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They Might be Giants with DiGiCo
Quirky alternative indie-rock duo They Might Be Giants (TMBG) has been beguiling audiences since 1982. Now in its 25th year, it is still going strong and is currently on tour in the USA with a three-piece backing band. Mixing at the gigs is being done with a DiGiCo D5 and D1 package, supplied by New York-based audio company SK Systems.
The tour is playing a variety of venue sizes, from clubs to theatres, ranging in capacity from 500 to 3000. Equipment is kept to a minimum with the DiGiCo consoles, a Lake Mesa system controller and four JBL VP7210/95DP powered speakers - two for use as side fills and two as front fill. “Other than that, we use whatever is provided at the venue. I cross my fingers every day for something really nice,” laughs front of house engineer Adam Robinson.
Adam started working with TMBG earlier this year, which introduced him to DiGiCo consoles for the first time. “The D5 is one of those ‘conceive it and it can be done’ digital desks,” he says. “Its flexibility is truly amazing and it's also quite easy to use. The intuitive layout has even made a fan of our support act's engineer, who was previously not into digital desks at all.
“With virtually everything I need in front of me, I can access channels and aux sends quickly for audio cues. I also like how I can take my show files back and forth from D5s to D1s with ease - something that several other competitors can't do.”
Adam is currently running with up to 72 inputs - 12 for the support act, the rest (including FX returns) for the headliners. These include eight channels of D-Tube preamps. “They’re a feature that no one else offers,” notes Adam, who is using the D5’s onboard effects for basic effects, with a TC Electronic Fireworx for specials.
He is also recording the show every night, the band then selling the recording of each gig via TMBG’s web site. This shows the sheer versatility of the D5’s recording options - a very high-tech approach can be taken, but it can accommodate a much lower-tech approach just as well - it depends entirely on the user’s requirements.
“Our recording methods are pretty primitive compared to what's possible with the desk,” Adam laughs. “We use eight analogue outs at FOH that feed a MOTU 828 digital audio/MIDI interface, which feeds a MacBook Pro running Digital Performer 5. The outputs are a mixture of two Neumann audience mics plus the four mono and two stereo stems which allow our lead guitarist to mix shows down quickly, so we can get them put up on the website as soon as possible.
“We've looked into other methods of recording, but a system that is a full multi-track would take us longer to prepare than is possible with our schedule. We'd still really like to find a mobile solution that would allow us to take these eight tracks via MADI, but it seems all the MADI solutions aren't quite as portable as the one we're using.
“As far as sonic quality goes, DiGiCo is really at the top of the game in the market,” Adam continues. “In fairness, I did have preconceived notions about the roadworthiness but, once I got on one, those were completely banished. I've never had a major issue with our consoles.
“I must say that SK Systems has been awesome in taking care of all of the band's needs. But any time I have a question I can’t figure it out with the guys at SK, I contact DiGiCo’s tech support, who are always very helpful.”
At the monitor position, Neil McDonald is mixing on a D1 Live and has all five band members on IEMs, plus the JBL sidefills, providing eight separate mixes. This increases to 11 with the three-piece horn section that is added for some shows. Two of the horn players are using wedges and one on in-ears. Neil also has a pair of wedges at downstage centre for when the horn section moves position during certain parts of the show.
Although Neil has used the D1 Live in a FoH capacity before, this year was the first time he’d used one on monitors. “I could write a book on the question of what are its best features,” he laughs.
“To be honest, everything is equally as valuable. Some things, like the benefits of the small footprint, vary with the size of the venues, but the snapshots have been a life saver. The band has several songs where the musicians switch instruments and there are obvious mix changes with that. Using snapshots has made the transition between those parts effortless.
“I find the audio quality second to none. I very much like the D-Tube card option and everyone at DiGiCo has been great. They’re genuinely enthusiastic about getting feedback from engineers ‘in the trenches’.”
The D5 and D1 combination is also proving that, whatever the touring situation, a high quality console speaks for itself at each venue.
“To be honest, we have been to a few venues that are pretty rough,” Neil smiles. “An inexperienced crew might roll their eyes when they see our little truck arrive, but the house sound guys take us seriously when they see us roll out and un-cap these desks.”
“Venues are always quite in awe when we bring our consoles in. They get us a lot of attention!” adds Adam Robinson.
“The tour has been wonderful. We have a great crew and, because of the consistency of the DiGiCos, the band hasn’t worried about soundchecking on occasion,” says Neil.
Adam agrees, saying: “The band is extremely happy with the way the shows have been going. They Might Be Giants are sticklers for quality and really appreciate the superior results given by DiGiCo products.
“The D5 sounds great, is easy to use, it sets up and tears down quickly . . . what's not to like? It truly is the highlight of the tour for me. We're very excited about Version 4 coming out and adding more great features to an already feature packed system.”
5th December 2007
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