Andrea Bocelli Live: Audio

In this second article we report all the interviews to the audio crew, starting from the Audio Manager Andrea Taglia, who is shown in the video below together with Davide Lombardi.

We would like to remind you that the transcripts of the interviews is the result of a series of talks that took place in two days, during which we had the chance to live the setting up of the show in close contact with the operators. The video includes only some excerpts. Andrea, tell us about your role with Andrea Bocelli.

Andrea Taglia: Well, since September 2006, I have effectively been working as audio manager. More specifically, for this show at Fort Lauderdale, my work has consisted substantially in designing the audio system, coordinating the entire package of audio requirements, which go from the keyboards in Bocelli’s dressing room, through to providing the audio signals to cameras of the troupes that come for TV report coverage, so it is really a role of  audio manager on behalf of the artist. this is the year of your debut with Outline GTO. Can you tell us how did this choice developped in time?

Andrea Taglia: actually, this is not a complete debut with Outline, as I had had the opportunity to use their Butterfly system in other occasions. besides, the GTO was becoming quite popular in the international circuit; this aroused my curiosity so I thought it was time to know each other better.

[left: the outboard racks]

I started by reading the manuals and by analyzing the management software, which I consider an essential part of my work with Bocelli.

After this introductory phase, I spent two day inside Pala Brescia to perform all the field tests and in the end I was convinced of the quality of this package. The end of the story is that here in Florida today we have a lot of Outline products, among which GTO, for the first date of the 2013 Tour. As soon as we decided to use it, I was almost totally sure of the final result, no “leaps into the void” in this sense… in a tour of such level, and with such a prestigious artist, nothing can be left to chane. You told me that before arriving to the day of the concert, a huge “preparation phase” is needed.

Andrea Taglia: this is the reason why two years have passed since the use of GTO was taken into account. Before making such an important change, I’m speaking about the complete change of an audio system, I must be 100% sure that the hypotheses I made in my projects and simulations are what I’m going to obtain in terms of sound coverage and quality. Furthermore, timing here in the USA is very peculiar, during the real tour we enter at 7 am and by 12 everything must be installed; a couple of hours for setting the system and perform a general sound check at about 3 pm. Doors are usually opened at 6 pm and the show starts at 8 pm. You can understand that being prepared is paramount; that’s why I am particularly interested in the acsoutic prediction software and I can tell you that Outline has developed a very performing and reliable software.

[Andrea Taglia: audio manager, sound designer and FOH sound engineer for Andrea Bocelli.] what qualities should a modern sound reinforcement system have?

Andrea Taglia: Well, in my opinion, talking about sound reinforcement systems is like talking about cars  – there’s no one single quality – there is a series of qualities that in some way must be absolutely adequate for the work that has to be done.

I’ve already told you about the prediction softwares; but there are various similarly important characteristics that are part of the field of the acoustic performance of the system itself. These include frequency response, phase coherence and pleasantness at hearing; we have also characteristics that are  not necessarily related to sound quality such as weights, dimensions and the system’s rigging capacities; these are parameters that must be taken into account when making an informed decision.

At present, the GTO package has no rivals on the market; besides, I always use it with otfer Outline products, such as Mantas or Butterfly. let’s talk about the way you are using the DVS12, it’s really interesting…

Andrea Taglia: I use the DVS12 (four towards the front and two on the sides) on mounting poles both to widen the soundfield of the orchestra and to “lower the height” of the sound that, with a central cluster of such dimensions, would be perceived as coming from too high. how do you align these two clusters? And in general, what is your “zero point”?

Andrea Taglia: as far as alignment is concerned, I start from the front-fills, to which I give about 20 ai 25 ms, to align them with the center of the orchestra, which for me is the brass section, because it has the loudest emission; so this can be considered my zero point.

As regards the DVS12, I place the measurement microphone half-way fromo the central cluster and the in-fills, about 1/3 stage and make the measurement. Then I move the microphone, always on the same line, but placing it about 16 metres from the stage – and I align the central clutser centrale with the in-fills. I use a similar method with the rest of the system, whose complexity depends on the project and the location we are working in.

The DVS12 are also used to obtain a very homogeneous zone of diffusion going from the centre to the sides of the stage, i.e. to widen the sound front of the orchestra and recreate the natural position of every instrument. This offers a much more real listening experience.

[Andrea Bocelli sound coverage 2-10 kHz Fort Lauderdale 8-2-2013.] I have noticed that you have placed some encolsure above a GTO cluster, can you tell me how you use these loudspeakers?

Andrea Taglia: this is a very interesting featured offered by GTO rigging system. It allows me to place a further cluster on the array bumper, so as to create an “up-fill”, which can be very useful sometimes. Here I am using a cluster of Mantas, because they offer a 120° horizontal degree diffusion, wider the  GTO, covering a part of the lateral seats.

After finishing the interview with Andrea Taglia, who gave us a lot of interesting hints and cues, let’s speak with Francesco La Camera. Francesco, what is your role in the production?

