When in Rome.... SD7 And D5 On Unique Show In The Eternal City
Fiorello, one of Italy's most popular showmen, hit the headlines this year with a unique live and TV entertainment project. Three nights a week, he hosted a show in a 2,500-seat marquee in the centre of Rome, recorded and edited down to a 30-minute package and beamed out in prime time by Sky Italia Satellite channel the following evening, with highlights transmitted every Sunday.
An up-tempo combination of his talents as a singer, comedian and imitator, the show alternated solo sketches with interaction between the artist, his guests and members of the audience, with a great deal of improvisation.
Fiorello's FOH engineer Hugo Tempesta used a DiGiCo SD7 console to mix live and broadcast sound, as well as recording every show. "With a ten-piece band and bandleader/pianist, mics for guests and spare mics, I'd no less than 156 input channels," he says. "Quite a number were doubled up on the console since, as well as the house sound reinforcement, I also mixed the music for broadcast, which requires different settings."
As well as 10 channels just for the band's drummer, there was also a twin percussion set-up, brass section, second keyboard player with six keyboards and various other sounds, plus electric, classical and acoustic guitars, bass and double bass.
Monitor engineer Enrico Belli also had his hands full, as he explains: "I had absolutely no free channels on my DiGiCo D5 Live desk and we also created an incredible number of snapshots as over a hundred songs were rehearsed but, thanks to the D-16c A-Net card for use with DiGiCo consoles, I was able to distribute audio via Cat-5e cable directly from the D5 to the 10 Aviom A-1611 personal mixers used by the band."
Tempesta sent the OB truck a L/R mixdown of the music in real time. "I had the duplicated channels under the same VCA, so the basic balance was set in the mix," he says. But if I needed to raise an instrument during the show, the VCA raised the broadcast level too."
Five different mixes were fed out by the SD7 to the huge house sound rig designed by Daniele Tramontani, divided into vocals, music and speech. As well as the main L/R system for the music, there were five separately controllable delay lines and a series of front fill enclosures. Fiorello therefore made his frequent forays into the audience without any feedback risks.
It was Tempesta's first outing with the SD7, but he has been a DiGiCo convert since the first models hit the market.
"I've always enjoyed working on these consoles and, after my first opportunity of hands-on use of the SD7, I must say it's a world unto itself - with the possibilities it offers for controlling all the channels in a really intuitive manner and their total interchangeability on the work surface," smiles Tempesta. "It was like having all the channels - named as I required in a 'filing cabinet' and being able to pull them out and put them precisely where I wanted - changing them with others, changing their names and colours. This is extremely useful when you get last-minute requests, as it only takes a moment to add whatever's required exactly where it's needed."
As well as finding the desk intuitive and reliable, Tempesta also says he found just how good it sounded during 10 days' production rehearsals in one of Rome's top studios Forum Music Village - where he was able to set up the SD7 in a control room with studio monitors.
"There, staffers are accustomed to top quality sounds and were surprised with the quality of the sound from a digital board - they thought I was working in analogue," he recalls. "It has a fantastic bottom end - really full-bodied - DiGiGo desks have always struck me for this feature - that's where the difference can be heard."
The engineer also appreciated the console's software, which provided multiband dynamics everywhere. "I hate traditional compressors, as compressing everything is senseless ," continues Tempesta. "I prefer multiband facilities to eliminate just whats necessary from the signals. This and the dynamic EQ are the two features I appreciated most on the show, where we had a lot of speech, as it enables very precise control of the voice."
Tempesta also enthused about having all the channels displayed with their names at the centre of the desk and, by just clicking on whichever he required, calling it up immediately, no matter which layer it was on.
"So much for complaints by reluctant digital users about passing from one layer to another when working," he says. "They are often the same folk who complained they didn't have enough channels at their disposal when using old analogue desks!
"Having a display with a video program at my disposal - for example showing the steadicam following Fiorello when he came off stage - was also a godsend, as it enabled me to follow certain aspects I wouldnt have seen otherwise. This desk is really ahead of its time."