with them for the better part of four decades and has been the only guy doing their sound on tour for the nearly two decades that Keith Lockhart has been the Pops’ conductor. In a 2008 interview Lockhart said, “I can’t imagine there’s anybody better in the business for doing live sound orchestra in the kind of varying spaces and circumstances we work in. Anybody can get it right if you give them enough time and enough money…”

www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUHj–NjBzU

The big tech news for this tour is that FOH, monitor and broadcast recording engineers shared the 170+ inputs, generated from one central SD system rack—comprised of four DiGiCo SD Racks—and linked solely by a DiGiCo/Optocore 2GHz fiber optics network running at 96kHz.

“We’re very proud of our giant SD Cadillac of Love. We’re childishly, inappropriately proud of it.” That’s how Colby put it. Carlton was a little less colorful. “In the past, our system involved a lot of analog splits and another digital console, which worked well for us, but this is a much better, streamlined solution for having multiple mixers online with no passive splitters involved. Having an all-digital fiber optic distribution network ensured that we had no additional unwanted loading on the microphones, too.”

Clair’s crew chief for this tour is Bob Weibel, who I am used to seeing on shows by Brit rock acts…big ones, such as Queen and Robert Plant and Roger Waters and attached to Trip Khalif’s hip. “All of the house outputs, as well as all of the analog and digital monitor outputs, come out of that rack and all systems that run digitally are also assigned to an analog card on the SD Rack for backup. We’ve got all of the mics from the orchestra musicians going to Steve Colby, who’s devoted to generating the orchestra stem submixes. Those submixes get returned to the other consoles digitally through the DiGiCo network system that can handle 448 channels simultaneously at 96kHz, so it stays in the digital realm the whole time. In addition, the engineers have the ability to grab any discrete channel of the orchestra on their work surface.”

Yep, everyone has access to everything they need at every mix position with no splits. And all of the engineers are sharing the same head amps. “If we were using individual stage racks and analog splits, we’d need like 15 racks, which would occupy three to four times the physical space. From that perspective, it’s been good logistically for us to have everything concentrated in one spot.”

View from the front of House

View from the front of House

While the gear has been all about consolidation, in terms of work load, this tour bucks the trend of “everyone has three jobs” that has become all too common in the touring world. Originally, the EX-007 expander at house was just meant to be a kind of “sidecar”—additional faders for Carlton. But as planning for the tour preceded, the huge number of inputs that Chris had to manage plus the fact that the EX-007 has the ability to either be an extension or to mirror the main SD7 console, they decided to bring Gilpatric out to assist with the house mix. “This way Chris could pay attention to the overall mix and do most of the heavy lifting on his side, and I could monitor little things, change or save presets, and fine-tune different things on the EX-007 without affecting what he’s doing,” Kevin said. “It’s almost like there are two separate consoles out there and it worked seamlessly.”

Next, we head backstage with Colby who is used to running a ton of inputs. The Star Wars Live tour he did with the Boston Pops boasted 160 inputs all mixed from one position. “It was a chore,” he recalled. While this tour runs more total inputs (actually coming close to maxing out the I/O capabilities of the system), the work load has been spread around allowing for some specialization among the five engineers. “We’re taking all of the mics from the orchestra and breaking them down into submixes that go off to other mixers in the system,” Colby explained. “So Chris is taking my string stems and mixing with other discrete channels, and I make five stems that are sent off to Ian on monitors for Barbara and to Blake on monitors for the orchestra. We’re basically taking the first wave of huge chunks of inputs and cutting them down into something manageable, making lots of subtle mix changes from song to song that we hope will make a difference out front. I’m thinking about what it’s going to sound like in the room; how I can help Chris by giving him something consistent to work with, bumping up solos and things of that nature, so he doesn’t need to worry about it. I listen to that and then I also listen to the other stems at the same time from a monitor standpoint. The matrix capability lets me set up a different listening mix on every song, so it helps me to stay honest to the boys that I’m providing feeds for. Having a really deep snapshot automation that can drill all the way down into the matrix inputs and levels is incredibly powerful.”

And that flexibility is important. Every tour has last minute changes, but Streisand does everything big — including the unexpected twists. At literally the last minute it was decided to add an 80-voice choir to the final part of the show. The depth and flexibility of the DiGiCo system (continued)