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Live on Tape - Yamaha digital consoles at this year's Echo Award at the ICC Berlin


The Deutsche Phono-Akademie e.V. (German Phono Academy) has been celebrating this year's Echo Award ceremony with a major TV show production. The event took place in mid-February at Berlin's congress centre, the ICC. Echo has been around since 1992 and is the second biggest music prize in the world, after the Grammys. It is awarded annually to the most successful national and international pop artist. The audio technology of the "live on tape" event is a particular challenge for everyone involved, as the TV show, star-studded with lots of top international acts, has to be broadcast with a time shift of 70 minutes. Production is faced with the challenge of providing each and every artist with an environment for their performance that is identical to that of their own concerts.

The stage and sound crews have to make sure that conditions for the artists are exactly the same as they were during the sound check, within short changeover times of just a few minutes. This year, four large Yamaha digital consoles were used for production - a PM1D and three PM5D-RHs.

Oliver Voges, whose CV includes working as FOH man for bands and productions such as Fettes Brot, Mousse T., Scooter, 4LYN, Deftones, Bravo Super Show and The Dome, has been the man behind the Echo Award since 1999. He remembers the times when digital mixing console technology was not available in the live sector to the extent that it is today. "The technical aspect was extremely challenging as five or even seven large analog FOH desks often had to be set up, depending on the number of bands, sometimes with 180 or more multi-core channels coming from the stage." At the Echo Award, the artists have the choice of appearing live or with half or full playback. Experience has shown that at least half the acts play live. What's more, for major TV shows like this complete redundancy of all the audio systems must be provided.

The PM1D has been used in the monitor position for several years now. The FOH desk has now also been equipped with digital mixing console technology from Yamaha (2x PM5D-RH). These large digital consoles have obviously made working with live bands much easier - for each live act, an individual scene is developed during rehearsals and then loaded for the live appearance. Because large TV shows such as this have lots of other sources as well as live acts, bringing it all together professionally is handled by two independent sound crews working on the stage and the FOH desk. One is responsible for the live bands and the other takes care of all other signals such as presentation, half and full playbacks and other items on the programme. Each crew has its own microphone technician, stage manager, patcher, FOH and monitor mixer, and wireless specialists.

The FOH desk for speech and playbacks provides the system engineer with independent playback channels for presentation, conference circuits and the other sources. The challenges here are, for example, precise links to the next item on the programme and managing lots of different types of microphones. Voges does this by working with subgroups, each of which has pre-equalisation for a certain type of microphone. The EQ of the individual channels remains as free as possible for individual adjustments to the voice of the performer. If the artist suddenly decides during rehearsals that they would prefer to use a headset instead of a hand-held microphone, the appropriate pre-equalisation for this type of microphone is made available within seconds after routing to the appropriate sub-group and the rehearsal can continue without delay. This is what Voges has to say about this concept and the Yamaha consoles: "I've been working on major TV shows using the PM5D for three years now and it's all gone really well, particularly because it's very easy to divide up the console. All the speech microphones are arranged on one side, with the vocals, backing vocals, effects and playback devices on the other. All inputs are assigned to DCA group faders that I use to carry out the actual equalisation - the input faders are usually at 0dB. That means that I always have direct access to all the essential levels, even if the interface is currently switched to a different layer."

Here's the clever bit: while the console side, with the vocals, playbacks and FX, is recalled from the console's scene automation, where the snapshots make the correct settings available for every act, the speech microphones are always right within hand's reach. Voges - "The separation always puts me in a position where I can manually intervene in the current situation on stage in the speech microphone area. At the same time, I can also load the next scene for the other signals on the other side of the console and check that the set-up is correct if the DCAs are connected. The Yamaha digital consoles have made this method much easier for us."


Products PM1DV2 , PM5D

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