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OCTOBER SEPTEMBER 2018 2018 www.psneurope.com www.psneurope.com
DANIEL GUMBLE DANIEL GUMBLE
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he past few weeks have been among the busiest of the year so far. September has seen the s you’ll have hopefully heard by now, the annual Pro Sound Awards are back for 2018, marking industry flock to Amsterdam for IBC and then barely pause for breath before heading to London one of the busiest and most exciting times on the calendar here at PSNEurope HQ. Last year saw a for another buoyant edition of PLASA. And, when not hopping between trade shows, many of you number of changes implemented across the event as it celebrated its fih anniversary - we moved away have been diligently assembling your entries for the 2018 Pro Sound Awards, setting us up for what from Ministry Of Sound to London’s Steel Yard and gave the category list a major overhaul to make sure looks like a record-breaking outing. A limited amount of tickets are still available, so be sure to get them while each and every award presented on the night was in keeping with the latest developments and innovations taking place you can. Details can be found on P13. in the market. In many ways, the incredible standard of entries we’ve seen so far feeds into the theme of this month’s issue: And in that regard, this year will be no different, as we have once again started from the ground up in producing a education. As our list of categories for the awards this year shows, it is our aim to recognise the brightest category list that not only reflects the ever-changing nature of the industry, but also celebrates the next generation of pro talent coming through in the market, and speaking to some of the most influential figures in audio education in audio innovators shaping the sector. All of which means we have an assortment of brand new awards up for grabs this the UK, it seems there is plenty to be excited about. In assembling this, I’ve had the fortune of chatting to some year, as well as a clutch of Pro Sound Awards staples, so be sure to check out the full list over on P11, where you can incredible and inspirational people, all of whom are making a tremendous impact on the next generation of also find out everything you need to know about entries (which are open now!) and purchasing tickets. audio professionals. Earlier this month I caught up with Mariana Lopez, who is a lecturer in sound production But back to the issue in hand, which, as you’ll perhaps have gleaned from our front cover, is something of a studio and post production and is also chair of the AES UK section. Plus, she is also a tireless campaigner for equality special. Last month, I made the trip over to St John’s Wood for a chat with Abbey Road’s marketing and brand director across the industry. You can find out more about her incredible work over on P18. Mark Robertson, and it made for one of the most interesting visits to the hallowed studios I’ve made in recent years. As I was also fortunate enough to take a tour of LAMDA’s (London Academy Of Music And Dramatic Art) any music fanatic who has had the privilege will tell you, the thrill of crossing that iconic threshold and basking in the fantastic facilities with audio tutors Robert Tweedie and Sam Charleston (see P24). Both graduated from the history soaked walls of Studios 2 and 3 never ceases to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. This time, however, centre many years previously, going on to enjoy hugely successful careers in the field before returning as I was there not for another gawp at its most famous spaces but to take a tour of its newest rooms and state of the tutors to impart their knowledge to today’s students. art facilities, which are, it goes without saying, extremely impressive. Indeed, as you’ll discover in our interview with Meanwhile, music tech event We Are Robots returns this month to focus on the cutting edge technology Robertson on P13, Abbey Road is on a mission to spread the word that it has much to offer beyond its heritage and that shaping the sector. You can read our interview with co founders Emma Joyce and Gordana Jokovic on P38. famous zebra crossing. And it seems to be working, with a wealth of emerging musicians now flocking to make use of Last but not least, I couldn’t let this column pass without mentioning the mighty Tottenham Hotspur, whose its new studios. new home stadium has been kitted out with a comprehensive audio system from Harman. On P34, we hear In keeping with the theme of classic meets contemporary, elsewhere in this issue we hear from some of the from the firm on how it specified the system for one of the world’s most technologically advanced venues. pioneering producers who set the blueprint for today’s UK grime explosion, while Phil Ward reflects on a sparkling 50 Come on you Spurs! n years of Eddie Veale Associates, plus a whole lot more to boot. Enjoy.
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P4 OCTOBER 2018
In this issue... People
P8 Movers and shakers Find out who’s been on the move over the last month in pro audio P8 Arturo Vicari The RCF Group CEO takes us inside the company’s recent purchase of US loudspeaker brand EAW
P6 DAVID WARD THE GATEWAY FOUNDER ON THE TRENDS SHAPING AUDIO EDUCATION
P18 Mariana Lopez Lecturer and AES UK chair Mariana Lopez talks her career in audio and her fight for equality in the industry P24 LAMDA Audio tutors Robert Tweedite and Sam Charleston take us on a tour of the incredible facilities at the West London centre and tell us why no one does audio education quite like LAMDA P26 Mark Ralph The London-based producer tells us how he has become one of the most in-demand producer from both chart-topping pop acts and indie icons
P28 INSIDE THE 2018 PROMS A LOOK AT THE SYSTEM POWERING THIS YEAR’S PROGRAMME
P32 That’s Live Powersoft and Outline once again provided a mammoth audio system for the Rockin’ 1000 That’s Live gig in Florence, which saw a band featuring almost 1,500 members take to the stage P34 Spur of the moment We hear from Harman about its audio installation at the new Totthenham Hotspur football stadium
P38 Rise of the machines Emma Joyce and Gordana Jokovic, founders of London music tech event We Are Robots, give us the lowdown on this year’s show P48 You Me At Six The band’s Dan Flint, discusses the production process of new album VI and the collaboration process with producer Dan Carey
P50 TIMAX OUT BOARD UPDATES US ON ITS MOVEMENTS IN IMMERSIVE AUDIO
P6 OCTOBER 2018
The JAMES bond Phil Ward talks to Gateway founder (and no relation) David Ward about the trends shaping pro audio education…
ecording industry expert, engineer and educator David Ward has recently coauthored a ‘Creative and Educational Proposal’ with record producer Phil Harding in support of The National Plan for Music Education 2020, hopefully to be endorsed by The Department of Education and The Department for Culture, Media & Sport. It’s the latest in decades of initiatives Ward has brokered as the co-founder of both the Gateway School of Recording and the organisation Joint Audio Media Education Support (JAMES). Gateway is now earmarked for resurrection and Ward has lost none of his passion for the highest standards of education, not only in pro audio but across the whole of the entertainment technology sector. At this pivotal point in the music industry, his vision is arguably needed more than ever before…
Is it difficult to recruit students into professional audio at the moment? Most students from the very best JAMES-accredited courses are finding work in the entertainment industry – as opposed to strictly pro audio – very quickly. They might start their course thinking they’re going to be engineers or producers but very quickly find all the other possibilities in our industries. This could be theatre, manufacturing, sales or audio post-production. I’ve talked with some who’ve been very happy recording Court and Parliamentary proceedings, where clarity is essential. I believe one of them went on to study law; he would be richer than me.
What was the motivation behind your response to the National Plan for Music Education 2020, and what are its main tenets? The last national Government plan for music was many years ago and we’re hoping that a new one will be published in 2020. Phil Harding and I – and the folks in JAMES – want to make sure that music technology and production is rightfully highlighted in this plan. We want to make sure that from an industry perspective awareness is raised of the infinite possibilities for using music technology in the classroom at all ages. Sound engineers and producers need not only technical knowledge but also high levels of numeracy and literacy. The so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – can all be complemented by what we do.
As an industry we need to give ourselves credit for the breadth of our knowledge and experience. We want to raise awareness of all these possibilities and the wonderful work that many people are doing using music technology for people with special educational needs and disabilities. Rather than the new national plan being written by civil servants for us, we want to ensure that we – and our colleagues across the music spectrum – have a greater part in what it contains. We are going to raise awareness of the educational potential of music technology and audio production. This is why Phil and I are working very closely with UK Music and the Music Education Council (MEC). It’s also vital that we start to address the gender imbalances in our industries as well as making educational possibilities inclusive and relevant to all young people.
What is JAMES and how did it start? JAMES started in APRS when [UK studio guru] Dave Harries and I started the education committee. All us studio owners were inundated with CVs and we had no idea which courses were any good. The board asked me to write an industry accreditation process so that we could sort out the best courses and build mechanisms to support them. This was very successful, and the Music Producers Guild became involved alongside many other industry organizations. JAMES has now become an alliance of many of our industry organisations, set up to support education and make sure that the many years of industry knowledge and experience are not lost to future generations. It was formed so that our industry could be both rapidly proactive and reactive to education needs and could create industry-led initiatives with minimum
P7 OCTOBER 2018
waffle and maximum action.
What do you hope to achieve by publishing a database of JAMES accredited graduates, beyond simply finding them employment? The graduate database is one of several projects initiated by JAMES to help bring our industry and education closer together. It is only available to graduates from JAMES-accredited courses, where we are assured of the industry relevance that these courses offer. Yes, the graduate database is designed to put graduates in touch with employers, bearing in mind that a lot of the industry is freelance-based, so it is also a networking opportunity. Later this year we’ll be launching a new membership scheme. There will be the three basic categories of membership: industry ‘friends of JAMES’; academics from accredited courses; and all students on accredited courses. Among other things this will allow our suppliers, manufacturers and studios to post useful industry information, technical papers and news about job opportunities. Academics can post links to their learned papers, news about academic developments and jobs, and useful learning resources not only for students but across the whole entertainment and creative industries.
Who qualifies to be a ‘Friend of JAMES’? A Friend of JAMES is a commercial organisation, equipment or instrument manufacturer, supplier or retailer that wishes to join with JAMES in supporting education to benefit the future of our music, entertainment and media industries. There are no criteria other than a dedication to helping JAMES ensure the quality of education for our industries. There is some marketing potential in becoming a Friend, but this is not the primary motivation. There are opportunities to take part in masterclasses, forums, educational exhibitions, posting technical information and news items – whatever initiatives a Friend might propose. We can’t do all this alone and we rely on our industry partners to come up with ideas that we can help realise through the educational framework developed.
What are your plans for reviving Gateway? When we first opened the Gateway School in London, it was designed to provide much-needed training for people in the music industry about what studios get up to. We recognised the need for training people already in the industry rather than training young people for the industry. This was the first such educational initiative in Europe and was very successful. We got seduced by universities to develop undergraduate training, but we are now going back to our roots and developing training initiatives for people across the creative industries who need to know what studios and production is all about. As our creative industries converge it’s important that we all develop the language to understand each other so that we can avoid many of the pitfalls of not having
Phil Harding at Strongroom Studios
a working knowledge of what each other does. The first of these new courses – by Gateway Professional Development Training – I’ve developed with Dave Harries to be taught at Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios. With Wendy Laybourn I’ve developed a similar course that demystifies the film and television production process, to be run in cooperation with the equipment manufacturer and supplier Arri. Several other courses are in the pipeline, in particular one explaining how audio post-production works. At Gateway we’ve always been aware of the wellbeing of people in our industries and have developed special courses in effective stress release, for example. We’ve always believed that ‘people who feel good, do good’.
What do you think were Gateway’s main contributions to audio education? Many years ago we realised we were spending too much time in recording sessions explaining to producers and musicians what the processes and technologies were about. It did help make sessions smoother because we developed the language to communicate with our clients. So several producers suggested we start a school in a spare premises above the studio. We found that we’d developed simple and understandable methods of getting complex information across. If I’m honest, we created these methods to be able to understand recording production for ourselves, remembering that Gateway was first of all the studios “by musicians for musicians”. There was nowhere to teach us in those days. We had huge amounts of help from colleagues in the industry, particularly the manufacturers and suppliers. When we started I was determined that we would begin with a new approach to education and training that not only made it effective but also fun. I studied
many advanced educational concepts that made a lot of sense to me and we developed all courses around them. We discovered the importance of putting ‘context before content’ so learners always had a big picture on which to hang detailed knowledge without sitting wondering ‘where does this all fit in?’. We recognised the importance of taking care of not only physical comfort but also emotional wellbeing, particularly when dealing with scary concepts, technical or creative. It is gratifying and flattering to discover that many of the educational techniques that we developed are being used in our best university courses. It warms my heart when a lecturer or anyone in the industry says: “Hey, I kicked off my career at Gateway”. One of the best memories I have is when a father came up to me and said: “Thank you – my son was so introverted and un-communicative but since your course he’s brimming with confidence and enthusiasm”…
What’s the best piece of career advice ever given to you? I’ve had so much support from the industry over the years and lots of advice – most of it very useful. Here are some of the best: “Always take care of your gain structures and invoices” “People like to hear the words” “Never be afraid to ask for help, but don’t be pissed off if I say no” “Whenever you hear yourself using the word ‘should’, turn it into ‘could’. This helps you make better choices” And someone reminded me of Einstein’s quote: “Keep things as simple as possible but not simpler”. This has always been a guiding light to me. n www.jamesonline.org.uk
P8 OCTOBER 2018
Pro audio movers and shakers Stay in the loop with the latest job appointments and movements in the professional audio business…
Shure bolsters senior sales team with four new recruits
hure has announced the arrival of four senior sales executives. Peter James has been named VP of global sales for pro audio, and will be based in Waltham Abbey, UK; Abby Kaplan has been named VP of global sales for retail, and will be in the Chicago city center office; José Rivas has been named VP of global sales for emerging markets and will be in São Paulo, Brazil; and Jim Schanz has been named VP of global sales for integrated systems in Shure’s Chicago city centre office. James has worked for Shure for more than 20 years, with his audio industry career spanning for more than 30 years. He has previously chaired the global integrated systems board, and since 2009 has been managing director of Shure Distribution UK. The company has seen
significant sales growth in key vertical markets during his leadership. Kaplan has worked for the company since 1998 in various sales positions. Her previous role included working with pro audio businesses as well as with e-commerce customers. Rivas will be responsible for organising sales focused on several developing markets. Rivas has represented the Latin America sales organisation and has served as sales and marketing director for the international Americas business unit. During this time, he led a team that expanded the company through new offices in Miami and São Paulo. Schanz joined Shure in 1998 and has worked several sales roles. Since 2011, Schanz has led Shure’s market development activities.
Sahar Nazir joins PSNEurope as staff writer
“Our association with higher education has expanded significantly in recent years and continues to grow. Pete is a well-known figure in this area of business and securing his services is a distinct advantage. He knows the sector inside out, has a sharp technical grasp of cutting edge technologies and has developed an excellent reputation as a specialist in this field. His skills and experience perfectly match Polar’s offer in this important market.” Curtis said: “I’m genuinely excited to be joining the fantastic Polar team and helping to further develop business within the higher education sector. The company already works closely with a number of universities and I’m confident that I can widen our scope in this area. The level of technical expertise within POLAR Integrated Solutions is of the highest order, enabling us to offer an excellent system design service to end-users and also support integrators throughout a project. I’m sure that the great product portfolio at our disposal will engage many new clients, as well as continuing to be an invaluable resource for our existing partners as they develop their AV capabilities.”
