the acoustic environment, which includes the ways reflections, diffusion, and room modes and resonances interact. Nonlinearities in microphones, consoles, amplifiers, and especially loudspeakers can really upset the purity of sound reinforcement. And then you have to combine those two universes of potential distortion with loudspeaker placement. I routinely walk into new venues, and I only have a short amount of time to assess the acoustics and electronics and make corrections before the show or taping begins.”
To speed that process and to improve its accuracy and repeatability, Servies has been using Metric Halo’s SpectraFoo sound analysis software since 2002.
“SpectraFoo allows me to quickly and accurately evaluate what my ears and brain are analyzing, and I have a refined work flow after using it for so many years,” he said. “I usually start by talking into a common reference mic that I bring to every engagement. By listening to the way the system and room react to my voice in conjunction with SpectraFoo’s spectragraph, it’s easy to identify the biggest room modes and electro-acoustical system resonances. Then I move into the more technical analysis using pink noise, playback of various test tones and music, and multi-mic/multi-placement analysis, again in conjunction with SpectraFoo’s spectragraph. Ultimately, I integrate all of those tests as one big holistic process.”
“When I made the move to sound analysis software in 2002, the only other big-name option was PC-based, and I’m a confirmed Mac user,” Servies said. “That said, SpectraFoo blew the other options out the window, irrespective of platform. I love its look, its ease-of-use, and its consistency. It doesn’t have a lot of screen clutter, and I’m able to customize and quickly switch between the types of analysis that I want to see. Moreover, SpectraFoo is really fast. I have it on my up-to-date MacBook Pro, where it obviously runs without a hiccup, but I also have it on my old PowerBook G4, where it also runs without a glitch.”
Servies has used all of SpectraFoo’s functions, which include spectragrams, oscilloscopes, level meters, Lissajous plots, and more (including Metric Halo’s unique ‘phase torch’), at one time or another. His approach blends the kind of experienced analysis he can do using just his ears and brain with SpectraFoo’s consistent and grounded analysis, which together yield excellent results in a minimum amount of time.
“I’m perfectly happy to use SpectraFoo’s delay finder,” he said as an example. “But it’s faster for me to just play a 5ms pink noise ‘click’ – created with SpectraFoo – and walk around the room with my tablet, adjusting the delay times by ear.”
After that, he readjusts the gain in all zones as needed and replays the pink noise, repeating various parts of the process until a favorable result is achieved. He keeps SpectraFoo open during performances as well, to help quickly diagnose and fix large or small imperfections by sending the suspect channel for analysis.
In all, Servies gets excellent, repeatable results by incorporating SpectraFoo into his workflow. In the end, he gets to enjoy a great performance with sound reinforcement that is as faithful to the instruments on stage as possible. “I won’t do a show without it.”
ATK Audiotek Deploys JBL By Harman VerTec Line Arrays For Super Bowl 50
ATK Audiotek manages 18th consecutive year at event with VerTec 4889 arrays and VerTec 4880A subwoofers for stadium crowd of 68,500.
ATK Audiotek provided live sound reinforcement for Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium last Sunday, deploying its custom cart-based audio system headed by Harman’s JBL VerTec line arrays.
The system supported pregame performances of “America The Beautiful” by the Armed Forces Chorus and “The Star Spangled Banner” by Lady Gaga, as well as the Super Bowl Halftime Show, the most-watched musical event of the year, featuring Coldplay with special guest performances by Beyoncé, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.
The audience for Super Bowl 50 consisted of a live stadium audience of approximately 68,500 plus 165 luxury suites and 8,500 club seats. The event was telecast on CBS and also streamed live on CBSSports.com, as well as a variety of other mobile applications, with an average of 111.9 million viewers, making this year the third-most-watched program in American television history.
To ensure that the audio system was on par with the event’s requirements and expectations, ATK provided 18 carts, each loaded with four to five VerTec 4889 large-format line array loudspeakers, 84 in total, and two VerTec 4880A dual 18-inch subwoofers, totaling 36.
“The design of the systems was finalized months ago,” said Mikael Stewart, VP of Special Events, ATK Audiotek. “We only have a very short window when we can actually get inside the stadium and have the audio systems set up and tuned and ready for sound check. Patrick Baltzell, who is the front of house engineer for the Halftime Show, is very experienced with these systems, having mixed 18 of the last 19 Super Bowls, which helps ensure we can accomplish all that we need to in the given time.”
Fortunately, there were no challenges resulting from inclement weather that could have complicated the preparations for the big game.
“With high-profile live events, you have to be certain that the equipment you use is going to perform exactly as planned,” said Stewart. “There is no room for error. That’s why we rely on JBL loudspeakers; they provide the consistent premium sound quality that these events demand.”
Martin by Harman’s Atomic 3000 LED strobes were also used to light up the Halftime Show.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Harman Professional Solutions Support Jimmy Kimmel Live Remote Shows
Firehouse Productions manages annual week of shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with JBL VTX arrays and Crown I-Tech amplifiers.
