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Yamaha PM1D Hitch Hikes To The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe

July, 2012

June and July have seen a Yamaha PM1D digital mixing console temporarily updated with an Infinite Improbability Drive as it helps to provide the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything on a unique theatre tour of Douglas Adams’ legendary Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Titled The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show - Live!, the production is a stage recreation of the ground-breaking radio series and brings together many of the original cast, including Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox, Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect, Susan Sheridan as Trillian and Stephen Moore as the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Sound design for the tour is by Gareth Owen, with his associate and the tour’s head of sound Russell Godwin manning the PM1D. Fortunately for him it isn’t positioned in a concrete bunker 37 miles away, as it would be for the show’s fictional band Disaster Area, but at the conventional front of house position.

Gareth and Russell chose the PM1D partly because it was the only digital console which can reliably provide enough submix stems.

“The show features a five piece live band, a lot of wired mics for the performers, one lavalier mic for the narrator (who changes from venue to venue) and - as you would expect - loads of sound effects. These include a large Foley table with five mics on it and a lot of playback,” says Russell.

“We needed a console which had a large and flexible architecture. We’re running two streams of click tracks, a range of submixes and monitor split channels which go to an Aviom system for all the performers. We’re also doing a multitrack recording every night, via another submix stem, which allows the audience at each venue to buy a CD of that night’s show two days later. The PM1D’s architecture allowed us to do all that we wanted very easily.”

He continues, “Another advantage of the PM1D is that we’re using a lot of internal effects. Not only is the architecture flexible enough to cover our needs, but they are the classic-sounding Yamaha effects which were such a feature of the original radio series. They help to add real authenticity to the sound.”

Due to the complexity of the sound setup, the show is entirely pre-programmed. However, Russell is still riding the faders throughout.

“There are a lot of patch changes, so the show has to be done on scenes. But in many ways it’s a real rock’n’roll mix - the mics are all very different, so I’m constantly adjusting dynamics and fader positions during the show,” he says. “The actors change positions throughout and no two nights are ever exactly the same, so I have to be very quick following them and making adjustments.”

He admits that the biggest challenge is getting the system set up each time on a tour which is playing one night in many venues. But the PM1D has made a significant contribution to making the whole thing possible.

“There is a lot to get in and out each day, so we have very little soundcheck time. The huge advantage of the PM1D is that I can plug it in, load the show up and I know it’ll work reliably,” he continues.

“I hadn’t mixed a show on a PM1D for three or four years, but it’s a testament to the design that it was a breeze coming back to it. The depth of programming and recallability is so flexible that we teched the tour in a single day.”

Having enjoyed his own return to the PM1D on this year’s tour of Top Hat, Gareth Owen is similarly happy with specifying the console.

“I fell in love with the PM1D all over again when designing Top Hat and it has once more proved its worth on the Hitch Hiker’s tour,” he says. “It’s exceptionally flexible and is the only console capable of reliably fulfilling the needs of this tour. Indeed, fans of the show might say it has a Heart of Gold…”

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