Madison, WI (March 3, 2008)–The Blue Devils Drum Corps is the most decorated outfit in the history of Drum Corps International (DCI) and has taken first place in DCI’s World Championship 12 times–more than any other corps in the world. John Loose, AV Services Manager for Dolby Laboratories, recognized that a Blue Devils performance captured in full HD video and accompanied by 96kHz, 24-bit, 7.1-surround sound would make for an extremely compelling demonstration of Dolby’s technologies for use by its licensees. He relied on two 8-channel, extended-frequency and fast-transient-response True Systems Precision 8 mic pres to capture a Blue Devils performance.
Since the Blue Devils were already planning to record an HD Video documentary of their preparations and performance at the 2007 DCI World Championships in Madison, Loose and associate Adam Pinch arranged to record the entirety of their performance in a private session using the acoustics of the city’s Overture Center for the Arts. Although the duo had eight channels of Focusrite preamps, they knew that they wouldn’t be nearly enough and contacted Wisconsin-based Full Compass to rent additional preamps to feed their Pro Tools rig.
“Because we didn’t know how much space we’d have for the gear, we wanted eight-channel strips to minimize our footprint,” explained Loose. “We needed something that was super clean with great pads to beat back the high SPLs we were expecting. In addition, the fact that we were recording at 96kHz meant that our front end would do better with an extended frequency response. Because the True Systems Precision 8 is utterly transparent, has ample headroom, and captures frequencies all the way out to 50kHz, it more than fulfilled our requirements.” They rented two Precision 8s to bring their full track count to 24.
The Blue Devils Drum Corps “A” consists of five bass drummers, six snare drummers, and four tom, or “tenor,” drummers. All of the drummers stand, and the bass drummers use both sides of their drums, marching-band style. “One of the tricky parts of this was that everyone is in close proximity, and the bass drum performance in particular features a lot of stick movement,” said Loose. “Since we were also doing video, we wanted to minimize the visibility of the mics.” Together, these factors suggested shotgun mics for the bass drums. They used several Sennheiser MKH 416 shotguns positioned on the floor and angled up at the sweet spot of a few of the bass drums. Loose added, “The Precision 8 was great because we could flip the phase on one side and come away with a remarkably solid bass drum sound.”
Loose and Pinch used Shure Beta 98DS clip-on mics for the top and bottom of a few of the snare drummers and ran the snare’s quick transients through the equally quick response of the Precision 8. The sheer number of tenor drums, six to a player–24 in all–created a close-miking problem. They opted to record the high toms of one drummer, the mid toms of another, and the low toms of a third using Sennheiser MD 421 dynamics inserted into the toms from below (“Phil Collins style”) and preamplified by the Focusrite. Finally, Loose and Pinch used the Precision 8s for two AKG 414s and the rear channel outputs from a Holophone surround microphone for ambience. “The Precision 8s sounded amazing,” Loose concluded. “Their fast transient response makes for some very snappy drums. When you watch and listen to the performance on HD-DVD or Blu-ray in full 96kHz, 24-bit, 7.1 sound at a respectable volume, it will make your heart race and your hairs stand up!”
TRUE Systems (distributed by TransAudio Group)