London (March 2, 2007)–It’s been 18 years since the Brits–Europe’s equivalent to the Grammys–has been broadcast live. The 1989 telecast, hosted by Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox, quickly became legendary as one of the most incompetent live productions ever, slammed by one embarrassment after another; since then, the show has always been taped for later broadcast. The view from the FOH position at the Brit Awards. Photo: John MarshallWith this year’s return to live programming, everything had to be spot on, and with that in mind, the live audio crew made use of a massive Electro-Voice X-Line PA system, filling the cavernous space of London’s Earls Court.
The regular teaming of sound designer Derrick Zieba and PA company Britannia Row created an unusual system design, uniquely suited to the structure of this year’s event. For the first time, the full width of the Earls Court arena was filled by a double stage. The ‘Love’ stage was linked to the ‘Hate’ stage by the presenters’ podium, overseen by a central heart-shaped video screen built into the main set.
With live performance flip-flopping between the stages, all equipment had to be doubled up: two sets of front-of-house consoles, two sets of monitor desks, twice the stage monitors, and crucially, twice the microphones and in-ear monitoring systems, placing tough demands on the already crowded frequency spectrum.
However, Zieba chose to have just one sound system. Left and right of the massive 70-meter stage set, hangs of Electro-Voice X-Line mid-top cabinets and subs were flown some 17 meters in the air. Unusually, the mid-top arrays were positioned on the outside of the bass hangs, a reversal of usual practice. “By keeping the shorter bass hangs on the inside, our speaker arrays were a better match with the stage design,” explained Zieba. “Because they were unobtrusive and keeping a low profile on camera, we could fly them a bit lower. Otherwise, to keep out of TV sightlines, we’d have had to fly them 3 meters higher.”
Each of the main PA hangs carried a dozen EV XVLS cabinets, with three XVLT boxes. Adjacent, nearer the center of the stage, the bass hangs comprised ten EV XSubs each. The stage system was completed by a center hang with six small cabinets squashed into a tiny space below the follow-spots. Zieba balanced levels and delay to give a stereo image in the center of the arena, “but when you go off center, you don’t immediately feel left out of things.”
With the front-of-house mixing platform set back some 150 meters from the stage, to one side of the hall, Zieba configured the substantial delay system as a duplicate of the front system. With a L/R/L arrangement on the hangs, each with eight EV XVLS cabinets, the engineers used the two delay hangs in front of them as their reference.
Although the visual impact of the twin stages is fantastic on television, “we’ve stretched the limits of where our stereo comes together,” said Zieba. To manage the Electro-Voice system, he used EV’s IRIS V2.0 loudspeaker management system. “All the main control was via IRIS, the whole system in one package on one screen. One of the principal appeals is its complete resettability. I can alter levels, EQs, delays, and store the changes, but very easily come back to what I did before. This allows me to be radical in my changes, because I know I can reset very quickly.”