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DiGiCo performs flawlessly at European Games
The European Games made its debut this year. Held in the brand new, 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku and organised by the European Olympic Committee, its opening and closing ceremonies were on a scale akin to already established sporting spectaculars. An experienced team was assembled to deliver sound requirements, with DiGiCo SD7s and SD11s being their consoles of choice.
In charge of audio design and delivery for both live and broadcast was Scott Willsallen, “There’s a bit of a travelling family for most big sporting events,” he says. “It’s a group of people who are very experienced in their own roles and at working together. I’m lucky enough to be part of it.
“These events are primarily about the television pictures. However, as they take place in-the-round, the audience is in the background of most camera shots, so the more engaged and enthusiastic they are, the more interesting it is for the viewers at home.”
Scott needed to ensure that both the stadium and broadcast audiences enjoyed a high quality soundtrack to the ceremonies, whilst creating atmosphere for the broadcast. To achieve this, he deployed a tried and tested combination of equipment, which included mixing consoles comprising pairs of DiGiCo SD7s at FOH and monitors, plus an additional pair of SD11s at monitors. A further SD7 was employed in the closing ceremony rehearsal venue, so that the show file could be saved and loaded into the stadium consoles when required.
“We had two completely independent control systems in the stadium, the consoles acting as mirrored pairs,” says Scott. “The primary system used an Optocore network, with 24 network devices positioned around the stadium. Eight Optocore nodes were located around the field of play, plus four in the roof, from each of which nearby inputs – such as crowd microphones or local wireless receivers - were gathered and mix outputs were fed to L-Acoustics racks for the PA.”
The secondary set of consoles all had SD-Racks located in a patch room. The field inputs were patched into a passive splitter, with one output going to the Optocore mic preamp for the primary system and a second output to a mic preamp with fixed stepped gain. A 25-pair CAT5 cable ran between each Optocore node and the patch room for analogue connectivity. From there it was routed to a punch-down panel and an active splitter that allowed it to be split to the backup FOH, monitor and broadcast consoles.
“Using mirrored FOH mixing consoles feeding both signal transport networks meant that the mix arriving at the amplifiers via Optocore sounded exactly the same as the mix on the analogue cable,” Scott continues. “We switched between the two based on AES sync, so if that failed the nodes automatically switched. If there was a failure on the primary consoles, we switched to analogue by hitting a button, then switched back when the primary network was running again. To test it, we switched systems a few times during the dress rehearsals and nobody noticed, which was very satisfying.”
Microphone inputs were fed into multiple receive stations scattered around the field ensuring every mic would be picked up in several places at the same time. The other main audio source was a Fairlight replay system, featuring primary and secondary AB-roll systems. “It meant we had four replay systems available to us, allowing the AB-roll within the primary link to be one MADI stream that we distributed to all the consoles,” says Scott. “Any required click or guide tracks for the live bands were also provided via the Fairlight system, delivered to the monitor consoles via MADI.
“These events are divided up into music cues that correspond with a segment of movement or action in the performance area. Each one was called by the show caller and the console operators recalled a snapshot for each specific music cue. Overall levels and featured instruments were then mixed on the fly. The live acts – including Lady Gaga, Clean Bandit, John Newman, as well as the live speeches – were all operated in the same fashion.”
For the broadcast mix, two DiGiCo SD7Bs and two SD11Bs were deployed, again working as mirrored pairs. Integrated with the stadium system, all the crowd microphones were plugged into the Optocore nodes, which were fed to the Delta Media 3 broadcast truck, sub hired by Agora.Delta Sound’s Griff Hewis, assisted by two Agora broadcast engineers, was systems engineer and mixed the atmosphere microphones.
“We took a MADI stream from the replay systems into the SD7Bs and the crowd microphones were fed into the SD11Bs. They provided a 5.1 atmosphere buss into the SD7Bs and we then used the Optocore loop to provide the highway between us and International Sports Broadcasting (ISB), the host broadcaster,” says Scott.
“None of the rights holders took 5.1 for this event, so we provided a stereo mix of the events plus crowd and a crowd-only mix.”
Once the systems were settled, Scott and Andy Rose (broadcast sound supervisor) watched all the camera cuts and made sure that the audio broadcast during each shot made sense.
“Andy and I tried to pick up every little bit of detail, so that the audio and the vision matched perfectly. The aim is always to make the broadcast sound as detailed as it looks,” says Scott.
“Our entire system is always on uninterruptible power supplies and, while the amount of redundancy may seem excessive, it means a lot has to go wrong before there’s a problem.”
Scott reports that the system worked perfectly, underlining his continued faith in DiGiCo.
21st August 2015
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