JPS Australia

History

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter 3

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage, and is one play presented in two parts, which are intended to be seen in order on the same day (matinee and evening) or on two consecutive evenings.

After its success in London and New York, the play opened at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre with JPJ Audio the nominated audio supplier.

Sound designer Gareth Fry, who has scooped numerous awards for his work on the play including winning an Olivier Award, a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award, flew in to ensure a smooth transition. Gareth has worked with director (and co-author) John Tiffany since 2006 saying they have a shared vocabulary for talking about things, shared reference points, and an understanding of each other’s tastes for things.

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As the play is set in a fantasy wizard world where nothing is naturalistic, generating the sound effects was a major undertaking for Gareth who strived to ensure the magic appeared very real.
With a normal play you can use a sound effects library or go out into the world to record it,” he explained. “As so much of this is spells and mystical creatures, all of that has to be created from scratch from the imagination. It’s a massively ambitious show in scale and storytelling, and we’ve had to create hundreds of sounds as well as developing a language to do that.

Rather than prepare most sound effects beforehand, Gareth and his associate Pete Malkin were in rehearsals full-time from day one, creating the effects in Logic and Ableton Live in response to what was being generated.

A lot of it was made in situ with the performers and creative team to make it really gel together,” added Gareth. “Quite often if you make something in the studio and then bring it to the rehearsal room, it doesn’t match.

The PA at The Princess Theatre is all d&b audiotechnik, almost exclusively the Y-Series which Gareth says is a lovely sounding box, well suited to this scale of theatre.

It’s a very large speaker system, particularly for a play, there are hundreds of speakers all over the place,” he said.

A TiMax Tracker is deployed to make vocal mics precisely follow the movement of actors. “Each performer wears a tag that the computer tracks so the TiMax system can pan their voice around the sound system so it sounds more like their amplified voice is coming from where the actual performer is,” Gareth elaborated.

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The show is so complex that two sound operators are required at FOH. One operator is kept busy mixing the mics and vocal effects on a DiGiCo SD10T, whilst the other person triggers the sound effects and music on QLab and Ableton Live , through a Yamaha CL5.

There are a lot of sound effects, and a lot of Imogen Heap’s pre-recorded music that moves between underscoring and the foreground,” remarked Gareth. “We’re using Apple MainStage software for all the different vocal effects, as well as a Lexicon PCM96.

A few of the radio mics had to be mounted in unusual places in strange costumes and so the aptly named DPA d:screet microphones were chosen as Gareth says they sound great, are very tough and are small enough to hide on cast members. As the show has progressed around the world, the microphones have kept pace with newer models being implemented so that by the time it opened in Melbourne, the new DPA d:screet 6000 Series was utilised.

They are effectively invisible,” stated Gareth. “The actors prefer wearing them too, because they are less obtrusive. They sound great and they are incredibly water resistant.

Gareth describes the transfer to The Princess Theatre as incredibly smooth saying the JPJ team were amazing. “I couldn’t have asked for it to go any smoother!” he declared.

All Photos: ©Matt Murphy

 

Bryan Ferry

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Bryan Ferry has a reputation as a very artistic performer who cares deeply about his music, constantly changing arrangements and songs.

With an outstanding ear for the songs’ musical arrangements, both Bryan’s FOH and monitor mix require constant, active mixing throughout each song at a very detailed level.

Davide

FOH engineer Davide Lombardi has worked with other iconic British singers such as Kate Bush, Ed Sheeran, Gary Barlow, Tom Jones and when the tour finishes, he hits the road with Dido who after 15 years has finally released another album.

This tour has been going for a while but then again, Bryan never really stops,” remarked Davide. “He goes out every year but never for a long time, a maximum of four weeks at one time

The tours utilized an L-Acoustics K1/K2 PA system with SB28s subs and a front face of ARCs and 108s, all controlled by Lake and LA network. At the ICC in Sydney the set up was 12 K1s and four K2s on the main hangs with side hangs of 12 K2s, four subs flown, four ARCs per side as outfills, two ARCs per side as infill and 218s as front fills.

The venue here is very steep so we’ve had to fly quite high in order to cover the very top seats,” said Davide. “We spend a lot of time tuning, making sure that there is a good balance between delays and gain structure in order to get the image back to where Bryan is. Also, Bryan is not a powerful singer so the more coverage there is, the better it is to control his vocal.

Out front Davide was mixing on a DiGiCo SD10 saying the way he mixes is pretty simple with little in the way of routing. He doesn’t use plugins and the only external effect he had was a Bricasti M7 reverb, which he loves, and a tc electronic D2 delay unit especially used for the saxophone to recreate an 80s sound. An SPX 2000 is used for effect in just one moment of one song.

It’s really very simple,” added Davide. “Everything is routed into groups going to the matrix and then out of the matrix into the Lake and then out into the LA Network. I get a lot of precision from stage which is why it is simple. Before making changes on the console, we work a lot with the band adjusting levels with them when we can so we don’t change the sound too much. I try to leave it as natural and organic as possible.

