“It was the best of times, it was the worst of timesâ€? â€¦and both sounded superb. A Tale of Two Cities, Dickensâ€™ epic story of Revolution-era Paris and London, has been brought to life in musical form for the Broadway stage by Jill Santoriello; a Midas XL8 mixing console from New York-based theatre sound design specialists Sound Associates is making its Broadway debut with the show, helping ensure a modern musical classic is made to match the literary original.
Having completed its debut run in Florida at the end of 2007, and having had a stellar preview run on Broadway beginning August 19th, 2008, A Tale of Two Cities â€¦the musical moved to its new home at the Al Hirschfield Theatre, where it opened on September 18th with Warren Carlyle directing. Sound Associatesâ€™ Carl Casella and Domonic Sack are sound designers for the show; Wallace Flores (Sound Associates) is associate sound designer. Ty Lackey is mixing the production.
Sound Associatesâ€™ work with Midasâ€™ flagship system has raised the bar for digital sound design; they were the first to design a show and deploy an XL8 for a touring theatrical productionâ€”Sister Actâ€”and have used the board to mix summer season park shows by the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. Sound Associatesâ€™ Wallace Flores has been part of the XL8â€™s development since the beginning, working with the Midas Digital Design team to help realise the systemâ€™s awesome capabilities in real-world applications of the highest order. Flores described this latest entry in XL8â€™s stage resume:
â€œThe XL8 offers a range of unique features to design show sound in ways that streamline operations and hardware logistics while offering the very highest audio quality and signal processing flexibility. For example, the POP(ulation) and VCA (Variable Control Association) groups are amazingly useful because they bring the complete channel to me like no other digital desk out there. This show has a 17-piece orchestra and 35 wireless mics, and, starting with the compression on the input channels, we have four different algorithms that we can fly through and audition for particular voices or instruments in any given on-stage situation. Once assigned, the groups and individual inputs therein are accessible at the touch of a color-coded POP group button, rather than buried under layers or pages. These might be settings in channels, in groups, and/or sitting on the matrix. The VCAs allow us to precisely control and contain the levels coming from each voice or instrument in each group, all at the touch of a button. In addition to this flexibility, a system tech or designer can use the area â€˜Bâ€™ section to access any and all of the channelsâ€”even those being used by the mix engineerâ€”to rebalance or alter dynamics or gates (for example) on an instrument without getting in the way of the mixer. Itâ€™s all seamless and quick.â€?
â€œThe onboard effects rack allows us to seamlessly modify our reverb, delay, etc., from scene to scene,â€? Flores adds; â€œwe have around 85 scenes set for the entire showâ€”the reduction in scenes is another advantage due to the POP and VCA groups, which in this application allow us to create a â€˜scene within a sceneâ€™. We have complete flexibility to vary and cross-patch every kind of inputâ€”on the channels, direct, aux masters, etc.â€”with speed and precision, ensuring everything is going where itâ€™s supposed to go. We have the show programmed song by song, often with multiple cues per scene, be it for a wireless mics, band change, or a sound effect. Everything is gain adjusted, assigned, and VCAâ€™dâ€”a single operator can easily handle all our inputs and returns. Having a check light on the DL431 (mic splitter) and the DL451 (I/O box) is also a huge help; though itâ€™s a small detail, we know weâ€™re going out of an outputâ€”we know exactly where each signal is at any given time. These kinds of real-world design features, combined with the systemâ€™s awesome processing power, means we can gear the XL8 precisely towards our needs for any given application.â€?
â€œMost importantly, the audience loves how the show sounds,â€? says Flores; â€œthe inherent Midas sound quality makes sure of that. Thereâ€™s very little EQ neededâ€”the warm mic preamps and the compression weâ€™re using all sound so sweet.â€?
Photo: L-R: Wallace Flores, Domonic Sack, Carl Casella, Ty Lackey
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