27 years in the AV integration business. “Having been a customer of Shure products for many years and having always regarded the company as a market leader in terms of innovation and quality, “I am extremely excited to be joining Shure in this new role,” Smith commented. “I aim to use my knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing our integrator and distribution partners to make certain that Shure remains the partner and supplier of choice within the industry.” Hill, meanwhile, was previously head of sales at Panasonic where he gained experience in AV and IT. Shure appointed Hill to meet its growing business in the installation sector. “I have a real passion for music and have known Shure for a very long time, due to the SM58,” Hill added: “When the opportunity came up it sounded very interesting and something I was very keen to explore. Shure has products that are secondto-none, a great philosophy, and they believe in their people. It’s been refreshing to walk into a business that
Shure announces new recruits for western Europe region
is full of talented and passionate people; it makes my role so much more enjoyable.” In terms of challenges that may approach the company, Hill concluded: “I believe that larger customers are looking for a more global approach from their suppliers, and this is something we’re already working toward.” n
PSNEurope is delighted to announce the appointment of Sahar Nazir as its new staff writer. Nazir replaces outgoing staff writer Tara Lepore in the role, who recently left the business to pursue other interests. A journalism graduate from the University of Roehampton, Nazir is also an active lifestyle blogger and tech enthusiast. Commenting on Nazir’s appointment, PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble said: “I can’t wait to get started working with Sahar. Her natural writing skills and passion for journalism and technology will be a tremendous asset to PSNEurope as we enter a new and exciting era for the brand.”
Polar recruits new business development manager for higher education Polar has appointed Pete Curtis as business development manager for higher education. Curtis’ previous work experience in the education AV sector spans almost 20 years, working with TeamMate, Harman and wePresent/Barco. Director of integrated solutions, Stuart Leader said:
Shure has recruited Rob Smith as the senior director for integrated systems sales in western Europe and James Hill as director of integrated systems sales for the UK and Ireland. The responsibilities of managing sales and marketing is handed to Smith, who joined Shure after
P11 OCTOBER 2018
Brand building Last month saw Italian pro audio manufacturer RCF acquire US loudspeaker business EAW from LOUD Audio in a move to bolster its global reach. Daniel Gumble spoke to RCF vice chairman and CEO Arturo Vicari about what the deal means for the company…
t the beginning of September, US loudspeaker specialist EAW become the latest brand to be shed by LOUD Audio since it was bought by Transom Capital Group 12 months ago, with Italian manufacturer RCF snapping up the iconic brand in a move that looks set to significantly strengthen its position on the global stage. Over the past year, LOUD has divested a number of its lines in bid to concentrate its efforts on its Mackie brand, including the sale of amp manufacturer Ampeg to Yamaha back in May. Commenting on the sale of EAW to RCF last month, Ty Schultz, managing partner at Transom Capital Group, explained: “Simplifying the LOUD business to focus on high quality audio delivery from consumers to professionals has always been the focus of our thesis. We are very happy to have found a great new owner for the EAW brand and wish everyone involved much success going forward.” And it seems that EAW’s new owner had been keeping a close eye on the activities of its latest acquisition for some time. Indeed, the two companies had collaborated closely in the past, a relationship that, according to RCF vice chairman and CEO Arturo Vicari, made the two a perfect fit.
“In recent years we have closely followed the market with the aim of expanding our Group, and we got in contact with Transom Capital,” he told PSNEurope. “This transaction made sense for both parties. In the early days of EAW, the two companies were already cooperating. RCF was supplying transducers to EAW and both brands kept growing, becoming important players in the pro audio market worldwide. Their histories were intertwined several times.” For Vicari, RCF will provide the ideal infrastructure to develop EAW’s offering and expand its reach across the globe, whilst bolstering the Italian firm’s market position. “RCF Group is one of the fastest growing players in the pro audio business,” he continued. “EAW will be able to count on the necessary investment in order to reinforce the organisation, to continue expanding the product offering and to improve the service and support to its customers. It’s is a great brand that means a lot to its customers and to the market. Its prestige will bring an additional value to our group. Ever since the announcement we have been submerged by positive comments, proof of the high consideration carried by the EAW and RCF organisations. “RCF Group has very good positioning and brand recognition in the US and is growing fast. With the
addition of EAW, the presence of our group in the US becomes much stronger.” He continued: “The industry is more and more competitive and it is important to react quickly to market demand and be able increasingly to offer complete solutions. Investment is constantly required to update products, technological solutions and service.” On the subject of what the acquisition means for EAW staff, Vicari confirmed not only that there will be no redundancies, but that the company would be looking to increase its workforce. “All the EAW staff were extremely positive about this move,” he commented. “They are all very motivated and confident, recognising a great opportunity in front of them. We will progressively need to expand our staff to support the growth as we expect it.” As for the immediate future of the EAW, Vicari said that the company will continue to operate independently of RCF and that investment in the brand would get underway imminently. “The brand will absolutely remain EAW and will continue to act as an independent company,” he concluded. “[Our immediate plans for the brand are to allocate the necessary resources for product development and strengthen the organisation.” n
P13 OCTOBER 2018
Last year’s Pro Sound Awards
2018 Pro Sound Awards tickets on sale now! This year’s Pro Sound Awards awards bash will take place on Thursday, November 22 at London’s Steel Yard...
ickets are now on sale for the 2018 Pro Sound Awards, which will be held at London’s Steel Yard venue on Thursday, November 22. Now in its sixth year, the 2018 Pro Sound Awards will once again provide the perfect platform for a night of industry celebration and networking opportunities, as the great and good from the pro audio market come together to honour the year’s finest achievements, companies and individuals. And now is your chance to book your place and ensure you don’t miss out on this spectacular occasion, with tickets for the annual event now on sale at a cost of £55 each. This includes access to the drinks reception, the awards ceremony, the after party and also a light buffet. Please contact Kate Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your space. The 2017 edition of the Pro Sound Awards saw a number of changes implemented across the awards programme, with a refreshed list of categories and a move away from its previous home at Ministry Of Sound to the Steel Yard. And, after extensive research and collaboration with the industry, this year’s Pro Sound Awards also sees a number of changes to reflect the
ever-evolving nature of the industry. Though the venue remains the same, our category list has been given a comprehensive overhaul to ensure our finger remains firmly on the pulse. A key focus for 2018 is the future of pro audio, so while some Pro Sound Awards staples have remained, new awards have also been added to recognise the most exciting new talent emerging across the market, while a variety of productfocused awards have been incorporated to acknowledge the most innovative technology shaping the business of pro audio. PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble commented: “Following the huge success of last year’s event, we are delighted to bring the Pro Sound Awards back to the Steel Yard for 2018. Last year marked a year of transformation for the Pro Sound Awards, and it is vital that we continue to develop and evolve its content year after year. The pro audio world is changing more rapidly than ever and it’s our job to reflect those changes and to honour not only long-established market leaders, but also the pioneers and innovators of tomorrow.” We look forward to celebrating another great year for pro audio on November 22. n
PRO SOUND AWARDS 2018 CATEGORIES LIVE 1. Best loudspeaker 2. Best microphone 3. Best live mixing console 4. Best live sound production 5. Best FOH engineer 6. Breakthrough FOH engineer STUDIO brought to you by AMI 7. Best studio 8. Best studio monitor 9. Best studio mic 10. Best mixing console 11. Best producer 12. Best studio engineer 13. Breakthrough studio engineer 14. Best installation project 15. Best immersive sound project 16. Campaign award 17. Outstanding contribution 18. Company of the Year
Photo (background image): Cedric-Klei on Unsplash
Best Of Show at IBC 2018
The winning products were announced during September’s IBC show in Amsterdam...
SNEurope’s Best Of Show at IBC 2018 winners have now been revealed, with Sennheiser, Adam Audio, SSL, DPA Microphones and Worldcast honoured at the Amsterdam show. Taking place between September 14-18 at the
Amsterdam RAI, the 2018 IBC event once again saw an array of companies showcase their latest products and technical innovations, with the PSNEurope Best Of Show at IBC awards honouring some of the very best broadcast audio products currently available on the market.
Best Of Show Awards were also be given out by sister publications Audio Media International, TVBEurope, Radio World International, Installation and AV Technology Europe. So, without further ado, we are delighted to present this year’s winners...
Sennheiser - Memory Mic
Worldcast - Worldcast Manager
Sennheiser’s Memory Mic is the first wireless microphone for smartphones that is designed to deliver broadcast sound quality for content creators and mobile journalists. With the Memory Mic video app (iOS and Android), the sensitivity of the microphone can easily be adapted to the speaker’s voice. It also offers a simple workflow: audio and video are synced at the touch of a button, with audio downloaded from the Memory Mic and automatically married to the video.
The WorldCast Manager is a unique software solution, centralising and unifying the monitoring and management of all connected devices across one or multiple sites. It offers a combination of modules to oversee the entire ecosystem and comes with a built-in ticket and incident tracking platform tied to a powerful analytics and reporting engine. It is designed to offer complete end-to-end management of all connected equipment typically found in a broadcast, satellite or telecommunication ecosystem.
P15 OCTOBER 2018
Adam Audio - T Series The T Series is Adam Audio’s new range of professional two-way powered studio monitors. Designed to offer high performance, the series is comprised of two models: The T5V features a 5” woofer and the T7V uses a 7” woofer. Both models use the same U-ART high-frequency driver (Unique Accelerated Ribbon Tweeter); feature a beveled cabinet design, rear-firing bass reflex port, built-in DSP-controlled driver crossovers and equalization, and multi-way analog connections; and are compatible with the Adam Sub7 and Sub8 subwoofers.
DPA Microphones - d:fine CORE 6066 Subminiature Headset The new range from the Danish company takes the form of a redesigned, lightweight, one-size-fits-all headset, which claims to offer the most advanced construction on the market. The headset comes with a two-way adjustable boom system with an antirotate mechanism and sliding lock for easy adjustment and also incorporates DPA CORE technology.
SSL - System T The SSL System T offers an IP-based production infrastructure and features a fully-scalable collection of control interfaces. It boasts a collection of I/O options designed for use on Dante/AES67/SMPTE 211030 networks with full control from within System T control interfaces or with SSL’s Stagebox Remote Control Application. Plus, it comes packed with a raft of new immersive audio features.
P17 OCTOBER 2018
A sound education According to Shure’s pro audio group director Tuomo George-Tolonen, the company is currently working towards building a ‘stronger industry for today and tomorrow through a commitment to education’. Here he tells PSNEurope about the firm’s renewed partnership with RADA and the work it is doing in the name of education…
he direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life.” These are wise words from the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, and if this statement is true of one individual, it is undoubtedly true of our industry collectively. In a 2017 government study covering the creative sector’s contribution to our economy, it was revealed that the creative industries (including arts, TV, film, and much more) are worth £91.8bn to the UK economy, up from £85.4bn in the previous year. It’s clear that we are part of a sector that is growing rapidly, and if we are to sustain this growth, a solid investment in education is absolutely paramount. In essence, the way we educate our sector today will directly affect the industry of tomorrow, and it’s for this reason that investment in education makes good business sense.
Supporting the industry’s top institutions We have a long history at Shure of supporting the industry’s leading institutions. Most recently we have renewed our partnership with the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts (RADA). We chose to partner with RADA, as their values are complementary to our own, and I can’t talk highly enough of the work they’re doing to ensure a bright future for dramatic arts, particularly in London’s West End. It’s important for us to nurture and support the industry of tomorrow, and we recognise just how challenging it can be for these facilities to stay on top of the latest industry standard products. We are proud to support RADA with some of the best microphones and wireless systems on the market that ultimately students will recognise across the industry when they graduate. By combining this support with hands-on masterclass training sessions, we’re able to provide students with valuable real-life training in skills that will make them more employable. Shure offers similar support to a number of leading music schools, such as Backstage Academy, BIMM, ACM and ICMP where we provide a wide range of support from studio sponsorship to training, as well as marketing initiatives through competitions and giveaways. Similarly to RADA, the institutions we support across the music and audio education space represent best-in-class institutions, and we’re proud to support what they do. Collectively, it’s positive for all involved; the industry receives a high standard of
THOSE WHO CONTINUE THEIR EDUCATION BEYOND COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY WILL BE BEST PLACED TO TACKLE THE CHALLENGES OF MODERN PRODUCTIONS TUOMO GEORGE-TOLONEN graduate talent, while at the same time, students experience a positive connection with our brand.
Supporting the industry of today Technology in the pro audio industry moves at a fast pace, particularly in the case of wireless microphones, where we’ve experienced significant changes in recent years. What’s clear to us at Shure is that education doesn’t stop at graduation. Engineers at the forefront of modern productions must continually renew their skills in order to uphold the production values expected by modern audiences. Education in audio is a process of continuous improvement, and for this reason, we launched our Shure Audio Institute programme to support the wider industry through product training, best-practice masterclasses, and e-learning. Our Wireless Mastered seminar is perhaps the best-known example of Shure Audio Institute at its
best. Through this initiative, we continue supporting the industry in staying up-to-date with the latest developments. Wireless radio frequency (RF) management is often considered a dark-art across the industry (in part because RF isn’t strictly audio), and it’s safe to say we’ve helped lead the way in providing the best practice training to engineers in this space. Audio professionals that take the time to continue their education beyond college or university will be best placed to tackle the unique challenges of modern productions. RF is an excellent example because it’s subject to constant change. In the last six years alone, we’ve lost over 40 per cent of our preferred operating space for wireless microphones, and therefore it is critical to us as a business that we continue to help our customers navigate such a significant shift. This approach to business is both good for the greater industry and for Shure as a company. We’re proud to support the industry from grassroots education to professional touring veterans. It’s a long-term strategy, but we believe it’s a wise investment to ensure our industry continues to thrive in the years ahead. We are pleased to say that we now have a full team dedicated to the Shure Audio Institute programme across Europe. By remaining committed to education, we find that our investment in people rewards us with great networking opportunities and more loyal customers. Customers know when they’re being marketed to, so it makes greater sense to offer real value: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” as Benjamin Franklin once said. n
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Grand designs WIth a wide-ranging background in sound design, audio production and tireless industry campaigning, University of York lecturer and chair of the AES Mariana Lopez is one of the busiest people in the pro audio industry. Daniel Gumble caught up with her to talk audio education and the fight for equality…
here can’t be many people in the pro audio industry with a schedule as heavily stacked as that of Mariana Lopez. In fact, it’s something of an achievement that PSNEurope has even been able to pin her down for an interview given the vast string of duties she’s currently juggling. A sound designer by trade, she is a lecturer in sound production and post production at the University of York, chair of the AES’s (Audio Engineering Society) UK section, a Zumba teacher - part of her commitment to her students’ well being - and a tireless campaigner for gender equality in the audio world. Oh, and she’s also a dab hand at the gothic harp, a talent she has honed via a lifelong passion for medieval music and drama. With such a vast and varied arsenal of skills at her disposal, it’s little wonder that Lopez has pursued the path she has. Her wealth of expertise has allowed her to indulge her passion for sound design while also educating the next generation of audio pioneers and spearheading initiatives aimed at making the pro audio industry a more inclusive place. To find out more about her illustrious career to date, PSNEurope sat down with Lopez to talk all things audio education and how she wound up where she is today...