Harman Professional Solutions once again was the audio solution of choice for Jimmy Kimmel Live’s annual week of remote shows, which were broadcast in October from the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Kimmel’s hometown of Brooklyn, New York.
Guests included Bill Murray, Michael J. Fox and Bradley Cooper, with performances by Misty Copeland, Esperanza Spalding and Public Enemy.
The lineup of Harman components was selected by Firehouse Productions, a Red Hook, New York based Pro AV company whose credits include the iHeartRadio Music Festival, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony and Kimmel’s remote shows for the past decade. This year’s system featured JBL VTX V25-II loudspeakers and Crown I-Tech 4x3500HD HD amplifiers.
With the goal of providing maximum clarity and intelligibility for every seat in the house, the rig for the remote shows included two hangs of 12 JBL VTX V25-II loudspeakers on each side of the stage for the main PA and JBL Vertec VT4880A ground-stacked subwoofers. The system was powered by Crown I-Tech 4x3500HD amplifiers, and both the JBL loudspeakers and Crown amplifiers were managed by JBL HiQnet Performance Manager software.
Mark Dittmar, lead design and integration engineer for Firehouse Productions, said that the new VTX line arrays made a big impression on the Jimmy Kimmel Live staff.
“The engineer mixing front of house was worried about using lavalier microphones in such close proximity to the arrays,” said Dittmar. “But once he heard the new system, he was blown away by the excellent high frequency control under and around the arrays. There were zero feedback issues.”
The VTX 25-II features a new waveguide for improved long-throw performance, improved wavefront control and improved power matching with the Crown I-Tech 4x3500HD amplifier. Dittmar said that the decision to upgrade to the new VTX line arrays has paid off tremendously.
“The new VTX V25-II capabilities are a true game changer,” said Dittmar. “The increased high frequency output and projection coupled with the new phase alignment translates to an incredible level of clarity. It’s like the loudspeakers moved 50 percent closer to the audience.”
Dittmar said his company’s longstanding relationship with Jimmy Kimmel Live helped facilitate a smooth transition to a new system.
“The shows were a tremendous success and Jimmy’s staff could not stop talking about how great the sound was,” he said. “Since we’ve provided sound for these remote shows for a decade, we were able to keep things running in a smooth fashion while deploying an updated system. This is largely thanks to the straightforward integration of the JBL VTX V25-II with updated loudspeaker presets for our Crown I-Tech 4x3500HD amplifiers. Needless to say, the show’s staff was pretty happy with the new gear.”
Harman Professional Solutions
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
“Tap-Tap-Tap, Is This Thing On?”
There are many different ways of checking PA systems. Some of us play music and walk around the venue, while others use sweeps or pink noise and deploy on a measurement program. Many do a combination of both.
Regardless, at some point in the process, we usually grab a microphone and listen to the PA with our own voice. Witnessing hundreds (thousands?) of these voice checks over the years has led me to compile the following “types.” Which one do you resemble?
The Assistant Principal: “Tap-Tap-Tap, Is this thing on?” Also called the Rotary Club Presenter, and inevitably followed by, “Can you hear me in the back?”
The Singer: “Feelings, nothing more than feelings.” You’re a frustrated karaoke star and can’t help but break into song when a mic is in your hand.
The Rapper: “I like big bass and I can’t deny…” You like to bust out some rhymes whenever you get a chance. Bonus points if you cup the mic.
The Dad: “Microphone test channel one, this is a microphone test.” This is how my dad started every recording on his cassette tape recorder. It only works with gear built in the 1970s.
The Drive-Thru: “Do you want fries with that?” You’re hinting at a previous career in an illustrious field. The only question: why have you fallen so far?
The Not-So-Sophisticated: “Hey, watch this! Ow, oh, arghh…” Didn’t Jeff Foxworthy base an entire comedy routine on your life?
The Willie Mays: “Hey, Hey, Hey.” Unlike the real Say Hey Kid, you have not hit 660 home runs, you do not possess a career batting average of .302, and there is no plaque dedicated to you in the Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame. So please stop saying “Hey.”
The Tom Hanks: “Sibilance, Sibilance, Sibilance.” We all love Tom Hanks in Wayne’s World as Aerosmith’s roadie, but the only time you’re allowed to say “sibilance” more than twice is when you’re tying the scarves onto the lead singer’s mic stand.
The Joker: “A horse walks into a bar. ‘Why the long face?’ asks the bartender.” You crack yourself up telling jokes on the mic. The key word here being yourself.
The Whistler: “Tweet, Tweet.” When I was a young soundman, The Old Soundman told me to never whistle in a mic. Now that I’m an old soundman myself, I’m telling you.
The Checker: “Check, Check, Checking.” Nothing but checks. Hey, I’ll pick up the dinner check if you stop saying “check.” I swear, the check’s already in the mail. Go check.
The Tester: “Test, Test, Test.” Sometimes you might mix it up and really put it out there by swapping in the word “testing.” How about swapping in the word “annoying” instead?
