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Back to The Wall with Prism Sound, SADIE

A recent Athens performance of former Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters’s spectacular rendition of The Wall was captured for posterity by James Guthrie (pictured), who has worked as an engineer/co-producer on Floyd group and solo projects since the late 1970s.

A recent Athens performance of former Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters’s spectacular rendition of The Wall was captured for posterity by long-serving Waters/Floyd engineer James Guthrie (pictured).

While the original 1979/1980 production was only able to be staged in a handful of venues worldwide, the 21st century reboot has already toured extensively across North America and Europe. Australian dates are on the books for early 2012, with another swing through US arenas also expected.

The 2011 season culminated in Athens in July with three shows at the Olympic Stadium. These were recorded by a crew of nearly 100 people just to tackle the filming alone, making this the biggest European concert film project for nearly 30 years. The video for The Wall Live in Athens was shot on mainly 4K high-definition cameras, although video services company Panavision provided a new 5K super-high-definition unit as well.

Sound recording and mixing were overseen by James Guthrie, who has worked on Pink Floyd group and solo projects since the 1970s. First priority was to enlist Prism Sound to build a 96-track, 96kHz, fully mirrored SADiE recording set-up modelled on that of his private studio in California.

Prism Sound’s sales director, Graham Bowell, commented: “James is a perfectionist who has a passion for clean and transparent recording. For this project James used the ‘Le Voyageur II’ mobile with the 48-channel Neve V-Series analogue recording console onboard the truck, but this time recordings were captured using the SADiE digital multi-track recorders interfaced through Prism Sound ADA-8XR AD-DA converters. For monitoring, he used Le Voyageur’s ATC units, another brand that he favours.”

In total, 96 tracks were recorded, distributed between the main 64-track SADiE system and a smaller SADiE LRX2 system running 32 tracks. All of the tracks were recorded at 96kHz sampling, 24-bit resolution. To complement the Neve console, 16 channels of outboard Neve pre-amplifiers were used – a mixture of 1073 and 1081 units – which were provided by London-based FX Rentals. These were boosted by the addition of 16 channels of Prism Sound’s Maselec Master Series MMA-4XR mic preamps. Two separate Neve 16:2 mixers, also courtesy of FX Rentals, were used ahead of the V-series console to help contain the total number of recording tracks.

Audience reaction and the ambience of the venue were captured using a SoundField MK V microphone system, loaned for the project by SoundField CEO Ken Giles. The microphone’s output was recorded in 4-channel B-format for later decoding to stereo or surround formats during post-production.

The top 32 tracks on the SADiE LRX2 unit captured, among other things, playback of SFX and pre-recorded orchestral mixes. The main 64-track system comprised two identical SADiE H128 dual MADI units each running RAID mirrored drive pairs, making four identical clones of all takes. The SADiE units were connected to the Prism Sound ADA-8XR units through two RME ADI6432 MADI-AES interfaces.

Although the video was shot in high-definition, the entire digital audio recording system was locked to video using a black & burst video reference at 25 frames/sec, generating a locked 96kHz wordclock reference that was distributed to all units. Time of day timecode was generated using a ‘Lock-it’ unit after jamming it to the main reference.

Main vocal channels, including Roger Waters’ main mics and his radio mic, were controlled using a number of Prism Sound Maselec MLA-2 dual-channel compressors configured on console insertion points. Extra UA 1176 compressors were loaned by Dinos Ioanides from Sierra Studios in Athens to cover extra channels.

“Prism Sound provided SADiE expert Mark Overall as an additional resource to work alongside James Guthrie’s long-time collaborator, Joel Plante,” explained Boswell. “Mark normally looks after build and test of SADiE hardware systems at our HQ near Cambridge in the UK, but he has experience of field-based recording and film work gained with SADiE and the former business Spaceward Graphics on a variety of projects spanning television, film and music projects.”

A visually and sonically arresting recreation of what is arguably Waters’s finest individual work, The Wall is due to return to the road in late January for a slew of Australian shows.