How you did you first become interested in sound? When I finished high school I studied an undergraduate degree on arts with a specialisation in music, but I would describe it as something similar to musicology. We were thinking about anthropology of music, music history and analysis. During my degree I discovered a passion for medieval music. I had a very good set of lecturers and as such got into playing medieval music; I play the gothic harp and would play in an ensemble with dress ups and everything. When I graduated, the University of York had just opened its department of theatre, film and television. I was going to go to York to do medieval studies but when I was looking at applying I came across this new masters programme in sound design and it really tapped into an interest I didn’t previously have, looking at how to combine sound and music with the moving image. I made the choice to specialise in
had good marks, but I hated the subjects and I always felt like a bit of an outsider. So when I entered my undergraduate degree I found a group of people I could connect to and share a passion for music and sound with. It was an eye-opening experience for me to be around people like that and to discover things I never thought I’d be interested in.
How long have you been a lecturer now? I taught a ot when I was a PhD student. I did teaching for about four years, but as a full-time lecturer it’s been two years.
How high is demand for places on your course? Mariana Lopez
this, which was a bit scary because most of the people on these courses come from a very strong technical background, which I didn’t have. When I started I found I really loved editing and mixing. It was a steep learning curve because I had done very little of that. I had done an internship editing sound for a podcast for medical doctors about all the different ways you can die! It was slightly depressing, but it did give me some basic editing skills, which I’m very grateful for. [After the masters degree] I spent a year working to fund a PhD in York on theatre acoustics and medieval drama, basically re-creating soundscapes of the past. My masters project had been on accessibility, which I continue doing now as well. A lot of the research I started doing was about the power of sound to convey meaning. After that I got a job at Anglia Ruskin University working with Rob Toulson in what used used to be called the CoDE Research Institute but is now called Story Lab. I worked there as a research fellow for two and a half years, and then I got a lectureship here in York and that’s what I’m doing now.
What was your experience of those courses? My undergraduate degree was an amazing experience. I really didn’t like school - I was an excellent student, I
There is a high demand for masters courses in sound. When you finish your undergraduate degree you have a general idea of how to do a job, but it might be that you were on a programme where you learn a little bit about different things but you don’t have time to really specialise in one. We get students from every type of background, but most of the students who do a masters in sound have found a passion within their undergraduate degree and have found that the one module they did wasn’t enough and that they want to take it further.
How diverse is the pool of students on the course? It varies from year to year. This year I’ve had a very diverse group of students in terms of where they are coming from, so we’ve had a couple of Latin American students, some students from Spain, Portugal, Greece. It is quite diverse. But it varies. Gender-wise it’s much more complicated. We have a minority of female students, sadly, like most of the audio programmes. I campaign a lot for gender equalityt. We do try to make sure that when we promote the programmes and the leadership of the programmes that we reflect the diversity of the students we have. That can involve looking at the images you have on the website. You might have a course with a diversity of students but the photos on the website are all of male students or lecturers. It’s about constant self-monitoring. I give very
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positive messages about inclusion from day one of the course. The students will be working together and I want it to be a positive environment.
There have been lots of industry diversity initiatives and campaigns over the past year. Is that starting to produce real change? Things like this take a long time to take effect.. A lot of campaigns that target university students wouldn’t necessarily affect the admissions, because you have already recruited those students. So you need to start really early during school years. There has been a number of encouraging campaigns, but I find that when you are campaigning for something you tend to be around people who think similarly to you. I sometimes wonder how much of the message feeds through to those outside of that circle. I support the HeForShe campaign a lot, and I get comments from men and women saying, Well you need a man to come and help you out. That’s not at all what it’s about. It’s about making people realise that equality is for everyone. Minorities are used to doing all the campaigning, and the truth is that that’s very time consuming. What happens to those minorities is that their professional work suffers as a consequence. So your male colleagues might be working and publishing wonderful papers etc, while some of the females are spending more and more of their time campaigning. So HeForShe is about sharing the responsibility.
Tell us about your role with AES? I’ve been involved with the AES for a few years. The AES funded part of my PhD. When I was a student in York I got involved in the AES York student section as a
Field day: Mariana Lopez
The Univeristy Of York’s Theatre, Film and TV department
I TELL MY STUDENTS I DON’T WANT THEM WORKING 24 HOURS PER DAY. I WANT THEM TO TAKE BREAKS AND HAVE A LIFE. I’VE DONE THAT BEFORE AND YOU REALISE THAT YOU’RE HARMING YOURSELF IN THE PROCESS. MARIANA LOPEZ graduate representative. My greatest contribution started when I moved to Cambridge. The AES had a dormant section there, so I got involved and updated the mailing list, started invited people and I had a diversity agenda. That caught the attention of the AES UK section, which operated very differently to how it does now. So regional chairs weren’t part of the committee like they are now. I then caught the attention of the chair and vice chair so when I moved to York I was asked if I’d be interested in taking the vacant vice chair position. I said yes, and I also took on co-chairing of the north of England region. My decision to get involved in these sorts of societies has always been about being in a position to make a difference. It’s important that if you think you can make a positive difference that you take positions where you can do that, and being part of the AES has allowed me to help improve things. The north of England events schedule is fantastic - we have events every month, we have been able to advertise HeForShe, we’ve had companies sponsor bursaries so we can offer free memberships to female and non-binary applicants. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that without being part of a society like the AES. And as a section we’ve been able to influence other regions in the world by saying, This is what we’re doing, how do you feel about doing this yourself? It’s also about diversity of topics. We need to provide for people with different interests in audio. For many years I would go to audio events and they would always be about DSP. I would sit there as a sound designer
thinking, This is boring. I’d go to various conferences and I always seemed to be in the room where the most boring sessions were happening, and then I realised it’s because a lot of those events were covering the same topics. Not that there was anything wrong with those topics, but I wanted to know what else was going on in the world of audio. When we bring speakers in we always think about the topics we haven’t covered. For example, I was asked to organise an event in Manchester and we’re thinking about covering DJing, because we’ve never covered DJing at the AES. That’s tricky for me because I know nothing about DJing! But I know people who can recommend those who do. It sends the right message about the world of audio; it’s not all about programming or room acoustics. I also don’t think you should only invite people to speak who are at the very top of their game. Everyone wants to invite the person that’s famous or winning loads of awards or has been working for 40 years. Yes, they are great and we should be using them, but we should also have people at different stages of their career. You could have someone that is starting out but has lots of interesting things to say. There are people out there doing really exciting work who, because they aren’t famous or winning awards all the time, do not get invited to speak. Generally those people engage really well with audiences.
What advice would you give to audio students? People often think education should be teaching students about the pressure of a career in audio. I think that’s a really bad idea. You should create a positive environment where people feel they can do their best without destroying themselves. It’s still something that needs awareness as a lot of people still work under the premise that you should be able to cope with everything. I tell my students I don’t want them working 24 hours per day. I want you to take breaks and have a life. I’ve done that before and you realise that your harming yourself in the process. I teach Zumba for wellbeing here. Its free, people can take an hour off and do something that’s nothing to do with work. You’re not going to get better results by just working all day. n
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L-R: Lecturers Filp Heurckmans and Jorg Sacré
Back to school PXL-Music celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, with the audio and music school now well established as a household name for delivering top class alumni to the international music industry. PSNEurope’s Benelux correspondent Marc Maes discovers how the facility has gone from strength to strength over the past decade…
he concept of what PXL-Music is today was conceived back in 2005. The campus, located in Hasselt, Belgium, wanted to focus on practical music skills alongside ‘traditional’ music education. “We started with a blank sheet,” remembers Gert Stinckens, head of the PXL-Music department. “Being part of a publicly-funded organisation, we had to go through the turmoil of intense governmental approvals before we could actually open the doors a decade ago, offering three curricula: Music Performance, Music Management, and Music Engineering (studio and live).” From day one, the three-year bachelor course was taught by a combination of master-degree lecturers and lecturers with at least 10 years of working experience in a professional music environment. To cater for the necessary lecturers, PXL-Music issued a call in the professional audio sector inviting music engineers and producers.
“The main thought among us was ‘when we get the opportunity to make the school we would have wanted in our early days, this will be a great project’”, comments Frank Duchêne, PXL-Music lecturer in Music Production Analysis. “The university college’s management would lend us an ear throughout the process, even when we indicated the educational importance of an in-line studio, requiring a large format console.” PXL-Music’s Studio Engineering programme started with three control rooms, equipped with a Toft console for the first-year students, a Neve VR desk in the second year and an SSL Duality console in the final year. Last year, the Toft was replaced by the very first Ark console. “We want to support the sector and were involved in the development of this new console, Duchêne says. “When Interphase Audio’s Bruno Wynants, manufacturer of the Ark desk, presented the final design we recognised an analogue console which perfectly fits our educational needs,”
PXL-Music’s studio education is focusing primarily on ‘what’s under the hood’ and offers a top-notch training programme. “When students finish their curriculum, they know how to creatively work with split, inline and hybrid consoles, DAWs and the latest evolutions in audio technology,” underlines Duchêne. “One of our lecturers is currently developing a dedicated module on immersive sound for the studio engineering programme. This is mirrored in the live engineering programme. In combination with the Hasselt cultural centre and pro audio distributor Amptec, the plan is to build a centre of excellence.” Duchêne also states that, in addition to technical skills, PXL-Music attaches major importance to interpersonal and collaborative skills. “Whether it’s analogue or digital, it obviously has to sound good, but students must also learn how to work together within an international context requiring intercultural competences,” continues Duchêne. “We collaborate with
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schools in Europe through the Erasmus+ programme and also regularly invite inspiring people or audio pioneers to share their knowledge and insights with our students, like producer Ken Scott or recording studio engineer Geoff Emerick. And our annual ‘International Week’ offers an educational stage for international lecturers and students.” “The correct attitude is essential,” echoes Erik Loots, sound engineer and lecturer in Live Engineering. “We never studied for our job, and grew organically into it. But we focus on drive and vision when students actually join one of our courses. In the case of the live engineering curriculum, all students start at the bottom of the ladder, loading and unloading gear from the truck, setting microphones, before they actually get to mix their first live set.” Loots witnessed the birth of PXL-Music from the front row when he was invited to set up the Live Engineer curriculum. One of his first challenges was to draw up a course programme and to convince his colleagues from the live sound business to join him: “Together with the head of the audio programme, Jorg Sacré, I put together the content of the course. Next came the team of engineers-lecturers – we all know each other from the live jobs and I’m happy to say that, today, we have a very efficient team in terms of organisation, planning and examinations.” Loots continues: “A second challenge was the equipment – in the early days it was ‘make do with what you have’. The lecturers had good working contacts with audio rental companies so we held our lessons in rental warehouses or invited companies over with a set to our school where we had the Muziek-o-droom venue.” In 2011, PXL-Music invested in a basic analogue set-up consisting of two Soundcraft MH3-32-channel consoles with outboard gear, and for FOH and monitors four Meyer Sound UPA-1A and two USW subs powered by two M1 and one B2A amps. This configuration is still being used in the classes. “With the analogue as a basis, we thought it wise not to invest in large live consoles for the engineer course,” Loots added. “We attend dedicated masterclasses or introductions with the manufacturer or importer – in doing so, our students get to know the people behind the machines.” PXL-Music’s Live Engineer course is Belgium’s and probably Europe’s only course where students get a three-year full-time education of live audio. “Our students are submerged in all aspects of the job, and that’s where we are unique,” says Loots. “And the effort pays off because our education has become an added value for the live sector. It’s a true mentality shift where we see companies standing in the row to offer internships or jobs to our students.” Gert Stinckens confirms that PXL-Music is gaining credibility with the professional audio business. “When we started out we were facing the perception of ‘you cannot learn rock ‘n roll at school, it takes a garage rehearsal room’ or ‘it takes at least 20 years of
Ghent’s Club Telex building
Masters in Ghent
combining both the musical and technical aspects of music production. All of the lecturers have a professional background in their respective field, from singer/ composers to studio engineers/producers.” The music production classes and studios are located in the historical Bijloke site - the Jazz and Pop classes were housed in several rented buildings. “We decided to open a new campus and renovated the Paddenhoekbuilding. It has sufficient room for the Jazz/Pop classes, two control rooms and a 22 by eight metres concert hall,” says Jacobs, adding that since 2017, the Music Production curriculum added Live Mixing as a new course. “We follow the new trend. By adding live mixing to the curriculum, music production students get more experience on hand.” The new studio is fully Dante-based, offering maximal compatibility with the 20-plus rehearsal and exercise rooms in the building. “The control rooms are equipped with a Pro Tools HD native system, Focusrite RED 4 PRE interfaces and four racks with SSL SB8.8 Dante IO preamps, supplied by Joystick Audio. Furthermore we have KH310 and KH120) Neumann monitor speakers and we’ve expanded our microphone collection both for studio and live performances,” continued Jacobs. Club Telex, the school’s new concert hall, is equipped with a professional sound system. “The college opened a tender-bid amongst A-brands. Distributor Amptec won the bid and supplied a d&b system consisting of 2 24 S-D tops, 2 21 S subwoofers, powered by one d&b 30D and
Another key player in Belgium’s audio education sector is Ghent’s School of Arts Music Production education programme, which kicks off the 2018/19 college year with a new recording studio and a 150 capacity concert venue.“ The Music Production programme is quite unique,” says Gert Jacobs, course coordinator. “We’re the only conservatory offering a master degree in music production, pop and jazz music in a five-year curriculum,
a tandem of two d&b 10D amplifiers. The mixing console is a Yamaha QL5 digital live mixing desk.” Jacobs said the venue will serve to promote the music course, with exam concerts, showcases and masterclasses: “We felt like being on an island in the Bijloke site, which continues to exist with the new SSL AWS924 console, but we’re inspiring students to learn to collaborate with other segments of the course.” n
on-the-spot training to become a sound engineer’. But this perception has shifted and PXL-Music has been providing local and international internships to renowned companies and organisations.” Stinckens also points out that today the standard of the students is incredibly high, as they enter education with a grounding in studio work or live mixing. “This is a generation that has everything on hand via the internet, but they don’t have the ‘gatekeeper’ nor the professional network and I think we play an instrumental role here, together with the students,” he says. Engineer and producer Koenraad Foesters, an alumnus of PXL-Music’s class of 2015, paid tribute to the course and its benefits. Before commencing his professional audio engineer education at PXL-Music, Foesters made demo-recordings with MIDI-interfaces and worked as recording assistant for Staf Verbeeck. During the curriculum’s final year, Foesters did an internship with producer Peter Katis in the US and today he works in his own Jupiter Studio, taking on recording, mixing, production and post-production. “The PXL education was very valuable to me – after the three year curriculum, my knowledge was lifted to a higher level, thanks to the skilled and helpful lecturers and the adequate coaching,” he said. “It’s hard work, but the studio technician course is the perfect step-up to a professional career.”