The Fence Sitter: “Test, Check – Test, Check.” You’re perpetually undecided about which word to use, so you go with both. At least it’s better to be sitting on the fence than thrown under the (tour) bus.
The Counter: “One, Two – One, Two.” Come on, everyone, let’s say it together: Never count to three, because on three you lift.
The Professional: “Test, Check – One, Two.” Combining the best of both worlds. You’re thorough but making it look easy, following the mantra of never letting them see you sweat.
The Overachiever: “Tap-Tap, Test, Check, One, Two, Hey, Hey, Huh, Yo, P, B.” You’re a true audio person of the world, multilingual in the art of PA checks and not afraid to use it. Just be careful: mixing physical action, words, numbers and random consonants is not for the faint of heart, but you know it’s the only way to true PA excellence. Bonus points for using an SM58 exclusively! Double bonus points if you play Steely Dan tracks through the system as well!
Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.
Allen & Heath Supports Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra
Front of house engineer Ian Barfoot selects dLive digital mixing system for the European premiere of Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions.
Allen & Heath’s dLive digital mixing system was selected to manage front of house duties for the European premiere of Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions presented by Princeton Entertainment and U-Live, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the Eventim Apollo Hammersmith in London.
Having used a similar set up involving an iLive system for The Who’s Classical Quadrophenia production, front of house engineer, Ian Barfoot, decided to try out the new dLive system.
“The brief was to create a big film score soundtrack feel to the production, so close micing of all the instruments was the order of the day. The channel count was never going to be small. Around 90 microphones were used,” explains Barfoot. “The production also required the cleanest, most natural sound possible, so the choice of mixing console is paramount for me. For a long time, I have been a great fan of the iLive series, so when there was the opportunity to try out the new flagship dLive, I was intrigued.”
The main audio requirement was the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, which consists of 38 strings, 9 woods, 6 French horns, 8 brass and a great deal of percussion along with harp and piano. Additionally, there were 6 tracks of audio from the video content and two vocal mics for the presenters.
The dLive system comprised an S7000 Control Surface with DM64 MixRack, utilizing approximately 70 physical inputs feeding the L Acoustic K2 house speaker system. All FX were sourced from the onboard FX library.
“My first impressions of the desk was the stunning mic amp, which is very analogue in nature but with amazing detail and clarity. Listening to a single source is one thing but as you add more signals to the mix sometimes it can start to blur; not in this case - as each section of the orchestra was added to the mix, the warmth and lushness came but the individual clarity and detail could still shine through when required. There are a lot of “solo in place” parts in the orchestrations, which very naturally came to the fore without the need to stir faders. The ability, as with iLive, to lay the console out the way I want it is wonderful. However, the number of custom views available on dLive takes this to the next level. I unusually tend to have all my inputs arranged across the board, preferring to have a ‘working layer’ for each song giving me exactly what I need to access at that time and burying the non-urgent stuff,” says Barfoot.
“I firmly believe that iLive was one of the great innovations in the world of live digital consoles, and dLive is all this and more. I honestly believe this is the finest digital live sound console I have used to date. It seems to have a three dimensional sound, certainly with an orchestra, that is not there with other consoles. It’s going to be a real game changer,” concludes Barfoot.
Allen & Heath
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Developing The Game Plan
My company has worked countless smaller to mid-sized festivals and variety shows over the years, and through trial and error we’ve discovered several approaches and problem-solvers that make life a little easier when it comes to working with stage monitoring.
As always, the first step to success is advancing the gig. We never take the promoter’s word that the riders we’ve received are current, so we call each artist’s representative to make sure we’ve got the latest monitoring requirements.
The same goes for local performers who may have neither a rider nor a representative. And in both cases if they have stage plots, even better. It never hurts to ask.
Armed with this information, we begin laying out the “monitoring plan of attack.” First, how many mixes will be needed, and then how many for wedges and in-ear monitors (IEM)? Once that’s determined, pad it by at least a few to account for last-minute changes as well as extra performers or guest artists invited to perform.
For most bands, it’s pretty easy to figure out where the wedges go, short of special requests. Still, it’s a good idea to specifically determine who needs a wedge and where they’ll specifically be positioned, and then how that’s going to change for the next act, and so on.
Other gear to be added and/or struck should also be included in this ongoing choreography. Some of the festivals we handle also have acts such as dance troupes and choirs on the bill, and they often need area monitoring like side fills.
Basically it’s a game plan, entered on our master show log, that we follow for the fastest, most efficient (and accurate) changeovers. The log should also include all input and output patching, microphone swaps, power drop requirements, etc.
The goal is the fastest, most efficient changeover from this arrangement to what’s coming next.
We’re fortunate to have a fairly deep inventory of stage monitors (wedges) in terms of sizes and types. This allows us to provide the best option for each act, joined by any additional drum monitors, side fills, and boxes for what we call the Front Line.
The term refers to an approach at smaller festivals with a limited number of monitor mixes where we place a row of wedges across the front of the stage, all receiving the same mix. This “front line” serves solo artists, acoustic duos and possibly trios, and singers with tracks, and can stay in place, saving us precious time during changeovers. While fewer loudspeakers on stage is always the preference, it serves as a good compromise between dedicated wedges and/or side fills.
