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Yamaha digital consoles rock Reading and Leeds

Oct,2008

While the heavyweight likes of Metallica, Rage Against The Machine, The Killers, the Manic Street Preachers and The Cribs were rocking out on the Main and NME stages at this year’s Reading and Leeds festivals, three other stages at the twin events featured considerably longer daily line-ups of talent. And a vital element were Yamaha digital consoles.

Reading and Leeds festivals take place over the three-day August bank holiday weekend and are ostensibly identical. All the acts that play at one site perform at the other on a different day of the weekend. And while the acts playing on the Festival Republic, BBC Introducing and Alternative stages may not have quite the global pulling-power of those on the biggest stages, the sheer amount of different performers make them an essential stopping point for festival goers.

And it’s the extremely fast turnarounds between acts on all three stages that made Yamaha digital consoles the best choice for audio provider Entertainment Sound Specialists (ESS).

At both Reading and Leeds sites ESS supplied the Festival Republic stage with a PM5D-RH at Front of House and an M7CL-48 on monitors, the Alternative stage with an M7CL-48 at FOH and an LS9-32 on monitors and an LS9-32 to cover both FOH and mons on the BBC Introducing stage.

“There are a lot of variables involved in all three stages,” says ESS’s Phil McDaniel. “Although each one is ostensibly the same at both venues, things like the slope of the ground and relative position of the stage on the site can be different. It all has an effect on the sound.

“There is a wide variety of acts and also a lower dB limit at Reading than at Leeds. So, with the extremely short changeover times, it’s quite a challenge.”

He continues, “Firstly, we set up a generic starting point on the consoles, programmed in advance, for each system. Between each act we return the consoles to that starting point by recalling the saved scene. This makes it very fast to get the console ready for the next act.

“Alternatively, if an act has its own sound engineer, we invite them to submit show files in advance. They often send ALL files, which we convert offline to individual scene files. The ESS team is then primed to load that scene for that particular act.”

“In addition, an engineer can save his settings as the band finishes at whichever venue the act is playing first, then we can email the scene file to our guys at the other venue. So the following day’s gig will be immediately ‘ready to go’ for the engineer, even before the changeover begins.

The ability to pre-program, configure and recall specific pre-set desk scenes is especially important at the Alternative stage because the acts differ wildly - from bands to stand-up comedians, spontaneous chat show-type events, even burlesque wrestling in-the-round!

Meanwhile, a particular challenge of the BBC Introducing stage is that the FOH mix position is sidestage. The fact that the ESS team can present the engineer with his final mix from the previous site usually provokes much relief, as he will have spent much of the first gig running backwards and forwards from the mix position.

“During the first half of day, it’s unusual for acts to have their own front of house engineers, but later in evening every band will have their own engineer. Some bring monitor engineers, many don’t,” says Phil.

“But our guys are so familiar with getting the best from the consoles that it’s never a problem. We just get stuck in and the Yamaha desks also have the advantage of being very easy to teach. The PM5D and M7-CL are now so ubiquitous that very few people haven’t used them.

“However, if they haven’t used a PM5D, for example, we say ‘Don’t worry about the screen, just look at left side of desk and use it like an analogue console’. That way, most people easily get a good mix out of them.”

The biggest challenge, however, is undoubtedly getting one band off and another started in just 15 minutes - whatever needs to be done. Usually this would require a double set of consoles and control gear at both ends of the multicore. However, the production budget does not allow this for these stages, so every second counts as the same consoles and equipment have to be reconfigured immediately for the next act.

“If you have two band engineers in a row, and one has very different requirements for gates and inserts, etc, physically re-patching all of those on an analogue console can take five or eight of those fifteen minutes,” says Phil.

“Every minute is a huge slice of that changeover time, all you need it one small problem and the time literally evaporates. But with the Yamaha digital consoles, this re-patching is simply not necessary. There’s a gate and compressor on every channel and we just turn them on and off as required. The consoles are also extremely reliable, which is one of the main reasons we bought them.”

He concludes, “Not only do the Yamaha digital consoles improve the consistency and speed of the changeovers, they also give us extra facilities and resources to deal with unexpected last-minute requests. And despite all the advance planning we do, bands will still spring those surprises on us!”

Data

Products PM5D-RH , M7CL-48 , LS9-32

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