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LAMDA: Behind the scenes As the UK’s oldest theatre production college, London’s LAMDA continues to set the standard in the world of audio education for the stage. Daniel Gumble visited the academy’s Theatre Sound tutor Robert Tweedie and Production Sound tutor Sam Charleston to find out how it continues to produce and nurture the audio stars of tomorrow…
f any building can encapsulate the theme of blending the past with the present, it’s west London’s LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). Part authentic Victorian theatre, part state-of-the art 21st century education facility, you can literally see these centuries collide as PSNEurope discovers on a guided tour of its various studios, stages and meandering corridors. While navigating its labyrinthine floors, there is a point where the white, clinical walls lining the stairways of the purpose-built quarters meet with the red brick and oak panels and storied floorboards of a bygone era. In many ways it’s a fitting image for what LAMDA represents. Steeped in history and tradition, it is the country’s oldest theatre production college, yet its highend facilities make it one of the most advanced places to study theatrical sound on the planet. Its mixture of traditional and high-tech spaces and equipment ensure students are exposed to all manner of real-world working environments, while its extensive vocational programmes allow them to experience the pressures of working on live events, more often than not on highprofile shows at historical venues. PSNEurope paid the academy’s Theatre Sound tutor Robert Tweedie and Production Sound tutor Sam Charleston - both formerly students at the facility - a visit to find out why they believe “no one does as well” as LAMDA...
How did you both end up teaching at LAMDA? Robert Tweedie: I trained at LAMDA myself, graduating in 2009. In 2003 I was pushing flight cases around for a company called Rock City Stage Crew. But I wanted to do sound, that was my passion. I never had the passion to play an instrument, so sound engineering was the thing for me but I didn’t quite know how to get into it. Then I found this course at LAMDA where you could study stage management, lighting, scenic construction and sound. So I used the course to build on the skills I already had to specialise in sound. In the first year, everyone studies all four areas, and then you get to specialise in one, if you wish, in your second and (more recently) third year as well. You get to do two work placements in your second year. One of them for me was with RNSS and when I graduated I worked there more and more, mainly in live music. Then in 2014 I started moving more towards theatre. I toured internationally with the musical Chicago in 2016 and I’ve done over 200 different shows across 18 different countries. Sam Charleston: Like Robert, I also trained here. We were in the same year and graduated in 2009. 95 per cent of the work I’ve had in my career has come from the work placements I did while I was here. Unlike Robert, I was never interested in sound until I got to LAMDA. I did a show in my first year, and I hadn’t been interested in it whatsoever, but I had to do sound for
the last show of the year, and I was dreading it. It was a show called Journey’s End, which is set in the first world war in the trenches, so there were lots of bombs and explosions and I spent three weeks in the sound studio listening to all this and had a really great time! And I enjoyed it so much that at that point in the year when you make your choices for the following year - it completely shook up the whole idea of what I originally wanted to do. So I put down sound as my first choice, and it went from there.
How much has the place changed since you graduated? RT: The building has changed, but the course is very much the same, and that’s great. We are the oldest drama school and the first to recognise that you needed to train people to work in all areas of backstage. SC: The scope of the course has expanded according to demand. When we studied it was very much stage management and technical theatre, that was the name of the course. That’s only just changed to Production and Technical Arts - Stage and Screen. The underlying aim changed a little while ago to expand beyond just the theatre side of things. When we did it, it was mostly theatre and a couple of other bits and pieces, but nowadays we have a more expanded offering. For example, we have a film, TV and radio department. We are interacting with a lot more companies outside of the
theatre sphere and that’s because there is an increasing number of courses, like ours, being offered by nonspecialist organisations. You see a lot more university courses and technical colleges doing this stuff. That’s grown a lot in the last few years. I don’t know if there is more of a demand from students, or if there are just more places they can go.
So what are the main advantages of coming here as opposed to a non-specialist centre? RT: The reason I picked this course as a student, and it still remains the same now, is that I am dyslexic, and the course is very vocational. You start in September and spend up to Christmas in lectures. After that you are working on shows. We introduce lectures as part of that show structure; for me, any written work I would do was part of the show, which was fantastic. It’s very much a hands-on experience that we offer. You are on the sound desk. You are really interacting with your kit in a live way. We train students in how to mix bands as part of the course, but the shows are a very real, live experience. It gets them used to the pressures of working on a real live show. SC: There are technical courses offered by universities where they don’t do any shows, or they only do one or two. It’s either all classroom based or you’re not dealing with the pressures of real live show environments. For me, the only way to learn is by doing it. We also have very deep industry connections here. I’m not saying nowhere else does, but we have a very long history of people coming here and doing very well in the industry. And that feeds back to us here, so we have graduates from however long ago who we can call up to take students out on a work placement, or come in and do a session with students on any subject. We have a real breadth of industry knowledge that is institutional but also comes from the tutors as well.
What is your graduate employment rate? SC: At the moment our intake is 25-30 students per year and we have a rate of 90 per cent who either gain employment in the industry within the first three months of graduating or continue their education after graduating here. RT: Those work placements we offer really do set people up for their careers. The variety of our offering is part of the great employment rate. When they do leave here they have studied such a broad spectrum that if there was a job to do a bit of stage management and lighting, even if they want to specialise in sound, they can still do that. When I graduated, although I wanted to specialise in sound, I toured as a re-lighter, because I’d trained how to do that here. You get random phone calls from your mates saying, I know you’re a soundie, but maybe you can operate a lighting desk? It gives you flexibility. We know those first few jobs in the industry aren’t always going to be totally sound-orientated.
Photo: Thomas Thorpe
L-R: Robert Tweedie and Sam Charleston
How do students attain a place on the course?
year. How do you ensure the course is as inclusive as possible?
SC: It’s always difficult trying to fit the square peg of academic background into the round hole of vocational training. We do not require any previous academic qualifications for someone to be accepted. RT: It’s all about passion, and we can recognise that. If someone doesn’t have great academic qualifications but they’ve done amateur dramatics and something relevant at college then they will be considered. SC: It’s through the interview you can really see the passion; or equally we might see someone who looks great on paper but doesn’t come across as well in the interview.
RT: We generally have more female students – usually a ratio of about 2:1. SC: That’s the usual trend for our course. We used to see more women go into stage management and men go into the more technical areas, but that balance is changing and we are sending out a lot of female technicians now. We really don’t want the place to feel like a boys’ club. The industry as a whole can be very male dominated and a struggle for women to break into. RT: We make sure that we have women coming in [to give demonstrations/workshops] and we go on west end visits and make sure there are female role models the students can see.
And how do you ensure that the course is open to all potential students? SC: We have scholarships and bursaries. We try really hard not to lose anybody [due to the cost of tuition fees] because that’s not what we’re about. There are options for people of any background. The advantage we have as an institution is that we have some high-profile alumni, usually in the acting world, who can be quite generous at putting money back in.
The subject of gender diversity in the audio industry has been a major talking point this
Why should students come here? SC: We’re the UK’s oldest drama school, we’re the oldest technical course. No one does it as well as we do it. People will come because they want to learn in the best places. And London is the theatre capital of the world. If people want to be in theatre, this is where they’ll come. We are in a purpose-built theatre. We’ve got three small studios, we have film and TV recording studios. It’s such a flexible building. It’s exciting to see the new students passing through this place and putting their own stamp on it.n
PRODUCING THE GOODS M London-based artist, producer and engineer Mark Ralph has applied his multitude of talents to some of the most successful and critically acclaimed records of the past 10 years. Daniel Gumble spoke to him about his working methods, the ever-changing role of the producer and balancing commercial success with indie credibilityâ€Ś www.psneurope.com
ark Ralph has carved out something of a niche for himself in the pantheon of great British contemporary producers. His background as a recording artist and session musician prior to taking up residence behind the desk has imbued his technical prowess with an acute understanding of what makes artists tick, how to get the most out of them and, perhaps most importantly, how to coax out a hit, both critical and commercial.
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This combination has culminated in Ralph becoming one of the UK’s most in-demand producers for charttopping, mainstream acts as well as those at the edgier end of the musical spectrum. In 2016 he achieved a Christmas No.1 hit on the UK singles chart with Clean Bandit’s Rockabye, while in the same year producing or co-producing works with the likes of Years & Years, Foxes, M.O, Kygo, Jax Jones and many others. Scour his client list from the past 10 years and you’ll also find production credits with such critically acclaimed artists as Hot Chip, Franz Ferdinand, Anna Calvi, Daniel Avery, Jagwar Mar and a great many more. PSNEurope spoke to Ralph from his North West London studio to discuss his approach to work in the studio, production influences and some of his most memorable projects to date…
What first attracted you to the idea of becoming a producer? I came from the musician route. I learned guitar at a very young age and never thought of it as a viable career until I was about 18 and I got the chance to play as a session player, replacing Nile Rodgers on a We Are Family rerelease. I was all set to go to university to do electronic engineering and then I got this gig, a £50 session, and it was a big hit. That inspired me to take a year off before going to university, doing lots of gigs with local bands up in Stoke-on-Trent, where I’m from, and doing some guitar teaching to fill out my working schedule. Then I took another year off, then another, and after about 10 years realised I probably wasn’t going to go to uni! I moved to London when I was 21, joined a band and tried to get a record deal. From there I ended up getting a development deal with Telstar with that band, then we got dropped and I got another deal a few years later with a band called Filthy Dukes, which signed to Polydor. That eventually fizzled out and it left me with a choice: carry on pursuing the artist career or get behind the desk and develop newer artists. All those skills came together at that point. I learned through trial and error - I had no formal training. I see the value of formal training but I feel you don’t really start learning until you’re doing it.
So how did you hone those studio skills? I first learned how to use all the equipment you needed to make records when I was in my first band. I had a job at Tickle Music Hire driving stuff around London to studios and fixing bits of equipment. I learned lots of useful technical stuff in that job. At the beginning of the Filthy Dukes album I bought a mixing desk from [legendary producer] Conny Plank’s son, and I brought it back here from Germany and reassembled it in my studio. When I was working for Tickle I had to take a mixing desk and assemble it on the set of the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies - there’s a scene where he gets punched over a mixing desk. Having done that I knew how to reassemble a desk. Eventually I started doing more production for other people. It’s really
important as a producer to have some kind of music background as well as a technical background. the ability to encourage people to do things you want to achieve a certain result is something that comes with experience.
What were key projects that helped establish you as a producer? The more left of centre projects helped with getting artists interested in me. I did the last two Hot Chip albums, that’s how I got involved with Years & Years. They were aware of the Hot Chip stuff I’d done and some things with Daniel Avery and they wanted that kind of ‘coolness’ on their record but still have a commercial success with it. Clean Bandit was another good example. If you can prove to record companies not only that you can create a credible record but also a very successful one that definitely boosts demand for your work.
What’s your approach to producing? I meet the people I’m going to be working with and try to suss out how we’re going to make this a successful venture, how we’re going to make what the record company wants and what the artist wants to be one and the same thing. It varies every time. You’e got to make a bespoke method every time you enter the room with different people. That comes with experience, the ability to improvise in different environments, rather that saying, Right, we have to start with this, and then we’re going to do this. Some people I’ve worked with are very hands-off, like, Here’s the song, you do your production and we’ll come in and make a few changes and that’s the record. Others, particularly bands, want to be there for the whole process with everything pretty much already fully formed.
Do you have a preferred way of working? I like variety. If I did everything the same way every time I’d get bored. One of the hardest things for me about being in a band was that I was just making the same record over and over again. The people I was in the band with didn’t have the same reference points and we would tread the same path every time we tried to make a record. I find that quite suffocating and boring. You also learn a lot from the people that come in. People who are 20 years younger than me will come in and show me the way they work and I’ll pick things up from them, and they’ll play me things I haven’t heard before. It’s useful for me to have a variety of different people coming through and informing me as much as I’m informing them. I don’t have any ego about an 18-year-old showing me how to do things on Ableton. As technology changes there are infinite possibilities and ways of making music. There are still certain formulas that work in terms of song structures if you want to make pop records, and there are certain fundamentals and recording techniques that are a constant throughout your working practice, but the tools with which you can approach it are infinite.
