DiGiCo Consoles Stay Busy With Sia, Showtime’s Roadies, Maluma, and Sing China
DiGiCo audio consoles have been utilized at a host of live events and original productions recently, including Sia’s “Nostalgic for the Present” Tour, Showtime’s Dramedy Roadies, Maluma’s Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy World Tour, and the Sing China final.
DiGiCo SD5 Is a Taste of the Future on Sia’s “Nostalgic for the Present” Tour
With its emphasis on modern dance and its integrated video elements, a Sia show is as theatrical as it is musical. That’s certainly been the case on her “Nostalgic for the Present” excursion, the multiple award-winning Australian pop singer’s first arena concert outing. The 23-date North American tour, which features opening acts Miguel and AlunaGeorge, began at Seattle’s KeyArena on September 29, 2016 and runs through to November 6. A foundational element on the tour is a pair of DiGiCo consoles: an SD5 loaded with DiGiCo’s new Stealth Core 2 at front of house, and an SD10 for monitors.
“I picked up the SD5 right after we finished the European festival segment of the tour,” says FOH mixer Jon Lemon, whose lengthy portfolio includes tour sound work with Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, The Cure and others, and who had one of the first SD5 consoles on the market in 2012. He says the lighter SD10 suited the tour’s hectic European flight schedule, but finds the SD5’s three full-color touch-sensitive TFT LCD screens offer the best interface for Sia’s kinetic show.
Like the SD10, the SD5’s 37 faders are laid out in three banks of 12 with one master fader, and the added benefit of three 15-inch touch screens for even quicker access and multi-user applications. In addition, there are two interactive dynamic metering displays (IDMs).
The SD5, like the SD10 being piloted by Adam Jackson on the side of the stage for monitors (it was exchanged for the SD11 he had been using), was supplied by Sound Image, the tour’s SR provider, which also supplied the Adamson line array system and its system technician, Vic Wagner.
“The SD5 is a fabulous desk; I can configure it any way that I want,” says Lemon, who points out that he splits various input banks to either the left or right TFT monitors and can mirror them on the third screen. “Literally, in terms of workflow, everything’s at my fingertips. With more than 60 inputs overall, that’s a huge help. I find that the visual feedback they provide really makes a big difference.”
Lemon says the upgrade to DiGiCo’s new Stealth Core 2 is also of considerable help, with its full complement of dynamic EQ, multi-band compressors, DiGiTuBe emulators and expanded MADI connectivity. On the Sia tour, the SD5 is connected to an SD-Mini Rack on an Optocore loop, which offers Lemon a combination of digital and analog I/O and he has two Waves SoundGrid Extreme servers, which can run over 500 instances of Waves stereo SSL E-Channel or C4 Multiband Compressor plugins. That kind of power is necessary for Sia’s forceful vocals, on which Lemon also applies a Maag EQ4 and a final mastering chain using a Massenburg Labs 8200 parametric EQ into a Smart Research C2 compressor. But much of that vocal quality begins with the SD5’s own mic pre amps.
“They’re very nice sounding and they give you an almost analog feel,” he explains. “And dynamically they can take a lot, which you need with a voice like that.” As does the SD5 itself. “Solid, that’s the word for it,” says Lemon. “I’ve really come to trust the SD5 in any situation.”
The DiGiCo SD9 Injects Reality Into Showtime’s Dramedy Roadies
In recent years, the necessary legions of equipment movers known as roadies have evolved to become true technical wizards as live music has morphed into ever more sophisticated production events. For better or for worse, though, cinematic representations of them tend to fall short of reality, and that seems to be the consensus of critics and actual roadies of Showtime’s comedy-drama Roadies, which debuted earlier this year. However, the show is getting high marks on its efforts for the authenticity of the environment they work in, and a DiGiCo SD9 console played a major role in that achievement.