Another variation of this deployment is what we call the Front Row. It looks the same but every wedge is on a separate mix. The wedges can be pulled into position for performers then returned to a straight row, depending on what’s needed. It provides more control over the wedges, reducing bleed onstage while allowing us to tailor the stage mix for individual performers. In either case, just remember to remove the front wedges if a dance act is on the bill – people want to see their feet moving on stage.
Switching focus to the back of the stage area, drummers always get a dedicated mix and wedge on our shows; they always seem to want vastly different things than the rest of the band. For acoustic acts with low-volume drummers (yes, they exist!), we deploy what we call a Drum Box, a wedge with a 15-inch woofer that can reproduce the kick and floor tom well. For louder rock or reggae drummers we will place a subwoofer to give the bottom end some added boost.
Monitors are mixed on the house console at a good deal of the smaller festivals we serve. With analog consoles, particularly those with only a few pre-fader aux sends, this can limit the number of monitor mixes.
While we can get creative and use matrix outputs and post-fader aux sends to get a few more mix channels, a much better alternative is to go digital.
Most compact digital desks are outfitted with multiple assignable outputs that can be configured for pre-fader monitor sends, making it easy to route enough mixes to the stage. Further, digital desks that offer control via a tablet allow the engineer to walk on stage to adjust mixes, both before and after the performers arrive.
Something else that we’re investigating are the newer digital console/monitoring platforms that provide individual monitor control to each person on stage via their smart phones. Talk about a time saver!
Of course, for larger-scale events, we provide a dedicated monitor board located stage-side, manned by its own engineer. When there will be a lot of playback needed for singers and/or dancers, we position the playback devices at the monitor position so the engineer can trigger the cues.
If there’s a change in the program, (and there usually is) the performers (or their representative) can communicate the changes directly with the playback operator.
Use those analog channels wisely when mixing monitors from the house console.
Working With IEM
While wedges are still most common on stages for smaller. locally-based festivals and event, we are seeing an increase in the use of IEM, which have become quite affordable.
One thing we’ve made standard operating procedure is making sure that mixes for performers on IEM are provided with some ambience from the audience (captured via a mic or two on stage pointed toward the crowd). This lessens the feeling of isolation that can particularly impact less-experienced performers as well as those new to IEM.
In most of these situations, we haven’t worked with the artists before, and there’s rarely any time for sound check. As a result, if it’s a stereo IEM system (most often the case), we center each singer’s vocal and instrument in their mix and pan everything else to the sides. With mono mixes, the emphasis is the same but of course it’s spatially much more limited.
We’re also a safety-first organization, so we try to do everything possible make sure that the performers aren’t turning up their systems too loud. Further, a squeal of feedback or loud thud from a dropped mic can also cause hearing damage, so compression and limiting is always deployed. Depending on the event, we’ll even insert “brick wall” limiting to control any unexpected spikes.
Quality antennas should be provided for use wireless IEM systems to help eliminate dropouts and other problems, particularly in this ongoing era of RF challenges. Directional “paddle-style” (a.k.a., log-periodic dipole array) antennas can provide up to 6 dB of gain, while Helical antennas can deliver up to 10 dB of gain.
A few more things to keep in mind:
—Label all wedges and cable ends with their respective mix numbers. It’s more easily understood when a performer asks for something in “Mix 4” than just “in that box.” Also label all IEM belt packs with mix numbers and performer names so they don’t accidentally grab the wrong pack.
—Teach new performers basic hand signals so they can communicate their monitor needs to the audio crew during the performance instead of announcing their issues over the PA. Our method is to verify that the performer and monitor engineer make eye contact, then the performer points at what they want to hear, and then point up or down for volume. (You might be surprised by how many performers who’ve never used monitors before step on to our stages.)
—Adding a touch of reverb to the mix of an inexperienced performer can give them a confidence boost, lending a pleasant signature that’s akin to a karaoke machine with effects. (Just be sure to mute the effects when they talk.)
—Make and carry some “Acoustic Aiming Devices” (ADD). I’ve referred to these in previous articles, but simply, they’re small pieces of wood painted black that can be inserted under wedges to give them more tilt, putting the coverage pattern more firmly on the performers. (If they can’t hear it clearly, they’ll want more volume.)
—Place wedges in the rear or side null of the mics. With cardioid mics, we place the wedges right behind them, while with supercardioid and hypercardioid mics, we place them off to the side at about a 45-degree angle in the mics null zone.
—Spend time ringing out the wedges. Most of the feedback problems on these type of gigs comes from the monitors not getting enough attention before the show starts.
—After the ringing out process, check the monitors with both speech from a mic and with music playback. During testing, turn on the mains and check out how the house system affects the stage sound, especially the output from the main subwoofers. (We often find that side fill subs aren’t really needed due to plenty of output – and spill on stage – from the main subs.)
Give drummers a wedge with more low-end “oomph,” and consider a sub as well.
