Bob Wartinbee (left) and Mark Linett recently celebrated one year of operation with the L.A.-based Music Mix Mobile
West truck.LOS ANGELES, CA—Veteran Los Angeles- based broadcast and recording engineers Mark Linett and Bob Wartinbee recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of their Music Mix Mobile West remote music production truck hitting the road. Their truck, “Horizon,” is an extension of East Coast-based Music Mix Mobile, which was launched by John Harris, Mitch Maketansky, Joel Singer and Jay Vicari in the spring of 2008.
Music Mix Mobile quickly established a client list that includes the biggest awards shows and live music performances on television. With some shows, such as the annual Grammy Awards telecast, requiring more than one truck, it made perfect sense for M3 to partner with Linett and Wartinbee and extend the company’s reach.
“There are a number of shows Music Mix Mobile does ‘out west,’ and it’s very expensive to bring a truck across the country,” Linett notes. “It takes five days and a lot of diesel.”
Linett and Wartinbee completely refitted the M3West truck after acquiring it. “The whole object was to make it a mirror image of our partners’ truck back east,” explains Linett. The trucks offer identical control rooms with nearly identical gear. Both feature a 32-fader Avid D-Control and 160-channel Pro Tools rig. The dual Pro Tools recorders are fed via MADI from the onstage remote-controlled preamps. The monitor setups comprise Genelec 5.1 surround DSP monitor systems: 8250A (LCR) and 8240A (surround) speakers with 7260 subwoofers.
Wartinbee did much of the construction of the West Coast truck, even going so far as to sleep in the truck one night in order to get it completed in time for M3West’s first gig, the Latin VMAs for MTV in mid-October, 2009. Only the floor and ceiling remained unchanged, notes Wartinbee.
While at the Latin VMAs, the pair learned that their next show the following weekend would be the U2 360 Tour gig at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, which was to be the first major live production broadcast by YouTube over the internet. According to YouTube, 10 million viewers worldwide streamed the show. The U2 show was a challenge, relates Linett, not the least due to the sheer scale, with 106 lines coming off stage from the four-piece band. “The filming was being done in PAL, and they were carrying all digital consoles. We had two separate feeds from the stage, one feeding PAL and one NTSC: one for the broadcast, from each of the mix desks, and the other from our gear going to the recorders. It was like having two trucks. Thankfully, we carry plenty of fiber, because we were about 1,500 feet from the stage and needed two runs.”
M3West has since gone on to record a couple of Storytellers shows for VH1, including one with the Foo Fighters and one with Christina Aguilera; the MTV Movie Awards; the Black Eyed Peas at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which was shot in 3-D and broadcast live to movie theaters; and a concert by Sugarland. At the end of 2010 the truck worked on The USO Presents: VH1 Divas—A Salute to the Troops, which was filmed in San Diego and broadcast two days later.
But while the truck allows Music Mix Mobile to more easily and economically handle West Coast events, two major broadcasts each year require both trucks: the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles and the Country Music Awards (CMAs) in Nashville. “At the CMAs and the Grammys one is the broadcast truck, and the other is the remix truck,” says Linett.
“At these two shows, when the first band is rehearsing and being recorded in the East Coast truck, we have MADI and control tie-lines coming into our truck, so we can see and play their Pro Tools recorders. When the first act is done, they release one of the machines to us, bring the session over on a memory stick, plug it into our system, and bring it up on our duplicate 32-fader D-Control.
“The engineer can come over and keep working on his premix while they’re rehearsing and recording the second band in the M3 truck. Because the trucks use the D-control with a full complement of Waves and other plug-ins, every band can mix using the same gear they are used to having in the studio, and the entire series of complex custom setups for each band can be recalled in under a minute.”
Because of the enormous complexity of the shows, which feature numerous live performances with quick changeovers, the M3 truck handles the live-to-air music mix on the day of the show while M3West does the line checks for the next performance on the alternate stage. The shows typically encompass 160 inputs—64 channels from each of two stages plus an additional 48 floating-mic inputs for vocals.
The 2010 CMAs had an even tighter than usual changeover, Linett shares. “We had a band on stage A, immediately going to an act on a satellite stage, then immediately to a band on stage B. We had to coordinate between the two trucks and plan who was going to do the line check and in what order so we could hand it off in sequence.”
At the Divas show, says Wartinbee, because it was being taped rather than broadcast live, the producers decided to make it a continuous concert, since they didn’t have to stop for commercial breaks. But the video packages between each act were only one minute long. “That presented another challenge. It was a revolving stage, band A to band B, so you’re line checking and so forth under tighter constraints.”
Linett observes, “The shows are constantly pushing the envelope of what the music mixers are capable of, and really the only way you can do shows like these— with band after band after band—and have it all work is this kind of system. I give Joel and all our partners credit; this really is the state-of-the-art remote audio system.”
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