Marking a return to music-themed scripts by creator Cameron Crowe, whose 2000 film Almost Famous successfully captured the ebullience of the early days of rock as it became an industry, and produced by the ubiquitous JJ Abrams, Roadies asserts to take viewers backstage on tour to follow the lives and loves of its protagonists as they duck rolling road cases. But the music is quite real, featuring artists including the Head and the Heart, Halsey, Eddie Vedder, Reignwolf, Lindsey Buckingham and others, and they’re playing and singing every note live. Bill Lanham can attest to that. He’s one of the show’s technical consultants whose own role morphed into that of its FOH engineer, monitor mixer and multitrack recording engineer, and he manages all of them on a single console.
“The SD9 is amazing—it can do it all,” says Lanham, whose career began working stage backlines and who grew into live sound over time. “I’ve used a lot of consoles and I can tell you that DiGiCo is the one that lets you decide how you want to work.”
Lanham manages what has turned into a complex role on the show by bringing the stage microphones into two stage boxes, totaling 40 channels, and then splitting from those, sending copper to the production audio recordist and taking a MADI feed from the stage to a DiGiGrid MGB interface in the DiGiRack and console. From there it goes over Ethernet to a MacBook Pro running Apple Logic Pro multitrack recording software.
“The show does not use prerecorded tracks,” he says. “We usually pare it down to 32 tracks or less onstage and everyone is playing live. Having the SD9 gives me complete control over the audio coming from the stage, so I can mix it as though I was doing an actual FOH gig, but I can also send the band what they want to hear in the monitors and IEMs, and I can send submix stems to the production mixer. I can do all that easily because the SD9 lets me set the work surface the way I want it. I build it from the ground up. You don’t have to be an IT guy to run this console.”
Lanham says working a music show for television inevitably still puts the music secondary to the narrative. “There’s been a few times where they’ll ask us to move the PA for a better camera angle,” he says. “And the pressure is always on—the bands get maybe an hour to prep and soundcheck, and then they start filming. The costs are so high that everything has to work like clockwork. The SD9 has a lot of flexibility, so I had all my work-arounds all ready to go, if needed.”
DiGiCo’s broad acceptance in music touring has actually helped that: Lanham says that the FOH engineer for Halsey, which carries a DiGiCo desk on tour with them, was able to walk right in and set the console up from memory. “He didn’t even need to plug in a file,” Lanham recalls.
Steve McNeil can attest to the SD9’s flexibility. A veteran engineer who coached Lanham on the SD9’s operation, he also took over Lanham’s multifaceted role when Lanham had to leave for another project. “I covered for Bill when he got called away on tour, and I was able to pick up instantly where he left off, mixing performances by Gary Clark Jr., Robyn Hitchcock, Eddie Vedder, and Nicole Allen,” says McNeil, who adds that the SD9’s ability to be accessed remotely via an iPad was a huge advantage on the set.
“I was leaning down next to Eddie Vedder before one scene and I was literally taking his monitoring ‘order’ as though we were in a restaurant. He’d say, ‘Can I get a dollop of some sweetness?’ and I’d add some reverb in the monitor while standing right next to him. It was funny, but it made the production move along smoother and really shows what you can accomplish with the SD9.”
The SD9’s sound gets plenty of airtime on Roadies (though an SD8 was brought to the set to act as a prop onscreen for one scene). But, like most of television’s technical wizards, the console and its engineer stay behind the camera. Except once. “On Episode Three they moved the band during the shoot, so I ran out and rearranged the microphones during the scene,” Lanham explains. “They were waiting for me on the other side—with a release form they needed me to sign.”
DiGiCo Essential for Maluma Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy World Tour
Colombian singer songwriter Juan Luis Londoño Arias, aka Maluma, has been wowing audiences throughout his 2016 Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy (PBDB) World Tour with his sweet tenor voice and streetwise yet romantic delivery, for which audio clarity and transparency are essential. To help Front of House engineer Lucas Pinzón achieve this, he has chosen to use DiGiCo consoles, which have become an indispensable element of the sound system.