—Embrace parametric equalizers. Not every problematic tone falls right on the center frequencies of a graphic EQ. Parametric EQ can deliver needed precision. It’s included on many digital consoles, or outboard units can be inserted.
—To tame a mic when no parametric is available, use the input channel EQ on the console. If the mixing is being done of the FOH console, split the input signal into two channels, using one for the FOH feed and the second for channel EQ sent to the wedges. If a splitter is not available, use the direct output of the first channel to feed the second.
—Roll off the low end on the wedges; don’t put extra low-frequency energy on stage that adds to the mush. We usually roll off everything under 80 to 100 Hz except for drum and side fills. For wedges getting nothing but vocals, we typically high-pass up to 150 Hz (and even more with female singers).
—Provide a talkback mic even if it’s a small stage. Communication is key, period.
—Noted before, but worth repeating: bring a backup gear, especially wedges, to the gig. Having an extra wedge comes in handy with announcers, guest artists and audience members brought onstage, as well as for talkback communication – and in case an IEM system decides to go south two minutes before the set is slated to start. (You know it happens!)
Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.
DPA Microphones Chosen For Clean Bandit On Tour
Monitor engineer Paul Hatt introduces the band to d:facto vocal, d:dicate 2011C twin cardiod and d:vote 4099 instrument microphones.
DPA Microphones supported Clean Bandit’s recent international tour dates featuring electronic dance music, live strings and drums. For this string of concerts, the band used d:facto vocal, d:dictate 2011C twin cardiod and d:vote 4099 instrument microphones.
Paul Hatt has been working as the monitor engineer for Clean Bandit since March 2015 and also runs a sound hire company, CS Audio, based in Wales.
The band has been touring almost constantly since the start of 2015, so Hatt has worked on many major festivals around Europe before heading to America, the Far East and Australia for the final legs of the tour.
“In Clean Bandit, just about everybody sings, and there are guest vocalists, too,” he says. “This meant that the number of handheld vocal mics had to be significantly increased. We began with three and are now up to six, with all but two being DPA d:facto vocal microphones.”
Along with the d:facto microphones, the band is also using d:dictate 2011C microphones in the drum setup, on the rides, high hats and overheads, with d:vote 4099 on the top and bottom snares.
Clean Bandit switched to DPA microphones on Hatt’s recommendation soon after he started working with them.
“When I came on board I suggested they try DPA,” he explains. “The front of house engineer had just played a show using d:facto vocal microphones and he said it was the best vocal sound the band ever had out front.” Hatt then ran an A/B comparison of the d:facto against several other vocal microphones and he says, “the result was convincing. The d:facto vocal microphones simply sounded the best. That’s why we went with them, and they are working out really well.”
Clean Bandit can use up to 44 channels per show, with live drums, electronic drums, eight channels of backing tracks, multiple keyboard channels and sequencers, as well as a live cello, violin and six vocals. The band uses custom-made in-ear mics that help keep on-stage clutter to a minimum. Even so, they still have radio mics and packs to deal with, not to mention 20 channels of RF.
“A large proportion of time is spent simply finding free channels for the RF,” Hatt explains. “It’s pretty much taken care of at the larger festivals – but every territory has different regulations, so there is always a lot to think about.”
Hatt also focuses on ensuring the singers stay ‘on mic’ more. “The secret is to get the gain as low as possible, to minimize spill,” he says. “Clean Bandit’s lead singer is a really strong vocalist but with the others, I’ll ride their channels, muting them when they’re not in use, to tidy up the mix and keep everything as clean as possible. The d:facto vocal microphone is particularly good for quiet singers because the rejection is good and they have a very smooth response. They also sound really nice.”
When it comes to miking instruments, especially drums, Hatt says that correct positioning is just as important as having a good mic. “It’s like having a good drum technician to tune a drum kit properly. You need a good microphone, which is why we use DPA. You also need to make sure it is in the right place – that sweet spot on the instrument or drums. It’s crucial to get your sound right at the source before amplifying it, so my advice is go back to basics and get it right.”
Monday, February 08, 2016
For nearly two decades, the 268 Generation, a Christian organization that hosts gatherings worldwide of college students between the ages of 18 and 25, has traditionally held its annual U.S. national Passion Conferences at multiple venues throughout January and February.
For the recent Passion 2016, however, organizers vowed to bring an identical experience to all attendees, ambitiously staging simultaneous three-day events at three locations, with real-time audio, video, and control data streaming and synchronized between the locations, and with a webcast to the world.
This year’s convocation attracted tens of thousands of young adults to Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta, Infinite Energy Arena in Gwinnett County (northeast of Atlanta), and Toyota Center in Houston. Pastors at each of those venues – respectively, Brad Jones, Clay Scroggins, and Ben Stuart – led the daily session schedules, interacting with each other via IMAG screens at each location.
Pastor Louie Giglio, who founded the conference in 1997, together with the Passion band plus artists and musicians including Hillsong United and Rend Collective, traveled between the three cities over a period of less than 48 hours to appear before audiences at each arena.
