A string of Yamaha CL series consoles and a Dante network handle audio routing and distribution requirements for the annual Clinton Global Initiative.
NEW YORK, NY—As surely as summer follows spring, every autumn—since 2005, anyway—the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) has brought together heads of state, captains of industry, academics, philanthropists and other leaders to address the world’s most pressing challenges. Last year, addressing challenges of his own, audio mixer Mac Kerr brought together Yamaha CL series consoles and a Dante network to handle the three-day CGI event’s complex audio routing and distribution requirements.

The main event—the plenary session in the second-floor ballroom of the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, where CGI is held annually—also includes a night of awards and entertainment that have included Sting, James Taylor and, in 2013, Elvis Costello. Additionally, there are four workshop sessions on the second and third floors. Kerr also wrangles signals to and from a basement press room and another facility on the fifth floor.

“I manage what we call ‘central video village,’ but might be called master control” in a broadcast facility, says Kerr, who operates from a temporary control room in the basement of the hotel. “We get multiple video feeds and audio stems from each of the five venues. I remix them for distribution and recording. We do iso camera records and switched camera records from each of the five venues; we record multitrack audio for each of those venues; we distribute five continuous web streams; we do pool feeds to Reuters for broadcast; and we do five different feeds to a press workroom.”

Kerr returns mixed program feeds to the five venues and also interfaces three channels of communications, for audio, video and stage management. Under the direction of system designer consultant Lee Kalish, routing and distribution was managed on twin Dante-enabled Yamaha CL desks.

As Kerr relates, he has used a variety of mixing consoles—supplied by PRG in Secaucus, NJ—since he started working on CGI five years ago. Busing was limited on the initial console choice; a switch to a Studer Vista 5 made Kerr’s job much easier, but the console rental was too much for subsequent budgets. “Yamaha came out with the CL5s and suddenly getting a console that interfaced with a network was much easier,” he says.

An early adopter of networked audio, Kerr first used Telos Axia, a broadcast-oriented system, a decade ago. “At first I was resistant; it was new and something I didn’t understand. But after one month of using it I was sold,” he says. “The ability with a networked audio system to have every source available at every destination is just amazing. You plug all the wires into the switches, sit down at the computer and do all the routing and patching. I love that.”

Kerr would have made the change to the CL5 in 2012, but was unable to design a system that could generate sufficient feeds. In 2013, he rethought the design. “It occurred to me that of the 64 mixes, many of them are derivatives of other mixes I’m doing, so I could run all the stems into the first console, then run mono mixes of those stems into the second console. By making mix changes on the first console, they’re being affected on the second.”

Dante provides the audio signal distribution backbone, Kerr reports. “I had been looking at doing networked audio for a few years at CGI—in particular Dante, because it was getting a lot of press.”

The plenary session is an exception. “I had to find a way to get 64 channels of audio from that venue into the CL5s without using up all the Dante channels,” he says. Since the plenary session has traditionally used Rocknet fiber distribution, Kerr had the CL desks outfitted with Rocknet MY cards. “I have a 16x16-channel interface of stems on the production side and 48 channels of splits from the entertainment. I do a music mix of the entertainment for recording and local distribution. So I’m able to get more than 120 channels into the system, all over fiber.” As a consequence, Kerr needs just five fiber links to run alongside the video team’s 20, he says.

Dante also carries three channels of Riedel Artist intercom. “We have converters in each remote location and take the 2-wire channels and turn them into 4-wire audio, so it becomes a send and return. We plumb that into the [Yamaha] Rio I/O boxes and via Dante into the control room, where it pops out of another Rio and into the Riedel system.”

Such a streamlined network is a far cry from previous distribution methods, says Kerr. “We were running 19-pair analog multi-cable all over the building and getting power in each of these systems locally. While ultimately we could get it working, it was always a little bit noisy. We spent the first couple of days troubleshooting and fixing problems.”

But this latest time around, he says, “The experience of using the console and Dante was fantastic.” Plus, he says, “After doing CGI on a CL5, it’s my new favorite console.”
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