DiGiCo Fills Out Audio Needs of Cash Campbell Tour, Ben Howard, East London Theater

DiGiCo has recently provided work for plenty of musical performances across the globe.

Cash Campbell Tour
Described by CMT as a “true representation of current country for the next generation,” newcomer Cash Campbell burst onto the music scene in 2017 with his debut song, “Cannonball,” and has already racked up 20 million streams and views worldwide with his fresh, dynamic tracks. He has built a fan base on the road with headlining shows and sharing the bill with A-list acts on multiple tours, including his current trek on which he’s carrying a DiGiCo SD12 console to run both FOH and monitors.

Chosen by Dallas-based Jordan Bledsoe, who serves as Campbell’s FOH engineer, production manager, and tour manager, the SD12 and its accompanying DiGiCo SD-Rack were rented from Arlington’s B&L Sound and Lighting, which is supplying the tour’s complete control package.

“This has been my first experience with DiGiCo and, to be honest, I had been intimidated to use one because of how detailed you can be with it,” shares Bledsoe. “But after a short amount of time prepping on the desk as well as the offline editing software, I realized that detail is what I enjoy the most. Now I find that the workflow and sound of this desk make it hard to imagine going back to anything else. The SD12 is our console of choice moving forward!”

With Cash Campbell’s previous tour jaunt being a co-headlining run with Austin Burke, the artist and his crew are now out on string of dates opening for Dylan Scott. As with the previous trek, Bledsoe is once again manning the SD12, which is connected to the SD-Rack over Optocore fiber and used in conjunction with a Waves SoundGrid Extreme Server and Shure PSM 1000 IEMs for all band members.

One of the many things that the studio-turned-live engineer has found that he appreciates about the SD12 is its comprehensive onboard processing. “With the prior tour leg being my first time on this desk, I started with a Waves plug-in on most channels, but quickly realized I could lean heavier on the console because the EQ is so usable, and the compression and de-esser are incredible,” he enthuses. “With each channel of compression having the option of being a multi-band, that’s super-helpful for drums and vocals as well.”

Although the idea of dually running FOH mains and stereo in-ears off of a new and unfamiliar digital desk might sound a bit daunting to some, Bledsoe notes that the SD12 has made it a snap. “The ability to essentially have as many auxes as I want enables me to easily mix monitors from the house mix position, and I have a macro setup for each member’s mix, so if they need an adjustment, I can hit the macro and very quickly make that for them.”

Bledsoe reports that his current patch list comprises approximately 40 inputs, with a few of those being for talkback mics on stage that come into the console and are routed to a SquawkBox at FOH. For IEMs, he delivers stereo mixes to each of the four band members — all of whom also sing — plus a mix to the band’s lighting director, and two stereo mixes for Campbell, one of which is fed to an additional IEM unit for guest artists as needed.

“This console is right for us for a lot of reasons,” he sums. “The channel count and flexibility are the biggest things for me, but as someone who started out in the studio, I’m also really impressed by the sound of the mic pre’s and desk in general. And I’m not the only one who has noticed it. Every one of the band members has commented on how clear their monitors sound, and practically every promoter and house tech we’ve met on the road has commented on how clear and clean the mix sounds. I fully attribute that to the DiGiCo SD12.”

Audio Fidelity for Historic East London Theater
Autograph Sales & Installations has recently supplied a new DiGiCo SD9T digital mixing system comprising an SD9 surface with Theater Software, two D-Racks, a UB MADI, and a custom three-piece flight-case to Theater Royal Stratford East.

The Grade II listed Victorian theater’s beautiful crimson and gold interior is redolent of the era in which it was built, while much of the handsome exterior stands out amid the modern outlines of an area which has been under redevelopment (including massive investment for the 2012 Olympics) since the late 1960s. In 1953, the legendary director Joan Littlewood based her Theater Workshop Company at Stratford East, where it quickly became renowned for the forward-thinking productions that it put on at the theater.

Now a contemporary producing house with a capacity of 460 on three levels and focused on new writing and community engagement, the Telegraph has described Stratford East as ‘fast becoming one of the UK’s most innovative and interactive theaters’. The program is a combination of their own productions and touring shows and includes dramas, musicals, pantomime and children’s theater.

“In a producing venue like Stratford East, the quality and fidelity of the audio system that we’re able to offer to designers is key,” explains Jeremy George, Head Of Sound at Stratford East. “As part of our ongoing efforts to upgrade our in-house system we chose an SD9T as our front of house console. It was the right console, being based on an industry-standard platform and at an excellent price-point.”

The system also includes EM Acoustics EMS-61 loudspeakers and mounting hardware.

