Audio Production for 47th Grammy
Awards in 5.1-channel surround

 

 

New Audience Reaction and DTV Mix
Areas unveiled for latest event

Written by Mel Lambert in February 2005


The recent 47th Annual Grammy Awards, hosted by Queen Latifah, represented an excellent opportunity to showcase the industry’s leading musical artists, while ensuring that the viewing audience was caught up with memorable performances from such acts as The Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani, Green Day, U2, Melissa Etheridge, Kanye West with Mavis Staples and John Legend, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Usher and more. The night's big winner was Ray Charles & Various Artists' Genius Loves Company, picked for Album of the Year, Best Engineered Album and Best Surround Sound Album, with “Here We Go Again” named Record of the Year. Al Schmitt added to his Grammy collection, serving not only as engineer on Genius Loves Company and co-engineer for “Here We Go Again,” but also as the album's Surround Mixer.
   Hank NeubergerAnd NARAS has placed an increasing emphasis on broadcasting the event in not only stereo for the majority of the TV audience, but also allowing owners of surround-sound rigs to enjoy the enveloping experience of a carefully crafted 5.1-channel mix. For the 47th Grammy Awards, broadcast live from the Staples Center, Los Angeles on Sunday, February 13, co-sound supervisors Phil Ramone and Hank Neuberger (pictured right) extended the creative envelope with some innovative strategies. Working closely with Ramone and Neuberger were veteran sound designer Murray Allen, plus 5.1 consultant and Effanel CEO, Randy Ezratty. Executive producers for the show were Ken Erlich and John Cossette; director was Walter Miller.
   “In previous years,” Neuberger explains, “we had provided a single remote [truck] to handle the generation of both stereo and 5.1-channel music mixes, which were passed to Ed Greene in the video-production mobile, to be incorporated into the broadcast mixes. This year we realized that, because of the accelerating interest from DTV-equipped home viewers, we didn’t want to generate a plain-vanilla stereo mix at all. Instead, we decided to create a [matrix-encoded 5:2:5 Dolby Pro Logic II] Lt-Rt mix for standard-definition viewers, and a totally independent, discrete 5.1-channel mix for HD viewers.
   “For the latter, we considered that a single mixer just could not handle everything. And, since the show’s long-time producers [Cossette Productions] wanted to ensure that the sound of the audience was fully integrated into both the stereo and surround mixes, we laid on a separate environment where the outputs from almost 40 audience mics could be blended into a number of separate stem elements. In addition, following its successful use at the recent Super Bowl broadcast, we rigged a Holophone microphone [close to the front-of-house mixing position] to provide a single-source surround sound pickup.
   “All in all, I think that the combination of the new additional facilities helped to ensure a more vivid and encompassing surround mix than we have achieved in previous broadcasts.”
   Audio coordinator on the production, responsible for making recommendations on equipment and audio solutions, was Michael Abbott, who managed a team of 65+ audio technicians during rehearsals and the live broadcast, working across three performance stages and orchestral areas. “The show was a huge collaborative effort,” Abbott considers. “It was my role to marshal our talented crews into a cohesive whole so that everybody was working to a common goal.”
   On-stage wired and RF mics plus wireless monitors comprised a mixture of AKG, Audio-Technica, Neumann, Sennheiser and Shure models. Dave Bellamy’s Soundtronics company provided a number of Sennheiser SKM5000-N wireless handhelds fitted with Neumann KK105-S elements; Evolution wired mics were selected by several artists for vocals and backline milking, along with Neumann TLM103 large-diaphragm mics for the orchestra. Audio-Technica’s Artist Elite 5000 Series and Shure UHF/SM58 wireless models also were used. The total mike count, according to Abbott, was close to 450, with some 6,000 audio patches made and remade during the rehearsals, dress and air show.

Five Primary Audio-Production Areas at Staples Center

Figure 1: Signal flow for Grammy Awards.

