Stan “Quack” Dacus (left) and Greg Lankford seated at a Lawo mc²66 console in MTV Networks’ Remote Unit 8 audio truck.
MTV Networks’ Remote Unit 8 audio truck handled music mixing for CBS' January 25 broadcast of Garth Brooks' benefit concert for California's Fire Intervention Relief Effort (F.I.R.E.) and victims of last fall’s Southern California wildfires. The concert was broadcast in HD and 5.1 surround sound, and included guest performances by Huey Lewis and Trisha Yearwood. AEG Ehrlich Ventures, LLC, the show’s producers and owners of the Staples Center, contracted MTV Networks for the event.
MTVN staff engineer Stan “Quack” Dacus handled the music mixing chores, taking all the band’s inputs from the stage via redundant fiber-optic connections, mixing the signals, and then delivering the music to the production truck, which incorporates the cameras and Dolby encoders for processing the final product prior to delivery to CBS. In the production truck, audio engineer Mike Abbot handled the production audio mix. Abbot added the audience reaction mics into the final mix to incorporate audience response.
The Remote Unit 8 includes two Lawo mc²66 digital audio consoles: a 56-fader console and a smaller unit in an 8x8x8 configuration with 16 main channel faders and eight center-assignable faders, its own core, MADI interfaces and DSP facilities. The enhanced setup comprises four MADI ports across both systems to interconnect the two consoles, with provisions for sharing up to 192 signals in both directions. These enhancements incorporate managed tielines between the two consoles (handled automatically in the background), where one of the four MADI ports always provides redundancy to the three others.
These improvements make it easier to handle line checks from multiple stages, as well as 5.1 mixes. Similarly, the ability to support smaller “B”-stage operations—as part of a larger event—is far more feasible.
For the live Garth Brooks televised event, the smaller mc²66 served as a backup to the larger console.
“We always track this type of event in Pro Tools so that we can play back the music tracks in the band’s absence—after a rehearsal, for example—and fine-tune our settings," says engineer- in-charge Greg Lankford. "One of the many things that we love about the mc²66 is that we have the console configured where we have a global A-B switch on the inputs. Our main Pro Tools system is normaled into the monitor returns on the 'A' side, and we have the backup Pro Tools system normaled into the 'B' inputs. Each system was running almost 80 tracks. If for some reason we encountered a problem with the main Pro Tools system, we could instantly switch to the backup system.
“Another feature of the mc²66 that was really influential for us is that it has a send/return function on the monitor channel, so that with the touch of a single button, you can globally switch all of the monitors to the send position that takes its signals right before it goes to Pro Tools," continues Lankford. "If you prefer, you can globally switch it to return, at which point the console is listening through Pro Tools. So, for soundchecks and rehearsals, we always listen through Pro Tools to ensure that all of our routing is right and that we’re tracking everything correctly. Obviously, for a live show, we always switch to the send side, so that in the rare event Pro Tools encountered a problem, it wouldn’t create an issue on air. Redundancy—that’s very important in live TV and the Lawo is unsurpassed, in my opinion.
“Doing these shows in 5.1 surround adds a level of complexity,” Lankford adds, “and with this particular project, we didn’t get to hear Trisha Yearwood at all during the rehearsal. She performed a duet with Garth and the first time we heard her sing was during the live performance. We had to make several last-minute modifications to the mix, and the mc²66 is an excellent console for this sort of situation because it’s very easy to navigate the console’s surface and get to things quickly. Besides the great sound of the mc²66, this is one of its best attributes.”