‘When it comes to fill loudspeakers, the EMS61 is at the very top of the list for many designers and venues, and we were delighted that Autograph were able to supply the speakers along with mounting hardware and their own custom hanging plates for when the speakers are used as front-fills.’

“As a listed building with intricate architecture, we’re unable to rig a center-cluster, which could be a significant issue when it comes to vocal amplification in larger shows, but with the coverage pattern of the EMS61s, and the way in which we set them up and tune them, we’re able to partially mitigate the effect of not having a cluster which, along with the SD9T, really helps the fidelity of the overall system, and most importantly, the listening experience of the audience.

“What really made a difference to the whole process was the quality of the customer service from Autograph – Ben and Dan came to visit the theater and came up with some great ideas, some of which we’ve implemented with this new equipment, with the rest going on the list for future upgrades!”

Helping Artist Ben Howard
London-born singer-songwriter and composer, Ben Howard, released his debut EP 10 years ago. Since then, he has won two BRIT Awards, been nominated for both the Ivor Novello Award and the Mercury Prize and had a number one album. His third album, Noonday Dream, was released in June of last year, and has received much critical acclaim. Now, he is out on the road touring it, with FOH engineer Andy Magee, and monitor engineer Niccolo Antonietti, both working from DiGiCo SD5 consoles.

“It’s very much art: 70-minutes of non-stop music, which is never the same twice,” Magee explains. “We’re all on our toes, watching each other do something a bit different every day.”

He and Antonietti work hard to recreate Howard’s album with as much authenticity as possible, night after night.

“We have over 85 guitar pedals on stage, which means so many inputs, as numerous players have pedal boards; in one song, a musician might play violin, then switch to keyboards, then something else – so I might have two or three instruments down the same channel during the same song,” Magee laughs. “The band is a nine-piece now, and three of them are multi-instrumentalists. Safe to say, there is a lot going on and, although I’ve been mixing this show since April last year, there are still bits that I am not 100 percent certain where they are coming from!”

There are 88 channels being utilized on both consoles, and Magee is hands-on throughout.

“I have four fingers on four faders at the same time, as there are just so many parts to the songs, and squeezing that into a left-right PA is very tough: my hands are constantly moving,” he reveals. “I use Snapshots for every song to get Ben to the top of the song; and then everything is mixed live throughout that song. On top of that, different channels have different crossfade times – and different groups, too, as half the band might still be playing song three when the other half are already into song four! The hard thing is that the crossfades have to flow between the two, and if we have a late setlist change, I have to go through all the Snapshots quickly, and make sure things like drum pads aren’t going to come in out of nowhere!”

Magee used his first DiGiCO console in 2006: a D5, which he worked on for years; then he moved to the SD7, before settling on the SD5.

“One massive bonus with the SD5 is the center screen; I can see 36 channels or groups or busses at the same time, which is brilliant. Also, almost all of the FX I use come from within the console; I use six reverbs and a delay. There are so many mics on stage and a lot of ambient noise, so I don’t need to add a lot to it. There’s a lot of content for a left-right mix!”

Something else Magee is a huge fan of DiGiCo’s new 32-bit cards.

“I ended up buying 22 of them! I loved the old preamp, but the new one sounds unbelievably good, to such an extent that many of my channels are now flat – no EQ at all. And the noise floor is significantly different: before we had 88 channels, and when you un-muted it all, you could still hear the preamps. But the noise floor on the new pre-amp is so much cleaner and better, and it outperforms all its competitors. I used standard press for years, but the new ones have got the wow factor… And they’re blue, which is always a bonus!

“There are so many intricate parts to this show and they’re all incredibly important to the soundscape, and the transparency of the console is exactly what we need. This is the only console Ben has never commented on negatively, so that says a lot.”

Antonietti also loves the SD5.

“The usability of the console makes a huge difference to me. There is a lot of programming involved, but I am very happy with what I can achieve on the SD5; the channel routing is amazing, especially with the requirement for shout mics when doing monitors these days,” he says. “It allows me to do anything I want to. And the macros are the best thing ever; they alone will keep me with DiGiCo forever! There are so many of them, and they’re so easy to work with. Any little changes during a song, I just press a macro and it’s done. I use the [DiGiCo] multiband compressor on Ben’s voice, as it’s such a dynamic show, and there are often changes within the same song; so I don’t use single compressors on anything, just the multi-bands, which you can have on every channel.”

Due to the busy stage and inevitable frequency overlaps, Antolietti also needs to keep the instruments as clean as possible, but without affecting their individual dynamics.

“I work at 48kHz, so I use the DiGiGrid MGB MADI interface to generate two MADI streams: one MADI stream for recording and one for inserts and FX via an Impact Server,” he reveals. “Then, on the outputs of all the band members, I have an API 2500 compressor and I mix Ben through a matrix: I have auxes and sub groups, and I send those auxes to the matrix. Ultimately, I have a ‘band’ group, stereo outs for guitars, backing vocals, his vocal, and reverb. Everything is separate, so I can process everything individually for a better result.”

