It’s jazzy - Timeline of an AURUS production*
* Recording of the Wayne Shorter show in Stockholm on 18 March 2005
Jazz is very popular in Sweden. In Stockholm alone, there are around ten live jazz venues. Naturally, SR Sverige Radio programming reflects its audience’s appreciation of this musical genre. For example, with a live recording of the legendary jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
2.00 pm The OB truck is parked on Sveavägen Street outside the artist’s entrance of the Stockholm Konserthus in the centre of the city. A cold wind is blowing and it has just begun to snow a little. The icicles dangling off the bottom of the SR Live OB truck are evidence of the still wintry weather in Sweden’s capital.
The cabling; an optical cable, a video cable for the monitor camera and the power cable, is run out of the truck – and back it goes into the cosy indoor warmth of the Konserthus.
2.15 pm A warm place has been reserved for the two mobile NEXUS Base Devices, too. The lower storage room in the truck is equipped with its own heater. This ensures a constant temperature environment is maintained at 15°C. In winter this is extremely important to prevent water condensing inside the two Base Devices after installing them in the heated Konserthus.
2.30 pm The optical cabling has been run through the building to backstage. This connects the two NEXUS Base Devices to the NEXUS STAR router on the truck. Together with the large NEXUS Base Device in the control room of the truck, they form a star-shaped audio network. Three portable units belong to the OB truck. If necessary, they can be supplemented by other mobile NEXUS Base Devices owned by SR — a major benefit of the star topology. In fact, one Base Device would have been sufficient for today’s job: from the total of 88 microphone inputs, a mere 16 are required for the Wayne Shorter Band and another four for recording the audience.
3.00 pm The stage is prepared, the monitor desk installed, and the instruments are arranged on stage. Meanwhile, OB truck engineer Maurice Mogard has sufficient time to set up an AURUS project for the recording. He is already familiar with the NEXUS as the SR has used a CANTUS console since 1998 in the Berwald Hall, another important venue. He has not worked very often with the AURUS – since the truck was only fitted with the new console some months ago. Nevertheless, the changeover to the new desk is easy for him since AURUS, with its clear and convenient layout, is highly intuitive to operate.
4.00 pm Microphone placing begins. All microphones, except for the ambient microphones, are provided by the Wayne Shorter Band’s audio engineer. The band mics have been carefully selected. For example Royer ribbon microphones for the kick drum, overheads, and Shorter’s tenor sax. The microphone set up is configured for the sound reinforcement, since the sound must be totally consistent at more than 200 shows. The band uses its own microphone preamps for the same reason. Such a pity, as the NEXUS Base Devices on the OB truck are equipped with 28-bit TrueMatch converter boards by STAGETEC which would render these preamps unnecessary.
4.35 pm At this very moment, someone is trying to squeeze his car in behind the truck. This would block the cover of the outside patch bay. However, the wretch is soon spotted through the truck’s large rear window. Daylight on an OB truck console is generally uncommon; however, this has been a tradition at SR for many years. In the past, the truck used to be parked in such a way that a clear view was provided from the console onto the stage, especially at festivals. Today, in the age of screens and centre speakers, eye contact is established using a monitor camera. However, the big window, opening the OB truck to the outside world and improving the working environment, is still there, even on SR’s most up-to-date OB truck.
5.00 pm Sound check. The band has just arrived but only as a trio. Wayne Shorter himself will only turn up immediately before the show. The piano microphones produce a slightly hollow sound. Maurice Mogard tries various ways of mixing the four signals, an MS signal and an additional support signal, but the sound is never convincing. The AURUS filters can’t help either though they have recently been updated. They now come with an extended slope of ±24 dB – by the way, this change is the result of a suggestion by SR, based on their experiences with the CANTUS console in the Berwald Hall. Maurice Mogard reacts quickly and puts up some extra microphones at the piano; these will be used only for the recording and will therefore be directly connected to one of the NEXUS Base Devices near the stage.
6.00 pm Wayne Shorter has arrived earlier than expected after all. Another short sound check, this time including the soprano and tenor saxophones. There is not much time left, as is always the case with live recordings. In scenarios like this, AURUS supports the engineer by allowing for instant access to the key parameters of all channels, so Maurice can quickly find the right settings. Especially with large-scale recordings where the console with its 40 faders and 168 channels is fully utilised, features such as the extensive channel layout, the advanced talkback functions, and the powerful monitoring section bring all their sophistication to bear. Spirits are high in the OB truck; one can almost feel how relaxed it is working with this console!
6.30 pm Dinner break. It’s getting even colder. An icy wind blows in our faces on our way to a near-by restaurant. At the moment, it’s hard to imagine that the OB truck will soon be booked out with open-air festivals. During their short summers, the Swedes love any kind of festival: from an opera performance in an old castle ruin, to the acclaimed Stockholm Jazz Festival against the backdrop of the harbour. Many musical events with top artists are recorded on SR’s state-of-the-art OB truck, so there is no long summer holiday for the Sverige Radio employees.
7.20 pm Everyone’s back from dinner, and they are all in a good mood. The blanks for the listening copies are loaded into the CD recorders. It’s almost show time, but before the Wayne Shorter Quartet starts their set, there is an awards ceremony for Swedish jazz trumpet player Peter Asplund, combined with a solo ballad performance.
8.00 pm Here we go. The band comes on stage, and multitrack recording starts. There is no set list and the CD recording with the songs played tonight will only be released after the end of the tour. So Maurice cannot listen in advance to what awaits him tonight. During the show, Wayne Shorter comes up with a new style: not as a soloist with background musicians, but a bit more diffident, embedded into the band. Sometimes he turns around, moving away from his microphone, using it as a musical tool. Luckily for us we have the direct video camera view of the stage! Otherwise, the engineer might have boosted the saxophone level too much in this situation.
Nevertheless, a small mixing error would not have been the end of the world because not only is the live stereo mix recorded, but a multitrack recording is also made on the truck. This might have been used for mending the live mix if necessary. Until now, SR has used the AURUS snapshot automation for this purpose, so the console settings of each song are memorized. This feature sometimes allows the postedits to be made directly after the show while colleagues are still busy stowing things away and removing cables. In the future, dynamic automation will provide an even more convenient way of working. However, this feature has not yet been installed — simply because the truck is always on tour, so no update can be made.
By the way, bands have sometimes purchased the multitrack recordings of their shows after experiencing the remarkable technology and listening to the excellent sound inside the OB truck.
9.30 pm The show is over. The recordings are flawless — the SR producer in charge decides that none of the tracks need any postediting. No surprise, because the SR engineers are highly experienced professionals. Shows mixed on this OB truck include a Judas Priest hard rock concert as well as chamber orchestra performances; surround mixes for TV projects, and operas.
The AURUS is shut down. Within half an hour, the three cables are coiled up, the Base Devices are put back in their compartment, and the truck has already left the site. Early tomorrow morning, the show will go on once again, with another AURUS mix.