“I have been using DiGiCo consoles since 2009 and I prefer them to any other console because of their quality, their amazingly transparent sound, friendly interface and, of course, their powerful Stealth Digital Processing,” he says. “They are definitely my choice as a FOH engineer and I always have the support of my Production Manager during the process of getting the consoles for each show. DiGiCo is getting bigger each day in every North, Central and South American country and I trust deeply in the quality it brings to my mixes.”
For the PBDB World Tour Lucas has 48 input channels and 10 outputs for the main PA, subs, front fills, as well as an IEM talkback system for the lighting and video engineers to allow them to communicate with the stage and to have click tracks for show cues.
With the tour playing arenas all over the world, Lucas sometimes finds it a challenge to get the clarity he wants in the mix.
“Fortunately, DiGiCo helps me get the warmth and pure sound I’m looking for,” he says. “There are some features on the desk that I really love, such as the ability to customise the layers as I need them to be, the Audio Enhancer that can inserted on my groups – a definite plus! – the matrix input Channel or Aux mix, which gives me the ability to create a million combinations for the IEM mixes, Tube emulation, and the recent Core 2 update which means that SD8 sessions can be loadedonto an SD10 console.
“Also, the new V822 (Core 2) is simply lovely and works very well, plus the fact that we can gain share between the FOH and monitor consoles. It’s so simple to set, and works amazingly.”
Lucas and the team are incredibly happy with the consoles and with the support they get from DiGiCo.
“DiGiCo’s Fernando Delgado is always on hand to help if I need him. His response is fast, accurate, friendly and precise, making me feel confident in using DiGiCo consoles. Thanks Fernando, you rule!”
Maluma is about to start the final leg of this year’s PBDB Wolrd Tour, which will travel to Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina. Lucas will continue to rely on DiGiCo for every show.
Processing Power Makes DiGiCo Perfect for Sing China final
With a live audience of 80,000, the recent final of the first series of Sing China was a production on a massive scale and needed an audio system that provided total reliability and sufficient processing power. To fulfil both these requirements, a total of nine DiGiCo digital mixing consoles were specified by the show’s broadcaster, Zhejiang Television.
Sing China is based on The Voice of Holland, the concept being to find new singing talent (solo or duets) drawn from public auditions. In China, the show stopped using foreign copyright in 2016, changed its name to Sing China, and became one of the most popular singing competitions in the country.
The final was held at the Birds Nest, which was originally designed as the main stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in the Olympic Green Village in Beijing’s Chaoyang District, and deployed Four DiGiCo SD7s with an EX007 extender, two SD5s, an SD10, and an SD9.
“Zhejiang Television chose to use DiGiCo consoles because of their powerful processing ability, stability and unrivalled operating system that can handle anything that happens – either planned or unplanned – in a live mixing situation,” says Mr. Wen Hao Lee, on-site supporting engineer for Rightway Audio Consultants Ltd, DiGiCo’s Chinese distributor. “As well as their processing ability, both the SD7 and SD5 have enough channels to deal with the sheer scale of a performance such as this and the EX007 allowed the mix engineer to mix and listen to the acoustics of the show from any position that worked for him. Having two SD7s handling the PA gave better control for the show and meant that two engineers could work together at the same time. They also found the ability to share racks particularly useful.”
As well as providing equipment, Rightway supplies technical support for all its customers whenever needed.
“We have a 24/7 hotline to solve any issues our customers might have,” says Mr. Eric Liew, Rightway Product Specialist. “We also provide an on-site and off-site repairs service, which is one reason why our customers find us dependable, reliable, and timely. For a show like the final of Sing China, this kind of complete service is vitally important. DiGiCo’s technical support team was also available during the show, actively assisting our on-site engineer whenever required.
“The show was a complete success, the DiGiCo’s worked perfectly throughout and we are extremely pleased that we have a very satisfied customer.”