NBC’s America’s Got Talent, Pavarotti Tribute Show Select DiGiCo Consoles
The NBC program America’s Got Talent and “Un Emozione senza fine” (An endless emotion), a show paying tribute to world-famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti on the tenth anniversary of his death, both implemented DiGiCo consoles to ensure the quality of sound for these huge productions were at its best.
DiGiCo Helps Prove America’s Got Talent
For a decade now, America’s Got Talent has been proving the popular show’s title assertion year after year: America can sing, it can dance, and it can do cool stuff. The NBC program, which has averaged 11 million viewers each season and been nominated for People’s Choice, Teen Choice and Kids’ Choice Awards every year since 2011—including winning the 2017 Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Reality Show—puts a lot of emphasis on great sound.
To stay at the cutting edge of broadcast audio, this year the show implemented two DiGiCo SD12 consoles, at front of house and for monitors. The latest in DiGiCo’s successful SD-Series of consoles, which recently became even more powerful with the introduction of Stealth Core2 Software across the series, the SD12 raised the bar even further. It’s an affordable, multi-application digital console with features including dual 15-inch touchscreens (never before seen on a console in this price bracket), and is the first in the SD range with built-in recording interfaces, all packed in an incredibly compact form factor.
That, says Jeff Peterson, project manager on America’s Got Talent for ATK Audiotek, the show’s primary AV vendor, was the initial reason the SD12 was selected this season. “The audition and elimination round shows are smaller—maybe 50 inputs each—but they’re important for setting the stage for the big live shows,” Peterson explains of the two SD12 consoles, which shared a single SD-Rack during the preliminary performance shows. “The SD12 was the perfect choice for these events. It’s small size means it can work in virtually any size venue, but we’re not sacrificing anything in the way of sound quality or operational performance.”
Recordings of the auditions and elimination rounds of the show, which preceded the finals that were broadcast live starting in August, took place sequentially at the Pasadena Civic Center and the Universal Pictures lot in Los Angeles, respectively.
Jason Batuyong, who mixed monitors for the show, says the two SD12 desks were the perfect size for these preliminary venues. “The form factor was absolutely key for that,” says Batuyong. “We knew we weren’t going to need a lot of channels for these events. But what we did appreciate was the SD-Series’ performance and features, which were a huge step up from what we’ve used in the past on the show.”
Batuyong says he also likes the fact that when the show moved to the finals, which are broadcast live, they were able to transition seamlessly from the SD12 worksurface to the DiGiCo SD10 consoles. ATK Audiotek also supplied these desks for those shows, and Peterson notes that the channel count to rose to 112 for the larger production requirements of the finals.
“It’s like having a smaller version of what we’ve been used to on other shows and what we use for the finals,” he says. “I especially like the fact that we’re able to access all of the Stealth Core2 processing capabilities on the consoles. All of the functionality we’re used to in the rest of the SD line is right there, but in a much smaller footprint.”
Mike Parker, the FOH mixer for AGT, says that he particularly appreciated the SD12’s dual 15-inch touchscreens. “It made the user worksurface very accommodating and gave us a level of visual feedback similar to the larger SD5 and SD7 with the multiple screens,” he says. “At this price range, you can’t beat it!”
DiGiCo sextet at Pavarotti tribute show
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the death of Luciano Pavarotti, Friends & Partners Group and the Luciano Pavarotti Foundation produced “Un Emozione senza fine” (An endless emotion), a show paying tribute to the world-famous tenor with a stellar cast including Placido Domingo, José Carreras and top Italian pop stars, staged in the unique setting of Verona Arena, Italy and aired live in prime time nationwide on TV and radio.
As well as a 70-piece orchestra, an electric rhythm section and numerous singers performing virtual duets with ‘Big Luciano’, the engineers had the unenviable task of mixing an incredible variety of sounds, from the raunchy tones of Zucchero, to the crystalline flute of Andrea Griminelli, Giorgia’s soaring jazz-tinged vocals and young opera talents from the Pavarotti Foundation.
Agorà of L’Aquila, the event’s audio and lighting contractor, deployed no less than six DiGiCo consoles at the impressive event, manned by several of the country’s most respected engineers.
At the FOH platform, Daniel Tramontani (audio chief and designer of the event’s complex set-up) and Marco Monforte, were supported by Francesco Passeri.
“I used an SD7 for the orchestra mix and sent a L/R feed to Marco, who manned another SD7 and added the rest – band, vocals, etc., putting together the final mix for the audience,” says Tramontani. “I’ve worked with DiGiCo consoles for years and recent applications have included Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Zubin Mehta conducting in Milan cathedral and Carmine Burana at Caserta’s Royal Palace,” he continues. “As well as the great sound quality, my favourite SD7 features are its great resources and the Optocore protocol. In this specific case, it was a great help, because on large important events, the availability of resources (channels, groups, aux sends, matrices, etc.) is fundamental, as has the possibility of sharing part of them over an extremely reliable network.”
“As well as his crucial role as FOH assistant, Francesco manned an SD11 handling speech mics and external contributions (including Andrea Bocelli from Rome and Ron Howard from Los Angeles),” adds Monforte. “This left us free to concentrate exclusively on the very delicate musical aspects. I’ve been a frequent DiGiCo user since the D5 and my favourite SD7 features are its extreme flexibility and the endless resources, which can be modified on the run, enabling sessions to be tailored to exactly meet your needs, a characteristic which, in my opinion, makes it the perfect choice for such complex events.”
On stage, an identical console set-up on monitor duty was helmed by Umberto Polidori (electric band, guest vocalists, MCs and guests) and Gianluca Bertoldi (orchestra members’ and conductors’ monitors), assisted by Luca Scornavacca.
“On the two desks we used 168 of the 224 input channels via an Optocore ring and four DiGiCo SD-Racks,” explains Polidori. “The SD7 is definitely my favourite for handling numerous monitors rapidly on projects with so many inputs and outputs, thanks to its organization speed, setup, configuration, power, versatility and the immediacy of its user interface and operation. I began using it ten years ago, as soon as it arrived at Agorà and, on this production, it helped me organize the layers, enabling me to find channels fast, and its intuitive customizable patching was fundamental.”
Daniel Tramontani was designer and head of audio for many of the Modena Pavarotti & Friends charity concerts and, regarding the 2003 edition, featuring Bono, Queen, Deep Purple and Eric Clapton, for which Agorà fielded its three new DiGiCo D5s, recalls, “I met (DiGiCo technical director) John Stadius and other technical staff, who gave us great assistance before and during the operative stage to facilitate handling the hundreds of channels involved.”
The audio engineers had a surprise visit from Stadius, at the Arena for the memorable event.
“For me to see a show like this, knowing it all hinges on one of my designs is emotional,” says Stadius. “Sitting in a lab designing these products is one thing, watching them being used to their full potential is fantastic. It inspires me to keep working on new ideas that make engineers’ work easier.
“However, it’s not just my contribution, but my whole team of hardware and software engineers that make these products. The potential for a very complex show like this having issues is always a risk and we need to design our consoles to be responsive and easy to use to minimise any unforeseen problems,” he continues, ““I go to many shows where DiGiCo consoles are used, and every time I feel proud for my contribution to each show. Electronics and audio is my passion, it is not just a job but an extension to a lifetime hobby. I have been designing consoles for almost 40 years now and I still feel I can make something better.”