How to overcome challenges as a live sound engineer

Part 3 Sennheiser PRO TALK with Colin Pink and Gareth Fry

Colin talks about the technical issues faced on Hans Zimmer’s tour and what he did to overcome them.

Video Transcript

Colin: “We needed to cover all of the genres of music which meant technically speaking we had a total of two hundred and sixty two inputs. Because it’s film score we did it in full surround 5.1. I say 5.1 using the Dolby term. It was essentially matrixed together so that we had PA left-right subs, fills and surround left, surround right in arenas. There was also some playback because obviously there’s lot’s and lot’s of layers in Zimmer’s music and the main problem that I foresaw was bleed from all of these instruments you know going into to the orchestral mics. So quite early on we made the decision and luckily the band who were very up for it, to try and make the stage as silent as possible, so all of the guitars were running through Kemper’s so there were no guitar cabs on stage. The bass ended up with a bass cab but at the frequencies down there it wasn’t such a problem. It was about as silent as you could get. Everyone was on in ears. We had a silent stage apart from drums obviously timpani.The acoustic instruments of Arlen’s violas etc and the choir and that gave us a fighting chance of getting some separation and control.”

“Mic wise the violins were all clip-on DPA’s. Drums Sennheiser all rounds, obviously lots of D eyes and it all went through we had SD 7 out front SD 7 at monitors and an SD 11 sub mixing the choir and orchestra, all on one fibre loop. What became quite interesting was the fact that because everyone was on IEM’s Gavin on monitors had 42 mixes to deal with which meant that he couldn’t take all the inputs because he’d run out of processing power so I was sending quite a few stems down the fibre loop to Gavin, so he was sending sub mixes to people which was generated from me because he simply couldn’t take that input count and frankly even if he could he wouldn’t be able to manage you know doing 42 mixes with 260 inputs. So that way it was all about trying to reduce workflow for everyone.”

“Talking of other bits of tech on the show itself because there was playback on every track to some extent, it was all on click but we had Q Lab being our master for the show which was basically generating timecode and MTC. MTC internally to drive streamers because we were using, for those that don’t know what streamers are it’s a virtual conductor. So on video screens we had you know bars and beats and wipes going across and that’s what the choir and orchestra mainly followed. They had IEM’s as well so they had click and bits but that was a freer way of syncing everything together than just relying on a click because again it’s that human nature, if everyone is just listening to a click there’s no real feel and your drummer and bass player will just go insane! That kind of gave us a bit of freedom and LTC was triggering you know Pro Tools which was playback main and backup but also we were sending it to stage because all of the keyboard rigs were running Cubase which was locking to our timecode as well so that we could do the program changes for the keyboard players.

“Lighting and video obviously took timecode and what it did was it enabled me as an engineer to concentrate on listening to things because what I haven’t mentioned is that timecode did all of my snapshot recalls. Because the nature of the medleys there were some very large musical changes going on you know like that so I automated all of that which meant that basically on 24 faders in front of me I had everything that I needed for that moment which again is quite a theatrical way of doing things you know when you’re doing a theater musical you don’t have your 50 vocal mics all sitting down here you just plonk the ones you need for that section in front of you on your VCS or DCA’s. We had the same approach on Zimmer because with that channel count you kind of needed to group it together in a structured way like that to make it manageable. You know at which point it ended up being a joy to mix because all the boring reset stuff that you normally have to do was just dealt with for you and I could just concentrate on you know just mixing these pieces.”

“I don’t think I’ve got a favourite mic as such because I’ve got different favourite mics for different usage obviously you know a vocal mic isn’t going to be you know appropriate for an overhead orchestral mic. I mean if you said you can only have one microphone in the world  I’d say a KM 184 because you can put that on anything and it’ll work. You know it’s a great vocal mic with a pop shield, it’s a great orchestral mic, it’s great for drum overheads.My favourite vocal microphone time is a U47 you know but at the end of the day if you put a 58 on a vocal or a 57 on anything else you’ll have a gig so it’s it kind of varies but yes the KM range is great.”


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