The iTunes Festival relocated to The Roundhouse in North London this year, with over 60 artists playing live at this free event, which runs throughout July.
With bands ranging from Oasis, Kasabian, Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol at the commercial end to acoustic performers like Newton Faulkner, quirky performance artists with wide dynamic ranges (like Bat for Lashesâ€™ Natasha Khan), leavened with some good old fashioned hard house and R&B it was important that the eventâ€™s experienced sound engineers, Dave Roden at FOH (here deployed as system tech) and Will King down at the stage had digital mixing environments on which incoming engineers could hit the ground running.
Last year, when the event was held at KOKO, iTunes production manager Stuart Turvill took advantage of a pair of Soundcraft Vi6â€™s, with the intuitive Studer Vistonics IIâ„¢ interface, and it proved so popular he saw no reason to break
from that tradition.
A 64-input Vi6 (with AES-EBU cards) was one of two digital surfaces offered at front-of-house, enabling incoming productions to simply plug in their show files, while down at the stage the compact surface â€” always a bonus within the confines of Monitor City â€” was configured 64-in/35-out.
Stuart Turvill was indeed fortunate to have his near neighbour from the Welsh valleys, Dave Roden working alongside â€” and despite their long relationship, the Stereophonicsâ€™ trusted sound man for the past 14 years was working the event for the first time. "Stuart has asked me on previous occasions but I have always been touring," says Roden. "But the band has only done one show this summer and is currently mixing an album in the studio, so I said I would love to do it."
Although being a relative newcomer to the Vi6, Dave Roden was able to turn teacher after the briefest of inductions on the board. "The only time I had seen it previously was when the Stereophonics played the iTunes Festival at the ICA two years ago," he admits. "I had never even touched one of these desks before, but within a couple of days I could show people how to use it!"
"The Vi6 is great, particularly for engineers who donâ€™t have their own session file because itâ€™s an easy desk to walk up to. I set up a basic template and engineers simply overlay their mix on that."
For those who have only previously worked in the analogue domain its straightforwardness is particularly reassuring. "Not only that, but it produces a nice sound and has great preamps. We have certainly had a lot of compliments."
Dave Roden said they opted for the 64-channel board knowing they would have a choice of two boards for main act and support. "This gives us 32 channels on Layer A, and another 32 on Layer B."
"I will simply label the channel and provide a couple of tap delays, reverbs and vocal thickener. However I leave the EQ and dynamics flat because if you dial in too much in advance it can becomes confusing â€” simple is better." However, he did say that the channel capacity was stretched when Snow Patrol appeared, supported by Silversun Pickups and Animal Kingdom. "That was a big channel requirement," he said. "But Snow Patrol only required a left and right feed from their control, so the Vi6 managed to cope admirably with the two support acts."
Will King agreed with his colleagueâ€™s assessment of the desk, though he admits he had to mix the first shows himself. "At the beginning I didnâ€™t have a visiting engineer for four days â€” and in a way that was good because it kept me busy. Itâ€™s so easy to show sound engineers how to use the Vi6 â€” and I become pretty much redundant once the soundcheck starts."
For King the exercise is a repeat of 12 months ago, when he supervised all 31 days at KOKO on the resident Vi6 â€” briefly breaking away to work with one of his long-term artists, Stereo MCâ€™s (the others being Darren Hayes and ex-Morcheeba singer Skye).
"I set up a basic template. I can have all the wedges and IEMâ€™s patched onto the aux outputs at one time, and sound engineers come in and choose what they want. Everyone likes a desk thatâ€™s easy to operate and I try and make sure they donâ€™t have to be flicking from page to page."
All the in-ears are on stereo pairs and Will King admits he likes to have his side fills on a dedicated stereo aux "which I realise is unconventional," he says. In summary he states, "The desk has been well designed for the monitor engineer and itâ€™s easy to flip the faders. For engineers doing a one-off show such as this itâ€™s absolutely perfect."
For Stuart Turvill the iTunes Festival production has notched up a gear â€” to a larger venue in which he has installed full choice of recording options â€” and LED 6mm side screens for the first time.
"You donâ€™t get a lot of resistance from engineers when they see the Vi6," he concludes, adding that he has good reason to thank Soundcraftâ€™s sister brand, BSS Audio, for the 144 channels of [MSR-604 II] splitters that are being used. "I canâ€™t speak highly enough about the support weâ€™ve had from Sound Technology (UK distributor for the Harman Pro brands)," he says.