The Ben Howard tour ran wrapped up at the end of January, with four sell-out shows at London’s Brixton Academy, and one at Birmingham Symphony Hall.

Remix of Dance Anthems
Ministry Of Sound’s [MoS] orchestral tour, The Annual Classical, reimagines legendary Sony Music compilation, The Annual, the dance compilation of all time, as a ground-breaking live production.

The live shows, mixed on a DiGiCo SD7 supplied by RG Jones, deliver huge sounds as much-loved chart toppers receive a classical reworking. Amongst the hits are The Chemical Brothers’ Hey Boy Hey Girl; Insomniaby Faithless and Moloko’s Sing It Back. At the helm of the complex live mix is sound designer, Phil Wright.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve seen all kinds of classical dance music shows take to the stage, but the design brief from MoS was to make this a genuinely live performance, meaning no playback!” says Wright.

With the brief in place, a collaboration between Coalition Agency and Raymond Gubby Ltd, which runs the 55-piece London Concert Orchestra, began with British composer Tom Player tasked with producing arrangements for the orchestra.

The large-scale orchestral production called for Phil’s long-trusted mixing companion.

“It was always going to be me and a DiGiCo console,” he says. “I was thinking about an SD10, but it became obvious that I needed a bigger desk and therefore I decided on an SD7. It’s been the perfect choice and even on a console with the huge capacity of the SD7, I had only four busses and two channels not in use!”

The Annual Classical is no ordinary show, as Wright explains: “On stage, we have 55 people plus backing vocalists, guest singers and extensive effects. I’m running 12 FX racks in my SD7 and another six in Waves externally with my own DiGiGrid rig. It turned out to be the ideal way to do it.”

Wright has two SD-Racks on stage, taking inputs and sending outputs to a pair of Martin Audio DD6s. A total of 17 performers use personal mixers.

“With the compatibility, I could drive a MADI stream out of the SD7 to the personal monitoring set ups,” Wright continues. “I was sending 40 channels to the personal mixers, and using 16 sub groups, which was driving an extremely high AUX count for this show.”

The SD7 also helped to ensure a smooth production filtered through to other departments.

“It’s been a very close collaboration between Tom and I, and it quickly became obvious that we’d needed a click track – both for people to listen to and as a visual reference,” notes Wright. “Some of the pieces were 20 minutes long and featured a mix of five or six tracks, so it’s easy to get lost without it.

“I worked with Tom to construct a visual click system for the show which works off my dual redundant system. The musicians received an audible click and visual reference, which I could output to the lighting and sound console. While some cues are manual, the SD7 can do some of this itself based on the timeline, which was particularly useful to our lighting department.”

The SD7 provided additional benefits, explains Wright: “With running the show from a click track system with SMPTE, I’ve been able to snapshot every music number and subdivide some of them so I can put FX on the instruments. I utilized the screen in the SD7 with a copy of the visual click system so I could easily follow the progress.”

Full rehearsals took place at the new Music Bank facility and the tour premiered at London’s Royal Festival Hall in late-January. “It was phenomenal,” says Wright. “There’s a 10-minute film introduction to the event which explains the history of the MoS club, and the history of devising The Annual Classical. As it ends, the conductor hits ‘go’ and from the first beat, the audience stood up and never sat down again! I’ve never seen a reaction like it!”

Following its stellar debut in London, the tour will continue throughout the UK from May-June.

CLAIR Global Hits the Road With the Quantum Engine
When the eagerly anticipated new Quantum engine for DiGiCo’s top-tier SD7 audio mixing console first became available in the fourth quarter of 2018, touring sound reinforcement giant CLAIR Global quickly stepped forward as one of the very first companies in line to begin updating its large inventory of desks with the new engine.

CLAIR Global’s initial client to hit the road with the new Quantum SD7 desks was Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They played a staggering 106 shows in 65 US cities between November 14 and December 30 by running simultaneous East and West Coast tours. Each of the productions on TSO’s “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” trek carried Quantum-equipped desks for both FOH and monitors.

According to CLAIR Global’s Console Department Manager, Jonathan Shober, Quantum SD7s have made their debut as FOH and/or monitor desks for Aerosmith, Ariana Grande, Kelly Clarkson, KISS, P!NK, and Zac Brown Band.

Shober notes that, “With the Quantum, it’s great that we have the ability to drop in a new engine and breathe new life into what continues to be DiGiCo’s flagship console. The support from DiGiCo and US distributor Group One has been incredible. We look forward to seeing further improvements in the years to come.”

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