Hollywood, CA (January 8, 2018)—Dance music has turned increasingly to live instrumentation over recent years, offering audiences something to look at instead of a relatively static artist while also enabling DJs to put a new spin on some old classics. British DJ and BBC radio presenter Pete Tong launched his Ibiza Classics project in the U.K. in 2016, with the 65-piece Heritage Orchestra and live performers recreating dancefloor hits of the past 30 years, and in late 2017, brought the tour to the U.S., culminating in a show at the 18,000-capacity Hollywood Bowl.
The challenge facing Tong’s production crew has been how to deliver a monitor mix to the orchestra, led by conductor and composer Jules Buckley, as well as a core group of electronic musicians, singers and guests. After going some way down the path of a homebrew solution, says Fred den Dulk of Netherlands-based Next Level Audio, he discovered the myMix personal monitor mixer, a networked system that enables each musician to dial in his or her own mix.
On dates outside of Europe, the show picks up orchestral musicians locally. Monitor engineer Ron Peeters, also from the Netherlands, will typically offer a brief course on the operation of the system before a show, says den Dulk. But the system interface is a compact, one-knob unit that requires very little explanation.
“At one point, we had an orchestra and there was no time, so I just handed out the headphones and told them, OK, you can scroll through the channels, press the buttons and turn the levels up or turn down. And afterwards, there were no questions.”
For Ibiza Classics, Peeters gives the musicians submixes, says den Dulk. “Ron puts out a couple of stems for the different musician groups— let’s say, Vocal 1 mix, Vocal 2, Violin 1, Violin 2, Violas. Every group has its own basic mix. Then there is a vocal mix, which they can use or not use, a click track, communication and then ‘more me’—more of themselves. If they want more of anything, they can scroll through the list and add channels. We give them what I think is a nominal level for every channel, and put each of them just a little bit on top of that. They have a good starting point and from that they can play around.”
There is no need for ambience mics for the orchestra, he continues. “We are close-miking the orchestra, and with that many mics open on stage, you’ve got a lot of ambience. Ron does use ambience for the vocalists, though.”
The electronic band, background vocalists and stream of guests—at the Hollywood Bowl, a long list topped by Moby, Aloe Blacc and AlunaGeorge—are served by a typical complement of in-ears and wedges. Peeters favors DiGiCo desks, says den Dulk, and at the Bowl used an SD7 with an SD9 sidecar. FOH mixer Tom Gelissen, another Dutchman, has also been using the SD7, but plans to switch to an Avid S6L for 2018’s European shows, he adds.
Den Dulk’s myMix rig accepts three 96 kHz 32-channel MADI streams from Peeters’ SD7 that are passed through a Direct Out Technologies MADI.9648 sample rate converter and into two 48 kHz 64-channel MADI streams, then into a pair of RME ADI 648 units for conversion to ADAT. "We are big fans of RME, and the ADI-648 was exactly what the situation called for," he says. “These units have unparalleled reliability and never let you down."
The ADAT streams are sent to the myMix IEX-16L input expander units, which are networked to the main Cisco switch. Onstage, smaller 8-port POE switches provide distribution to the personal mixers, which at the Hollywood Bowl were mounted on the front right leg of each orchestra member’s chair.
The bulk of the audio production is rented locally, says den Dulk—in the US from VER Tour Sound, from JPJ in Australia and, in the UK, from Skan PA Hire. But the myMix system fits into a series of cases and racks that fly between shows, he says.
“I’ve made Pelican cases with 16 units in each box. I have a big drawer case with all the switches and cabling and then there’s the input rack. I have just five or six cases of air freight.”
And in over a year of touring, he says, “Not one of the units has broken.”
myMix • www.mymixaudio.com
RME • www.rme-audio.com
DiGiCo • www.digico.biz