Los Angeles, CA – March 12, 2008… Unquestionably one of country music‘s most successful artists, Garth Brooks–in conjunction with AEG (the owners of Staples Center), presented a live televised concert on the CBS network this past January 25th to benefit F.I.R.E. (Fire Intervention Relief Effort) in California and the many victims of last fall‘s Southern California wildfires. AEG Ehrlich Ventures, LLC–the show‘s producers– contracted MTV Networks‘ Remote Unit 8 audio truck to handle music mixing responsibilities for the broadcast event, and at the heart of the truck‘s mixing facilities resides not one, but two Lawo mc²66 digital audio consoles.
Greg Lankford, the EIC (Engineer in Charge) on MTVN‘s remote audio truck reports that in addition to closely checking all the equipment, connections, etc. to minimize the possibility of any on-air issues, other challenges arose due to a shortened rehearsal schedule. The concert, which was broadcast in HD (high definition) and 5.1 surround sound and included guest performances by Huey Lewis and Trisha Yearwood, required several last minute mix changes which were not envisioned, as Lankford explained.
“Doing these shows in 5.1 surround adds a level of complexity,” said Lankford, “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.”
For the Garth Brooks broadcast, MTVN Remote Unit 8 served as the music mixing truck. 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 the 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. As part of his responsibilities, Abbot added the audience reaction mics into the final mix to incorporate audience response.
For this type of project, Lankford reports that the Lawo mc²66 is the perfect 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. 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 normalled into the monitor returns on the A side, and we have the backup Pro Tools system normalled 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.”
Lankford continued, “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. If you prefer, you can globally switch it to return, at which point, the console is listening through Pro Tools. So for sound checks 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, redundancy, redundancy–that‘s very important in live TV and the Lawo is unsurpassed in my opinion.”
In addition to the main 56-fader Lawo mc²66 console, MTVN‘s Remote Unit 8 also has a second, smaller mc²66 — in an 8 x 8 x 8 configuration with 16 main channel faders and 8 center assignable faders, with its own core, MADI interfaces, and DSP facilities. Depending upon the type of project, the smaller console can serve as a standby, catastrophic backup system, or it can handle completely independent tasks. As part of a recent upgrade to the truck, increased functionality between the main mc²66 and the secondary console was performed to significantly improve the sharing of resources. The enhanced setup encompasses 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 tie-lines 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 considerably 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 in a backup capacity to the larger console, as Lankford explained. “For this job, I took all the snapshots from the main console and loaded them into the smaller mc²66. This way, the secondary mc²66 functioned as a standby system; again, in the rare event the large console‘s surface encountered an issue. That way, if necessary, we could go to the smaller mc²66 and, within a minute or so, be up and running–mixing the show from the smaller of the two consoles. Every aspect of the mix, including DSP, tracking to both Pro Tools systems, etc., would all be there.”
In addition to the mc²66 console‘s stellar performance, Lankford was equally enthusiastic about Lawo‘s technical support services. “The power of this console‘s core is amazing,” says Lankford, as is the DSP, and the system‘s level of redundancy. Perhaps most importantly, the layout of the control surface is really easy to grasp, and this enables guest operators to get up and running quickly. My experience with Lawo has been extremely positive. During last year‘s MTV Video Music Awards, which was the first outing after the 2nd core and small surface upgrade was installed; Lawo provided on-site tech support to ensure everything went smoothly. I love the fact that I have the personal cell phone number of Lawo‘s lead applications technician and I can call him anytime day or night, if needed. Likewise, I have direct access to several of the German engineers. This level of support means a lot in our business and, these days, you simply don‘t get that from a lot of companies.”
Lawo is a manufacturer of digital audio networking systems and consoles for a wide range of applications from small to large scale audio production in television and radio, post production, and live sound. Established in the 1970s, the company‘s manufacturing center is located in the Rhine valley town of Rastatt, Germany. For additional information on Lawo‘s Nova series router equipment and all Lawo products, visit the company online at www.lawo.ca.