Francesco La Camera: just like Andrea Taglia, I arrived in 2006 when the artist decided to rely on a fixed audio staff for his performances.

I have different duties before, during and after the show. I take care of the orchestra, from the stage preparation phase, including placing the chairs in the exact positions, setting the microphones, and mixing during the show. Andrea mixes the Artist, the Guests and all the additional “pop” instruments, you know bass guitar, drums, keyboards, etc.

I’m also in charge of the editing and the creation of the Pro Tools tracks that we use both as sequences during concerts or sometimes as when Bocelli sings during TV shows.

[Francesco La Camera at FOH] are you also in charge of setting up the FOH and monitor areas?

FLC: exactly, and as you can see, they are quite large areas too; we have two analogue mixers and the outboards. In the meanwhile Andrea Taglia and Davide Lombardi are setting and optimizing the PA. million-dollar question. What does mixing a classical orchestra mean? What should a sound engineer always keep in his mind?

FLC: to be honest, it depends on with kind of job I have to do. A “real” classical orchestra, such as the Orchestra de La Scala – just to name the first that comes to my mind – is a different orchestra from the one that plays with Bocelli, as they work in different contexts. There are different needs in terms of volume, which are obviously higher in a Bocelli live, where the orchestra often plays side by side with electric instruments.

So, in the former case I “just” have to reinforce a little bit the ensemble, while in the latter the diffusion must be more amplified, but staying inside “human” limits. Here we also have stage monitoring, which you will never find in a “classical” orchestra. how do you set up your mix, what are you “go-to” procedures?

FLC: I always start using headphones, as I would do to mix a record. Once I am satisfied with my settings, I open the PA. That’s why the system has to be as faithful as possible in terms of audio quality, because otherwise what I did using headphones would sound different on the PA.

Andrea always works in this direction; he always succeeds in obtaining natural and homogeneous diffusions.

You know, I am not a “creative” sound engineer, I just want to capture the natural emission of the orchestra; because every orchestra has its own, so you really need to know music and not only technical stuff… you told me that you followed specific courses that are not only related to the technical aspects of this job.

FLC: I started in Germany, where they have a strong tradition in this field, and then I studied at the Scuola di Alto Perfezionamento in Saluzzo. Besides I have a degree and a master in History of Music, which were very useful for my job…

He wanted to participate to the event, both to give a direct support to the production and to enjoy the show which can be considered a very important result for a company that was born in a small town near Brescia. The following interview is with Outline’s CEO, Giorgio Biffi. Giorgio, what was the procedure that brought GTO and Andrea Bocelli together in such an important location?

Giorgio Biffi: in this case, everything was in the hands it PRG, the American rental company, who is following the whole 2013 2013.

PRG had already listened and appreciated Outline systems in other occasions and when they decided to renew their PA systems, they contacted our Farmingdale office to obtain a detailed technical description of the product and a pricing.

We offered them a private demo (also of our 3D prediction software – Openarray – that amazed them!) together with a commercial offer, and we soon came to an agreement.

As soon as they received the first systems, and their technicians were properly trained, the basic conditions for GTO to be used in important events, mainly in Las Vegas, where PRG has its own premises, were set.

After that PRG, who had acquired Bocelli’s tour again, called Andrea Taglia who approved the use of GTO, so… here we are!

It was very simple and natural.

We were not able to do the last tour of Bocelli’s Christmas Tour 2012 because of logistics issues, as PRG had requested further GTO and Mantas modules to be used in the six planned arenas, but neither us as manufactures, nor other American rentals who have the GTO – and there are many – had enough available systems to be rented in such a small amount of time. So we had to wait until today… quality is always a winning choice. But how can a “small” company like Outline beat the competition of companies that are often larger and more structured?

Giorgio Biffi: I might seem presumptuous, but let’s say that, in this case… it was decidedly – I’d say almost exclusively – due to the quality of the products and their reliability. Precisely because there is everything in this market – it’s very hard to get a foothold in this market, because everybody has everything and everybody thinks on a large scale, so there is a certain wariness regarding so-called ‘small’ companies. In fact, our competitors – the established ones – are all decidedly larger. But the good reputation we have built during the years has been paramount.

We had already done important events here in the States and some important American rentals had bought both GTO and Butterfly systems, using them succesfully with world-level artists and in very symbolic places.

Just think of the GTO system installed at the Red Rocks Arena in Colorado (right) – which is used for 80% of the performances, no matter what system is normally used by the bands; the arena is more than 2,000 metres above seal level, with more than 38 metres of difference in heigth from the first to the last seat.

This place has always had huge issues as regards coverage and mid-high frequencies range, because of air rarefaction.

In a few words, everybody at the location has understood that if you want to cover the almost 10,000 seats, being impossible the use of delay towers, either you use the GTO system or you risk a lack of coverage for the last 2,000 seats.

It happens, for example, that a large rental who is touring with various artists, comes to the Red Rocks Arena, uses its systems and fails one, two, three times. One day they accept to use the GTO and sees (and hears) that all the problems are easily solved. You can imagine the rest…

Reputation is also built in this way, not only with ads on magazines!

