3rd Time’s the Charm

This year, the 47th Annual Grammy Awards show telecast, which was produced in discrete 5.1 surround for the third year running (as well as stereo and mono), added a mix engineer and over three dozen microphones specifically to convey the enthusiasm of the audience to viewers and pump up the excitement of the show.

“We have a dedicated mixer, Klaus Landsberg, with his own console,” explains Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing advisory council member Hank Neuberger during set-up for the show. “We’ve identified target areas of audience that we think may actually clap, instead of jaded industry types.”

Landsberg, whose mix room was located in the temporary audio production area by the arena’s loading dock of the Staples Center arena in downtown Los Angeles, captured the more enthusiastic response of radio station promo winners and artist fan club members with a wide selection of microphones. All the mics were fed through Aphex 1788 8-channel remote controllable mic preamps, and included 24 Neumann KM 84’s along with two pair of TLM 104 and Sennheiser MKH 416 microphones were set up as left/right pairs at the front, center, and rear of the Staples Center arena. Five AKG C547 boundary microphones picked up the mosh pit area, and a Holophone H2-PRO discrete output surround microphone was placed at the center of hall camera position.

Monitoring on JBL LSR series monitors (supplied to all the mix environments as well as to several NARAS listening rooms, and tuned by JBL’s recording and broadcast director, Peter Chaiken), Landsberg created four stereo audience elements on his Yamaha DM2000 console. These included a stage lip pair for the mosh pit (another Grammy first). For use in the overall mixes, the four audience mixes were then distributed to the broadcast production mixers. Ed Green, mixing the stereo/mono and Dolby Pro Logic II-encoded 5.1 audio in the sound booth of All Mobile Video’s remote truck, and Paul Sandweiss, who was mixing the discrete 5.1 Dolby Digital audio for the HDTV broadcast in XM Satellite-Effanel Music’s OSR truck.

According to Ed Simeone, chairman and chief product evangelist for TC Electronic, who supplied the signal processing technology used in all of the mix rooms, “Klaus used a Mastering 6000 on the L R, Ls Rs stems to add coherence to his mix.” The unit’s MD-4 algorithm, which utilizes TC’s unique DXP “upward” multiband compression, was used in conjunction with two Cedar DNS1000 noise suppressors.

Sandweiss, who first worked on the Grammy Awards show in 1977 and returned to the telecast this year after a 12-year absence, received five channels of mics mounted on a handheld camera that captured nominee and winner reactions, in addition to Landsberg’s audience elements. He then mixed the audience mic channels with Green’s stereo submixes, which included a stage podium mic and lavalier mix, audio packages from music playback engineer Don Worsham, and videotape packages, plus the 5.1 music mixes created by John Harris and Jay Vicari in XM Satellite-Effanel Music’s L7 remote truck.

“My job is to glue the show together uniformly,” explains Sandweiss, adding, “The way these things are getting broadcast, it’s really the folddown of this that becomes the stereo for the people that are listening digitally or in hi-def. When you mix stereo shows you’re still trying to make the mono good for a lot of the people watching in the kitchen.”

Green agrees: “You need to protect the mono listener.” Producing a Pro Logic II 5.1 mix for analog viewers in addition to stereo, he says, “I just spread things around a little. I take the music and I wrap it around a little bit. I use the Spatializer for dialog; it keeps it nice and spread.” Once he had a front-rear balance of the audience reaction mics, Green then controlled the level using a foot pedal, leaving his hands free for his myriad other mixing tasks.

Harris, a 10-year Grammy veteran, and Vicari, on his third show, produced the 5.1 and stereo music mixes simultaneously, often working together at the AMS Neve Capricorn console. Effanel president, and the show’s 5.1 consultant, Randy Ezratty notes that L7’s venerable console, a veteran of nine Grammys and 153 complex live performances without a failure, would shortly be replaced with a triple-redundant custom Digidesign Pro Tools system with an ICON control surface.

Having set up the 5.1 mixes during rehearsals, Harris and Vicari then monitored in stereo. “Any moves you make in stereo, you know they’re going to map,” observes Harris. Plus, he notes, Academy audio advisor Phil Ramone, together with Neuberger, would be listening to and advising on the stereo mix.

The mammoth task of coordinating all of these audio efforts, managing the 40-person engineering staff (plus 24 Local 33 assistants), production companies, and manufacturing partners, and liaising with NARAS fell to Michael Abbott. “The show is a huge collaborative effort by a wide variety of individuals with phenomenal talents,” comments Abbott, audio coordinator for the past six years.

Part of that job this year was to develop the audience reaction mix room through lengthy discussions with the show producers and NARAS, including working with the Academy’s ticket department on mic placement, and to find the necessary equipment plus an engineer. During that process, which typically kicks into high gear two months prior to the broadcast, Abbott’s sights were set on creating a new “Grammy Sound” brand: “One that provides the classic analog big, fat, rich sound we expect from previous Grammy Awards by using the specific digital technology for this year’s broadcast. This represents the Recording Academy and its members — it should be the best-sounding show on television.”

For more information about the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science, visit www.grammy.com.

Surround Professional Magazine