The 2009 festival season is in full swing, which means back-to-back production responsibilities for global sound reinforcement provider, Eighth Day Sound. In mid-June, they did double-duty on two major events, the Hot 97 Summer Jam at Giants Stadium in New York, and then moving south to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee.
For hip-hop fans, the annual Hot 97 Summer Jam offered hip-hop fans a taste of some of the biggest and brightest stars. 8th Day handled all the acts including Mary J. Blige, Jadakiss, T-Pain, Young Jeezy and Elephant Man. At Bonnaroo, neither rain, nor mud, nor dust, nor double-digit temperatures could sway hundreds of thousands from the four-day, multi-stage landmark camping festivalâ€”revered by music fans and media alike. Bonnarooâ€™s â€˜villageâ€™ brought together some of the best performers in every genre imaginable, on stage and in tents showcasing movies, comedy, and theatre – as it has since the festivalâ€™s inception in 2002. 8th Day handled the main music stage (in addition to a handful of the secondary stages), mixing sound for a diverse lineup that included Erikah Badu, Wailing Souls, Snoop Dogg, Galactic, The Itals, and Rodrigo Y Gabriella.
In addition to a d&b audiotechnik J-Series PA, 8th Dayâ€™s Director of Touring Operations, Owen Orzack specified two sets of DiGiCo SD8 consolesâ€”two at FOH and two on monitorsâ€”to upgrade the quality of the audio package they provided.
â€œBudgets and specs for these festivals were calling for another console,â€? explained Orzack. â€œWe wanted to offer a console that would fit the same budget, but would also provide a sonic upgrade. The SD8 specifically offered features that lent themselves to this kind of event: great sonics, reliability, ease of use for the guest engineers who might not be familiar with DiGiCo consoleâ€”these were the hallmarks of what were trying to achieve. Also, real estate is at a premium at these kinds of festivals, and the SD8 offered a small footprint in an all-in-one package. Plus, we were able to keep everything in the digital realmâ€”from a digital AES signal out, into a Dolby digital link EQ, all the way down to the amplifiers.â€?
8th Day was able to do some standard input pre-programming prior to the events, enabling the â€˜guestâ€™ engineers to have a head start before their set. Also, having both consoles in tandem onsite allowed for one act to perform downstage using one SD8, while the subsequent band line-checked on the other. At Hot 97, the input list typically ranged from 12-20 for the hip-hop headliners (with the exception of Mary J. Blige, who used 48 channels of the 120 inputs available with the SD8). Bonnarooâ€™s full-band roster averaged between 24-36 inputs.
Having two sets of DiGiCo consoles made for an easy day, Orzack recalled, â€œeven when things changed, which is inevitable on these kinds of events. At Hot 97, they changed the schedule at the last minute, and we were able to very easily transfer the data on a USB plug from the â€˜redâ€™ console to the â€˜greenâ€™ console without any problem or wasted time.â€?
For 8th Day staffer and event FOH engineer, Chris Berry, the SD8â€™s shear sonic transparency sets it apart from other digital offerings. â€œItâ€™s amazing. I can hear every instrument on stage in the mix. There is no need to EQ out the sound of the preamp, which has headroom for days – even when living in clip you hear no distortion. But for these kinds of events, perhaps one of my favorite features is the macro section. Not only are you able to manipulate the screen, but you can also change console options. I found that being able to turn the touch sense fader on and off invaluable and can even assign this to a macro for ease of use. The ability to lock the rotary encoders on a per-bank basis – being able to lock a specific aux send in place so that the drum bank had the drum verb send, the vocal bank had the vocal verb locked in – was a new find for me. And being able to lock the gain to the top encoder on the mix faders, made the â€˜throw-and-goâ€™ acts easier to set up. With a very clean input section, dynamically large mix window, and flexible functionality, this console makes it difficult to go back to anything else.â€?
What also impressed Berry was witnessing engineersâ€”who had never worked on a DiGiCo, let alone an SD seriesâ€”walk up and with very little instruction run through their show with very little stress. â€œThere is always the occasional question here and there, but for the most part, they just got down to work, and were happy with the result.â€?
â€œWorking on the SD8 was a great experience,â€? said Kyle T. Hamilton, FOH engineer with Mary J Blige, â€œsince I had never worked on the console before. Iâ€™ve used the D5, so my knowledge of that desk helped me get around. Since it was a festival, I really did not get to stretch out on the console, i.e. use the FX package, or internal comps, I just used what were in the FX racksâ€¦ I will say that the console sounds great!â€?
â€œWe polled everyone who stood behind the desk,â€? Orzack adds, â€œand the thing that they all said was how much better it sounded than your standard festival-fare console. It was evident that the acts mixed on the SD8 sounded better than those who carried in their own production packages. We heard that from more than one set of folks.â€?
Managing all the monitor duties for both events was 8th Dayâ€™s Ed Ehrbar, who found the â€˜select allâ€™ functionality on the desk more than handy. â€œItâ€™s a great thing to be able to set all of your compressors, EQ, high-pass filters, whatever, on one fader bank just by touching one thing on the screen. That saves a lot of time, especially when youâ€™re doing drums. Itâ€™s laid out very well and sounds incredibleâ€”as is the SD7â€”with tons of headroom. When Iâ€™m not doing these events, I mostly mix monitors for Tom Jones. For the next tour, Iâ€™m looking forward to moving over to an SD8. His entire band is on in-ears, but I have to run some in mono and some in stereo because we don’t have enough outputs on our current console for everyone to be stereo. But with the DiGiCo, because it gets 24 stereo outputs, it will be a refreshing change.â€?
Coming up on the festival agenda for 8th Day is the Lollapalooza Music Fest in Chicago in early August, on the heels of the All Points West Music & Arts Festival in New Jersey at the end of July. In October, itâ€™s the Austin City Music Festival in Texas. For more information on 8th Day Sound, go to:
About the DiGiCo SD8
At the heart of the SD8 is DiGiCo’s innovative use of Stealth Digital Processing (combining Super FPGA and Analog Devices Tiger SHARC chipsets in its Tiger SHARC FX engine), offering effects, reverbs, dynamics, output matrix and more. The DiGiCo SD8 features include 37 touch-sensitive moving faders, multi-function control knobs, electronic labeling and a 15-inch touch-sensitive, hi-res TFT display. Acting as the console’s primary command center, the TFT works in harmony with every other control of the console, automatically displaying functions relevant to what’s being done at any instant. A physical fader, knob or backlit electronically labeled button is
either provided for every major mix function, or can be programmed onto one of the provided user macro buttons. All 24 channel faders and 12 assignable aux/master faders can be instantly assigned as channels or masters, allowing 36 main faders to control inputs, if desired. Also standard is a 12×12 output matrix; its 12 buses being additional to the consoleâ€™s 24 stereo, solo and master buses. Sixty mono or stereo channelsâ€”the equivalent of 120 DSP channelsâ€”can run full DSP simultaneously.
Features found on other D-Series consoles, such as 20-step LED bar graph meters next to each channel fader and the same snapshot automation control (with removable USB storage of sessions and setups), are also incorporated, as well as a full-function 48×8 Stage Rack as standard with remote control of its studio-grade preamps and 100-meter MADI digital snake with the ability to connect to the standard DiGiRack, too. The SD8 includes convenient onboard local I/O with eight mic/line inputs, eight line outputs and eight AES/EBU inputs/outputs.