45th GRAMMY AWARDS — First in 5.1

The Cast
Murray Allen: 5.1 Coordinator, Grammy Sound Designer
Michael Abbott: Database Asset Manager
John Cossette: Supervising Producer
Gregory Coppa: CBS Director, Engineering and Advanced Technology
Dave Crivelli: Audio Director, All Mobile Video
Randy Ezratti: 5.1 Mixer
Bruce Goldfedder: MSG Director of Field Operations
Rocky Graham: Dolby Broadcast Applications Engineer–West Coast
Ed Greene: Broadcast Production Mixer
John Harris: Music Mixer
Ken Hunold: Dolby Broadcast Applications Engineer–New York
Hank Neuberger: Broadcast Music Supervisor
Phil Ramone: Broadcast Total Audio Supervisor
Robert Seidel: CBS Vice President, Engineering and Advanced Technology
Jay Vicari: Music Mixer
Don Worsham: Playback Engineer

ACT ONE — The Decision
The Grammy Organization has been discussing the possibility of broadcasting the show in 5.1 for sometime. When we discovered that the “Oscars” were broadcasting in 5.1 this year we decided to beat them to the punch. CBS agreed.

Now that we made this decision, we had to explore all the obstacles to be overcome. The first problem has to do with the fact that every conversion of a digital signal has a latency factor. This is true with both the high-def picture and the 5.1 audio, which differ as to latency. To truly understand the depth of this problem, let me take you through the broadcast path. Remember both the standard broadcast and the HD broadcast must be in perfect sync.

Once the audio leaves the 5.1 mixing truck it travels via three AES3 lines to Resolution (the main video truck). Next, the signal, along with the standard broadcast production mix, is sent to the Dolby truck where these audio signals are encoded with Dolby E. These compressed signals are sent through a coaxial cable to the fourth floor of Madison Square Garden. These Dolby E-encoded signals, along with the high-def picture, are sent via fiber and satellite to CBS. Once at CBS the Dolby E signals are converted to PCM audio. As they travel through the CBS plant, the commercials are inserted. As they leave the CBS plant on the way to the transmitters, they will be encoded once again into Dolby E. When the local station receives this program they will decode the Dolby E signal and encode it into AC-3 for local transmission. All along the way there will be compensations made to both picture and audio to maintain sync.

ACT TWO — Implementation
The entire production team met in New York at Madison Square Garden during the week of January 6, 2003. At these meetings we discussed the previously mentioned signal path and the necessary steps to maintain sync. I also spent a day at CBS. The CBS engineers explained the path through their plant. They also demonstrated the test they use to maintain perfect sync. Their test scopes will drill down to one millisecond as to sync with picture. At this time we discussed the importance of running a test all the way from the camera, through our trucks, through MSG and CBS to the local stations.
CBS has the ability to do the last part of this test in their lab. We had to do the camera part (using a lip-sync device) through our many trucks to CBS.

Later, on January 21, we had a conference call between all the technical people. At this time we discussed the number of trucks needed. We also decided on what HD video machines were necessary. We decided to use a Panasonic D5 as our main machine. The reason for this has to do with its superior picture quality, the fact that it can record eight tracks of discrete audio, and the CBS test tape is made for this machine. We also decided to use the Sony HD recorder for backup. This recorder has only four tracks for audio. We would record the standard Lt/Rt on tracks 1 and 2. On tracks 3 and 4 we would record a redundant Dolby E signal.

On January 24 we had an audio conference call. This call included Randy Ezratti, Ed Greene, Michael Abbott, and myself. We discussed the internal routing for the 5.1 and Lt/Rt signals.
Ed Greene, working in the Resolution truck (with an Oxford console for the standard broadcast), would send Randy, who was working in the OSR truck (5.1 truck), a Lt/Rt mix minus all music and rear audience and rear sweetener. (Yes, we use a sweetener to fill in those applause and laughter holes where the audience is slow to react.) The OSR truck (which is also part of the Effanel Group) uses a Yamaha DM2000 console. The speakers in this truck are KRK’s Exposé 8’s. Additional processing equipment included a Lexicon 960 and a TC 6000.

Don Worsham, who was working in the Crossroads truck (an additional video truck), used a Libra console and several Digi-Carts. He plays back the correct music when the nominations are announced and, most important, the correct music when the winner is announced. Don would send his Lt/Rt signal to Ed in Resolution, who would then would pass this (pre-fader) along to Randy. The sweetener also worked in the Crossroads truck (see fig. 1).

On February 5, we had our final total tech team conference call. All final decisions were made as to what to do, each of us knowing that there would probably be changes once we were on site.

ACT THREE — The Show
February 23 arrived. The clock struck 8 PM, and the show began.
Jay Vicari and John Harris in the Effanel truck would mix the music in both standard Lt/Rt and 5.1 surround. These two engineers record all rehearsals pre-fader. After the rehearsals are finished, they work through the night tweaking both the standard mix and the 5.1 mix. Jay Vicari would mix Norah Jones, Dixie Chicks, Ashanti, Orchestra with Coldplay, Faith Hill, and N’Sync. John Harris would mix No Doubt, Nelly, Sheryl Crow, Avril Lavigne, Orchestra with Coldplay, Clash, Bruce Springsteen, and Eminem. The console in this truck is a Capricorn 24-bit digital console. In addition, these engineers have a Sony 3348, an Otari Radar ll 48-track, 24-bit and six TASCAM DA98 HR 24-bit recorders at their disposal. The speakers in this truck are both Meyer HD1’s and Spendor SA500’s with Bag End D10ES subwoofers. As to be expected, they have a ton of peripheral equipment. Check www.effanel.com for a complete list.
As one can see, all of the consoles in use (including FOH and monitors) were digital consoles.
All of the 5.1 music was then sent to the OSR truck, where Randy would mix in the production sound as well as the room ambiance and applause.

The front of house team, which was headed by Ron Reeves (music mixer), Mikael Stewart (production mixer), Andrew Fletcher (FOH computer whiz), and Scott Harmala (system designer and system wrangler), worked closely with the broadcast mixers to make sure the ambient sound in the room added to the overall quality of the 5.1 mix. During the show I also worked in front of house as a conduit between all the trucks and mixers.

We also set up a 5.1 listening room for the Grammy TV Committee to hear the program in a “laboratory” setup. We used the same KRK speakers as in the Ob/u truck. We also gave these folks the ability to switch between 5.1 and stereo.

The show was a huge success. The ratings were better than in previous years. But the most exciting part was the comments we received via e-mail. All in all we received over 100 such e-mails. The comment that stands out the most is from a competitor who said, “This show has set a golden standard as to what all high-def 5.1 shows should hope to emulate.

Surround Professional Magazine