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The Scovill Tour is on the Road with Petty and More

Veteran live sound engineer Robert Scovill is on the road with Tom Petty till mid October, playing a dual role as FOH engineer and product evangelist.

Robert Scovill makes a point on technique to the Nashville area live sound pros who visited with him during setup for the Tom Petty concert stop in Nashville. Veteran live sound engineer Robert Scovill is on the road with Tom Petty till mid October, playing a dual role as FOH engineer and product evangelist. At stops along the tour, Scovill has welcomed local sound professionals for an afternoon spent observing the set-up, experiencing the gear and learning about Scovill’s live sound philosophy and techniques. Scovill’s extracurricular activities were sponsored by Avid (he’s long been an Avid product employee and educator), and by EAW (Scovill was carrying a sizable Anya array on the tour). Pro Sound News caught up with the tour during its Nashville stop at the Bridgestone Arena.

Scovill recounted that when he spent a day evaluating Anya before adopting it for the Petty tour, Anya was a system that he “knew from the get go—‘hmmm, this is something special.’”

The Sound Image provided Petty system used three Anya clusters, arrayed in an LCR configuration (Scovill’s preference since the nineties). While consoles, particularly digital consoles, are not configured to do LCR panning in a manner best suited for music in a large space (with 50% divergence insuring whatever is panned center is also present in left and right), he’s developed a methodology with his Venue DShow desk to accommodate his preferences, and a method that leverages “the nimble aspects of digital mix management” to simply bring a soloing musician front and center in the mix as they take the front and center of the stage. His panning approach does not incorporate matrixing elements panned right back to the left side of a room and vice versa—he doesn’t buy in to the concept that he’s going to create stereo everywhere in the room. While the concept looks good on paper, he said, “Acoustically, it’s less than mono.”

With Anya, said Scovill, you start every day with a blank slate, “building a polar every day that is optimized for the listeners” to provide even frequency response and relatively equal level to all points in a stack’s vertical plane. “Essentially, there is no directivity” until you tell it what to do, he continues. “We don’t have to work very hard to achieve it; the computer is going to do all the heavy-lifting calculations.” He emphasized that the math is not new, it was just not practical without the computer to crunch the quantity of numbers and possibilities for the 22 independent DSP channels and amplifiers feeding the 22 components in each of the 54 Anya cabinets.

Having good information to feed the computer on the room dimensions is key, he said. “Your response is only going to be as good as the data you put into it.” The results from the ten to fifteen minutes the computer spent calculating were verified by measurement, at four points in the vertical plane of each of the columns in the three arrays in the case of the Bridgestone Arena.

If changes are needed with an electronically shaped array as opposed to a mechanically articulated array, shared Scovill, the system doesn’t have to be lowered for reangling. Also unlike typical arrays, all cabinets in the array need to be on all the time, as the performance is a combination of all the elements and their processing. If an element fails, the system can “self heal” to accommodate a missing component. “If you lose a cabinet in the middle of a mechanically articulated array, “ said Scovill, “you’re in trouble.”

No flown subs were employed on the Petty tour, and no ground subs in support of the array. Scovill said he had all of the low end needed with “48 15s per side all working as a point source” in his application.

The results of the combination of the elements that comprised the setup were shown off with a virtual soundcheck replay from Scovill’s Avid system. Attendees walked the arena, including some trekking up to the nose bleed seats. Said on such attendee, “if I’d bought a ticket, even that far up, I’d have gone home happy.”

The tour concludes in LA, coincident with the 137th AES Convention.