As the song says, "'Tis the season to be jolly." This year, in addition to doing my normal touring gigs, Tony Bennett is promoting a new Christmas album we recorded this summer with the Count Basie Orchestra entitled, A Swinging Christmas. As part of a TV promo tour, I have visited some shows that we've done several times previously as well as a few new ones. Here is a roundup of the morning television circuit, which provides some interesting challenges — one is the time schedule (especially for someone who usually mixes in the evening).
To start off, the first show we performed on was the Today Show. I arrived at NBC studios at 2 a.m., their usual call time. A monitor system inside is supplied by PRG of New York and consists of Clair Bros. 12AM wedges and a Yamaha PM4000M console. Broadcast is handled in a room that was redone a couple of years ago when they updated the entire studio. A SSL console handles all production lavalier mics, music mixing, and playback. This is all mixed by one sound mixer — a pretty challenging feat — and is transmitted in 5.1 surround and stereo. I was amazed as I watched the show being mixed.
From The View (left to right): Meyer Sound MM4 speakers; Meyer Sound MD1 line array; Count Basie Orchestra plays the View. My next stop was The View, which has a more civil load-in of 6 a.m. There is a live audience for this show, so a PA was installed by Sound Associates of New York. The system consists of Meyer Sound M1D line arrays and a CQ speakers located throughout the studio for the music mixing. Meyer MM4 speakers are located around the seats for the dialogue. Two mixers handle the audience sound with a Yamaha PM5D for monitors and house L/R mix feed to a Yamaha DM1000 for the hosts' lavalier microphones. An SSL handles the on-air host mics in the broadcast booth and is fed the music mix from a Yamaha M7CL as well as all playback from the Yamaha DM1000. Three guys mix in the audio production room.
The CBS Early Show was next, which required an arrival time of 4 a.m. An older Crest console is used in the studio for monitors along with Clair 12AM wedges. The control room has an older Neve console and all production mics, while one engineer handles music. Playback and sound effects are fed by another Crest console and manned by another sound mixer.
Good Day NY
After I finished CBS, we ran over to Fox Studios for Good Day NY, a local morning program. We arrived at 10 a.m. to set up for taping. This studio provided quite a challenge, as I looked at the equipment it became obvious that they really aren't set up for music; with an assortment of only Shure SM57s, SM58s and one DI, I proceeded to mic up the band. They had two QSC self-powered wedges with no EQ for monitors. A Yamaha MG console was all they had to mix the music, which feeds the control room. I must say it has been quite a while since I used SM57s on drum overheads and hi-hat. Mixing to tape through headphones in this console was not quite up to our standards, but after listening back it was acceptable, so we moved on.
The next day we taped the Rachael Ray Show, which is in a new studio and is taped to a live audience. The PA mixer uses a Yamaha DM2000, and the studio has JBL speakers flown for the music and control speakers throughout the seating area for the dialogue. The audience is on a moving turntable that rotates throughout the room to the various sets in the room. A Yamaha M7CL console is used for monitors with JBL wedges. One engineer in the control room handles on-air music, dialogue and playback and mans an SSL.
Conan and the Big Tree
We finished the album tour with the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, followed by Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which we've done every year since he's been on the air.
All About Results
It is interesting to spend some time working within the television audio world. What struck me were the differences between studios within the television production world; there is no de facto standard, by any means, on how audio is handled. Yet at the end of the day, it is all about results, and the engineers achieve them. My hat is off to the audio crews working in this field, as the hours they put in are long and the challenges they face are handled admirably.
Tom Young is the lead engineer for Tony Bennett and a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.