The locations had identical control and broadcast packages, reports Tom Worley of Rat Sound Systems (Camarillo, CA), which supplied audio production at all three venues and has provided sound for two previous Passion Conferences. Each venue was outfitted with three DiGiCo SD7 consoles: one at front of house and one at monitors, plus another for broadcast located backstage. Each system also incorporated six Waves DiGiGrid servers.
In addition, there were two Midas PRO9 consoles at each location (one for FOH and the other for monitors), provided at the request of Hillsong United, a major band from the Australian Christian community. Artists performing throughout each day alternated between the two console platforms.
The view from behind the DiGiCo SD7 at front of house at Philips Arena. (Credit: Jay Rigby)
Making It The Same
Since the bands played all three arenas, having identical systems at each location enabled show files to be easily updated and shared, Worley notes, adding that all crew members had access to the latest information on Dropbox or Google Drive.
The microphone complement was also identical for each band at each venue. “If you were using a [Shure] KSM32 on overhead in one venue it was the same in the other venues,” he says. “This gave us peace of mind knowing that the show files would transpose between venues and allowed us to have the consistency required to pull off an event of this nature.”
Wireless systems were similarly duplicated from one venue to the next, including 16 channels of Shure UHF-R mics, 12 channels of Sennheiser G3 in-ear monitoring systems (working with the Midas consoles), and 12 channels of Shure PSM 1000 personal monitoring systems (working with the DiGiCo consoles). RF technician Tom Jones coordinated wireless frequencies at each site.
Left to right: Midas PRO9 console, racks of Shure and Sennheiser wireless, and DiGiCo SD7 at the monitor position at one of the venues. (Credit: Jay Rigby)
Rat Sound PA tech Andrew Gilchrist designed the house reinforcement systems; the two Georgia locations were provided with in-the-round coverage while Houston was configured as an end stage. The systems were virtually identical, scaled relative to each venue’s size.
Coverage at Philips Arena was delivered by eight line array hangs comprised of 41 L-Acoustics K1 and 60 K2 cabinets. Four hangs were positioned in the four corners of the room, with the mid-section handled by upper and lower hangs to work around a large-format video screen. Infinite Energy Center was reinforced with six hangs of 18 K1 and 59 K2 boxes, and at the Toyota Center in Houston, there were four hangs of 28 K1 and 44 K2. Each rig also included two-dozen SB28 subwoofers as well as ARCS and Kara loudspeakers for various fill needs.
“Philips Arena was the hub of the whole system; that’s where all the rehearsals were,” says Worley. “We had one day to set up then went straight into rehearsals. It’s a big space to fill in-the-round, and every seat was full, right down to the front of the stage. A lot of the hangs were eight K1 with eight K2 underneath, or a similar combination – it was great to have the width of the K2 at the bottom. The curvature on the PA was pretty phenomenal.”
In Houston, 18 L-Acoustics LA-RAKs on the floor (stage left and right) provided amplification and loudspeaker control, while at the Georgia venues, these units (26 LA-RAKs in Atlanta and 22 in Gwinnett) were positioned on the bumpers of the arrays. “We took drive lines from front of house up to the catwalk using Riedel RockNet (digital audio networking). That was distributed out over AES, with an analog backup, to every hang. Power distribution was up there as well,” Worley notes.
Here To There
The three SD7 desks at each venue were networked over the Optocore fiber-based transport platform in a configuration that linked each console through four DiGiCo SD-Racks to form a star-shaped loop.
“We went from the SD-Racks, which lived in monitor world, out to front-of-house, then back to another SD-Rack,” Worley elaborates. “Then from the other side of the SD-Rack to broadcast and back into the other side of an SD-Rack. Monitors closed and opened the loop.”
The two PRO9 consoles at each venue interconnected with three DL431 I/O-splitter racks over AES50, and in turn were connected over an analog link into two dedicated DiGiCo SD-Racks.
“Both Midas consoles had head-amp control,” says Matt Manix of Method Production Group (Nashville), who was responsible for designing and coordinating the audio networks within and between the locations. “We didn’t do any gain tracking on the DiGiCo side. Two of the racks were fully controlled by monitors and everybody else had trim control. The SD7 broadcast engineers had head amp control over the two racks that took all the Midas inputs.”
Manix says of the SD7 package, “Having shared I/O and being able to have clean audio at every position without utilizing analog splitters, we were able to get the channel count up really high and retain the quality. It has to have one of the largest output bus counts out there and is arguably the most flexible system, as far as routing anything anywhere. And with the SD7’s A and B engine we didn’t have to rent extra desks or engines for redundancy.”
Engineer Kyle McMahon mixing monitors on an SD7. (Credit: Jay Rigby)
Philips Arena in Atlanta was the hub for the fiber link transmission, with satellite backup, between venues. “It was a hub and spoke, with Philips as the hub for all the HD-SDI transports,” Manix notes. “All of the video going between all three venues made its way through Philips, as did the audio. Philips could ‘talk’ to Toyota Center and Gwinnet independently, but there wasn’t fiber between the two. We never had to use the satellite backup because the fiber network was rock-solid.”
