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PA Plus Productions (Toronto) deployed a Midas XL8 digital live performance system for this year’s Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Awards, streamlining their annual audio production for this prestigious event.

Held on Saturday, March 1st at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, the 2008 show honored, among others, legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Paul Anka, with five of his songs inducted. A radio broadcast of the show aired the next day; the television broadcast went out on Monday, March 3rd.

Analog Sound and Feel Intact…

As the first big digital product from a brand famous for analogue quality, the XL8 really does live up to the Midas name, according to John Lacina of PA Plus, who mixed the music portion of the show: “It sounds, feels, and behaves like an analogue Midas, but with huge digital processing power. I noticed a marked improvement right from the start in the sound quality over other digital products I have used. The XL8 lived up to the hype, so to speak, in that it does not sound digital at all. In this sense the stellar onboard EQ and Dynamics can be used to fine tune, rather than outright fix, the sound, sometimes encountered in other ‘less musical’ digital systems.

Beyond the fact that it simply sounds good, features like the POP groups make it quick and easy to access the XL8’s serious digital power, without sifting through tons of pages. “Being an analogue guy, that’s one of the things that’s been a big negative about many digital consoles,” Lacina adds; “you can find yourself in a situation where you are unable to access what you need quickly enough. The XL8’s features, such as POP and VCA grouping, provide a simple yet complete solution to this issue. Easy access to editing and storing these groups meant that we could deal with the inevitable last minute changes to input lists very quickly and without the annoying ‘crosshair patching’ steps. The versatile automation system allows for easy manipulation for multiple scene shows. The extensive control over what parameters are-or are not-stored scene-to-scene, together with easy to use copy and paste functions, helped to efficiently manage the 15 musical performances. We rehearse this show over three or four days, so things can change as you get more comfortable and as the band settles in. Further scene functions meant that we could edit any scene/s with changes we liked, not unlike a Broadway show with an understudy, where you’d need to make a global change throughout the scenes. XL8 makes that easy.”

“The ‘traffic’ portion of the show was mixed by Ian Dunbar,” Lacina adds, “including all host and guest lav mics, the recipient podium mic, and all the VTR playback, etc. We incorporated the ‘B’ function of the XL-8 together with its separate monitoring as well as feeding the show video program feed into 1 of the screens. This gave us a comfortable dual engineer environment.”

Streamlined Splitting

Beyond the console work surface, the XL8 is very much a complete system, offering a unique degree of networking facility that can streamline the topography of the signal chain with the industry’s lowest latency and, of course, full redundancy. Lacina described how this made a difference at the awards show: “Unlike in years past, where the music portion of the show is handled by a number of splitters-a pair of 52 channel analogues, for example, and then another splitter for multiple truck feeds-we were able to use the XL8 and network its system splitters to distribute audio everywhere it was needed, and all via a single, compact control centre.”

Lacina and Systems Tech Mark Radu used three of the XL8 system’s DL451 I/O boxes (all stowed tidily backstage), and a forth at FOH. One unit was loaded with digital cards. We inserted our speaker system controllers via AES into 12 of the matrices. This meant we could leave the speaker DSP racks on stage, thereby reducing our footprint at FOH and saving us from running 300-feet copper returns to the amp racks. It was a great advantage to be able to route our speaker controller software and our measurement data to the screens on the XL8 when needed.

“Another two DL451s-one stage left, one stage right-handled the outputs of the matrices, effectively making a mirror of the whole system output on either side of the stage, for full central control of the amps and speakers. The forth DL451, located at FOH, handled local inputs and outputs. The production used around 64 channels of music inputs at the splitters, a split to the monitor console, and also a split to the broadcast truck. The patching possibilities of this system are endless; we could access any input or output at any part of the network.”

“From our perspective, we really enjoyed working with the XL8 and with the Midas team,” Lacina adds. “Steve Lotzer, Mitch Mortensen, and Jim Pfitzinger did a fantastic job helping out on our maiden voyage with XL8 for this high profile show. Manufacturer support is a very important part of taking on a big new digital system like this, and the Midas team is second to none.”