London, UK (May 16, 2016)—There are only a handful of film soundtrack composers working today who have household-name recognition—say, John Williams, Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer. While the first two have seen orchestral tours go out performing their music, Zimmer’s music is not only on tour right now, but he’s the one playing it, too, leading a massive ensemble through decades of his work—everything from Rainman to Batman Vs. Superman.
The three-month European arena tour, with sound provided by Britannia Row (London, UK) has a considerable audio team, led by Nathaniel Kunkel, a Grammy and Emmy Award winning producer, sound engineer and 5:1 surround mix specialist who is Sound Designer for the tour.
What does that mean in practical terms? “Nathaniel is both sound designer and my guide,” explained live sound mixer Colin Pink, unfolding the current division of labor. “One challenge on this show was learning to identify all the different sources—where is that keyboard part coming from? Now, while I’m focused on managing the mix, he is thinking about how it sounds everywhere else. With his background working with Hans, he has a good sense of how it should be experienced. To achieve that, he spends a lot of time with Sergiy Zhytnikov, Britrow’s system tech.”
Guitarist Johnny Marr (left) with Hans Zimmer on the UK leg of the tour.
Brit Row crew chief and orchestra monitor mixer Dee Miller, explained the system, noting, “The system is two full trucks of equipment. We have typical L-Acoustics K1/K2 mains and side hangs as you’d expect in an arena, plus flown K Subs and 21 SB28 subs and fills on the floor. Then out at the back of the room, we fly a further eight K2 a side for a surround system. The input count is enormous—24 musicians in the orchestra, 24 choir, 23 in the band, plus Hans. We have 180 inputs for the monitor system, I’m mixing orchestra and choir on a DiGiCo SD8 (10 stereo mixes each), Maurizio Gennari is mixing the band (27 stereo mixes to IEMs), while Colin out front has in excess of 230 channels of input when you add in the special effects and other tracks; both use an SD7.”
“The first half of the show is characterized by a broad range of classic cinema music,” continued Pink. “I spend a lot of time mixing that band sound and bringing it into a live experience with something as simple as a touch of reverb. The second half is what Hans calls his superhero music; needless to say there are a lot of special effects throughout a montage of his various film scores. Most is played live so I do have to pull out the old quad joystick and pan around.”
Kunkel remarked, “Recording movie soundtracks is much more about standards, details, calibration and translation to other playback environments. Live sound is about keeping the train on the tracks! It is much more about the efficiency of your system, the ability of your team to react in a nimble and calm manner, something the Brit Row crew achieves with speed, efficiency, and unparalleled professionalism.”
Britannia Row Productions Ltd