L.A. Grapevine

Hollywood Boulevard was typically crazy. At Mann's Chinese, tourists gawked over movie star footprints, a man with an antenna on his head held court among
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Jimmy Kimmel Live's veteran music mixer and multitasker, Bart Chiate

Hollywood Boulevard was typically crazy. At Mann's Chinese, tourists gawked over movie star footprints, a man with an antenna on his head held court among the souvenir sellers and
was snapping photos. Across the street, in the lobby of a converted Masonic Temple in the El Capitan Entertainment Center, Jimmy Kimmel Live's crew was setting up for Slipknot's soundcheck. Through doors that opened onto the street, you could glimpse the action, but I went around back, checked in with the guard and was shown to the lair of JKL's veteran music mixer, Bart Chiate.

Chiate mixes the house band and musical guest feeds for the broadcast mix, which is manned by production mixer Mark King. He's a master multitasker; when I arrived, he was watching the news, chatting on the phone with an equipment dealer and arranging 38 band inputs — including 16 for drums — all the while keeping an ear tuned to the backstage intercom chatter. It was an engineer's nightmare: a drum kit enhanced with two kick drums, two marching snares and two of Slipknot's signature beer keg toms. And the drum mics were patched into the console from the drummer's perspective — the opposite from how you see them looking at your TV screen.

“They use a lot of ear monitors,” says Chiate. “It was more efficient to let the band use their own dialed-in monitor console. Slipknot's monitor engineer works from the drummer's perspective and didn't want to re-patch, so we moved things to fit our template. We don't have a patchbay, so it was extra work. But when you're mixing to picture, if everything is camera left to right, what you're reaching for is automatic. If it's not, it can get very interesting.”

Set up comfortably to deal with the chaos, Chiate's neat control room, designed with the help of Bruce Maddox of Cups 'N Strings (L.A.), is decorated with Navajo rugs, an Ionic Breeze air purifier and framed Japanese kanji. Modular furniture by Bob Merritt houses a sound system designed by Paul Sandweiss.

The main Sandweiss package comprises three cascading Yamaha 02R consoles configured so that both house and guest bands are mixed from the same console. Two 56-pair snakes feed it: one from the six-member house band and the other from the guest band set up in either the lobby, the back parking lot or a thrust off the main stage. The house band is hard-wired into 48 channels of True System Precision 8 mic pre's, which feed analog I/O cards in the 02Rs. The signal is then sent via a routing scene to the input faders. The guest band, called up when needed, is hard-wired to the mic pre's of the 02R and sent to the input path via another routing scene.

The show is recorded 24-bit/48k to 48 channels of Nuendo and Tascam DA-78. Program material leaves the console via AES to six Nuendo DD8 format converters and then via Lightpipe to Nuendo and TDIF to the DA-78s. AES output is returned to the console. “With the converters, I can send from the console to both recording devices simultaneously and monitor off either the system or the console return,” notes Chiate. “Also, I can move 48 tracks from one device to another with the push of a button! Okay, actually six buttons, but it's pretty slick.”

It's a lively scene all afternoon. Segment producers run in with requests for band pre-records for various show elements — such as a cue by the house band's guitarist — and a wall of sound enters from the lobby each time the door opens. “Jimmy doesn't see most of the video clips until about 5 p.m.,” says Chiate, “so there may be a lot of changes.”

Currently, Sony is sponsoring the JKL music stages, with selected bands' music — recorded on the set — available for download from Sony Connect (www.connect.com). It's an additional job for Chiate, who must immediately post-show make mixes of the performances (“Hopefully, with no fixes!” he says with a laugh) for transfer to the Sony Website. “Essentially, we use the broadcast two-mix,” he comments, “but we also include a lot of off-air performances. I have to do some editing, removing voice-overs, et cetera, which I do in Steinberg's 2-channel WaveLab. It can be quite a task. Steinberg's Ted Rackley and Greg Ondo have been really helpful. Thanks to Nuendo and WaveLab, I can go pretty fast. It takes about an hour per song.”

The Sony/JKL project is taking off: Korn, for example, recorded nine songs. When we spoke, all of next week's musical guests were booked for downloading, including Tears for Fears, Elvis Costello and Jimmy Eat World. “It's great fun mixing a live show and then, essentially, a live record,” Chiate says, laughing. “But I expect to be a burnt unit by the end of next week!”

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