Who are your key influences as a producer? When I came into it ‘producer’ meant something different to what it does now. These days it’s taken on more of an artist role. The reason there are so many ‘features’ on a record now is because producers are becoming the artists. Clean Bandit is a good example. But when I first started being inquisitive about producers, Tony Visconti would have been a big influence because of the David Bowie and T Rex records that I loved. John Leckie and Radiohead’s The Bends was a huge influence. Around that time I got to know Flood and Alan Moulder, they were working on Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins. There were little nuggets I would learn from Alan about how he did things with Billy Corgan and also with Depeche Mode. And I got to know David Allen who produced all The Cure records and we’ve worked together a few times - he also produced me when I was in a band. He has imparted lots of priceless information about producing. And Paul Epworth who did Bloc Party’s first album [The Silent Alarm]. Hearing that drum sound was a jaw-dropping moment, like, What am I doing wrong? From the new crop of producers, I guess Disclosure had a big impact when they released their first album. Any producer that spawns lots of copycats is one that has definitely broken the mould somewhere.
What have been some of your favourite records to work on? As a body of work I would say Communion by Years & Years is one I’m particularly proud of. It’s a big, commercially successful album that will also stand the test of time. They are a band who put the quality of the songs first and foremost. The production is very important as well, but if you have production without the quality of songs, they don’t last. Another really exciting one was Rockabye by Clean Bandit, which got to Christmas No.1, so that was a special Christmas for me! Hot Chip’s In Our Heads I have really fond memories of; getting to know the guys and hanging out over the course of six months was great. There is a track called Flutes that was created all in the analogue world, we had all these synths out and we recorded it all but we needed to do a live filter and EQ modulation all the way through; because it’s so repetitive we wanted to do something subliminally to make it sound like it was moving around, so we got every member of the band, plus me on the desk, with a different channel just doing our bit for seven minutes. Those great moments stick in your mind. Some records you perhaps don’t remember years later because they don’t have those special moments.
What’s next for you? I’m currently finishing the Clean Bandit album, we’re down to the last little bits, which are the hardest to get right. We’re doing little tweaks and whatnot. And there are a few other singles and bits and pieces lined up before the end of the year. n
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From July 13 to September 8, the Royal Albert Hall hosted the 2018 BBC Proms and the eclectic Late Night Proms concert series, with the latter featuring a wide range of artists bringing an orchestral twist to their signature sounds. Adding to the unique nature of each of these special shows was an L-Acoustics L-ISA immersive sound system, which offered “a great listening experience” to the audience, according to Stephen Hughes, account director at Delta Live, who we caught up with at the storied London venue…
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n a warm Wednesday morning in August, PSNEurope make its way to the Royal Albert Hall’s discrete stage doors, behind which rehearsals are taking place for this evening’s BBC Proms and Late Night Proms sessions. Tonight’s (August 8) theme is music from across the pond, specifically the East Coast. The first segment of tonight’s entertainment will bring together music from British and US composers, with Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra combining Benjamin Britten’s Sea Interludes and orchestral song-cycle Les Illuminations with music by Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber, while the latter ‘New York: Sound Of A City’ programme will celebrate the musical history of the Big Apple with the Heritage Orchestra and conductor Jules Buckley. A raft of special guests will also be contributing to proceedings, including Hercules & Love Affair, serpentwithfeet, Nitty Scott and singer songwriter Sharon Van Etten, who is already onstage rehearsing as we approach the FOH area to meet with Stephen Hughes, account director at Delta Live and the company’s project manager for the BBC Proms. Each of this year’s Late Night Proms will feature an L-Acoustics L-ISA system at its heart, adding a new, immersive dimension to the complex compositions and orchestrally embellished performances taking place throughout the programme. Over the course of each show, traditional rock’n’roll outfits, electronic music, R&B and hip-hop will all intertwine with a live orchestra, making the task of mixing each performance a potentially challenging one.
According to Hughes, who is also on FOH mixing duties for this particular show, the L-ISA system has been an invaluable asset to this year’s Proms programme. Having been involved with live events technical services provider Delta Live for several years, this is the first time he has used a system of this kind, not just at the Proms, but in any capacity. “Sound By Design (which was acquired by Delta Live) had the Proms contract from the year 2004, when I did my first freelance role on the show,” he explains. “So the contract was inherited in 2012 and since 2004 I’ve worked every season, and since 2011 I’ve been a full-time employee of Delta and managed the contract internally, sound designing all the live aspects and mixing quite a few of the shows, although I mix less these days as there is more to manage. Tonight is a rare one where I’m actually mixing, but more often than not I’m doing the sound design and looking at how it all pieces together - the mics, the logistics, booking the crew, and on the really big ones walking around and making sure the coverage is such as we need that all the audience and clients are happy. “This is the first time I’m using L-ISA and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to mix it tonight; I wanted to test it for my myself. We’ve had stereo in here for a very long time, but L-ISA, in the configuration we have it with KARA, has the horsepower you need without having to fight the room; you can evenly distribute the energy between the different hangs, you’re not exciting the room to the point that you’re getting more room back than you are direct sound. And you’re keeping perspective on
everything. It’s really great as a listening experience for the audience. I’ve been all around the venue and I would say we’d never go back to stereo following it, unless we were forced to. Especially in a circular room like this, it just seems to be the correct PA to put in here.” For Hughes, the system has been demonstrably beneficial to both artists and audiences alike. “This is the first time I’ve used anything like it, I’ve always just used stereo or mono,” he offers. “In this room some people take the approach of mono because it’s circular, and I completely get that, but the benefits you’re getting with L-ISA are that you are able to apportion different parts of the orchestra to different hangs, keeping the perspective and you’re getting less clutter. A good example was when we had Havana Meets Kingston perform, which was Prom 23, and I went to Womad to watch them before they came here and I saw the show on a conventional stereo system. It was very apparent that it was hard to get the right vocal definition; the hangs are fighting with each other, whereas with this we’ve been able to put the vocal dead centre and build the orchestra around it. And we’re finding that there is less conflict because everything has a higher degree of clarity.” As for the job of mixing a show using L-ISA, Hughes suggests that the vast creative opportunities on offer mean that a more thoughtful approach to the mix is required. Although he does note that, while perhaps adding to the engineer’s responsibilities, it ultimately makes for a more satisfying process. “In one respect it adds to the workload slightly
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Stephen Hughes at FOH
because you have to creatively think about every aspect, but that’s the benefit, you get to be more creative with placement,” says Hughes. “It’s easier to get a clear mix without overpowering the room or deafening the audience. You’re not doing damage limitation on a show where you’ve got a really loud stage. The Havana Meets Kingston example had a blisteringly loud stage with monitors all over it and had we been on a stereo system we would have been trying to fight to overpower it, whereas with this we could complement it, move things around and take control of the space. I’m running out of superlatives to explain how impressed I am with it!” One of the biggest challenges facing the Late Night Proms was striking the right balance when mixing a live orchestra with rock band set up and electro elements. Hughes elaborates: “The hardest thing is the unnaturally loud stuff onstage that can distort a balance. A purely classical orchestra on its own is fine because it’s selfcontrolled and self-balanced, whereas we’re introducing electronic elements and a rhythm section which can skew what’s going on elsewhere. It’s always tricky with a stereo system to complement that well and keep the perspective, so the audience gets a clear idea of who’s playing what and from which direction. And when you’re in the stereo realm you’re trying to compile a lot of information, especially on something like an orchestra where you’ve got 120-plus inputs. If you’re putting half in each or trying to split down the middle you’re really making life difficult in terms of getting that separation
and clarity. Some of these compositions are moving barto-bar with a different section or different member trying to stand out, and that’s really hard unless you’re chasing the faders. Here, because we’re giving everything space, it self-balances much better.” While the system has been a revelation for Hughes from a technical perspective, he is also keen to highlight the transformative impact it has had on audiences. “It’s a completely different listening experience,” he states. “I entered into this thinking, Is it a very big step forward or is it erring on the side of gimmicky? But having heard many concerts on it I find it hard to listen to stereo again without thinking about the benefits of using L-ISA. It’s the immersion that you get, especially if you’re near the front; you’re not just hearing things coming from the side or directly in front of you, you’re getting the perspective you should, everything is a lot clearer. And in a room like the Albert Hall, where vocals disappear forever, you’ve got more of a fighting chance.” PA for the shows consists of five hangs of L-Acoustics KARA (15 boxes each) and some L-Acoustics SB18s. These equidistant hangs are all made up of 110 degree boxes, meaning that, according to Hughes, about 60 per cent of the audience is sat within the immersive L-ISA zone, and beyond that it’s a conventional mono fill covering the rest due to the shape of the room. “In any conventional theatre everyone would get L-ISA,” Hughes clarifies. “So 60 per cent is pretty good for this venue, bearing in mind the constrictions of the
fixed rigging. And we have an L-ISA controller at FOH which interfaces with the Digico desk, so everything I do on the mixing desk flows right into L-ISA and outputs the amps. So we do all the panning information on L-ISA itself and there is an interface where it appears on the desk, which is absolutely amazing. L-ISA is very adaptable with the 94 inputs it gives you. And the Digico, to my mind, is the most flexible board on the market. This entire set up is of the highest standard possible for something as important as this.” Art Sereika, systems engineer at Delta Live, concurs, highlighting the flexibility of the system as a major asset. “It’s a very intuitive system, very simple to use and adapt to,” he comments. “What will take longer is changing people’s mindsets because you are no longer constrained by left and right. So if you hard-pan a traditional system, half the audience will miss it, whereas if you hard-pan something with this system the audience is still hearing it, but the difference is they are hearing it coming from one side of the stage. Everything sounds rich and so much more interesting.” As for the future, Sereika believes that the possibilities of L-ISA extend beyond the realm of classical music, and could easily be applied to a diverse array of shows and live events. “Amplified classical music really benefits from it because you get such a wide image,” he concludes. “But anything could benefit from it. It’s just about getting through to people with it. It can be applied to any gig.” n
Photo: Nick Kane
Music for the masses: The Rockin’ 1000
The Italian job
Last month, some 1,454 performers from over 30 different countries performed in Florence, Italy as part of this year’s Rockin’ 1000 That’s Live event, featuring a guest appearance from Hole legend Courtney Love and backed by a Powersoft and Outline sound reinforcement system. PSNEurope finds out from those involved about the challenges of powering the biggest band on earth…
ow in its third year, the Florence-based Rockin’ 1000 extravaganza has become one of the most talked about and challenging live fixtures on the Italian live events calendar. The concept was conceived back in 2015 when entrepreneur Fabio Zaffagnin called on 1,000 local musicians to perform Foo Fighters’ hit Learn To Fly in a bid to lure the US rock giants to perform in their city. And it worked, with Dave Grohl and co playing a special gig for the 1,000 later that year. As a result, Zaffagnini became the recipient of the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award, and led the 1,000 to play an 18-song concert to an audience of 15,000 at Cesena’s Orogel Stadium in 2016. This year, the Rockin’ 1000 was back bigger and better still with That’s Live – a full gig featuring special guest Courtney Love of Hole, which took place at the Artemio Franchi football stadium in Florence on July 21 in front of an audience of 13,000. Bringing together 1,454 performers from over 30 countries, the musicians were divided into seven sections, comprising 282 drummers,
297 bass players, 401 guitarists, 305 vocalists, 64 horn players, 50 keyboard players and 55 percussionists. The Rockin’ 1000 team called on Powersoft and Outline to deliver audio for the show, with the two companies assembling an impressive team of professionals in the lead up to and during the concert, including Francesco Penolazzi, audio veteran and sound designer for the show, and FOH engineer and system tech Luca Stefani. Penolazzi and Stefani had to specify the equipment in advance for an event with no precedent, basing their selection purely on experience and acoustic predictions at a very early stage. As Rockin’ 1000 is self-financing, there was a balance to strike between value whilst making no compromises when it came to quality. The team settled on a main Outline PA with 10 stacks (six with six GTO C-12 each and four with five GTO each) and six lines of subs, all in end fire array (four formed by four DBS 18-2 and two made up of four LAB 21 HS). Explaining the specification process for the show, Stefani told PSNEurope: “The real challenge for us came
in Cesena, where for the first time Rockin’ 1000 played for a real live audience. It all started when Francesco went to a seminar of Don Davis, where for the very first time he heard about the philosophy and the principles behind the wall of sound of the Grateful Dead. The main concept of the Rockin’ 1000 system design follows the basic rules of that, with some important adaptations and implementation that came with new technologies available to us. The end result is what you have seen and heard in Florence. Not much has changed from the first setup done in Cesena, but we made some important upgrades and adjustments in every section of the sound system. “To specify the equipment, we merged all our experience (together we have around 45 years of experience in the sector) and most importantly, we come from two completely different paths; our long and sometimes animated discussions give life to what is the innovative Rockin’ 1000 sound. The equipment has been specified based on some basic but really important points. First of all, Rockin’ 1000 is a really complex event
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and we need to use equipment that give us absolute reliability. After this we have a really high count of input and output channels, we need extreme flexibility of routing, we need to cope with the high SPL pressure coming from the 1,500 musicians, we have the PA close to players and microphones and we need speakers with a really good pattern control. We need to apply mic techniques that will be good for amplification and for recording as well.” Unsurprisingly, the loudspeaker setup for such a show isn’t like most conventional concerts. “The approach is quite different from what we usually deploy for a normal stadium show,” Penolazzi tells PSNEurope. “We want to give the audience the feeling that the sound comes from the 1,000 (1,500 this time). The big issue to solve is that the source is 100 meters wide and the audience is also 100 meters wide and in some seats a block of guitars might come from 50 metres on your right and the other guitar block comes from 50 metres on your left. “To be able to keep the correct sound image, every seat of the audience had two sound sources pointing at it, one coming from left and the other coming from right. Each cluster then had a dedicated mix that we made with the remote control of the PM10 walking around the stadium during the rehearsals.” Meanwhile, Powersoft application engineers Luca Gianni and Thiago Terra were responsible for the rig’s power. Terra explains: “The PA was powered by 16 Powersoft X8s and the monitor set up (including foldback between conductor Peppe Vessicchio, the
stage manager and musicians) by three more Powersoft amps, all connected via Dante and with an analogue backup. The X8s enabled us to monitor the status of the mains supply. With mains feeds coming from various parts of the field, it was important to have a general overview, and the X8s also allowed us to do a little tuning and alignment responding to cues from the team.” Powersoft’s X Series amplifier platform utilises a new system of channel routing, worldwide compatible three phase power supply and a full featured DSP, while natively supporting AES3 and two redundant Dante by Audinate digital streams and analogue inputs, providing up to four different selectable input sources per channel. Outline tech support and R&D engineer, Giulio Gandini, expanded on the technical approach: “The pitch area was huge with all musicians spread across it. The brief from the sound engineers was for the PA to reinforce the sound arriving from the musicians and keep the listening experience as realistic as possible. It was one of those rare cases where the usual rules don’t necessarily apply. In this scenario you would generally try to achieve even coverage with as little overlapping as possible between enclosures to ensure identical sound in every seat, but here we had to overlap between the various clusters to deliver realistic sound.” On the loudspeaker set up, he continued: “The systems were quite far away from the audience, so the use of line-array elements fitted with precise waveguides meant we could achieve extremely accurate sound coverage. The brief was for clusters with five or six enclosures in order to have a suitable vertical
configuration ensuring a good throw with the low frequencies – crucial when amplifying an almost 1,500 strong band.” The Powersoft and Outline teams had to consider the fact that the majority of the PA was aimed at the stadium’s roofed stand, which had different acoustics from the roofless curves. During calibration and finetuning, they worked closely with the sound engineers to optimise the results, using Powersoft’s proprietary Armonía software, which controlled the Powersoft amplifiers. Armonía allows projects to be set up offline and then matched to the hardware at the venue. An Outline Newton 16+8 system control and networking unit also received signals from the main FOH console and was on standby in case of network problems – receiving a Dante signal distributed to the amplifiers on the pitch. As for what we can expect from next year’s outing, Stefani concluded: “Every year we get close to what we have in mind as the optimal sound. At the moment we are thinking about doubling the number of sound sources (without increasing the sources location) to be able to split the harmonic content in two adjacent clusters. The main issue that we had is that a single speaker cluster can’t properly reproduce all the harmonic content and impulses that we send to it; by splitting the mix in two adjacent clusters we will reduce a lot this effect. This technique is already applied in some shows with good results. “We also have lots of interesting ideas but you will see them applied at the next Rockin’ 1000.” n
Almost 1,500 musicians took part in That’s Live
Come on you Spurs: The new home of Tottenham Hotspur
Home advantage Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur are soon to move into their brand new home, which is set to become one of the most advanced, state-of-the-art stadia in the world. PSNEurope speaks to Harman, its official audio supplier, about the high-end spec and the challenges of kitting out a world-class, multi-purpose venue…
t the time of writing, the footballing world had been expecting Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium to be up and running, hosting Premiership fixtures and legendary nights of Champions League football, while also setting the scene for NFL matches, live concerts and all manner of other large-scale events. However, come the start of the Premier League season, things got a bit, well, ‘Spursy’; a term to indicate falling at the final hurdle or snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, for those unfamiliar with such football parlance. With the stage set for the club’s first home game of the season, a series of construction issues caused major delays to the grand opening, with numerous fixtures relocated to Spurs’ temporary home at Wembley Stadium. As it stands, a new opening date is yet to be set. But while we don’t yet know when the new stadium will be open, we do know plenty about its audio infrastructure. In July, Harman was unveiled as the club’s audio supplier, providing a range of products and systems, including Crown amplifiers and JBL Professional loudspeakers and subwoofers to complement the state-of-the-art facilities at the stadium, which includes the largest screens in any stadium in western Europe. To find out more, PSNEurope caught up with Harman’s Chris Smith, VP and general manager EMEA sales, professional solutions UK….