Harris & VicariAs can be seen from Figure 1, shown left,  there were five primary audio-production areas. Microphone and DI sources from the on-stage performers and orchestra were routed via splitters to both the FOH and monitor-mix positions, as well as the Effanel L7 truck parked backstage. A total of 12 Aphex eight-channel Model 1788 remote-controlled pre-amps/A-to-Ds connected to L7 via a multiway MADI digital umbilical from the stages. Within the truck, seasoned veterans John Harris and Jay Vicari (pictured right) handled the stereo and surround sound music mixes on an AMS Neve Capricorn digital console. Harris and Vicari alternated mixing duties during rehearsals and the live performances.
   “During rehearsals we recorded the [pre-fader] signals to [Digidesign] Pro Tools|HD,” Harris recalls, “and then used the tracks to refine our Capricorn EQ and automation [settings] during evening playback sessions.” “In that way,” Vicari continues, “we could develop automated stereo and surround mixes, which helped us [develop] the multiple balances we would need during the on-air broadcast.” Also on hand in the L7 Remote, supervising the music balances, was Academy advisor Neuberger; Phil Ramone, who served as the Academy’s overall music producer for the Grammy Awards, monitored the broadcast mix in the All-Mobile Video Resolution Truck with Ed Greene.Klaus Landsberg
  Don Worsham Klaus Landsberg (pictured left) – an experienced broadcast mixer from such shows such as “American Idol” and “The Ryan Seacrest Show” - was hired for the sole purpose of mixing the audience microphones. Landsberg helmed a backstage Audience Surround Mix Area equipped with a Yamaha PM2000 digital console, close to where Don Worsham
(pictured right) triggered a variety of pre-recorded announcements and music clips for the awards section of Grammy presentations. Worsham used a number of 360 Systems Instant Replay and DigiCart systems linked to a Yamaha 02R digital console. The final 5.1-channel mix for the DTV HiDef viewing audience was handled by Paul Sandweiss in the Effanel OSR Mobile parked backstage.Ed Greene
   Meanwhile, in the rear of the Resolution Truck, Ed Greene (pictured right)
handled the Lt-Rt surround broadcast mix – including production announcements and audio playback from pre-recorded video sources, in addition to incorporating the stereo music produced by Harris and Vicari in L7, and various audience stems from Landsberg. According to Greene, the latter comprised a stereo-front, stereo-rear and on-camera mikes. “I had a foot control that enabled me to add a pre-mixed audience balance, according to audience reactions within the Stapes Center.” says Greene.
   The resultant matrix-encoded ProLogic II two-channel broadcast mix contained left, center and right assignments, plus stereo surrounds. “Although I was creating a 5.0 mix, I needed to ensure full compatibility with existing stereo and mono receivers being used by the majority of viewers,” Greene acknowledges.
Sandweiss   According to 5.1 surround mixer Paul Sandweiss (pictured left)
, the idea to mike the audience areas came from a series of conversations with the show's producer and NARAS about the importance of covering live audience reactions. “[Producer] Ken Ehrlich was so impressed with the sound of the audience in a post-production mix [for a previous show at the Staples Center] that he requested special arrangements be made for the Grammy Awards,” Sandweiss says. To capture the enthusiastic response of the various artists' fans and radio station promo winners, multiple mics were positioned at a number of locations throughout the Staples Center’s seating areas.
   Within the dedicated Audience Surround Mix Area, Landsberg had access to the output from some 40 audience mics - primarily Neumann KM184 cardioid and TLM100 models, Sennheiser MKH416 shotguns mounted on HiDef cameras, plus AKG C547 boundary-layer mics across the stage apron - and a Holophone H2-PRO that had been placed approximately 30 rows back from the front of the stage and some 15 feet in the air, with the head pointing towards the stage. “The [Holophone-derived] multi-channel ambience was used to feed the main surround ambience mix for the entire 5.1 broadcast,” Landsberg explains. “The natural sounding 5.1 ambience [from the H2-PRO] added a realistic dimensional space to the tightly-produced live show, providing HDTV viewers with an added and complete sense of ‘being there’.” Landsberg provided surround mixer Sandweiss with an eight-channel stem of stereo-front, stereo-rear, stereo balcony and stereo front-of-stage, close to the Mosh Pit area.
   “I’m a big fan of the [Neumann] KM184,” the engineer adds. “It is a very smooth sound, offers a lot of dynamic range - it doesn’t overload, which is very useful when you are covering energetic audience sections - and produces a rich sounding output. It’s definitely my favorite audience mike.” Landsberg also had access to a Cedar DNS1000 Dynamic Noise Suppressor, which “helped take the reverb decay and slap out of the room - there are huge standing waves coming out of the [Staples Centers] boxes.”
   “After the show,” recalls audio coordinator Abbott, “I received a call from the Grammy producers who said they were thrilled with the audience response we captured for this show. It was the first time in 10 years that the producers got exactly what they wanted. Putting 184s and 416s throughout the audience made quite a difference - they delivered the audience response in the Staples Center better than any other mics we've used in the past.”
   For audio monitoring, most areas featured Genelec or JBL powered monitors. JBL Professional supplied a number of LSR6300 Series loudspeakers so that 5.1 mixes, stems and elements would be created using the same sonic reference. The system’s RMC Room Mode Correction enabled accurate adjustment of low-frequency response in each room. Sandweiss was provided with five LSR6325P monitors and an LSR6312SP Subwoofer, plus a pair of LSR6325P units for stereo solo, while Landsberg’s Surround Mix Area boasted five LSR6328P monitors, an LSR6312SP sub plus two LSR6328P for solos.
   Various Dolby Laboratories hardware used during the production included a model DP563 Pro Logic II encoder and DP564 Pro decoder, DP571 Dolby-E encoder and companion DP572 decoder, plus an LM100 Loudness Meter and Eight-channel Metering unit in Sandweiss’ mix room for monitoring the Dolby E stream as an audio source.
   A number of signal processing and multiband dynamics control were also available in the various production areas. Within the Effanel L7 music-mixing truck, a Lexicon 960L and TC Electronic System 6000 were on-hand for ambience generation; in the Audience Surround Mix Area, Landsberg utilized a Mastering 6000 across component L, R, Left-Surround and Right-Surround stems to add coherence using the 6000's upward multiband compression.
   In the Effanel OSR truck that provided a final 5.1 surround mix for the HighDef uplink, a System 6000 provided additional reverb, while a TC DB-8 Digital Television Processor provided final audio compression for Sandweiss' mix prior to Dolby E encoding. “Every project that leaves my studio goes through the DBMax or the P2,” Sandweiss offers, “so it’s logical that I would use the DB-8 on such a critical 5.1 broadcast.” Finally, within the All-Mobile Video truck, Greene had access to a TC Finalizer and DBMax to level control his final two-channel Pro Logic II-encoded broadcast mix. (Reportedly, TC Electronic reverbs and stereo on-air processing have been used on Grammy Award broadcasts since 2001.)
   Reflecting on the experience, co-sound supervisor Neuberger considers the 47th Grammy Awards a resounding success. “It was far more complex than anything we have encountered [in previous years],” he offers, “but there were very few technical problems. It was a major accomplishment to make the audio sound as good as it did for the show’s television audiences around the world.”
 

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