An HD-SDI stream with 16 embedded audio channels traveled over rented OC-192 lines between cities. Transmission speeds over the optical carrier are typically comparable to 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
The system’s DiGiCo-Midas network.
The Optocore network extended out to each arena’s loading dock, where a DD4 fiber-to-MADI converter fed video-link world. Audio signal passed via a DiGiCo SD-Mini Rack located in the outside broadcast production truck supplied to each venue by TNDV of Nashville, which provided a complete camera package and handled video switching.
“They could pick up what they wanted from the broadcast or front of house engineers, and shoot that off via fiber to the other venues,” says Manix.
Using a Riedel MediorNet fiber-based real-time media transport network, link transmission operators were able to select which of the broadcast mixes from the three venues to webstream. “The link truck had access to all embedded audio from each venue at all times. Additionally, each DiGiCo desk at each venue had access to all embedded audio from all venues,” Manix explains. “There was a master clock from the OB truck, sent tri-level sync to MediorNet, which provided word clock to our audio network. Then it was re-clocked at every venue. It was perfect.”
Getting In Sync
The pastors emceeing at each venue were outfitted with DPA headset microphones with integrated earpieces, through which they received an IFB (interruptible foldback) feed.
“They wore an IFB pack with essentially a mix from monitors of producer talk and host ISOs from the other venues. There were three producers and three assistant producers calling the show at the venues,” Manix says.
When the pastors were speaking, he continues, “We received the live ISO of the headsets from the other venues via the MediorNet into the DD4, and sent out our local ISO mics in the reverse fashion. The ISO of any person speaking was sent out discretely so it could be processed in the receiving venue separately.”
Further, he says, “Each broadcast desk sent a mix-minus to the other two venues, which were picked up by front-of-house, broadcast, and monitors. We also sent the front-of-house program feed to each venue as a backup to the broadcast mix and mix-minus. We had complete redundancy everywhere.”
The TNDV truck at Philips Arena was the sole source for any pre-produced video packages, but all three trucks captured the feeds from the other two venues on EVS and MIRA instant replay machines for delayed playback. “There were some moments where a person at one venue would start speaking, and the other two venues would capture that then delay the playback so it could be timed with the end of their sessions,” Manix says.
The DiGiCo-Optocore signal transport loop.
Production intercom between venues was also transported over the fiber links: “The Riedel guys set us up so that I was able to talk instantaneously with the other two venues and coordinate line checks over fiber from Philips, which is where I was located. That was super cool.”
In addition to audio, video, and comm traffic, says Manix, “There was also some timecode sent across for some of the lighting and video sync elements. If it was generated in one venue then it would be synched at the other venues.”
Transmission routing between the three venues.
The roundtrip delay between Phillips Arena and Toyota Center was about 50 milliseconds (ms) and around 20 ms between the two Georgia venues. “We had one pretty cool sync moment where all three venues had bands playing at the same time,” Manix reports. The performance featured rappers Lecrae and Trip Lee at the Philips Arena, KB at Infinite Energy Center, and Tedashii at the Toyota Center.
“Click was generated at one venue and received at the other two venues,” he recalls. “We received the band mix-minus back from them. We ended up delaying the click and tracks in the source venue, where it was generated, so that when we received their live audio back it was in time. We had to do something similar for the Georgia venues. It was a bit tricky doing the math, but everything worked flawlessly. It was pretty great.”
Based in Los Angeles, Steve Harvey is a long-time pro audio journalist and photographer.
Friday, February 05, 2016
Meyer Sound Supports Super Bowl 50 Festivities
Levi’s Stadium prepares for game day with SB-1 and SB-3 loudspeakers, while LEO family arrays support other venues in the Bay Area.
Sound reinforcement systems from Bay Area audio innovator Meyer Sound are playing a supporting role in Super Bowl 50 festivities, the biggest Super Bowl week ever celebrated and one that the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee calls “uniquely Bay Area.”
In their quest to make the game-day sound for this Super Bowl the best ever, NFL production leaders tapped Meyer Sound to help enhance the February 7 experience between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.
Meyer Sound’s technical team worked with ATK Audiotek of Valencia, CA to rig SB-1 parabolic long-throw sound beams and SB-3F sound field synthesis loudspeakers at Levi’s Stadium, ensuring that the full house in the upper deck can enjoy game day.
Meyer Sound solutions can also be found enhancing the fan experience at many of the Bay Area events leading up to Super Bowl 50. The company’s LEO Family of line array loudspeakers will support Metallica’s trademark sound at AT&T Park on Saturday, and power the party at Project Nightclub on Pier 70 for performances by Dave Matthews Band, Pharrell Williams, and Red Hot Chili Peppers on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, respectively.
In addition, longtime fans at the San Francisco Symphony experienced Meyer Sound’s newest product— the LEOPARD linear sound reinforcement system—in two special evenings of big-game orchestral celebrations at Davies Symphony Hall.
