Toronto, Canada (August 2, 2010)--The Toronto Jazz Festival recently used an Innovason Eclipse digital console and M.A.R.S. integrated multitrack recording system at the 1,200-seat Nathan Phillip Square main stage.
The Festival is a premier jazz events, attracting some 500,000 visitors annually for 10 days of music that features jazz legends and newcomers, and even well-known musicians of other jazz-inspired genres. This year's festival brought Maceo Parker, Herbie Hancock, and Harry Connick, Jr., as well as The Roots, Taj Mahal, Chaka Khan, and Macy Gray to the largest city in Canada.
To accommodate all of the acts at the 1,200-seat Nathan Phillip Square main stage and the demands of their engineers, FOH chief Brad Mulligan set up the new Innovason Eclipse digital console to have a predicable "analog" topology. For almost all of the engineers, it was their introduction to Innovason's M.A.R.S. integrated multitrack recording system, which allowed them to record portions of the soundcheck and then tweak their mixes offline in headphones.
"Of course, the huge advantage of having a digital board for an event like the Toronto Jazz Festival is that we can save each act's mix at soundcheck and then recall it instantly for the performance," explained Mulligan. "That said, it's still the case that 85 percent of the riders we get show a preference for an analog board. The engineers want to focus on the music, not learning some menu-thick interface. The Innovason Eclipse is tremendously flexible, and I am able to set it up in a way that everyone agrees feels analog. In that way, we get the best of both--instant recall and an intuitive interface that puts engineers at ease."
The Innovason Eclipse is expandable to 320 inputs, 104 of which may be mixed at any time on 48 mix buses. The control surface features 48 faders, each with an associated rotary knob with intuitively configurable functions. For the Toronto Jazz Festival, Mulligan laid out 36 input channels. The SmartPanel section was set up in four simple ways. As input channels 37-48, as aux sends with direct accessible rotary sends, as 12 channels of effects returns and finally, as the system matrix. In addition, six VCAs and six VCA effects returns fill up the remaining faders all on a single, instantly-accessible layer. The average festival input request was 34. Larger acts were accommodated by adding channels to a second layer. "The beauty of the new design with the SmartPanel," noted Mulligan, "is the ability to have channels 37-48 available as SmartPanel rotary pots all on the one layer."
Also on-hand was Innovason’s M.A.R.S. integrated multitrack recording technology--by plugging an external hard drive to the back of the control surface, the Eclipse was ready to make multitrack recordings that merged with the board's live functionality. Recordings are made post-preamp but before processing, and playback automatically occurs on the appropriate channels. For example, if the bass drum is coming on channel seven, its playback also occurs on channel seven. Just as the live signal may have some compression and equalization, the playback (but not the recording itself) will also receive the same compression and equalization. Changes made to the processing during playback will then also apply to the live signal on that channel.
"We were somewhat limited in our soundcheck time and there was another band directly across from us that ran shows from 4:30 to 7:00 pm," said Mulligan. "To handle this, I used the M.A.R.S. technology on the Eclipse to record each band's soundcheck. Afterward, the band's engineer would listen to the playback on headphones to perfect the mix. The wonderful thing about this technology is that there is nothing to think about, nothing to hook up and nothing to mess up. It's all seamlessly integrated into the way the console works." In a separate "Broadway" mode, the M.A.R.S. software allows some tracks to play back and others to run live, useful, for example, when playing back a pit orchestra while understudies practice.
"We received a lot of great compliments," concluded Mulligan. "The sound of the Eclipse was compared to high-end analog boards that many of these engineers grew up on.”