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Feb 10

Written by: masterblogger
2/10/2012 4:57 PM  RssIcon

It’s Day 2 of Grammy rehearsals! It’s so awe-inspiring to witness this mammoth production machine happening backstage at the Staples Center. It’s hard to tell on TV, but there are essentially two stages for juggling the roughly 20 or so acts performing throught the show. Backstage, there are literally hundreds of people wrangling artists, choreographing set changes, managing stage props and pyro...I met at least 25 people working on audio production—and most of them have been working on the Grammys for 10 or 15 years. It’s an elite crew, to say the least. Since the Grammys are a music event, obviously the sound is a HUGE priority, and they’re definitely setting the bar high, as far as television sound production.

 

Right now, as artists spend two or three run-throughs fine-tuning their performances inside the arena, the audio crews are fine-tuning mixes in the house and in trucks outside the venue. Here’s what happens, in a nutshell:

 
 
 
The "operations central" truck backstage, where the producers work
 
Rack of Grace pres backstage: share, please!
Inside the Staples Center, there are two monitor systems for the artists and front of house station that mixes 168 channels (!!!!!) of sound for the audience. (There are a whopping 6 Digico digital consoles (each one can access every input, and everyone is sharing a big rack of Grace mic pres-discipline and organization are key here!) handling all of this audio—a far cry from loading in at your local club!)


There are redundant systems at monitors and FOH; the whole system was set up weeks ago and subjected to the “can we break it?” test. A team in another room backstage handles Pro Tools/MIDI cues for sync to videos, etc. Audio from the house then passes to a broadcast truck outside, where it is mixed to go out to broadcast in 5.1. There are two identical studio trucks sit right next to each other; inside, lead engineers (namely, John Harris, Eric Schilling, Hank Neuberger and Max Feldman) can alternate fine-tune details after rehearsals (sometimes artists and producers will join in here) in one truck while the next crew works on the next rehearsal in the other. (And in the highly unlikely event of equipment failure during broadcast, one truck can take over for the other in a split second.)
 
Mixer Max Feldman
in the broadcast truck
Mixing the show in 5.1 has made it much easier to translate the excitement of being in the house to living rooms everywhere. To maintain quality, Dolby has a team
Wireless mics, kept in bread pans for shielding.
Audio-Technica has 200 mics at the Grammys!

that works with the audio crews onsite and affiliates in key cities across the country who report back on quality, all to make sure the audio is translating through the broadcast chain—a lot of variables can affect the signal between the moment it leaves the Staples Center and when it reaches your home!

 

So that’s my oversimplification of the process. Mixing audio for the Grammys obviously requires a lot of experience, thinking on your feet, and grace under pressure. Think of these guys when you’re watching the show on Sunday night! I know I will…  —Sarah Jones

 

 

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