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Inside the Grammy Broadcast Mix Truck

Apr 10, 2016

Learn which audio tools and technologies remote broadcast company Music Mix Mobile uses to deliver its live broadcast mix of the annual Grammy Awards.

There’s one fact of life every live sound engineer will tell you: in a live show, you only get one chance to get it right. All the more so when you’re doing a live broadcast mix of the highest-profile music show around – the Grammys.

Music Mix Mobile, a New Jersey/California-based remote facilities company, has again chosen Waves tools to mix the live broadcast of the 58th annual Grammy® Awards, held at Los Angeles’ Staples Center and aired live in four time zones on the CBS television network. In its effort to combine the talents of their award-winning team with state-of-the-art audio solutions, Music Mix Mobile recently upgraded their Eclipse and Horizon trucks with Lawo mc256 consoles connected to a Waves Extreme server, as well as a DiGiGrid MGO audio interface allowing MADI inserts across the entire Lawo system, and the MultiRack SoundGrid® plugin host for running Waves plugin on the Lawo console.

Music Mix Mobile’s Joel Singer in the Grammy broadcast mix truck

We talked with Music Mix Mobile co-founder and Engineer-in-Charge Joel Singer to understand what lies behind his team’s worry-free and confident use of this new setup.

“This Grammy show was the first time we’ve used the Lawo console with Waves plugins in a major live production,” Joel says. “We had some shows prior to that, but this was the first major broadcast where we used this setup as a truly integrated solution. Being able to control all our Waves plugins from the Lawo enabled us to work much, much faster – crucial in getting all our different setups (different plugins, different channels and inserts) ready in time for different artists playing in quick succession one after the other.

“The task was enormous – but when you have two stellar products to work with, you can approach it with confidence. With Lawo and Waves, it’s like having two Ferraris. Just the high level of support and the concepts that go into these products gives you the highest level of self-assurance.

“The setup was a no-brainer,” Joel continues. “Once we got the system up and running, we had almost six weeks of installation and prep time as we were putting the Lawos into the trucks. So getting the Waves MultiRack running was easy. We also did 100% testing in our field shop and on some smaller shows prior to the Grammys, so by the time we got to the big show, there was no afterthought if this was going to work or not. In every step of the way, everything went smoothly.”

The Music Mix Mobile team outside the broadcast truck

As far as processing goes, Joel says, “we only used the Waves plugins running on MultiRack, as well as what’s in the console. MultiRack is the complete virtual rack for all our dynamics and effects. The first benefit of using MultiRack with the Lawo is that you can use the Waves plugins that everyone is used to. Our engineers are accustomed to the plugins that they used to use in our previous Avid D-Control setup, so these are their go-to plugs. Whether it’s the Waves CLA-76 Compressor/Limiter, Renaissance Vox, Renaissance Compressor, H- Reverb, IR1 Convolution Reverb or H-Delay, our engineers are at ease with them and they’re used to the controls. Being able to run them directly on the console is an added benefit because now the workflow just goes so much faster. You just hit the plugin page on the Lawo, and up comes MultiRack. You can just quickly scroll to get down to the plugin you want, open it, set it, and hit ‘update’ on the Lawo, which then updates the snapshot in MultiRack – and now you have a unified, fully integrated system. We’re able to use either the touchscreen to control parameters on the Waves plugs, or we can go the conventional way and mouse over to it and do it the way we used to – whatever Music Mix Mobile co-music mixers Eric Shilling and John Harris are comfortable with, as they used to just use the trackball to grab something and manipulate it. They’re really happy doing it that way, and that’s kind of where it’s at. So it’s all working great and it’s very comfortable for both of them.”

On using Waves plugins, Singer remarks: “One of the most important plugins is the H-Reverb Hybrid Reverb. We’re using it in a mono/in, 5.0-surround/out configuration. That way we’re able to create a space for vocals and instruments: the Staples Center sounds great, but it’s not the type of ambiance you would want on a vocal or on certain instruments. We used two instances of H-Reverb to be able to create different types of 5.0 reverb returns in order to fill out the entire surround infrastructure. We also used, again, the Renaissance Compressor and the Renaissance DeEsser on all the vocals, to be able to level them and keep them where the engineer and artist were happy with them. Some Waves plugins help add character, while some are true problem solvers that help us keep leveling exactly where it should be. They all came in extremely handy throughout the course of the entire event.

“The Lawo addition was a huge change for us,” Singer adds, “it was a next-generation broadcast solution for Music Mix Mobile. We are now eight years old, and moving into the next eight years we wanted something that will stand the test of time and be applicable in the future. What happened is that our previous platform had stagnated for us. The control was great, but the previous company had not created anything that met our broadcasting requirements. During that whole time, the one constant standard has been Waves. We want to use a lot of Waves plugins, and when we had to make a decision what hardware to use, choosing the Lawo made perfect sense because it sounds great, it works great, the support level is great, and that combination of Lawo and Waves just made sense.

Joel expands on the uniqueness of the Grammys: “We are not there for us, we are there for the artists, so the hardware and the software that we choose are all there to serve their vision. It’s like in football where you play the whole season aiming to get to the Super Bowl. The Grammys are the Super Bowl of the music industry: it doesn’t get any bigger than that for an audio show, and it’s about giving this year’s stellar artists an opportunity to shine. You have the artists’ managers, producers and engineers listening in the truck, checking the surround mix and how the downmix is going to sound like, commenting and requesting tweaks, so you really want to have the best software possible. And that’s the future; it is where Music Mix Mobile is. We represent music and audio at the highest level and continue to push those limits with the best technology available.”

Joel concludes: “Waves are a plugin manufacture at the top of the game. We love our association with them, because we believe that we represent the top of the market in what we do, and it’s all about getting the best audio results possible. We strive to do the best in broadcast and recording, and we believe that our partner Waves is doing the exact same thing. We are proud to be a part of audio history as it is being made.”

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