The systems at AT&T Park, Pier 70, and Davies Symphony Hall were supplied by Martinez, CA-based Pro Media / UltraSound, a company perhaps best known as the Grateful Dead’s sound system supplier since 1980.
“All of us at Meyer Sound are thrilled to play a role in the big game and in all the festivities leading up to this extra special 50th anniversary,” says Helen Meyer, Meyer Sound’s executive vice president and co-founder. With a smile, she added, “Of course, we aren’t taking an official corporate position on who we’d like to win, but considering that 30 Meyer Sound CAL column array loudspeakers are installed on the upper deck of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, there might be a slight tilt toward the Carolina Panthers.”
Thursday, February 04, 2016
Capital Sound Adds d&b audiotechnik To Touring Inventory
Investment in J-Series arrays adds a fourth brand and provides an extra dimension to concert touring packages.
Due to client demand, Capital Sound has added J-Series d&b audiotechnik arrays to it loudspeaker inventory.
Coming on the heels of its investment in Outline’s GTO line array, this investment adds a fourth brand to Capital’s offering and provides an extra dimension to its concert touring packages.
The J-Series systems are complimented by D80 amplification and the company’s new B-Series subs.
“Historically, we have had a strong presence in the concert touring market and we always want to make sure we have a complete range of up-to-date products to cater for current day demands,” says Capital’s general manager, Paul Timmins. “The d&b system is both versatile and incredibly rider friendly, which ensures we continue to keep pace with the requirements of larger-scale tours.
“The new B22 subs are one of three d&b sub options purchased and, as d&b has released array processing with the D80 (a technique that can only be done with this new amplification), it means we can now design systems with array processing in mind.”
The first outing for Capital’s d&b system will be with English singer/songwriter Jess Glynne on her February UK tour, which takes in O2 venues around the country.
“Jess is doing fantastically well, having had five number one singles last year,” says Timmins. “And we’re thrilled to be able to be able to put our new system through its paces with one of the UK’s most exciting female artists.”
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
d&b audiotechnik Supports Intimissimi On Ice In Rome
Musical Box Rent deploys ArrayProcessing to manage challenging reinforcement at ancient Roman amphitheatre in Verona.
The ancient Roman amphitheatre in Verona was the magnificent setting for Intimissimi on Ice, an evening of music and dance on a vast iced stage, all supported by ArrayProcessing from d&b audiotechnik.
Designed in the classical amphitheatre style, the two thousand year old stone structure is elliptical in shape, with the outer walls standing about seventeen meters in height. The audience was seated in the remaining half of the arena floor and on seating built into the steeply tiered bleachers of the original structure. Beautiful, yet challenging for sound reinforcement.
“ArrayProcessing was chosen for its help with performances in this sort of environment. It was the first time for our Partner, Musical Box Rent, at a big event such as this, with so many challenges to find solutions for. The main L/R arrays, comprised of J-Series loudspeakers, had to be located a full sixty three meters apart and thirty meters beyond and behind the edge of the stage to accommodate the necessary sight lines,” says Davide Carlotti, education and application support at d&b audiotechnik Italia.
“The restrictions on where we could locate the main arrays, along with the size and shape of the stage, also dictated that the stalls area had to be covered by T-Series as frontfills and Y-SUBs; there were J-SUBs ground stacked below the left and right arrays. We also deployed several Y7Ps as infills for the stalls and outfills to cover the outer seating very close to the stage. Of course d&b ArrayCalc gave us the opportunity to predetermine the ideal locations for all the loudspeakers, within the specified parameters, but then using ArrayProcessing on the main J-Series array allowed us to deliver a perfect audio experience to each and every member of the audience.”
Jonas ‘Jones’ Wagner, education and application support at d&b, arrived the day after the initial load in.
“Musical Box Rent had done a great job in rigging the system: the Romans never designed these amphitheatres for twenty first century shows. With the two arrays rigged so far apart, and with all the variables of the tiered seating and stonework, we were all eager to hear just what a difference ArrayProcessing could make here. We were not disappointed. With ArrayProcessing, each loudspeaker within the array is processed individually, which achieves a consistent sound everywhere throughout the listening area, optimizing the audio experience for each individual in the audience. As Davide said, some Y7P loudspeakers were used as fill speakers here and there while the T10 loudspeakers on the stage lip brought back the imaging for the first rows towards the ice skating area.”
The event consisted of a wide variety of musical genres, from some of the most famous opera arias to a short set from Ellie Goulding, accompanied by a choir and an orchestra, while the iced stage area provided the perfect setting for performances by world dance skating champions. The task of mixing front of house for all these different acts fell to Arturo Pellegrini.
“This was a really prestigious show, set in the most atmospheric of venues. The coverage, for both level and frequency response, was smooth and consistent for the entire area and, if I had to find a word to describe the sound, it would be ‘velvety.’”
Pellegrini concludes: “I was quite concerned that the combination of the distances, the dynamics of the musical program and the elliptical shape of the venue would prove insurmountable, but I was proved wrong on all counts.”