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Coordinating Audio for Live Events, Part 2

Sep 23, 2010 11:59 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Coordinating Audio for Live Events, Part 1
When one of the world’s biggest companies threw its annual party for employee’s this year, the company rented out Wembley Arena and hired Sound By Design to handle all sound systems and communications. ...

The annual gathering for a multibillion dollar company is a huge bash, and when the event came to Wembley Arena, local company Sound By Design was called in to take charge of communications and sound systems for speeches, musical acts, and a few surprise performers. Phill Chapman and Dave Shepherd are here from London to rap up their talk about how they made it all work.

All right Phill and Dave, welcome back for part two, and we were talking about the Forever Living event in Wembley Arena and a whole slew of wireless stuff that you had to use—50 microphones and all kinds of wireless intercom and in-ear monitoring and all that stuff going on at the same time. We didn’t talk before about the FOH console. I believe you used a DiGiCo SD7. Why did you go with that particular one?
Shepherd: That’s correct. A lot of it came down just to the physical number of inputs; we went off with the FOH and monitor engineers to examine other desks and the closest was going to be the Midas Escalade. It’s a lovely sounding board and very usable but just physically a number of channels, and we ended up running the show at 140 inputs; most of which we had to have access to at any one point because it’s a very dynamic show and as things go on they’ll rearrange the order of the show and they suddenly put an act on which we’re not expecting at that particular time. We can’t be subject really to snapshots and everything; we just have to be able to have access to it. We also have a history with DiGiCo. They’re local to us [and] give us absolutely great support. And we also have the EX-007, which is a new extendable they have to be used as a playback desk. We had a playback operator out FOH as well as the main FOH engineer. But also the extension board gave him access to all the other channels as well so at key points of the show where we had the 30 members of the Grenadier Guards come on stage without any sound checks or rehearsals or anything, it meant the two engineers could work on that one particular act very easily, which was a great bonus. [Timestamp: 2:36]

Yeah, I love surprise performers. They always make things interesting and generate a lot of high volume conversation on the intercom too.
Both: Yeah.

I know we mentioned this in part one a little bit, but I’m interested in this. You had a lot of people on stage coordinating who’d get what mic and who handles what IM and things. What kind of a crew did you have there? Where were all your people or were you coordinating with somebody else on that?
Shepherd: No, all our guys there were regular freelancers that we use on all our bigger shows. It’s a team that I’ve used on this particular event for the last several years now, which they all know the event very well as well and they know the client. I’m very keen for my guys to have a good interaction with the end client as well; it makes for a much easier show. [Timestamp: 3:28]

And of course in an event like this there are going to be things, like we said, weren’t expected—little accidents that go on with all this wireless stuff and the hard wired mics too; you had a lot of those I guess. I’d think that one of the best things about a digital [audio] board, as you mentioned, was a snapshot, but you really don’t have that advantage on a show like this; there’re so many impromptu and surprise things going on, a lot of things that haven’t been rehearsed. How much time did you have to set up and sound check things?
Shepherd: There was technical rehearsals to the point of us testing all of the equipment for a day before the show because we were in the arena for about a week, about two or three day build to get everything in, and then a day of testing the equipment, but there was no actual full run through of the show. It’s a two-day event that runs all day long. The first day it starts around about 11 or 12 o’clock and goes on until about 7:00 in the evening, and the second day it starts at 9:00 and went on till 7:00 in the evening, and there’s no breaks in the show. There’s a lot of content to get through. So there are brief technical rehearsals to check key bites. We go into it fairly blind, but we do carry a lot of spares with us—some spare radios on the side if we need them, spare channels on the board if we need to put anything in. I don’t believe in maxing out anything; you have lots of spare space to go. It’s the only way to do it. [Timestamp: 4:50]

Yeah, I was going to say. Were there any casualties on the equipment list?
Shepherd: I don’t think we had any failures actually, no. Everything worked very well. We spent three days prepping it all in the warehouse as well so everything was tested thoroughly before it went out—every cable, it was all fleshed out. [Timestamp: 5.09]

Chapman: I think we blew up one cabinet in the warehouse before the show but nothing happened onsite …

Shepherd: Nah.

Chapman: … as far as I’m aware. [Timestamp: 5.14]

Oh, well, if you got to do it, that’s the place to do it I guess.
Chapman: Yes, absolutely.

So and of course there was a lot of stage monitoring.
Shepherd: Yes, we had a stage monitor engineer on the side of stage gain using DiGiCo SD7 purely and then the two desks could interface, and it works very well that way. [Timestamp: 5:32]

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