Long recognized as one of the heavyweights in the mobile recording industry, Le Mobile has recorded many of the top performers in the music industry over the last two decades. With credits such as legendary artists Lena Horne, Peter Gabriel, Cher, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Sting, The Grateful Dead, The Eagles, Deep Purple, and Fleetwood Mac, to music for such motion pictures such as The Contender, Nurse Betty, Heart and Souls, and Dick Tracy, to television programming like Garth Brooks’s Ireland & Back, Cher’s Live In Concert, and John Tesh – Live from Red Rocks, the truck is constantly in demand partially because it’s fitted with a highly customized Neve 8058 console equipped with Flying Faders automation and two Studer D827MKII 48-track digital recorders. But the truck has broken the mold of mobile units in that it’s not only capable of recording stereo, but recording and mixing in 5.1 as well. We recently caught up with Le Mobile owner Guy Charbonneau, who described his most recent surround encounter.
How did you get involved in mixing surround?
Last September we went to Harrah’s in Las Vegas to record Clint Holmes as the audio part of a high-definition video and subsequent CD and DVD. They liked the stereo mix of the show, so they asked me if I wanted to do both the CD and a surround mix for the DVD. We’ve been doing a lot of film scoring in surround with Armin Steiner, who always told me that the mixes translated very well, and every time we did a quick surround mix in the truck, people loved it.
For an artist like Clint Holmes, who does five or six shows a week, it’s very hard to go do a record in the studio then come back and do a show at night. So we brought the truck back to Vegas and reparked it at Harrah’s, hooked it back up to the stage in case we had to do a little fix, and allowed Clint and his musical director to come and make comments.
Did you mic the shows with surround in mind?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve always recorded shows with both a front crowd and a rear crowd. I also realized that, at the backline of the stage, not only do the drums sound great, but the audience sounds great as well. So now I always use some mics up on a tall stand on the back of the stage pointing at the back of the singer’s head. Then in the front of the stage I put four mics; two pointing toward the center and two toward the side. That’s my normal audience miking. Depending upon the room, you might need some middle and rear mics, but since this was a smaller theater, I had a pair in the back along with the front stage mics and the backline. I also had two mics right on the front of the stage for audience reaction because Clint talks a lot to people.
Did you approach the surround mix differently from stereo?
I bought a bunch of DVDs and realized that everyone has a slightly different approach to a live show but, for the most part, it’s music in the front, crowd in the back, and that’s about it. I wanted to make something where you felt like you were a little bit closer to the stage than just in the crowd in the back. I wanted to make it sound like the same experience as when you saw the show at Harrah’s.
So the first thing I did was create the stereo mix, but I did it in such a way that I could also easily mix the surround from that setup. So what I did was mix stems of the drums, rhythm section, vocal, and background vocals back to a second 48-track. Each stem included its own effects. Now I could bring each stem back on four faders and have the ability with my automation to pan from front to rear or from side to side as needed. What’s so good about using stems is that your basic stereo music mix is still there, but you don’t have to worry about remixing everything. It helps you make your surround mix really work without having to start all over from the beginning.
How did you edit it?
We edited everything in Pro Tools. We left in all the talking with the audience because we wanted to re-create the show, but edited between different takes of the various songs. The only extra thing we really did was put in a little bed of audience from another show because sometimes the room was so quiet that it sounded funny.
What kind of monitors did you use?
I have three Genelec 1031’s on the console, a little Carver subwoofer under the console, and a pair of Radio Shack miniatures in the back. Because we do a lot of film scores, we built a custom box that works off of the Neve control room level control that lets us patch the busses in for monitor control. We have an output for recording and another input for tape return. The panning is just the Quad bus with Aux 3 for the sub and Aux 4 for the center.
Where did you master at?
We went to Bob Ludwig (Gateway Mastering) to master. Normally it would take a day for the stereo and a day for the surround mix, but the mixes translated so well that we did them both in one day!