[Left to Right: Tom Bensen – Outline North America LLC and Giorgio Biffi CEO Outline srl.]

We have been in this market with our American division, managed by Tom Bensen, who is a known and credible figure in the market, for four years and we have worked with structures who accompanied high level artists. We might have not always promoted these event on the media very much, because of copyrights, permissions and the likes, but “here” rumours have definitely circulated…

However, going back to the initial question, quality was paramount, as well as the choices we made in designing the system to obtain the sound quality that is acknowledged to our systems.

It must also be said that the fact of being – so to say – small, ensures us a certain flexibility and, above all, the thing that is appreciated here is the service we can provide in terms of immediate support response, which is infinitely better and faster than that of our competitors; this is what I perceived. let’s get into details. What does a rental company asks a manufacturer? What are the most important answers they expect from you?

Giorgio Biffi: what they appreciate – if you’ll excuse the expression – is being able to speak to the trainer and not the monkey, in other words when a user, sound engineer or PA man has a problem, he doesn’t have to telephone an unknown person who doesn’t assume the responsibility of the problem, or doesn’t know the terms or the methods – he knows that with Outline he talks directly to us and we take action very rapidly.  He is therefore much more satisfied and, above all, feels very reassured. We have two people on our staff that may do simulations for clients all day and every day; we dedicate a lot of our resources to supporting this market. And, in the long run, we’re often rewarded for this. I am always available to directly speak about issues pertaining my job the the “bosses” of the various rentals. Everything is kept very direct, simply, informal, which is appreciated in our business. returning to GTO. What are the main qualities of the system that have been appreciated by the clients, according to the opinion and experience of Giorgio Biffi? Except sound quality, which we have already mentioned, why did they who buy the system, instead of some other manufacturers’ products?

Giorgio Biffi: yes, we have already mentioned sound quality; but we must always keep in mind that there are many other important parameters.

That said, from the feedbacks I have received I can tell you that users appreciate the userfiendliness of the rigging system, the small dimensions and weight in comparison with our coompetitors. This is extremely important in such a competitive market. Remember that less weight and space also mean a net savings on transports. Huge distances are to be covered here in the USA, and one less truck means an immediate saving.

Besides, a lighter and well designed systems can be installed by fewer people and in a shorter timeframe.

As Bobby Allen from PRG was saying yesterday, and you were there too, here the productions enter at 6 in the morning, make the show and the in the evening must go away because the arena will probably host a different event the following day, be it a Hockey match, a convention or another concert. Venues are used almost every day so deadlines are forced. No mistakes can be done, or you will end paying very high fees. Bobby told us that if the crew had crossed the deadline that was specified for unrigging, a “taximeter” would start counting huge sums, because a lot of people, facilities, etc., are involved.

[Left to Right: Andrea Taglia and Giorgio Biffi.] a “folklore” question. In spite of the amount of work and stress that can be created by such an event, is Giorgio Biffi able to enjoy the show and the success of its company?

Giorgio Biffi: of course I am! I have a deep love for music and I am lucky to be able to work in a sector like ours. Just think that I own about 1,000 CDs, 300 DVDs of live concerts, and whenever I can I go to a concert, indipendently from the PA being used. Well, if I can hear the performance on an Outline GTO like today, emotions are stronger. These are the moments that give sense to the fatigues of a job that, in spite of being made of music and concerts and with 95% sales figures made abroad, forces you to travel between continents, to spend weekends away from your family and similar sacrifices. But it is definitely worth while, and today is a day I will remember for a very long time…

Finally, we also talked to Bobby Allen, PRG‘s (Production Resource Group) Account Manager Concert Touring Division. Here follows what he told us. Bobby, what are your duties in this tour?

Bobby Allen: I am responsible for all that concerns rigging and audio, and I work in close contact with the Italian team. there is a new PA system from tonight’s concert. What do you think about it?

Bobby Allen: it’s light, easy to move and to install, and it sounds great! This means savings in various areas. Imagine a production that has to go on tour with various trucks in such a huge country as the USA. If the PA system allows us to have even just one less truck than we usually need, that means consipcuous savings on fuel and, why not, even less pollution. GTO allows us to do this and, furthermore, I was astonished by the sound quality in this occasion, even if it wasn’t the first time I had heard this system… in general, what are the highest costs that a rental company has to face?

Bobby Allen: it’s not easy to keep the pace with the evolution of technology. In my opinion the highest expenses are those for video equipment, then follows audio. Fortunately, as you know, I work for PRG, which manufactures all that pertains to illumination: projectores, consoles, etc., and this is really an advantage… what is the “health status” of touring market in the USA?

Bobby Allen: people have less money to spend for concerts and live shows in general. From a certain point of view, however, the only music business where the Americans still spend money is touring itself. Actually, music can be enjoyed almost freely, but the public yearns for music anyway, and a live show is still a very special, involving and unique moment.

I think that live music market is growing again; we have a very busy schedule, and this is a good signal…

Aldo “Hucchio” Chiappini

ZioGiorgio Network

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