DiGiCo Takes the Ice for NHL Winter Classic, Stadium Series, Heritage Classic

This year, the National Hockey League (NHL) programmed four regular season games into outdoor venues in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. Tasked with mixing the live musical entertainment at the games in all three NHL series for broadcast on the NBC networks, Ron Reaves called on production provider Clair Nashville to supply a DiGiCo SD10 digital audio mixing console with two SD-Racks.

DiGiCoLogoReaves, who mixed the music and fed it to NBC’s broadcast production engineer, who added it into the audio mix, reports that the DiGiCo system’s Optocore fiber optic transport capabilities were critical to its successful operation at the Winter Classic. “As it turned out, it was the right choice, because I was 2,000 feet from the stage,” says Reaves, noting that alternative brand consoles that utilize Ethernet over Cat5 cable are capable of transmitting digital audio over distance of only 330 feet or less. “The Clair Brothers splitters plugged into the 56-input SD-Racks each handled 40 inputs, so I was landing 80 inputs,” he adds.

Over 105,000 tickets were sold for the Winter Classic, which was played on New Year’s Day at The Big House on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The musical portions of the program, which featured a match-up between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, included four members of the Grammy Award-winning and multi-platinum-selling Zac Brown Band singing the U.S. national anthem, plus The Tenors performing the Canadian national anthem. Ann Arbor native Mayer Hawthorne and his band opened the game before returning for a second set during the first intermission.

“The tools that are available on the desk are enormous; it’s just an amazingly powerful piece of kit,” says Reaves, who relies entirely on the onboard Super FPGA audio processing and has been mixing on DiGiCo consoles since the 2012 Grammy Awards show. “I think the EQ, compressors and other processing built into the console sound great. There’s not an audio problem out there that you can’t solve with this console. And it is fantastically easy to use.”

Not only is the SD10 powerful, he continues, but the console also sounds really good. “It sounds great—as good as any console I’ve ever mixed on. It sounds like an English console; we all grew up learning to mix on good English consoles, and this is another great console.”

Plus, Reaves says, “The customer service and tech support has been beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Taidus Vallandi [Technical Sales Manager for Group One Ltd., DiGiCo’s U.S. distributor] and everybody have taken amazingly good care of us.”

Reaves also mixed the music performances on the second game of a 2014 NHL Stadium Series double-header in New York on January 29. The game, between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium, included five-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter-producer CeeLo Green, who is also a coach on NBC’s hit show, The Voice, performing during the pre-game activities and the first intermission. Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and actress Michelle Williams sang the U.S. national anthem. Beatles tribute band Strawberry Fields performed in the second intermission.

Reaves was most recently back behind the DiGiCo SD10 for the 2014 NHL Heritage Classic, which has historically been a contest exclusively between Canadian teams. This year’s game took place on March 2 at BC Place in Vancouver, BC, and pitted the Ottawa Senators against the Vancouver Canucks. Three-time Grammy Award winner Sarah McLachlan, accompanied by choir members from the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, sung the Canadian national anthem, while Juno Award nominees Tegan and Sara performed for the pre-game and first intermission performances. Vancouver-based Odds, known by many as Warren Zevon’s live backing band, provided musical entertainment for the second intermission.

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