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DiGiCo D5 Makes George Michael’s Live Broadcast Straightforward

When George Michael made a triumphant return to the world’s arena stages in 2006, little did audiences know that an even bigger event was just around the corner.

   Using no less than four DiGiCo consoles, Michael performed the very first gigs at the new Wembley Stadium on 9th/10th June 2007, in the process ushering in a brand new (and long awaited) era for live music in the UK capital’s most infamous and controversial venue.

   As with the arena tour, two DiGiCo D5 Lives were used for front of house sound and Michael’s monitors, with a D5T on band monitors. But for the first Wembley show a third D5 was added to perform perhaps the most high profile task of all - mixing the sound for a live television broadcast.

   Ruadhri Cushan and Niall Flynn were the engineers given the onerous task, but the D5 ensured that their lives were as straightforward as possible - despite neither of the team having used a DiGiCo console before.

   “Both Niall and I were a little apprehensive, mainly because we both come from a studio background and the idea of doing a live mix straight to TV was a little scary,” smiles Ruadhri. “If we were going to pull it off we would need to get familiar with the D5 very quickly, so when DiGiCo invited us down to their demo rooms to run through it, we jumped at the chance.”

   Although only part of the show was broadcast live, the entire show was being recorded, as indeed was every show on the tour. The existing setup included two stage racks with 56 inputs into each, those 112 lines feeding the two D5s and D5T. Adding an additional D5 into the chain was very straightforward.

   “A PC-based ADK system using Samplitude software was used to record the shows, which seems to be one of the few bits of kit that was capable of recording all 112 inputs simultaneously for up to three hours at a time,” says Ruadhri. “This also got a feed directly from the stage racks, which meant we were able to play back previously recorded shows to start building a mix, while getting to grips with the console at DiGiCo’s premises.”

   DiGiCo’s Roger Wood was on hand to show Ruadhri and Niall around the D5 and it wasn’t long before the console’s inherent user-friendliness meant that they were very much at home with it.

   “It's a straightforward, easy to use desk and its layout is very logical,” says Ruadhri. “For example, having the visual name displays next to each fader bank makes it quick to get to the fader you want, which in turn brings the relevant channel to the top layer of the display. So tweaking the desk EQ or compression is always immediate. Arranging aux sends, sub groups, etc, was also very quick and easy, aided by the intuitive visuals. We also found that the large LCD type display, which shows most of the channel information, is well laid out and easy to look at.

   “We started with the snapshots copied from the FOH console and began rebalancing and re-configuring so that it would sound good on a pair of studio monitors. To be honest, the biggest problem we encountered was ‘stadium spill’, mostly from George's mic which he waves around a lot during the show.”

   After two days at DiGiCo, Ruadhri and Niall had configured the D5 to their satisfaction and felt confident to have a ‘dummy run’ at the show at Dublin’s RDS Exhibition Centre. This was a resounding success and so all was set for the Wembley gigs. Despite this, the team were grateful for the assistance on offer from key personnel.

   “Andrew ‘Baggy’ Robinson (Michael’s monitor engineer and head of sound) was helping us every step of the way, making sure we were up to speed with what was happening. Roger Wood watched our backs at all times and Alex from Wigwam did all he could to make sure we had everything we needed,” says Ruadhri.

   “We had some reconfiguring to do for Wembley, we had added some extra audience mics which needed to be sent to the broadcast truck separately from our music mix, but there was nothing the D5 couldn't handle. The show passed very smoothly. Saving and updating snapshots is seamless and moving from one title's snapshot to the next is also very swift. I also liked the easily accessible USB port on the front meter bridge. It's a constant visual reminder to save and back-up.”

   He concludes: “When I heard the mix feed in the more controlled environment of the broadcast truck, it sounded fantastic! I really enjoyed using the D5, I found it to be reliable, predictable and flexible, and for a studio engineer stepping into another world for a few days, it really helped to make it an easy ride!”

29th August 2007

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