Davide’s biggest challenge is getting Bryan’s vocal above everything else as he is a gentle singer and talker, and can sometimes mumble!

As well as Bryan, there are eight people onstage and with his music being very busy, there is not much space left for his vocal to cut through. However Davide says that is something Bryan seeks as he wants to express himself with his music rather than his voice. The result is a lot going on for Davide with a ‘proper’ live mix.

There are constant changes and we can’t rest for one second,” he said. “There are layers and layers happening all the time.” Bryan uses an Audio Technica 6100 microphone, a dynamic mic that has condenser characteristics according to monitor engineer Tom Howat.

It’s an interesting mic although you could potentially get a lot of spill in it so a lot of what we do is containment,” Tom commented. “It’s a good choice though because it’s not a condenser mic but you still get a quality output from it and Bryan really like it.

Modeling amps are used for the guitars so there are no guitar amps onstage to help keep spill under control with Davide saying it sounds better.

Sax mics are from SD Systems, again they are dynamic but have tripod prongs that clip onto the bell of the horn.

TomThey give you a very nice rich sax tone,” said Tom. “We have DPA’s for the violin and the rest is pretty standard although the Shure SM57 on the washboard is a highlight of the show.

Tom mixed monitors on an Allen and Heath dLive, his console of choice but fessed up to having a history with it as he was part of the development team!

It’s a great sounding console, is very powerful and is good for IEMs,” he added. “We did some orchestra shows last year and I completely maxed it out, used the modularity of the system to expand with it which is all very cool.
Everyone was on IEMS Sennheiser 2050s, with Tom having has 16 transmitters and only the drums were hard wired.

Mixing monitors for Bryan is a very parallel equation to Davide – precision, accuracy, coping with what he’s hearing and wanting to hear,” said Tom. “And also like the FOH mix, you’re riding every solo and readjusting all the time. The band basically get my attention during the soundcheck and I’m pretty much pinned on Bryan through the show. It’s mix, mix, mix and without snapshots I’d be lost on this one. The musicians play different instruments so there’s a fair bit of rotation there. Arrangements are everything with Bryan and I have to mix monitors as if I’m mixing out front, you can’t leave it alone for a minute. With the vocal you’re riding that fader up and down, pulling it back every time he’s not singing – so the finger grips that fader all the time.

Tom reveals that he has to watch Bryan closely taking cues from whatever he is looking at, maybe something has to go up or down depending upon the look on his face. Reading his body language is a key part of Tom’s job.

Davide discovered that the ICC room had specific places that sounded quite different and he was interested to see how it changed once the audience were in the house.

The corridor by the FOH has a cancellation about the low end at 40 – 50 Hz so we’ve been measuring that with Smaart,” he said. “You can see when you move the microphone you see a big scoop coming on 50Hz. We’ve tried to fix it but you can’t, it’s a natural thing but hopefully it will be better when the audience are in.

I always make sure that the mix is not exactly perfect at the FOH, walk around the venue a lot during soundcheck to make sure I find a good balance between everywhere. That takes a long time but it’s worth it.

 

The music comes at them at such a complicated level it pays off to keep the technical elements as simple as possible whilst using the power of technology to simplify the process.

Smaart, snapshots ….. all great examples of using technology to enable us to do what we need to do mix wise because that’s where it is all at for Bryan,” added Tom. “It may sound like it’s straightforward but it’s not, you bury the technology so the actual hands-on bit really counts. Its old school but using high tech.

JPJ Audio supplied the gear and crew with Davide and Tom commenting on how well they work together as a team.

This article first appeared in the print edition of CX Magazine April 2019. CX Magazine is Australia and New Zealand’s only publication dedicated to entertainment technology news and issues. Read all editions for free or search their archive www.cxnetwork.com.au

 

David Byrne’s American Utopia

David Byrne band

The most talked about and critically acclaimed concert this year has to be David Byrne’s American Utopia, which had the critics raving.

Not only was it a visual feast, it also sounded pretty damn good, thanks to FOH engineer Pete Keppler (who has mixed tours for music’s biggest icons, from David Bowie to ZZ Top) and JPJ Audio.

JPJ Audio’s Clair Cohesion system was out with the tour using an almost identical set up to the rest of the world tour.

We’re using all CO-12s here in Australia”, commented Pete, “as opposed to the Co-12/Co-10 rig we were using in the USA. I had never brought Clair on a tour until I worked with Katy Perry starting in 2010, and she was a Clair account. Her production manager told me ‘you can use any sound company you want, as long as it’s Clair!’ And I’ve hardly used any other company since!

When the Cohesion series became available, I was blown away at how well it performs, and how easy a system it is to set up and rig. I myself was one member of a group of engineers invited out to Clair a few years back for some lengthy questioning about line arrays, hardware, electronics and all kinds of stuff, and the information gathered was used to help design and create the Cohesion system.

At Sydney’s ICC Theatre there were 16 x CO-12 per side on the front hangs and 12 x CO-12 per side on the side hangs. Because of the simplicity of the stage setup, Pete was not allowed to have any of the usual front-fill on the downstage edge, so a stack of (4) CO-8s was put on each of the two downstage corners, aimed in at the center 3-5 rows of audience.