How did the partnership with Tottenham Hotspur come about? In 2017, Harman’s UK distributor Sound Technology responded to the tender specification produced by consultant Vanguardia. The spec called for a wide variety of loudspeakers to cover the different areas within the
stadium, both within the bowl and for the hospitality areas, concourse and back-of-house areas. Harman products comprise the majority of components of the PAVA (Public Address Voice Alarm) system.
Tell us about the systems in place and how the specification was decided upon. Tottenham Hotspur is the first installation of the new JBL VLA-Compact loudspeaker system. Built upon the technology of its larger siblings, the VLA series, the VLACompact is an installation specific line-array loudspeaker system providing concert quality sound at the medium throw distances typical in European stadia. Along with the bowl, JBL loudspeakers are used throughout the venue, including within the many high-spec hospitality spaces, the press conference room and concourse areas both internal and external. Powering these loudspeakers are Crown DCi amplifiers all connected over Dante. Using the DCi series allows for monitoring of all amplifiers and loudspeaker circuits over IP. The PAVA system is critical to fan safety, so audio quality and speech intelligibility are paramount. Each loudspeaker used in the stadium was chosen to match its acoustic environment and is placed within the Dante signal path to ensure there is no degradation to the audio signal. It was the club’s aim to enhance the fan experience through the integration of AV technology, and audio plays a large part in achieving this. By using a single system to deliver paging, production audio and emergency announcements, Tottenham invested in a single set of high-quality loudspeakers, which meet all these requirements. Coverage within the stadium is exceptional, with around 4,000 loudspeakers deployed in total, separated into over 250 zones. The VLA-Compact loudspeakers used in the
stadium bowl fully incorporate a weatherised fiberglass enclosure, which is IP55 rated and suited to outdoor installations. Furthermore, the monitoring and integration capabilities of the system enable integrator SSE a clear picture of system health at all times
What clinched the deal for Harman? Presumably competition was very high. New build Premiership stadia don’t come around very often. With Tottenham we were in competition with a number of leading audio technology brands. Ultimately, through the tender process, Harman provided an excellent technical and commercial proposition. Key to our success was our broad product portfolio, which met the loudspeaker requirements of the many different areas within the venue. The intensive pace of the project required a dynamic approach to the evolving needs of the club. The Harman and Sound Technology applications teams supported integrator SSE through design and delivery with consultant Vanguardia overseeing the whole process.
How much of a statement does a partnership like this make to the market? It makes a very big statement. Harman products are used in stadia worldwide, including 11 of the World Cup stadia in Russia and around 50% of all NFL venues in the US. We have recently completed an audio solution for The Banc of California Stadium, the home of the Los Angeles Football Club. It has been a pleasure working with a customer like Tottenham with such a clear vision of how technology can enhance the sport experience and how to utilise a stadium on and off match days. n
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L-R: Mike Castoro and Trevor Horn
The Village people Launched in November 2015, Sarm Music Village has quickly established itself as one of Europe’s leading recording complexes. Simon Duff takes a look around with studio managerJed Kellett and engineer Joel Peters...
wned and run by Trevor Horn, Sarm Music Village facilities include six top flight studios, residential rooms, an event room and online mastering. When Horn announced in 2011 that Sarm West was closing and a new complex was to be built at a nearby Ladbroke Grove site, the news was met with an air of sadness within the industry. Horn’s own unique sonic adventures were very much aligned to what he and Jill Sinclair had created at Sarm since 1983. However, those fears have been displaced. At the new facility the spirit of cutting edge production remains. Jed Kellett, studio manager at Sarm Studios since 2015, has managed a number of the big London studios, including Metropolis and Miloco. Joel Peters, who started his music career as a drummer before gaining a degree in Music Technology and Audio Systems at the University of Huddersfield, joined Sarm West in 2012. He quickly worked his way through the ranks becoming an
assistant engineer for clients including Rihanna, Jessie J and The X Factor and working on Trevor Horn’s projects. Since 2015 he has been Horn’s first choice studio engineer, overseeing all his projects. Kellett summarises the first three years of business at SMV: “We really have gone from strength to strength at what is a hard time for recording studios. Bookings have come right back in the last year. When we left Sarm West we never took it for granted that our clients would follow us to the new building. So we worked really hard to rebuild our new brand. For a studio that is so steeped in music history we are very focused on new music and new trends. So we have done a good job of catering for both our old clients and new ones. We are more focused on the modern type of studio based on mixing, over dubs and highly efficient, sensitive data handling.” SMV is based around six studios with full-time staff comprised of two engineers, three assistants and a
maintenance engineer. The Blue Studio is the main studio, designed by John Flynn who created the original Sarm Studio 1. Situated partially below street level, both control room and live room benefit from panoramic views through specialist double-thickness privacy glass. The centrepiece of the control room is a 24-channel Solid State Logic AWS924 console, with full SSL AWSomation and DAW control of Pro Tools HDX 1 and Logic Pro X. Main monitoring is provided by Genelec 1237As and dual 7070A subs, with cutting edge DSP room calibration. Near field monitors are Yamaha NS10s powered by fully reconditioned vintage Studer power amplifiers, taken from Sarm West Studio 1. Peters explains what he likes about the AWS: ”For vocals, which I record a lot of at Sarm, I mostly recorded in the box. But having the AWS allows me to return on an SSL channel, what is being recorded onto separate monitor outputs routed to the AWS. Then I will compress
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that on the AWS and this gives the artist an impression of how it will be heard on radio or other formats. That is important to me. All involved in the production can hear a well compressed SSL quality version of the vocal, separate to Pro Tools, as if it had been mastered. The centre section has a comprehensive metering, all round headphone mix controls and other quality functions. As much as possible we are trying to give the impression of a finished mastered version. The console flips easily between Pro Tools and the AWS at the touch of a button.” Peters is also a big fan of the Avid Pro Tools S3, 16 fader control surface. He adds: “Using its EuCon protocol, I can balance up really big vocal sessions that might contain hundreds of tracks. Using the S3, within two clicks I can see a whole vocal layout and organise tracks intuitively.” The second studio is called The Red Studio, also known as the ZTT Studio. Like The Blue Studio it has a wealth of natural light in the control room and a world class design, combining vintage with modern and replacing a console with a range of top analogue gear classics, including Neve 1073 and API 3124mb+ preamps, Tube-Tech and Urei compressors, plus a vintage Fairchild 670 compressor. Main monitors are Genelec as in the Blue Studio with Yamaha NS10s for near field. Vintage microphones from Sarm’s collection are available. A top of the range Pro Tools HDX rig runs on a solid-state 6-core Mac Pro. The other four studios are the Yellow Studio, created for high quality vocal sessions and fast-paced production work, two Green Suites, for writing and production, and The Orange Suite, long-term let production room. Recent clients at SMV include Dua Lipa, Anne Marie, Mabel, Ray BLK and The X Factor, who block book rooms from October to December. Peters, in becoming Horn’s first choice studio engineer, spends a lot of his working life at Horn’s personal home studio, close to Sarm. Based on Quested monitoring, a recent purchase for that facility is a new console in the form of a Wunder Audio Wunderbar analogue console - the company is the brainchild of Mike Castoro, based in Texas. Horn’s console is a 24-channel Wunderbar with in-line monitoring. There are 120 Western Electric style, hand-wound custom Cobalt mu-metal transformers, fully transformer balanced for very smooth top-end, big-bottom, and a wide-open soundstage. The summing has three vintage stereo bus flavours and symmetrically balanced discrete, class-A, for an ultra low noise floor. “It’s an absolutely amazing sounding console,” adds Peters. “When I work with Trevor we mainly work in Pro Tools, but at times we will multi-track to analogue on a Studer A800 with a 16-track head block that we like the sound of. Using the Wunderbar we can stem mixes out of a DAW and use the console as required. It was installed in August 2018 by Steve Evans, Sarm’s longstanding maintenance engineer. It’s the solid centrepiece of the studio.”
L-R: Jed Kellet and Joel Peters
TREVOR HORN HAS BEEN SO INFLUENTIAL IN CREATING MODERN MUSIC PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES, BUT I THINK HE WILL BE THE FIRST TO SAY THAT DOESN’T MATTER IF THE SONG IS NO GOOD. HE WOULD NEVER DRESS SOMETHING UP THAT WAS NOT GOOD ENOUGH JOEL PETERS
Instrument-wise, Horn’s current home writing set up is based around an AKAI MPC touch sampler/controller programmer, Korg Kronos or Triton keyboards, bass, guitars and a Pro Tools rig. For vocal recording, Peters explains his ideal signal path. “We use a Sony C-800G. One of the best mics ever made in my opinion. The top end is so clear and all round it is so clean and rock solid. Compression-wise my ideal choice is a Tube-Tech CL1B. For vocal reverbs in Pro Tools I like Altiverb from Audioease. In fact, Arjen from Altiverb made impulse responses from the Sarm West rooms and the reverb plates in 2013 before it closed, so I can get the original Sarm West sound, which is amazing. I like EchoBoy as well. For mastering I use WaveLab.” Horn’s recent production work includes music on a Japanese animation TV series for Stan Lee called The Reflection. Horn and Peters worked on songs with the Japanese girl band 9nine and did some live shows in Japan with the band. The pair also recently completed the re-issued version of the Yes album Fly From Here with new vocals from Horn.
Music Bank, Sarm’s sister company, is a rehearsal facility and backline hire firm, run by Jimmy ‘Mac’ McNally. The company has recently relocated from it’s previous Tower Bridge HQ to a new state of the art, purpose built Park Royal facility in West London. Kellett adds: “It’s an incredible facility with four large, top spec rehearsal studio spaces - probably Europe’s largest backline hire, writing rooms and storage spaces.” Horn and his regular 13-piece band recently opened the new facility with a bespoke gig featuring an assortment of works from Horn’s illustrious career. SSE supplied the PA with Peters acting as production manager, overseeing all audio requirements. “We have a great working relationship with SSE, who supplied a d&b V Series PA with D80 amps and the consoles,” said Kellett. Monitors were mixed by SSE engineer Kevo Moran, a Horn regular on monitors, using an Avid S6L, allowing for Horn’s Pro Tools plug ins to be used. FOH mixer for Horn is either Tim Weidner or Colin Walker with Peters on-hand for the mix as well. For the Music Bank gig the FOH console was a Digico SD6.” So how does Peters think Horn has remained at the top of his game for so long? “I think because he cares so much about the song. Obviously he has been so influential in creating modern music production techniques but I think he will be the first to say that doesn’t matter if the song is no good. He would never dress something up that was not good enough. His production is a nod to the song, that it is good enough to have that level of production.” Looking to the future, how will Sarm continue to stay at the cutting edge of music production? Peters concludes: “We are very optimistic and determined to stay at the forefront of music production. As a company we are highly dynamic with fantastic dedicated staff. There are lots of plans in the pipeline. We are looking at building new studios in the UK. Yes, the industry is changing a lot but we are very good at running with the times. Testament to that is Sarm Music Village. It’s an exciting time for us.” n
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Back to the future
London music tech event We Are Robots returns to the Old Truman Brewery this month, aiming to make sense of the rapid innovation happening in the audio industry at the moment through product launches, demonstrations, workshops and discussions, all focused firmly on the future. Tara Lepore asks the event’s co-founders Emma Joyce and Gordana Jovkovic why an event like this is needed and what’s in store for its second outing...
