DiGiCo beats out a Tattoo
For over 60 years the Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been a centrepiece of the various annual festivals that take place in the city throughout August. Renowned for the precision of its performances, 2014 saw a DiGiCo SD10 console marching to a military beat.
Delivering seamless sound around the high temporary stands erected at Edinburgh Castle is always a challenge, as the weather can change from calm to very windy, from dry to thick fog or torrential rain in minutes. The show itself is very dynamic, with the audience seated around three sides - and the further rows and mix position high above – of the large courtyard in which the action takes place. Adding to the challenge is the backdrop of the castle itself, which is visually stunning, but provides a large, hard surface for slapback.
For 2014, the audio team tasked with this challenging project comprised sound designer Seb Frost, associate sound designer Crispian Covell, Front of House engineer Tom Aspley (assisted by Joe Tate), system tech Gary Kenyan and radio mic runners Cameron Goodall and Laura Dougan.
This was Toms first year mixing the event and the second in which a DiGiCo system was used.
“Last year an SD8 was used at FOH, but a more ambitious sound design this year led to a significantly higher channel count,” he says. “Amongst other things this meant an additional 20 radio microphones. Moving up to an SD10 provided both enough inputs and many more outputs, providing us with far more flexibility and control over the system setup.”
As well as the SD10, two SD-Racks were installed on a fibre optic loop, one each on the north and south sides of the arena, each looking after the inputs and outputs for that side.
“Because of the show’s scale, neither the acts nor the amps are located in a single place, so the flexibility the SD-Racks provided was essential,” says Tom. “There were amp rooms on both the north and south sides to minimise speaker cable runs, as well as a separate radio rack room at the east end.”
Input channels on the SD10 comprised 36 radio mics, 30 channels for three house bands, 18 of QLab and 12 ‘other’ microphones for the commentator, choir, rifles, show relay and induction loop.
“I was doing 24 aux mixes, mostly for foldback to the arena floor, band wedges and IEMs for the house band, conductor, singers and a choir of 16. There was also some submixing for the BBC record feed,” Tom continues, “plus 20 group busses for outputs to TiMax, used for speaker processing.
“As well as the fibre loop, all the local MADI I/O was used for the inputs and outputs to and from TiMax, the QLab inputs and to provide a MADI stream to the BBC.”
Because of its scale and the acoustic challenges of the venue, the Tattoo is a tough show to mix, but Tom was very happy with the SD10’s performance.
“The desk performed very well, I don't think any other manufacturer’s desk would have given us the necessary I/O, combined with the flexibility that we got from a DiGiCo,” he says.
“The copy audio feature was particularly useful. It allowed us to effectively use the desk as a patchbay to route all 56 MADI outputs from TiMax (situated at FOH) directly to the appropriate speaker amplifiers, which were located several hundred metres away. We also used the copy audio feature to patch a combination of audio channels and sub mixes to the BBC MADI stream.”
He continues, “The Scene Scope feature was also invaluable, as we had a large number of scenes for the show’s 16 separate acts, all of which used nearly all 36 radio mics. Each scene had to recall almost every parameter on the radio mic channels, it could be a DPA 4066 on a vocal in one scene and then a Sennheiser MK2 on a drum in the next. These acts would often overlap each other and some mics would stay on an instrument for several scenes.
“We couldn't have made this work as fluidly as it did without being able to get as in depth with the Scope programming as a DiGiCo console allows you to, and, because it worked so well, it allowed me to concentrate on mixing the show rather than having to think about hundreds of parameter changes.”