I use them as near-fill mostly to cover the very front rows in the center where the main PA doesn’t quite reach,” added Pete. “Also, I have 6 drummers on stage and no other instruments with any acoustic output, so the mix I send to the CO-8s is separate and has very little drums in it, and the CO-8s really cover that space and fill in the rest” And as for far-field coverage. “We’ve found with the CO-12 that the smaller angles (1 and 2 degrees) will exponentially increase the high-frequency throw. We did some outdoor shows where the Co-12s covered 400 feet with no trouble at all. Arrayed properly physically, this PA will save you a lot of work.

In keeping with the clean stage design, the entire show is wireless and Pete says this show would not have been possible without the Shure Axient D, saying it’s hands-down the best RF system he has ever heard. “We did a shoot-out last year against a wired mic and an analogue RF system and I swear I could not tell the difference between this and the wired microphone,” he said.

Pete was running roughly 44 inputs of wireless from drums and vocals, another twenty or so inputs from keyboard interfaces, guitar amp modelers, etc. and the IEMs use 16 outs of Shure PSM1000. It’s an RF challenge for sure, but Clair’s Jamie Nelson ensured smooth sailing. “She’s our secret weapon,” says Pete, “Especially at festivals when the RF coordinator you were promised never shows up!

FOH Pete uses a DiGiCo SD10 console, a surface he says he knows like the back of his hand. His one piece of outboard gear was a Lexicon PCM41 for use on just a few songs. “I’m a minimalist, and I like a small footprint.

To cut down ambience and spill from all the live percussion into the vocal mics, Pete uses the Waves F6 Dynamic EQ plugin.
I’m using the six bands of the F6 to really make the most of all the gain I have available on the vocals,” he explained. “I’m not a fan of permanent EQ on many sound sources, particularly vocals. I have the F6 plugin inserted via MultiRack on all the vocals, and I externally key one band of the F6 to act as a high-frequency downward expander, in addition to using several of the other bands as normal dynamic EQ.

As the musicians rapidly change instruments throughout the show, the microphone systems have to be robust. The vocal mics are all DPA 4088s, DPA 4099 on most of the drums, Audix D6 on bass drums, Shure Beta 98s, Sennheiser e904s and Audio-Technica AE2300 for snares and high hats.

The setup at monitor world is a DiGiCo SD5, and SD rack, an SD Mini Rack, and two Soundcraft real-time rack units, in addition to all the RF transmitters and receivers. In Australia, Dan Matthews ran monitors as the tour’s original monitor engineer, John Chadwick, took a dive off the stage and injured himself.

Pete remarked that the other key piece of gear used was his ears and that he doesn’t look at sound if he can possibly avoid it! “Some folks spend their time focusing on what they’re seeing on metres and other visual indications, but I’m old school that way,” he laughed.

David Byrne Crew

Tony Szabo, Pete Keppler, Tim Jones

To the audience, this show appears to be very simple but no one sees what is behind the success of the show – a very significant amount of technology. Pete commented that JPJ have been great and that his techs, Alex McCormack and Tim Jones, did an amazing job.

 

WWE Super Show-Down

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WWE, in partnership with TEG Dainty, returned to Australia with WWE Super Show-Down, an historic event that took place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and featured the largest collection of WWE Superstars and Legends ever to appear in the country.

JPJ Audio provided the audio for this prestigious event including a Clair Global Cohesion 12 Line Array PA that was located in the centre of the MCG firing outwards. Also supplied were a flown monitor system inside the ring, all the RF requirements, consoles, patch equipment and of course, an excellent crew.

The design was based on twelve boxes of CO-12 per hang with two hangs at each corner of the stage,” said Alex McCormack, JPJ’s Crew Chief. “However, despite what appears to be a small amount of boxes, the coverage was great all the way to the very back of the grandstands.

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For the FOH mix there was a DiGiCo SD10 along with a fully redundant SD9. Monitors also used an SD10, added in case there was a live band thrown in at the last minute. Our experience with WWE is you need to be prepared for last minute additions based on the direction of the live event, this set up allowed us to deal with any such situation.

The entrance stage at southern end of the ground featured a ramp down to the ring for the wrestler and host entries. The stage and ramp housed monitors and wedges but no control gear as they were covered by the monitor system.

A full, cutting edge Shure Axient RF system was positioned at front of house with wireless workbench monitored by the FOH engineer and JPJ RF tech monitoring the spectrum. Despite the MCG having significant challenges with multiple TV channels clashing in the middle of the stadium, it ran very smoothly.
The channel count was kept relatively low compared to what we were prepared for,” added Alex.

WWE’s Lance Vardis did FOH and Clair Global’s Daniel Laveglia executed all of the prep work in consultation with JPJ’s Mats Frankl to ensure a successful event. This was no mean feat as the event was nothing like a typical WWE arena setup.

Despite being held in Melbourne, there was not a single drop of rain during the six days our gear and crew were exposed to the elements!