Orlando, FL – December 2017… Formed in 1991, the Blue Man Group is a performance art company that takes percussion to an entirely new level. Blue Man Group is best known for its creative stage productions, which includes shows in Las Vegas, Orlando, Boston, Chicago, New York City, and Berlin. Managing the show’s various audio signals is no small endeavor and, to ensure pristine audio quality and the routing flexibility required, the Orlando show’s audio production team relies on RME’s FireFace 800, MADIface USB, and MADI Router—distributed in the U.S. exclusively by Synthax, Inc.
Tony Pittsley is the Sound Supervisor for Blue Man Group Orlando. In this capacity, he manages a team of 4 FOH engineers and oversees the MITs (Music Instrument Technicians). Maintaining the audio quality of the show, scheduling, and mixing outside appearances are all part of the job, as is budgeting and outlining future upgrade projects. These responsibilities include specifying the company’s production equipment. RME audio equipment plays a prominent role in the show’s production and Pittsley discussed how the gear is used.
“I’ve been using RME products since 2009 when we used FireFace 800s in the pit on Billy Elliot in Chicago,” Pittsley reports. “Each of the two keyboard rigs had a main and backup FireFace in a rack. Paired with Apple’s Mainstage production software running on MacBook Pros, they worked flawlessly for the 9 month sit down production at the Oriental Theater. We replaced the FireFaces with MADIfaces when we upgraded the console, so these days, the FireFace 800 is used primarily for our mobile playback rig. It’s used with Q-Lab software and a MacBook Pro to provide playback to the house, along with click track and direction tracks to the band and Bluemen. I also use it to drive SMPTE to the LX console if needed.”
The company’s MADIface USB interfaces reside in the FOH production setup and handle playback from two redundant Q-Lab rigs. “Each Mac Mini has one MADIface USB that feeds the MADI router to offer backup switching capabilities,” Pittsley explained. “Q-Lab is responsible for some of the 7.1 surround content, as well as band and Blue Man click tracks, direction tracks, and SMPTE. Currently, I’m running 24 tracks out of Q-Lab into a Digico SD10 console via MADI 64—32 tracks at 96 kHz.”
“As for the MADI router,” Pittsley continued, “this takes care of switching to the backup Q-Lab machine, if required. The MADI router also offers the ability for our Creative Team to interface an Avid ProTools rig into the system to tune and tweak any new content before delivering it to me to put into the Q-Lab system. Equally important, this router also enables me to split the MADI output of the desk to a recording rig.”
When queried about those key attributes that make the RME equipment so well-suited for use in the show, Pittsley offered these comments, “I like the fact that the FireFace 800 offers 8 high quality line outputs, is rack mountable, and is built very solidly. It’s perfect for our mobile setup. The MADIface USB delivers excellent audio quality in a small form factor, and has tremendous input and output capabilities. As for our RME MADI router, its ease of use, the variety of available input/output configurations, and the fact that it operates with redundant power supplies makes it a terrific choice for us. All three products deliver great audio quality, a rich feature set, and their reliability inspires confidence.”
Pittsley described one aspect of the RME equipment that has proven invaluable, “The Blue Man Group Theater here at Universal also hosts corporate events regularly throughout the year. The MADI Router allows me to program these events on yet another Q-Lab rig and makes it easy to switch the sources between the corporate event and the show that night. The ability to not have to modify show computers is a huge bonus.”
Quality customer and technical support services are a crucial consideration when choosing equipment the show relies on and, in this regard, Pittsley rates Synthax highly. “I recently had questions about our MADI router,” he said. “I contacted Jeff Petersen at Synthax and, with his help, we pinpointed the challenge and quickly came up with a solution. It was a very positive experience.”
Before turning his attention to the nightly show, Pittsley offered these parting thoughts regarding his experience with RME products, “RME has been a great tool in the arsenal for getting audio out of our playback rigs and into a variety of consoles. The robust build quality and the form factors of these products fit well into any new project I’m working on, and I can always count on them to work without any issues. I look forward to using more of the MADI router’s features in the future.”
To learn more about Blue Man Group, visit the show’s website at www.blueman.com.
About Synthax, Incorporated
Synthax Inc. is the exclusive USA distributor for RME digital audio solutions, Ferrofish advanced audio applications, and ALVA cableware. We supply a nationwide network of dealers with these products for professional audio, broadcast, music industry, commercial audio, theater, military and government applications. For additional information, visit the company online at www.synthax.com.
Photo Information: Tony Pittsley