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Rick Camp Travels With Beyoncé

Engineers tend to fall into two categories: live or studio. Occasionally, a studio denizen goes on the road and vice versa, but it's the rare engineer who's at home in both situations. Rick Camp is one of those individuals.

Rick Camp
Rick Camp

Engineers tend to fall into two categories: live or studio. Occasionally, a studio denizen goes on the road and vice versa, but it’s the rare engineer who’s at home in both situations. Rick Camp is one of those individuals. With 22 years of experience, he’s hardly new at this, having worked with top performers such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Madonna, Erykah Badu, Burt Bacharach and Destiny’s Child, as well as recent solo tours with DC’s Kelly Rowland and Beyoncé Knowles.

What’s also unusual is that after mixing at front of house for Beyoncé’s last tour, Camp immediately went back to his Reel Tyme Recording studio in Southern California to mix Beyoncé’s concert DVD, which he recorded live at London’s Wembley Arena and is slated for release this month.

These days, more and more live recordings are tracked simply by printing every channel from the house console to a strategically placed hard disk recorder or MDM rack. But with this project, Camp had the luxury of working inside a recording truck, which was provided by London’s Sanctuary Mobiles. “We stored the 64-track show onto a Sony PCM-3348 and a couple of DA-88s for the crowd mics and spillover,” Camp explains. Ironically, after months of mixing FOH for Beyoncé on tour, Camp turned over the house mixing duties to someone else for these dates, but as he says, “It’s tough mixing a show with 64 inputs, but it’s easier to do the FOH mix than supervise the recording, and I needed to be in the truck.”

After the show, the 64 tracks were transferred to 48-kHz Pro Tools session files so that Camp could mix the live DVD at Reel Tyme. London-based Scarlet Productions was handling all of the video editing, which brought up a minor snag: “The whole thing was done in PAL, so I had to rent a PAL-to-NTSC converter to see the video.”

Once into the project, things went smoothly. Camp used a hybrid mix that was partly done on his Sony DMX digital console using some favorite outboard goodies — Avalons and a Lexicon 480L — while the rest of the DVD was mixed entirely within Pro Tools with, as Camp describes, a “gang of plug-ins: Focusrite, Waves stuff, 1176s, Pultecs and more.” For surround monitoring, Camp relies on Genelecs: “I have 1031s all around with three 1092 subs. I’ve never had a problem with these translating to anywhere. I love ’em.”

After months of listening to Beyoncé live from the best seat in the house, Camp had his mind set on how to approach the DVD mix. “I’ll move with the picture somewhat, but the overall mix is from the front-of-house perspective that I’m used to from mixing her on the road. It’s me sitting in the center with the crowd around me,” Camp explains. “I’ve listened to lots of 5.1 concert mixes and I don’t agree with mixing the show from the perspective of the artist onstage.” In addition to adding crowd ambiance in the rear channels, Camp printed reverb and some of the band into the surround channels. “This creates what you’d normally hear bouncing off the back wall, just like the house engineer’s perspective in a live show.”

Camp began the production process “by creating a stereo mix that I liked. I saved that stereo mix as another Pro Tools session and changed all the pan pots to 5.1,” he explains. “I then started moving things around, like the crowd and some of the instruments to create the 5.1 mix. Going the other way around — starting in 5.1 and then doing stereo mixes — would have been twice as hard.”

The project’s studio part was relatively simple as compared to the logistical issues, but here, technology came to the rescue. “I finished the stereo mixes first. The finished DVD is due out in a month [May 1, 2004], and with customs delays and shipping, we didn’t even have enough time to FedEx the mixes,” Camp says. “I went to Universal Mastering in North Hollywood, took my stereo Pro Tools mix with timecode and sent it over Wham-Net, which is like a quad T-1 phone transfer but very private and very secure. We first ‘Wham-Netted’ the stereo mix so they could do the stereo playbacks in London. Then they’ll FedEx the picture to Sony in New York for the final conforming and conversion to NTSC and do the Dolby Digital encoding on the final 5.1 mixes that I’m sending out tonight. The 5.1 mixes are delivered as a FireWire drive with mix files as Pro Tools session files, along with a backup on DA-88 tapes.”

Camp has only positive things to say about working with this year’s multi-Grammy Award-winning sensation. “Mixing Beyoncé is a pleasure because she’s a real singer and makes it easy. There is hardly an overdub on this project — it’s 95 percent live Beyoncé. In my 22 years of mixing, I’ve never come across anyone who could deliver like she does: vocally and her ability to do a show. I’ve seen this young woman run across a 60-foot stage, hit every note and never miss a thing. And that makes my job so much easier.”