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Changing festival attitudes DiGiCo consoles chosen for Rock Werchter
Belgium - Back in the glam rock days of the 1970s, a small village in the middle of Belgium called Werchter decided to put on a one-day music festival. Over four decades on, Rock Wercher has become one of the largest events in the country’s musical calendar. This year, it took a new direction, in terms of mixing console choice, with head of sound Patrick Demoustier making the decision for the house system to go completely digital. DiGiCo was his console of choice.
This was a milestone for the festival and Patrick Demoustier explains the reasoning behind making such a fundamental change. “We had talked a lot about moving Rock Werchter’s house system from analogue to digital consoles and how we were going to do it,” he says. “We didn’t want to take any risks; if it went wrong and the experience was bad, our reputation would be bad too.
“We decided we could only do it using DiGiCo consoles because DiGiCo’s architecture is very straightforward, even for those who don’t already know the products. In the analogue world, everyone was so familiar with one particular brand of console that it was easy, but in the digital world there are many different brands and different systems, mostly with session files that aren’t compatible.
“But if you know how to use an analogue console you can pretty much mix on a DiGiCo straight away. I believe they are the only consoles on which that you can learn that fast. Also, all our engineers are very familiar with them and that’s important; if you have someone sitting next to you that really knows the console it makes life much easier and gives confidence to the visiting engineers.”
As a result, production supplier for the festival, PRG, supplied a combination of SD7s at front of house, with SD10s at monitors for all three stages, whilst DiGiCo’s Belgian distributor Amptec replicated the live sound set up with an SD7 and SD10 for the newly instated backstage prep area, where engineers were able to check their sessions, or make new sessions if needed.
An engineer from Amptec and another from PRG were present in the backstage prep area, making sure the right sessions went on to the right desk. As an added level of comfort, DiGiCo sent support from its UK office in the form of product specialist Dave Bigg. “We know the consoles really well,” Patrick continues, “but having Dave there gave an extra level of service to the bands and they really appreciated it. They knew that nothing could go wrong because there was someone from the DiGiCo there.”
The backstage prep area isn’t an entirely new concept; DiGiCo has been running the same facility at the Montreux Jazz Festival since it became one of the Festival’s sponsors in 2009. “This was where I got the idea from,” says Patrick. “It’s all about confidence for the engineers. If they’re feeling relaxed, then there’s no problem.”
With a proportion of bands carrying control systems with them on the festival circuit, uptake for the house consoles was consistent with expectations. “On the main stage we had an average of two out of eight bands a day using the house consoles,” says Patrick. “On the Marquee and the Club C stages that increased to around 50 percent. Everyone really liked the DiGiCos. I was actually quite surprised when we sent out the specs of the festival; I expected a lot more people to come back and say ‘we can’t use DiGiCo because we only have a session for a different console,’ but most were happy to work with DiGiCo straight away.
“It all went really smoothly and everyone was very happy. My impression was that it was even better than when we used to use analogue desks. With an analogue desk, you have to start your set-up from scratch, but with the new prep room names, IO settings high pass filters, basic EQ settings and FX presets, were dialled in and some compression was already set on the right channels, so the start point was at a higher level than ever before.”
In fact, Patrick and his team felt the DiGiCo experience was such a success that they are going to take it to Belgium’s Pukkelpop festival in August.
“Pukkelpop has more stages than Rock Werchter,” says Patrick. “We’re doing around five out of the eight stages there and we’re trying to do as much as we can with DiGiCo because we really liked the experiment.
“I don’t know of many festivals that do things this way. I think it’s a major step forward for us and for DiGiCo.”
25th August 2015
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