Similar to American Idol, the hit U.S. show, Latin American Idol is a reality television show that enjoys a huge following.
Just like its U.S. counterpart on many other levels, the program provides contestants with an opportunity to achieve superstardom, showcases celebrity guests, and uses the judge’s stand as a pulpit for lively and spirited discourse that sometimes extends into the audience as well.
On the surface, one might easily construe that the only difference between the shows is that one is in Spanish and the other is in English. This is absolutely wrong.
“We tend to do many things our own way,” says Juan Pablo Banchik, sound director of Latin American Idol. “From a production standpoint, standardized methods that apply to “Idol” shows in other countries don’t often work down here.”
Banchik, who works for FremantleMedia, the UK-based production company behind the “Idol” franchise worldwide, has been with Latin American Idol through all of its three seasons, the last of which concluded earlier this month.
A Full Sail graduate whose career has moved from the New York studio scene back to Latin America and live concert sound, he has occasionally bent the rules established by FremantleMedia to keep the show on its proper course.
“Fremantle has a series of ‘technical bibles’ that explain how every aspect of the show should be produced,” Banchik relates. “I knew I was in trouble when the book on sound said that the judges had to be miced with lavalier or gooseneck microphones.
“In both cases, that’s a really bad choice for Latin Americans, as we tend to yell frequently, move all over the place without paying any attention to a microphone’s location, and wear a lot of jewelry around our necks. The latter trait is especially hard on lavalier mics, which don’t really perform all that well when they’re being whipped by a 24-carat gold chain.”
Pleading his case to make changes in the plan with FremantleMedia headquarters in London, Banchik was given some freedom to meet Latin American Idol’s particular production needs.
Instead of using lavalier and gooseneck microphones at the judge’s stand, Countryman WCE6T headset mics were used on each of the judges.
Bringing input to the main mix with Shure UHF-R wireless systems, these headworn units successfully solved the challenge.
In keeping with the Latin flair for loud, explosive, and colorful rhythmic expression, Banchik —working with direction from Fremantle Argentina — approached his task of building the house sound system for Latin American Idol in a fashion more closely resembling a live concert stage than a studio soundstage.
“One of the reasons I was chosen for the job was because of my live sound concert experience,” he says. “The producers came to me and said they wanted the seats in the audience section to shake with the rumble of bass, and for the house band to sound like the Rolling Stones playing in front of a huge crowd at Madison Square Garden.
“They didn’t feel comfortable giving this job to someone used to doing sound for television who was pinning lavs on talk show guests and outfitting an announcer with a handheld mic. They were clearly looking to create an environment with serious sonic horsepower.”
Local production company, Buenos Aires Live Show, helped Banchik create two distinct PAs to meet the full-tilt sound system criteria placed before him: one for voice and stage dialog only and the other for musical performance. Because this would result in high SPLs throughout the studio, he tamed stage volumes by using Shure PSM®; 700 in-ear personal monitor systems on all of the contestants and the band, which removed the need for wedges onstage.