Dec 29, 2009 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer
Three approaches to audio capture and distribution.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle also is currently missing some parts of the full Pro Tools rig that it uses to record tracks for its Grammy-winning choral albums. That’s by design, though. When producers Tony High and Melissa Mattey visit to record, the church rents preamps that the pair specifies for each instrument. “They’ll generally use stuff that they’ve known,” says Bull, the FOH engineer. “Classic preampsthings like APIs on the drums.” (The Brooklyn Tabernacle does own two sets of Vintech Audio 473 preamps for vocal recording.) The 300-voice choir is recorded live from its usual spot on the Tabernacle stage with Schoeps Microphones. From the fourth floor, in what’s technically a separate building from the old Vaudeville theater that is the Tabernacle, the two producers watch the action on stage via a video monitor and use a simple Yamaha 01V96 console for listenback. Across from the Pro Tools tracking studio is a vocal booth, which is used for overdub. After recording, High and Mattey take the tracks back to Nashville on hard drives to mix in a typical professional studio with a Solid State Logic board. (Archibald, the chuch’s technical director, says that the last album’s songs were each composed of 200 or more tracks.)
Though he’s not the recording engineer, Bull is integral to the recording process. As the front-of-house engineer, he’s responsible for letting the choir and the band know how they sound as they’re being recorded. A few years ago, Archibald bought a small FM transmitter from Radio Shack. Bull routes the FOH mix through this, in effect running a little pirate-radio station in the church when the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir is recording. Choir members tune in and listen to the monitor mix on cheap Walkman-type devices, with one earphone engaged as they sing. On Sundays, the choir uses traditional wedge monitors onstage, but the bleed from these make a pristine recording impossible. (Soloists use new wireless mics with Shure UR transmitters and either Beta 87 or SM58 capsules.)
In addition to mixing for the monitors, Bull helps the production team understand the audio infrastructure of the church. “I know how to get stuff routed, so I’ll get stuff routed for them,” he says. “That way their concern is really getting great tracks.”
As mentioned, the audio channel routing within the Brooklyn is fairly complicated. The switch from an analog Soundcraft Series Five board to the digital PM1D opened up the number of channels that could be sent around the building from 48 input/output channels to 128 analog and 128 digital channels on the input side, and 128 analog and 64 digital outputs. The three-way splitter sends 48 of those AES/EBU digital output signals to a Tascam X-48 solid-state recorder. This captures the discrete audio channels of the sermons and praise music every week, and this feeds four Recordex CD duplicators as well as a Pro Tools workstation with a small Digi 003 rack at FOH.
For visitors who want a copy of that day’s services, Bull quickly adds an audio header to the captured file and the Recordex duplicators go to work. For the iTunes podcast of the weekly services, Bull also cleans undesirable elements such as coughs from the track.
As churches go, the Tabernacle is a pretty loud house, sometimes reaching 107dB, according to Archibald. That SPL is thanks to its EAW loudspeakers (MQ and TD series) that are arranged in a left-center-right configuration, Bag End subwoofers, and Crown Audio amplifiers. The recording from the Tascam X-48 allows Bull to do a virtual soundcheck over the house PA the next week. “You can play those same 48 tracks back to the console and do tweaks to the system, which I’ve found really helped the sound quality because things change over time,” Bull says. “The drummer will get a new head. I can track that on Sunday and be mixing it, but then later come back and say, ‘Well, how was that kick? How was that snare sound?’ You can go back and play that exact mix through the house again [with] exactly the settings you did on Sunday.”
As with Saddleback’s Refinery, Acoustic Dimensions integrated the initial sound reinforcement infrastructure at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in late 2001. For an upgrade to Yamaha’s DME hardware for DSP, the church consulted Harold Rubens, who had done FOH mixing for the choir when it was on tour. Archibald has also specified and integrated gear himself. According to Archibald and Bull, the Brooklyn Tabernacle is not shy about spending money when the audiovisual system will benefit, but it also needs to know that the audiovisual department will actually employ its technological investments. “That’s one of the reasons we had not invested in a digital console prior to Doug [Bull being hired in 2007],” Archibald says. “We had no one efficient enough to run one. I’ve found a lot of churches I’ve traveled to have all this top gear and they’re terrified to change anything.”
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