L-R: Emma Joyce and Gordana Jokovic
ioneering innovation has always been at the heart of the audio industry and its pursuit of achieving the perfect listening experience. The technological era we’re now living in means anyone with a laptop and a pair of headphones can shape the future of sound. At the time of writing, a quick search of audio projects on crowdfunding site Indiegogo brings up more than 700 results, with some products boasting millions of dollars’ worth of financial backing from optimistic audiophiles across the world. But with user feedback at the heart of this new technology’s patenting process, hearing this boundary-pushing equipment is integral to its development. That’s where music technology event We Are Robots comes in. Now in its second year, the three-day show at the Old Truman Brewery in East London takes place from October 12-14. It aims to provide industry professionals with the chance to discover the latest in music technology and newcomers the chance to learn
more about the art of making electronic music through demos, workshops and thought-provoking panel discussions. Half of last year’s attendees were industry professionals, with the remaining demographic made up of students (30%) and the general public (20%). With event partners including Source Distribution, Teenage Engineering and the Audio Engineering Society (AES), the event certainly has the industry’s backing in its second year. PSNEurope had a chat with the event’s co-founders Emma Joyce and Gordana Jovkovic about what’s in store for the event this month…
technology events? EJ: Last year we handpicked the most immersive and interactive brands, worked with sound and light installation artists, and curated a conference discussing subjects that aren’t often even touched upon, such as the future position of women in the music industry.
How has your industry expertise helped launch the event?
EJ: We were looking to create a show for people in the industry but also to teach newcomers how to make music electronically. We Are Robots 2018 looks to do the same.
GJ: As well as working at the Old Truman Brewery, I’m also a pianist, composer and keyboard player. I have had the luck to work with some amazing DJs, music producers and artists and have spent a lot of time in recording studios around the latest gear. These experiences helped me understand more about music trends and led me to create this event with Emma to show off the innovators within this great industry.
How does it stand out from other music
How did the feedback you received from last
Why did you launch the event last year?
Hands-on: We Are Robots 2018 will feature a series of demos and workshops
year’s event influence this year’s line-up? EJ: This year we are giving the brands a bigger presence and opening it up to a wider audience. We’re doing this by moving the show to the shop front and making it free. Not charging for entry this year was extremely important to us as we want it to be accessible to all. This year our exhibitors are located on Dray Walk (just opposite the Rough Trade East shop in east London) so it’s really easy for people to just walk past and pop in.
AI CAN’T COMPLETELY TAKE OVER THE CREATIVE PROCESS, BUT IT’S DEFINITELY MAKING MUSIC CREATION EASIER THAN EVER BEFORE GORDANA JOVKOVIC
What can visitors expect this time? EJ: As well as the opportunity to immerse themselves in forward-thinking music technology, there’ll be a great insight into future innovation in the music industry. London-based music technology company Roli - known for its Seaboard and BLOCKS instruments - will be hosting workshops and demonstrations using its innovative equipment. Source Distribution will be also be exhibiting. These guys distribute for Moog, Arturia, Genelec and Eventide and have teamed up with Red Dog Music to bring a selection of analogue synths, effects, and sequencers to the shop space – all set up and ready to try, buy, and take home on the day. Experts will be on hand to help create music with the gear and they will have a programme of free interactive talks and live demos throughout the show. Teenage Engineering will be also be on site sporting its range of products. The AES is hosting the panel discussion ‘Technologies in Music: How Far Have We Come and Where Do We Go Next? (VR, AR and Immersion)’. This will be followed by a musical set by PhD students from Queen Mary University London’s Augmented Instruments laboratory.
How can events like this help people learn more about the world of music technology? EJ: We Are Robots offers companies a platform to launch new products, demonstrating the future innovation of music. These companies go out of their way to curate workshops and demonstrations, promoting their new products in non-traditional ways to boost their brands and show the world the latest in music technology.
What trends do you expect to see develop in music tech in the next 12 months? GJ: There’ll be a lot of focus on how artificial intelligence is changing the music industry. AI can’t completely take over the creative process, but it’s definitely making music creation easier than ever before - several music softwares have been developed that use AI to produce music. However, I believe what’ll be a greater innovation is Computer Learning. CL is used in other industries and allows software algorithms to not only resolve specific
issues by finding solutions easily - as AI does - but by allowing algorithms to develop and solve entire issues on past experience. A possible example of this would be writing a score of one instrument and the CL will know the best fit for all of the other instruments scores in whichever style of music you choose. This will allow for anyone to become the next Chopin or Jimi Hendrix - whether that’s good or not, who knows? VR is getting a lot of attention as well - especially in the music world - and that’s really exciting. There’s lots of talk about how VR could potentially change the game in terms of music festivals and live music, which is really mind-blowing.
How important is diversity and equality when talking about the future of music tech? EJ: Last year, the subject of women in music technology was a prominent part of the festival. We can’t highlight enough the importance for progress in this department and there is still so much more we could be doing. There are so many great female innovators, musicians and engineers, particularly as the two co-founders are women. We Are Robots are massive supporters of women in music and we will always offer them a platform to be heard.
How would you like to see the event grow in the next five years? EJ: We would love to see We Are Robots grow, to include even more women innovators, have even more incredible performances and become the destination where people will come to visit to view - and most importantly try - the latest in music technology. n
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Proposed EU Comms Code to give digital radio boost Terrestrial digital radio systems like DAB+ may appear old tech compared to IP mobile devices but, as Kevin Hilton reports, a provisional EU directive looks set to increase the more established technology’s reach across Europe...
lans are underway to broaden the selection of digital terrestrial radio services across Europe and promote the uptake of the technology in general. Just before its summer recess the European Parliament voted in favour of proposals that will require new cars to feature radios capable of receiving digital radio signals. In July the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) gave formal approval to a political deal proposed in trilogue - the three policy and law making institutions of the European Union (EU): the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council - that will
eventually result in a new EU Electronic Communications Code, updating the existing telecommunications regulations that became law in 2009. As might be expected, this updated Code, proposed by the Commission, focuses most of its 1,000-odd pages on mobile phones and devices, with the creation of new high-capacity fixed networks a priority. Part of this will involve making rules for co-investment “more predictable”, while encouraging risk to be shared in the deployment of new networks. There will also be a promotion of “sustainable competition for the benefit of consumers”. A major part of the new Code will be to accelerate the
rollout of 5G networks by making sure suitable radio spectrum is available in the EU by the end of 2020. This is already underway through the reallocation of the 700MHz band, which has ramifications for digital terrestrial television (DTT) and, particularly, users of radio microphone and in-ear monitoring equipment. Once the frequencies have been allocated to mobile operators and new media companies, which will take part in a bidding process, the aim is to provide them with “predictability for at least 20 years in terms of spectrum licensing”. Alongside these provisions are recommendations aimed at continuing and expanding the uptake of digital
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terrestrial radio across Europe. The aim appears to be to emulate what was done with DTT in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, which culminated in switching off analogue TV frequencies. Because the EU aims to be seen as “technology neutral”, it prefers to use the term “digital terrestrial radio” rather than naming specific formats. The two main systems currently used in European countries are DAB (increasingly its enhanced version, DAB+) and DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). Of the two, DAB/DAB+ is analogous to FM and has been implemented for national, regional and, most recently, small-scale local services. The technology was first implemented in the mid to late 1990s, with the UK a leading proponent. This explains why the country continues to use the first incarnation of DAB at a time when other European countries have either fully adopted DAB+ or are using a mixture of the two with the aim of eventually going completely for the enhanced version. In 2017 Norway became the first European country to switch off its national analogue radio networks in favour of DAB+, although FM is still used for some local and community services. Italy and Switzerland are both considering similar moves by 2020, with other countries beginning to seriously consider the issue. DRM was intended as the digital equivalent of medium and short wave and is used primarily for international broadcasting - as is the case with Radio France International, Radio Romania International and the BBC World Service - and in large countries with remote regions and varying terrain, such as India. The proposals for digital terrestrial radio in the updated Communications Code are designed to further encourage member states in either implementing the technology or moving existing networks to the point where a digital switch-off (DSO) can be considered. Key amongst these is requiring car manufacturers to fit new passenger cars with receivers that can pick up digital radio transmissions as well as FM services. WorldDAB is the international organisation that promotes the adoption of DAB/DAB+. Its president, Patrick Hannon, comments that it has been working with the EU institutions over the last three years to get support for the continuing roll-out of digital terrestrial radio across Europe. “We initially spoke to them about including digital radio in the 2016 Digital Single Market Strategy but that didn’t go as granular as to include radio,” Hannon says. Since then, WorldDAB has continued to talk to members of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. He adds that what has emerged now breaks down into two areas: automotive on a pan-EU level and the approach of each member with regard to consumer digital radios in the home. “On the automotive side, the proposed directive says that receivers in all new cars should have digital terrestrial capacity in addition to FM,” he comments. “That’s not official yet but we hope it will happen by the spring of next year. As far as consumer radios are
THE EXPECTATION IS THAT OVER TIME MORE COUNTRIES WILL ADOPT THE COMMON STANDARD FOR DIGITAL RADIO, AND ULTIMATELY SOME NATIONS LIKE SWITZERLAND AND NORWAY WILL CHOOSE TO SWITCH OFF ANALOGUE BROADCASTS FORD ENNALS, DIGITAL RADIO UK
concerned, essentially it will be up to member states to legislate in they way they want.” Hannon says WorldDAB welcomes the proposed new Code for a number of reasons. “It probably does two things,” he comments. “There’s the recognition from the EU that digital terrestrial radio is an important part of the [broadcast/media] ecosystem. That doesn’t mean it is being in all countries of the EU but several, if not the majority, are using it so. So being able to move from one country to another and get the benefits of the technology is significant.” Another aspect is the acknowledgement that a terrestrial format developed from a technology wireless radio transmission - over 120 years old still has a role to play at a time when IP and data-based communications are seen as the future. Over the last 10 or so years the argument has been put forward that systems such as DAB/DAB+ are rapidly becoming obsolete, with internet radio offering similar services and benefits on a wider range of devices. Proponents of digital radio have argued against this and Hannon says the EU’s draft Code confirms it still has a role to play: “We talk about the benefits of terrestrial digital radio and that there is still a need for it in a world of IP. From a policy-maker’s point of view there are several advantages, including the fact that it’s free to air, but the major benefit is that it is reliable. “Digital broadcast radio will not crash when there is bad weather or if there is something more extreme, like a terrorist attack. In such situations mobile networks are prone to collapse.” While the proposed legislation is not specifically about DAB, Hannon feels it does acknowledge it as “a core platform in Europe”. As for digital radio technology in general, he says, “this is a clear signal that the EU is supportive of it. They want to see it prosper in the 21st century but it is down to the individual governments [within the EU] to do that.”
There are signs that this is beginning to happen in several EU countries now. Hannon cites Italy, which began looking at the shift to digital on a regional basis, as planning to introduce new legislation. In France the government has said that when digital radio coverage hits 20 per cent of French territory, manufacturers will be required to fit DAB+ tuners into all equipment sold in the country. “And the coalition in Germany is pushing for legislation but is talking about interoperability and capacity,” Hannon says. “There is no timetable but countries are moving in the direction of digital.” Despite the enthusiasm of regulators and politicians, there has been vocal and significant resistance from listeners in many countries who do not want to lose their FM radios and frequencies. Hannon responds by saying that all new radios, both for car and home, have analogue capability as well as digital. But he does acknowledge the dissent, which was prominent in Norway (although it should be pointed out that the country is not an EU member). “There were many who were disgruntled by the switch-off in Norway and there has been a slight decline in listening numbers,” Hannon says. “By the end of 2017 there had been a drop of about 10 per cent, which was expected and is non-trivial. But by the second quarter of this year it had narrowed to about seven per cent and what has come out of it is that a third of listening is now to stations that weren’t on FM.” Although it has lead the way with digital radio and DAB in particular, the UK does have pockets of resistance against the technology. Then there is the matter of resistance from significant proportions of the country to directives from the EU and the impending departure from the Union. However, Hannon does not think leaving the EU will have an impact on the adoption of digital radio: “The UK is in the fortunate position of having more than 90 per cent of new cars fitted with digital radios. This directive may or may not have become official by March 2019 but the government has talked about regulatory alignment.” Digital Radio UK similarly welcomes the proposed Code. “We see it as good news for drivers in Europe as it will mean all new cars will be DAB/DAB+ compatible and have access to the full range of broadcast services across Europe,” says chief executive Ford Ennals. “In the UK over 92 per cent of new cars have DAB/DAB+ as standard but we are pushing towards 100 percent so welcome legislation that would facilitate that.” Ennals observes that the updated Code will “embed digital radio more securely across the whole of Europe”, moving on from what has already taken place. “The development of the Code reflects the expansion across many European member states, including Germany, the UK, Italy, France, Holland, Denmark and Belgium,” he says. “The expectation is that over time more countries will adopt the common standard for digital radio and ultimately some nations, like Switzerland and Norway, will choose to switch off analogue broadcasts.” n
P42 OCTOBER 2018
You Me At Six (Dan Flint, second left)
Six of the best With their sixth album VI, released on October 5, You Me At Six make their first foray into the world of production, having co-produced the record with revered producer Dan Austin. Daniel Gumble spoke to drummer Dan Flint to discuss the band’s new sonic direction…
ix albums in and UK rock outfit You Me At Six have still managed to notch up a couple of firsts with their latest outing. Released on October 5, VI marks not only the first record to be released via their own label, Underdog Records (in partnership with AWAL), but also the band’s first step into the world of production. Recorded at Vada Studios, VI was co-produced by the band with acclaimed producer Dan Austin, who has worked with the likes of Biffy Clyro, Pixies, Massive Attack and many others. The resulting record is one that sees the band expand their
sonic range further than ever before, combining rock, pop and electronica and spanning a variety of genres. To find out more, PSNEurope caught up with the band’s drummer Dan Flint, who took a leading role behind the desk, to find out how they “made a beast”...
lived and breathed it, as we all did. The studio was also residential, so at any point throughout the day there was something going on. The rule book was thrown
How different was the process compared to previous records you’ve made?
