Instantly memorable and clearly identifiable as emphatically live for reasons best forgotten, this year’s Brit Awards proved the best yet for audio providers Britannia Row Productions Ltd (Britrow). “Every year we reflect on the show and make adjustments to improve the following year,” said Britrow’s Josh Lloyd who mixed FoH for all but Royal Blood. “You can always make improvements, that’s part of the legacy that Derrick Zieba left for us. This year some new equipment added some genuine enhancement.”
The essential dilemma of The Brits hasn’t changed, the unrelenting demands of the camera lens dictate that sightlines shall always be clear so audio is rigged as high as possible, while down on the floor sit the assembled masses of the recording industry who know what good sound means and expect nothing less.
“We updated this year’s PA design drawing heavily on our experiences with Robbie Williams in the O2 last year,” continued Lloyd. “For the last couple of years we’ve rigged a Left/Right main system of L-Acoustics K1, with Kara down-fill at the bottom. We used K2 for down-fill this year and the big gain was more SPL and better throw from a larger format box; that was a huge improvement. With the line arrays rigged so high and pulled up to be virtually downward firing, the K2 variable horizontal pattern allowed us more finesse in defining the coverage.”
The rest of the Britrow system design included four hangs of K2 as delays out in the audience, way up at level five for the upper tiers, and for the tables closest to the central peninsula where the
presentations took place, the self-powered L-Acoustics 108p’s took the honours. Karas provided front fill across the stage.
Presentation microphones were also updated, “The new capsule in the Sennheiser 9000 has enhanced the presenters vocals”, continued Lloyd. “This mic is very stable in front of a PA, we no-longer have to zone the system to pull back locally as presenters walk into them. In fact the whole gain before feedback equation has improved no end. Yes, professionals like Ant and Dec know all about projecting their voices, but put a model in front of a microphone and it can get suddenly very quiet. In such a situation being able to crank the input gain without fear is a real boon. That said, mixing presenters’ mics requires absolute concentration at all times.”
When it came to replacing the sadly missed Derrick Zieba as Britrow’s pivotal interface between live audio and broadcast Colin Pink gamely stepped up to the plate. A man with deep experience in the world of musical theatre, he took an entirely practical approach to the role. “I’d also done the MTV EMAs and the BBC Music Awards for Britannia Row last year, so had some experience of these kind of shows before I started to grapple with The Brits. Josh commented to me that each year TV is beginning to acknowledge more and more just how important live sound is in the room is import. I would agree. Attitudes are changing. The challenge is to find the best compromise between live sound, broadcast sound, and the visual demands of the TV production in the room. But along the way we can by constant discussion, find the right compromise.”
“This year I found that set designer Es Devlin was agreeable to the idea that we might in the future incorporate two vertical strips of PA (line arrays) into her set design. This was her first year at the Brits and she was pleased she couldn’t see the PA. Es does some wonderful work in rock and roll and recognises the importance of audio; she also has the skills to make something potentially visually intrusive, virtually disappear.”
“For us there were measurable improvements this year,” concluded Lloyd. “The changes we made all proved positive. The potential gains next year could be even more exciting. Derrick always said, the important question to ask is, ‘Does it add something? Otherwise, why do it?’ Colin did incredibly well stepping into Derrick’s shoes this year. A measure of just how well he did is the amount of positive feedback we got from all the bands and their management.”