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DiGiCo new choice for mixing live sound at GRAMMY Awards

An array of DiGiCo SD Series digital consoles - supplied by Hi-Tech Audio and operated by PA contractor ATK AudioTek - handled sound duties at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards, writes Mel Lambert.

Britain’s bluesy songstress Adele swept the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards in mid-February with a total of six wins – including best record, best album and best song for Rolling in the Deep co-written by producer Paul Epworth, writes Mel Lambert. Epworth, meanwhile, took home a GRAMMY of his own, winning Producer of the Year. Handling the sound for the live audience at The Staples Center in Los Angeles was an array of DiGiCo SD Series digital consoles designed and built in Surrey, England. Supplied by Hi-Tech Audio and operated by long-time PA contractor ATK AudioTek, an SD7 handled music mixing from the two performance stages, while a smaller SD10 blended the stereo music mix, subwoofer/LFE mix and a vocal stem feed from the music console with production tracks and announce mics from the main stages and a satellite stage. Stage A and Stage B were provided with pairs of SD10 monitor consoles – a main and a fully mirrored back-up. Mikael Stewart from ATK mixed production sound, Ron Reaves handled music mixing, while Tom Pesa oversaw monitors for Stage A and Mike Parker for Stage B. “The SD7 behaved absolutely flawlessly,” states music mixer Reaves. “For us, these new DiGiCo consoles represent a big sonic upgrade – we received lots of positive comments from recording engineers that were in the audience during the GRAMMY Awards. The SD is just the right tool for that kind of job.” According to technical consultant and PA system designer Jeff Peterson, “The SD10 production console handled 96 simultaneous input channels and 48 output busses, while the SD7 music console was configured with 168 input channels, and, while they were not all used, could have handled another 80 outputs. All of the digital consoles connected to a single DiGiCo fiber-optic ring that carried all input and output signals.” While Stewart’s console was not mirrored with another SD10 – “because there was not physical space for it,” Peterson says – all production inputs were also available on Reaves’ console. “In the rare event of [the production] desk failing, we could instantly switch to Ron’s as the console driving the system while we re-booted Mike’s,” stresses Peterson. The SD7 features built-in redundancy with dual-mirrored processing engines. “We determined that [strategy] was safe enough as to not require a mirrored desk,” Petersons adds, although a spare, off-line SD7 was available in case of complete system failure. The DiGiCo fiber optic audio network transports 488 audio channels. “We maxed that out with 256 mic pre-amps available to every console on the network, 128 analog outputs dedicated to foldback, 40 channels dedicated for console links, plus 64 outputs dedicated to backup PA drive and auxiliary areas,” the system designer confides. A separate Optocore digital fibre-optic ring interconnected all system components throughout The Staples Center, receiving MADI-format streams from both FOH consoles, transporting these to XTA loudspeaker processors in AES-format, and onto the Powersoft amplifiers. “The DiGiCo consoles sound more open and transparent than our previous Yamaha [PM1D] systems,” Stewart considers. “The SD mic pre-amps are much newer in technology [compared] to the 12-year-old predecessor. We were also able to eliminate several conversions in the Optocore system. The only conversion was the input mic pre-amp/A-to-D and then the Powersoft amp back from D-to-A.” The PA system comprised four identical hangs of 12 JBL VerTec VT4889 line-array cabinets, augmented by a single set of 12 JBL VerTec VT4880A subwoofer arrays flown above the center of the stage area. All cabinets were powered by Powersoft Model K10 amplifiers, with XTA Electronics DP226 processors providing system EQ and signal routing. Rear seating areas were covered by three clusters of VerTec and side-facing fills for upper loges. The main stereo mix fed the inner pair of VerTec arrays, with a separate mono mix to the outer pair, plus a delayed mono feed for the rear and side audience areas. Sound Design Corporation, the Hollywood-based post-production audio facility, used Fairlight’s Xynergi consoles to develop the digital material for nominees highlight reels. Sound Design Corporation is also responsible for mixing the in memoriam package, a showcase of renowned members of the music community who have passed away over the last year. “This can be quite difficult,” said Sound Design Corporation’s president, Paul Sandweiss. “As seen this year, we have to be ready to update the packages as devastating events happen so close to the show. This is never a highlight of the job but the Xynergi helps to make the update seamless.”

Image credit: Mel Lambert|