San Francisco, CA – June, 2014…West Side Story, the timeless musical set in the Upper West Side neighborhood of New York City that explores the rivalry between two gangs—the Jets and the Sharks—while drawing inspiration from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, was recently recorded by the San Francisco Symphony for release on SACD and digital download. To be released on the SFS Media label in June 2014, the use of wireless microphones in the recording of this project is believed to be the first time this work has been captured in this fashion. To ensure the best possible wireless system performance, Digital Hybrid Wireless technology from Rio Ranch, NM-based Lectrosonics was utilized.
San Francisco-based Jack Vad, whose pedigree includes over 200 commercial classical releases for prominent labels including BMG Classics, Nonesuch Records, and New Albion Records in addition to projects for SFS Media, serves as the producer / engineer of the San Francisco Symphony. For the West Side Story project, Vad worked with audio engineer Denise Woodward, whose resume includes being Head Audio Engineer at San Francisco’s Shorenstein-Hays Nederlander’s Curran Theater and who also provided engineering support for the San Francisco Symphony’s 2012 Grammy® Award winning production of John Adams’ Harmonielehre – Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Together, Vad and Woodward utilized a considerable amount of Lectrosonics products for the West Side Story project, including 18 SMV, 2 SMQV, and 16 UM400a transmitters along with six Venue receiver mainframes stocked with Lectrosonics’ VRT receiver modules. They discussed the challenges of the project.
West Side Story was recorded at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, home of the San Francisco Symphony, in late May and early June of 2013. When queried about the challenges of the project, Vad offered the following, “Since we had to capture everything from the live, semi-staged performance, the main challenge was trying to get a studio-type sound from the moving, acting vocalists. Although there are many fine wireless systems that are adequate for live sound use, most are not acceptable for high resolution audio reproduction. The Lectrosonics equipment provided us an audio chain that was both high quality and suitable for our SACD release.”
Because of the venue’s location in downtown San Francisco, there was concern about RF interference—though it proved not to be an issue, as Woodward explained. “Our recording/live performance was scheduled during San Francisco’s Gay Pride celebration,” said Woodward, “a huge event with, according to some estimates, over a million attendees and extensive media coverage. The main stage for this event was at San Francisco’s City Hall—right across the street from Davies Symphony Hall. We constantly monitored the challenging and ever-changing RF environment, and were pleased with the RF agility of the Lectrosonics equipment. We experienced solid, drop-out free performance.”
When queried about those attributes that made the Lectrosonics equipment the best choice for the project, Vad offered the following, “We used DPA 4088 cardioid electret condenser mics with the Lectrosonics equipment and, together, they made a great choice for capturing the vocal performers. With Lectrosonics’ Digital Hybrid Wireless design, we were able to achieve a greater, cleaner vocal dynamic range than traditional wireless options. The audio quality of the Lectrosonics system competes well with traditional studio-type microphones that are typically used for this type of recording.”
The Lectrosonics equipment used for the West Side Story project was arranged through Bexel, a leading provider of audio and video equipment for the broadcast market. “Bexel provided superior technical support for our project,” said Woodward. “In preproduction, our requirements changed constantly as the project developed and the changes continued right up to shipping date. Rod Allen of Bexel pulled together a package for us and provided for everything that was required. On site, we were assisted by the extremely talented Ted Marvin of Bexel, who helped facilitate the setup and handled frequency coordination for us.”
As the West Side Story recording nears its release, Vad and Woodward reflected on the project. “I find that most listeners are amazed that the vocals were recorded with wireless systems. Everybody at the San Francisco Symphony is extremely happy with the results.” Woodward shares Vad’s enthusiasm, “The sound quality of the Lectrosonics transmitter/receiver systems was absolutely pristine. This was a truly exciting and unique project and I am so grateful that I was able to be part of it.”
For additional information about the San Francisco Symphony, visit them online at www.sfsymphony.org.
Well respected within the film, broadcast, and theatre technical communities since 1971, Lectrosonics wireless microphone systems and audio processing products are used daily in mission-critical applications by audio engineers familiar with the company’s dedication to quality, customer service, and innovation. Lectrosonics is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Visit the company online at www.lectrosonics.com.
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