How hands-on were you personally during the recording and mixing process?
This process was extremely different. We worked with a producer who was very hands-on. In the studio manning the ship from 9am to sometimes 2/3am. He
We worked very closely with Dan to make sure every sound was absolutely spot on. I found myself spending a lot of time on my own laptop finding loops,
out. We had a creative space for us to explore any idea possible and it made the whole process very exciting.
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instruments and a lot of auxiliary parts to either bulk moments or even give new colour to certain parts of the songs. For the mixing, we all got our heads together and made some choices, then I built a close relationship with (mix engineer) Cenzo Townsend, and I would call him up so he could really understand our collective thought on the song. Sometimes it’s not just about a part coming up or down in volume but actually a certain feeling or vibe you’re missing. Having a real conversion about it gets this across a lot easier than just sending someone an email of mix notes.
FROM STUDYING MUSIC AT COLLEGE I’VE ALWAYS HAD AN INTEREST IN RECORDING. SINCE AROUND THE AGE OF 14 OR 15 I’VE ALWAYS LEARNED DIFFERENT DAWS AND BEEN ABLE TO RECORD IN MY HOME STUDIO AT SOME CAPACITY DAN FLINT
How collaborative was the production process with Dan Austin? The songs were written but it was all a collaboration in terms of sounds and reaching the end goal. We had a clear vision that Dan understood and that he was also able to put his own stamp on it. Together we feel we have made a beast. We like similar styles of music and enjoy similar styles of recording too, so it worked really well. We can’t wait to do it again.
What did he bring to the record? Passion, excitement, hard work and the ability to make
from start to finish - it was all about making loops and exciting parts out of whatever we could record. We took this approach to each song - we wouldn’t dwell too long on one part or instrument. As soon as someone had an exciting idea, we tried it, then moved on. We like to attack each song one-by-one. We don’t move on until we have 50-60 per cent of the track done. We can then either go back and do vocals or extra parts on a previous track or start something new. Some headspace away from a recording can give you real clarity when you go back to it... but you have to get a good chunk of it down to start with so you’re not left with too many unfinished songs.
Tell us about the studio and the gear that you used – monitors, mixing desk, mics etc. some of the most beautiful sonics you’ve ever heard. He’s a genius.
What is your approach to working in the studio? We’ve really got into music production ourselves, as I have a studio in my house where we demo new tracks. This has lead us to enjoy building tracks from the ground up, even the drums. There was rarely a song I played
We made the record at Vada Studios. They have an amazing SSL desk. Both us and our producer Dan love the Adam A7x monitors. We had a lot of Telefunken mics and mainly used the U47 on vocals. We used the C-12 as an overhead for drums which was also particularly nice.
Do you see yourselves co-producing/fully producing all future records? Without a doubt.
What were the biggest challenges you faced making this record from a technical standpoint? It was pretty smooth sailing the whole way through. We had demoed a lot to refine the songs and Dan made it very easy for us to bring our ideas to life with his skills.
What were your sonic influences for this record? We listen to a lot of different types of music and there was never really a particular record, but sonically we did reference The Weeknd a lot. The low-end on his records from a production value is incredible and we also like the textures in his vocals.
What is your studio background? Have you always been interested in mixing, recording etc? From studying music at college I’ve always had an interest in recording. Since around the age of 14 or 15 I’ve always learned different DAWs and been able to record in my house at some capacity. It’s only recently that that has taken a real step up and I can see it coming into my life more and more as the years go on. It’s certainly something that I really enjoy and it massively benefits us in the band. We have developed a way of building exactly what we hear in our heads, or at least we can give a great representation of what we want, and then we can have someone like Dan Austin come in and smash it out the park... Rather than trying to rely on a producer to always be on the same page as you. n
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Evita: Behind the music PSNEurope explores how DPA Microphones helped an unusual production of Evita hit the high notes in Turin…
taging a well-known musical with a long history in a beautiful opera space that is normally only used for acoustic music is a massive undertaking for any sound team, but when the musical in question is Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice’s Evita and the opera space is the Teatro Regio Torino in Turin, expectations are bound to be high. This was the task faced by production company Bill Kenright Ltd (in agreement with The Really Useful Group) when it was invited by Teatro Regio Torino to stage eight live performances of Evita and to merge the Opera’s orchestra with amplified electric instruments more commonly used for musical productions. “We wanted the Teatro Regio Torino orchestra to
combine with the production from our London show so that they ‘melted’ together to create a natural uniformed sound,” says sound designer Dan Samson, who has worked with many large scale touring theatre shows including Jesus Christ Superstar and The Sound Of Music. “Before I started specifying equipment for the production I sat down with musical supervisor David Steadman and musical producer Gary Hickson and between us we created the concept. The first question we asked was, Are we going to mic the orchestra? And the answer was a resounding yes. The cast and the UK band have always been amplified, with almost 100% DPA microphones, so the natural choice was to mic the orchestra with DPAs as well.” For those who don’t know, Evita centres on the life
of Argentine political leader Eva Perón, the second wife of the country’s president Juan Perón. The story follows Evita’s early life, rise to power, charity work and eventual death. A total of eight performances were staged in the 1,600-seat theatre. Each was a sellout. DPA microphones were used “everywhere” across the production, Samson says. The orchestra pit alone was covered by 80 d:dicate microphones, while the cast were amplified by more than 30 d:screet 4061 CORE Omnidirectional Miniature Microphones worn as lavaliers. Indeed, so many DPAs were required that rental company Stage Sound Services, which equipped the production, needed the support of DPA’s UK distributor Sound Network to make up the numbers. Hickson says that Samson was undoubtedly the
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man to deliver the compact, singular sound he was looking for in Turin. “We both understood what was needed for a production of this caliber and, through communication with Evita production director Tom de Keyser and Phil Hurley of Stage Sound Services, we were able to get the required equipment, including more than 160 DPA microphones,” he explains. “We are very fortunate to have reached a level where producers and production companies hear the difference in the sound quality when it’s done right. The audience then get an audible experience as well as a visual one, which together with all the talent onstage makes the show perfect.” Capturing the natural sound of the orchestra was a key criterion for the sound team, as was building a bridge between the sound department and the orchestra. “It might seem natural for both parties to communicate all the time, but in reality, this is rarely the case,” Samson comments. “We are changing this, little by little.” He adds that it was evident to him that all the equipment used, including the microphones, had to be as transparent as possible because no plugin could bring out natural sound if it wasn’t picked up correctly at source. To this end he used a mixture of d:dicate 4006A Omni, 4011A and 2011C Cardioid microphones, which were placed in the orchestra pit with help from Operator Piers Archer who mixed the shows and is tasked with recreating the sound design nightly.
“In the pit, size really matters, so I used d:dicate 4011C mics on all the strings and flutes because the C preamp has a smaller profile,” Samson explains. “d:dicate 2011Cs were chosen for the woodwinds, percussion, conga and bongo, and d:dicate 4006C were used on the timpani. We decided not to use clip-ons like the d:vote 4099 because I didn’t want to frighten the orchestra too much. They are not familiar with being amplified so having any microphones around was new territory for them.” He adds that on a standard production of Evita, where there are nine musicians, microphones are only used on drums, percussion, trumpet, trombone, accordion and acoustic guitar. Deploying 80 microphones to amplify an entire orchestra with 34 strings, nine woodwinds, nine brass players and two percussionists – not to mention the microphones used by the cast – resulted in a much bigger number of channels to deal with. “Usually we have one Digico SD7t, but for this production we added a Digico SD10t console just for the orchestra,” he says. “The cast was mic-ed exactly how we always mic them, but because of the layout of the theatre we were only able to place the PA speakers behind the pit. This meant that the line arrays were facing the pit. I chose d&b Y Series speakers and designed the array to beam over the pit, but we were still focusing a lot on the angles of the microphones so that they were not pointing directly to the PA.” DPA d:screet 4061 lavalier mics were chosen for the cast. “Speech intelligibility is the most important factor
in a musical. The songs are good, and the music sounds beautiful but if you can’t hear the words, there is no point in going to the opera,” Samson says. “What I like about d:screet 4061s is the fact that they are consistent, which makes it easy for Piers to mix between actors. We mix ‘line by line’, with every line mixed by hand. We use very little compression as it is my philosophy that no machine can hear what we hear, and if you take away the human touch and ear, you lose the intelligibility. It is all about gain structure and microphone placement – having the right mic for the right job. If it doesn’t sound right, I know that either the mic characteristic is wrong, or the mic placement is wrong, and either way I’d prefer to fix it at the sound source rather than touching the EQ.” After completing its run in Turin, Bill Kenright Ltd’s production of Evita spent the summer touring Europe, although this time without the orchestra. It is now back in the UK and will complete its run at the end of 2018. “The Turin shows were certainly a highlight and represented the most DPA microphones I have ever used on a show, and I’m going to use even more in the future,” Samson concludes. “I very rarely look for a microphone solution that isn’t DPA because I have so much confidence in the brand. I’ve even had the courage to test new types of mics live, because I trust that DPA will not let me down and ask me to use something that is not perfectly OK. Take the new CORE by DPA mics as an example – they are great and I’m using them whenever I can get my hands on them.” n
P48 OCTOBER 2018
Sound and vision
In each issue, we publish the best pro audio pics shared on social media in the past month. From gig pics to get-out selfies, studio shots to product close-ups, the industryâ€™s online community is thriving and we want to share the great work going on. Want to be featured next month? Tag @psneurope on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook or email email@example.com
@PSNEurope #PLASA #PLASASHOW Spectacular display over at the @robelighting stand!
@PSNEurope Great catching up with the guys from Astro Spatial Audio at Hackney Empire for a demo of their immersive sound system
@PSNEurope Went to the Proms at the @royalalberthall . Thanks very much to the teams at @lathebestsound and @_ukmusic for having us
P49 OCTOBER 2018
Follow us on Twitter Instagram Facebook @psneurope
@PSNEurope #PLASA #PLASAshow The PLASA seminar programme in full swing.
@PSNEurope @lathebestsound and L-ISA out in force at #plasa #plasashow
@PSNEurope YAMAHA - Visitors gathering at the @yamahaproaudio @nexo_official stand #Plasa #plasashow
@PSNEurope The mighty Goat Girl kicking off the after party at last weekâ€™s AIM Awards
Culture Mile’s Tunnel Vision Array created by 59 Productions as part of Barbican OpenFest
Photo: Justin Sutcliffe
Musings on TiMax immersive audio - present and future Immersive audio specialists Robin Whittaker and Dave Haydon from Out Board – the developer of TiMax – offer PSNEurope their thoughts on future directions for the various TiMax platforms to meet its ever-diverging range of immersive audio marketplaces and applications…
iMax focuses on two distinct areas of immersive audio, which nevertheless continue to overlap more and more – Spatial Reinforcement for localisation of live voices or instruments, and graphical rendering and show control of immersive 3D audio soundscaping. In this first area, TiMax has seen continuous interest, demand and growth globally in its core orchestral/opera, stage musical and dramatic theatre sectors, and has recently added the faith sector to its roster, particularly in the US. The latest advance has been StageSpace, which auto-calculates delay and level parameters for multiple stage and effects ‘Image Definition’ objects. This means large-scale shows are quick and simple to implement by defining and placing different speaker types and targets on to a dimensioned drawing of the venue. The adaptive nature of this object-based mapping automatically allows for relative distances and angles between speakers, audience and stage zone positions. All weightings can be adjusted and re-tried instantly by the user. Individual object parameters can also be edited. This hybrid of automatic rendering and manual adjustment is vital, because, as Robin Whittaker observes: “With TiMax we are un-mixing the multiple sources and presenting them to an audience spatially as they should be heard – and experienced sound designers will tell you its often the last few millsecond or dB tweaks that absolutely make the imaging work” TiMax StageSpace evolutions currently underway include the expansion of adaptive parameters with frequency shading to further assist localisation and also to support impressions of performer distance and posture, such as facing away or lying down.
The TiMax SoundHub platform has a new FPGA core which introduces holistic delay-morphing algorithms, providing ultratransparent transitions via real-time, sample-level analysis of signal waveforms and content. The new core will also host an interactive Dave Haydon spatial reverb resource – featuring concepts beyond existing TiMax implementations and other current first-generation approaches, including multiple simultaneous spaces and dynamic creative parameter showcontrol. Out Board is also busy with new performer tracking developments. Direct integration within the TiMax StageSpace workflow via OSC also allows integration with the growing number of third party systems. Further developments include rapid auto-calibration, six degrees of freedom data to further manage level and tonality, and enhanced low-latency, 3D precision to support multimedia and lighting integration. In the area of immersive audio soundscaping, TiMax provides an integrated show-in-box solution with all DSP, spatial rendering, audio playback, editing, automated mixing, scheduling and showcontrol onboard a single standalone unit. Dave Haydon comments: “Many installers prefer the long haul durability of a dedicated hardware platform over a computer for continuous use in hostile environments and frequent power-cycling. And having all the resources in one box saves programming and interfacing time. The ease with which TiMax allows designers to add movement to effects, soundscape and ambience elements makes for a quantum leap in
immersivity.” TiMax achieves this workflow via its PanSpace visual object-based multi-channel panoramic rendering screen, which integrates with the TimeLine to allow spatial event scheduling and showcontrol integration, as well as playback, editing and mix automation. PanSpace and TimeLine both use effects-oriented versions of the “image-definition” objects – allowing varied approaches and degrees of subtlety to the programming workflow, all directly integrated with show sequencing and showcontrol resources. TiMax has provided this soundscaping to installations in museums, exhibits, theme park shows and more recently, ridecars. In fact, the ridecar demand has spawned a new TiMax SoundHubVR mobile variant in a cut-down chassis with 24VDC power supply, allowing it to be built into the ride-car itself. The new Batman:Knight Flight ride at Warner Bros Yas Island, Abu Dhabi park has 17 of these built into the fourperson, winged drone vehicles. Out Board sees interest from new and existing parks wanting to upgrade with this new immersive trend they’re hearing about, so the future looks bright for this new initiative. n
In the October issue of PSNEurope, we take a comprehensive look behind the scenes at this year's BBC Proms, which saw L-Acoustics' L-ISA imm...
Published on Oct 2, 2018
In the October issue of PSNEurope, we take a comprehensive look behind the scenes at this year's BBC Proms, which saw L-Acoustics' L-ISA imm...