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Monday, March 16, 2015

It's been a while...



Five years ago I ended my last entry on this page by saying I would update it more frequently. Well, that didn’t happen. Although the steady stream of shows continued and quite a bit of great things happened I just never sat down to write it all down. So, I’ll attempt to get caught up with telling you some of the really cool stuff that’s been going on.

The last Super Bowl halftime show that I wrote about was The Who in Miami. That show was a huge undertaking and the crew that I get to work with made it happen. Some of us have been doing the Super Bowl for nineteen years and since The Who halftime show the monitor crew has remained the same and the shows have grown in size and complexity. The Black Eye Peas, Beyonce, Madonna, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry, in that order in Super Bowls XLV through XLIX, all brought new levels of creativity and complexity. Without my comrades, Jim “Redford” Sanders, George Schwartz, Dave Ingels, John Protzko and Danny Lane it would not be possible to make the show happen. It’s not just the size of the show but also the size of the event that adds to the magnitude of the job. The amount of RF microphones and in ear monitors are always challenging to coordinate into the usable wireless spectrum and can only be done officially with the NFL. To put it in perspective, three thousand or more frequencies are in operation on Super Bowl game day. We need approximately twelve wireless microphones and ten wireless in ear monitors to operate in this overly congested RF environment during pre game for the National anthem and at Halftime. There is no room for error and nothing less than 100% perfect operation. It was great to have James Stoffo back this year handling our entertainment frequency coordination and the process he created years ago is still in use by everyone today. We continue to have a great track record with making both production and performers happy with some amazing shows. The technology that grows by leaps each year that we get to work with is a welcomed asset. In my niche of mixing monitors for performers on these shows the last few years has ushered in the use of DigiCo mixing consoles. These digital mixing systems maintain the standard of fully recalling every setting used during a performance but have created a new benchmark in my opinion of how things sound. Mixing primarily on in ear monitors is a very critical listening environment and I enjoy very much the end result of how my mixes sound with DigiCo. And on the topic of critical listening, I still love my Future Sonics mg6 Pro ear monitors but have recently added their mg5 Pro ear monitors, as well. I go between the two on different shows and although they have their own signature sound, they both sound incredible and have uninterrupted perfect dynamic range. I can’t say enough about their product and support. Thank you , Marty Garcia and the gang at Future Sonics.

After Super Bowl each year the following show is always The Grammy Awards. Grammy week, as we call it, is a blurry sprint nonstop until show day, Grammy Sunday. The week gives me the opportunity to work with some of the audio industry’s greatest talents. The audio crew is an allstar cast of heavyweights who are responsible for making every Grammy performance come to life. The show always has a list of top artists who put together big performances, which means big bands, lots of players and large quantities of inputs. The A2’s, or the audio technicians on stage, are responsible for not only patching all of these inputs during soundchecks and rehearsals but also guaranteeing that they get patched correctly when they return days later for the show. The monitor crew that works with me for the Grammy’s is another set of amazing individuals. Making sure every performer has the right in ear mix and relaying all of the info and requests during soundchecks is no small task. There is also the staging of how a band fits on the stage, any monitor speakers and all of the power needed for the equipment and instruments. There is a small army led by the monitor crew that plans this and makes sure it comes back the same way on show day. The amount of performers on the Grammy Awards also brings a great number of the industry’s best and brightest guest monitor engineers. I have had the pleasure of continually working with a lot of these band engineers and we have formed a great relationship of how to approach the performance, make artists happy at soundcheck and quickly create mixes that they rely on for great performances. We have definitely gotten to the point where they allow me to create mixes based on their preference and how they know their artists want to hear and then we fine tune it from there. There is a lot of mutual respect and admiration involved that gives us this trust. I have always been a fan of having the band engineer on stage having face time with an artist while I mix at the console. I get to continue mixing and do my work while the band engineer is on stage making sure everyone is happy and calm. The Grammy Awards is the best show I do all year. The 2015 Grammy’s this year allowed me to mix for AC/DC, ELO, Hozier, Annie Lennox and others. Some of these brought me back to being a kid remembering their music and it was a highlight to be able to work with them. The people, the performances and even the pressure make it one of the most gratifying experiences. I watch the show back the next day at home, usually loud, and realize how every person doing their job is necessary to create all of the shows special moments.

After the Grammy week comes the Academy Awards. It is complete decompression compared to the onslaught that Super Bowl into Grammy’s provides. It is a much different show compared to most since the priority is placed on the award presentations and pageantry as opposed to the musical performances. And it is spread out over enough time to have some breathing room between what I do during the week. But, it does have performances that require close attention to detail and in some cases the artist is out of their normal environment on stage. The orchestra is now performing at Capitol Records miles away and sent over to The Dolby Theater via a dedicated signal path. The Oscars is the only show that I still work on stage for the monitor mixer, in this case Mike Parker, who I’ve worked with and respected for over twenty years. My work includes wrangling the in ear monitor packs that performers use and working with them during rehearsals making sure they are hearing what they need to. This year’s Academy Awards employed the use of forty in ear monitor packs over the course of the show, some of which had to be integrated into wardrobe. It is a departure for me being on stage and not behind the console but I love doing that job for Mike as we share a mutual respect and approach in a lot of what we do.

So, on to the rest of the year and a handful of other television award shows that regularly occur including the ACMA’s in Dallas for their 50th Anniversary.  And the MTV Movie Awards, Video Music Awards, Country Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, American Music Awards…and others, will take place like always. And I get to work the usual list of Microsoft shows with my “extended family” that I have had the privilege to work with for the past fifteen years of Microsoft events. These shows have every bit the scale of complexity, size and effort as any large music show. It is a good respite from the music scene, although I do mix ears for the house band and occasional outside special guest performance. But, the Microsoft shows have a different set of audio challenges with stage monitoring for dialog and video playback as well as computer audio interfacing for product demos, etc. It is an exciting time at Microsoft with new products and operating systems and incredible new devices, as well. I have always been a Microsoft user and love the new direction the company is taking.

Well, that’s it for now. I always make the promise to update this page more often and I will make that promise again. I really do want this site to be a resource for some who wish to know what the news is from my side of our industry. I get to see a lot of great mixers and share different approaches and I get to work with people who are creating new methods and equipment that keep our audio industry moving forward and dealing with challenges. Maybe I’ll try and highlight some people I know with an occasional spotlight. Maybe that will be you! Until then…see you around stage.

8:15 am pdt 

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