(L-R): Blue Man Group Productions Audio Supervisor Marcus Ross, BMG Audio Department head/FOH engineer Matt Fox, BMG engineer Jeff Slater and Audio Assistant Rob Quick.
Las Vegas, NV (February 12, 2013)—In preparation for a new production by Blue Man Group, the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas gutted one of its casinos to build out the room and install a new sound system for the shows.
The show, co–created with 3-D designer Michael Curry, adds a few new elements to the mix: instruments (including Percussipede, a musical centipede of percussion instruments), a six-piece band and a Showbot robot character.
Sound supervisor Marcus Ross spearheaded the efforts and programmed the system, which included a d&b audiotechnik J-Series PA, Meyer Cinema Speaker Surround monitors and a DiGiCo SD7 at the show’s audio helm provided by production gear provider Solotech. A DiGiCo SD8 was added a few months later to handle additional audio production elements from behind the curtain.
“Even though we gutted the theater, there were a lot of things we had to take into consideration in how we set up the system and how things worked,” explains Ross, whose audio background includes a mix of Broadway and rock & roll. “We were kind of predisposed to do certain things based on how prior productions were structured—how we ran cable, where certain racks went, the flow of the system, etcetera. Because there was an install here prior, there was quite a bit of stuff that was useful to us. So I came through and took out the things we didn’t need, and starting getting it prepped for the new system. The gear arrived in boxes, and in 12 days, we were operational—from pallets in the air to hit-the-ground running.”
The show comprises 141 inputs/outputs split between several elements, including the six-piece band on a mix of gear from the traditional (guitar, bass, drum set and two percussion rigs) to the eccentric (Zither, Chapman stick), BMG’s massive PVC instrumental creations, programmed tracks and video playback.
“One of our biggest challenges was maintaining a consistent sound with so many different entities in it. We have six band members, three Blue Men nightly, and that changes per show. While it is a scripted show, every person can and does add nuances to it. Plus, they’ve added some really cool, interesting instruments—a huge rolling wagon of PVC tubing with specific lengths for different pitches that is the main instrument and that the three guys play. That alone has 15 microphones to amplify. A lot of the new instruments are wireless, which is a new challenge for Blue Man,” said Ross.
Given the range of sounds and instrumentation, Ross found the DiGiCo desks to be a help. “I really like the structure of the DiGiCo,” he says. “There’s a lot of digital stuff on the market but the architecture is locked with only a certainly amount of outs, for example. I think the thing that DiGiCo consoles have over all the manufacturers is how flexible they are, with great ergonomics, which make them easy to get around on.”
Matt Fox, head of the BMG audio department and an FOH engineer for the show, has logged in a lot of time working with DiGiCo desks: “There’s a lot of information we’re managing, video stuff, etc. We’ve got approximately 135 inputs, a lot of which is playback stuff, what we call ‘direction track,’ which goes to the in-ears or that have a specific direction for what they’re supposed to do at a certain time. I can have my control groups be completely different from snapshot to snapshot and have different things recallable and other things not.”
With the show in full production, Fox says he’s just begging to dig deeper and explore more of the console’s nuances and features. “Up to this point, we’ve not really added any icing to the cake to where we can really dig in and start exploring the functionality. We know its there but we’ve been too involved in getting the timing of our next scene change more than we are in spicing things up. We wanted to start things out for the show with the being consoled very organic. We wanted to keep everything as flat as we could from the word ‘go.’ As we go along, we’re gradually EQing things, starting to add some gates and comps and putting the finishing touches on. I’m really looking forward to having the whole the cake with icing and cherries, on top, too!”