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Canadian Indie Music Fest Rifflandia Gets Amped With DiGiCo

Canada’s Rifflandia Festival has been called Victoria’s version of SXSW, featuring some of the best and brightest Canadian and international indie artists. This year’s stellar lineup included 4 days of 110 artists on 9 stages and showcased bands from City and Colour and Cold War Kids to De La Soul and Blackalicious. Doug Lyngard of Victoria’s D.L. Sound & Lighting Productions handled three stages of the audio production for the event, rounding up two DiGiCo SD9s from its inventory, supplemented by an additional SD9 and SD11 provided by Vancouver’s Gerr Audio. The feedback from engineers handling the event—as well as the guest engineers who sat in with their bands—was nothing short of glowing, with all citing the ease of use and stellar sound among their favorite DiGiCo traits.

Lyngard purchased the SD9s back in 2010 and has used them on myriad festivals and events over the last year with great success. “The sonic quality of the console is the main reason why I purchased them,” he explained, “and of course, the DiGiCo name. I also like the fact that once you learn one SD console, you’re good to go on the rest of the series.”

At FOH on the festival Side Stage was Craig Brittain on an SD9. No stranger to DiGiCo, he’s been using DiGiCo consoles handling monitors for the better part of the last four years with Michael Buble. “After falling in love with DiGiCo and a D5 on a European tour with Michael, it became my go-to console of choice for any tour/artist. I am a big fan of the DiGiCo sound and currently am using an SD7 as we tour around the world.

At Rifflandia, having a chance to spend a bit of time on the smaller SD9, I was impressed at how DiGiCo have managed to keep the sonic quality utilizing the Stealth Digital Processing. It’s nice with the DiGiCo to know what you are getting yourself into and how things are going to sound. From the SD9 to the SD7—and now the new additions to the SD line—nothing matches where DiGiCo is at sonically. Having taken the next step in processing using Stealth technology, it’s easy to forget the limits of traditional DSP chip configurations. I have said it before and will repeat it until I am blue in the face, but nothing on the market compares to that of any DiGiCo consoles!”

“When looking at the festival line-up I was responsible for, and knowing I was going to be using an SD9, I simply came up with a template the day/night before the first day of shows that I programmed in to accommodate all of the bands and was good to go for the first soundcheck the following day. I knew that my knowledge of the console would aid the visiting engineers with little or no experience on the desk. Any artist with the luxury of a morning soundcheck, I simply stored the snapshot and carried about the rest of the day!”

Over at the Metro Theatre stage on an SD11, it was FOH engineer Jim Kent’s first time on a DiGiCo. With only a day of preparation prior to the fest, he found the console’s interface and layout extremely intuitive to use. “The graphic interface was fantastic! I found it very helpful that the screen was speaking to me in an analog/graphic way. I really liked the channel layouts and found them very natural for mixing on the fly. I had some guest FOH engineers with a few of the bands and they found it very easy to navigate. We all particularly liked the fact that the controls were right below the compressor graphics, i.e. threshold/ratio/attack. I also found the FX rack to be very easy to manipulate the same way, and was able to pull live echo repeats and reverb effects on the fly. Being a festival setup, we went from 4 channels to 32 in less than 30 minutes… add a vintage guitar pedal as a vocal effect and a video feed, and all was accomplished well within time. The SD9 performed perfectly and did not get in the way of the creative process. The DiGiCo, too, sounded great. I had a solo artist on stage at one point and the console was able to reproduce voice and guitar with all the meat one needs and get the spit in the throat that I like to hear on an intimate vocal.”

Another DiGiCo newbie was engineer Tim Herron, stationed on an SD9 at monitor world at the Alix Goolden Hall. Given the task of operating both lights and monitors for multiple bands an evening—and with no hands-on time prior to the event—Herron found the console allowed him to work quickly and efficiently. “Arriving at 1pm we did the first show at 9pm and that was without even having seen the board before. I was able to learn how to navigate everything I needed and get up to speed relatively easily without having to have a dumbed-down feature set, and the SD9 had a nice combination of great features combined with pure usability. I felt like the board was working for me and not the other way around (which is not always the case with digital consoles). The SD9 had the look and feel of an analog console with its ability to label and save during soundcheck. During the festival, we had some very hardcore analog-console-using FOH engineers. One said that it was the best-sounding digital board he had encountered and another said that it was the most sonically transparent console she had used. My impressions were that the sound quality was superior to the other digitals I have used and that the console certainly was an excellent choice for an event like Rifflandia where sonic quality was the major consideration in intimate event venues. I know that I will be looking forward to using this console again.”

Mixing FOH at the Alix Goolden Hall was Paul Gatien on another SD9. Gatien’s extensive experience mixing on the console for the 2010-2011 summer seasons at Victoria’s Butchart Gardens proved invaluable—with a diverse entertainment schedule showcasing around 64 shows from folk and Jazz to classic rock and the Victoria Symphony. “The SD9 proved handy especially for the store and recall ability when dealing with the repeat and weekly shows, both at Butchart and Rifflandia. The sonic quality of the SD9 was amazing, too; it didn’t have that ‘digital edge’ that I have encountered with other digital consoles.”

Handling up to 32 channels of inputs from the stage at Rifflandia, Gatien opted for a basic festival stage microphone patch as they were missing some of the technical riders from the artists. Fortunately, most bands were able to soundcheck prior to their sets, which helped with changeovers.

“To avoid gain sharing, we used a passive splitter snake and sent a monitor split to a D-Rack located at the monitor mix position and another split to a D-Rack located at the FOH position. At FOH I used 2 line outs from the D-Rack for the Left and Right speaker mains and 1 output for the lip fill speakers. I also used 2 line outputs for the balcony fills. I ran all of these outputs as Matrix outputs off the Master fader. Being able to store the soundcheck and then recall the settings for the show was probably my favorite feature of the SD9. I stored each soundcheck as a session file and then recalled it for the show. In order to be consistent, I made up a session file template and at the end of each soundcheck made sure that I was consistent in what channels I had muted and/or left turned on, such as the music from the laptop. This way as I was loading the next band’s session file all parameters would stay the same and there was no noticeable transition from one bands session file to the next.”

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