If it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it. Sound designer Derrick Zieba hasn‘t changed his successful formula for the BRIT Awards for the last three years, casting virtually the same crew of engineers, staying with the PA systems supplier Britannia Row Productions, and flying substantial amounts of Electro-Voice X-Line array systems for the benefit of the British music industry as it celebrates the year‘s achievements in London‘s Earls Court.
As in 2007, the full width of the Earls Court arena was filled by a double stage, allowing producers to flip-flop between live performances on the ‘Glam‘ stage and the ‘Punk‘ stage, with the presenters Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne in the centre. According to Zieba, the show turned out to be “my best BRITs ever; we delivered an event for everyone, and still managed to develop a real stage show for each artist, from Mika, who opened the evening, to Sir Paul McCartney, who closed it.” Award winners ranged from the Foo Fighters and Kylie Minogue taking the International gongs, to the Arctic Monkeys and Take That from the UK.
Last year‘s EV X-Line PA system generated such a positive reaction that Zieba repeated the design for the 2008 show. However, one international newcomer was making its debut appearance: EV‘s NetMax N8000 digital matrix system, added into the system for extra control. “The whole system is mastered through IRIS-Net control and supervision software,” explains Zieba. “However, NetMax helped us enormously by giving us accurate and recallable control of all the smaller speakers, allowing us to insert EQ and delay, and meter the results. It gave us the same level of control over the rest of the system that IRIS-Net gave us over the main PA.”
Although there were two stages, there was just one main sound system. Left and right of the massive 70-meter stage set were hangs of Electro-Voice X-Line mid-top cabinets and subs. The stage system was completed by a center hang of 6 small cabinets squashed into a tiny space below the follow-spots. Zieba balanced levels and delay to give a stereo image in the centre of the arena. The substantial delay system operated as a duplicate of the front system. With a L/R/L arrangement on the hangs, each with 8x EV Xvls cabinets, the front-of-house engineers used the two delay hangs in front of them as their reference.
“The EV X-Line system has developed into an extraordinarily good PA for rock ‘n‘ roll,” says Zieba, although he has another more subtle motive for choosing it. “X-Line is attractive for its large form factor size. We only have an hour with each band, and I don‘t want to spend that time persuading them that the PA can deliver their performance. It‘s a psycho-acoustic thing, but one that I have to take into account – the sound system has got to look the part!”
Earls Court, the vast central London auditorium built over a swimming pool, has a reputation as a difficult acoustic environment. Zieba confirms that the EV line array is up to the challenges: “last year, people commented on how well it covered the room, and how clean it sounded. We can zone it, balance it, and deliver an extremely punchy rock ‘n‘ roll sound while staying within the guidelines of licensing.”
This year saw a pleasing collaboration between the BRIT Awards sound team and the local licensing authority: an SPL of 97dB was agreed upon, contingent upon a mandatory issue of earplugs for people in the pit area, to ensure acceptable exposure over the 2.5 hour duration of the live show.
The BRITs sound team:
Sound Designer: Derrick Zieba
FOH Engineers: Chris Morrison, Maurizio Gennari, and band engineers
FOH (presentations): Chris Coxhead
Monitor Engineers: John James, Graham Blake, John Lewis
Crew Chief: John Gibbons
System Techs: Chris Peters and Nico Royan
Stage Team: Pete McGlynn (Punk stage) Stefan Krista (Glam stage)
Radio Systems: Josh Lloyd and Barry Mac