I've mixed sound in a bunch of different places, but some are more different than others!
The Puck Building, New York City
The Puck Building is in downtown Manhattan, not too far from NYU in an area known as Soho. I'm not sure when it was built, but I am sure that it was in the days when New York was a lot newer. WLIW, Channel 21 from Long Island, held their annual Awards in Excellence ceremonies there in 1998. There is a huge ballroom on the ground floor, with curtained windows on three sides. The room was decorated magnificently with lights on the giant pillars in the middle of the room, and lights in each of the windows. There were about 50 tables for the guests, and it was a black tie affair. What made this building unique was where we had to tie into the building's electrical system. It was a huge room, two levels down from the ground floor. This room had a bunch of electrical panels, switches, and wires. It looked like Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory. The remnants of huge steam-powered generators were in this chamber, with giant leather belts going from massive flywheels to armatures. It was a real eerie setting, and I was very happy when I got to go back upstairs and get out from under the New York City streets. If you ever get to the Puck Building, ask to see the basement. It's creepy.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City
The Disney Organization is know for doing things on a large scale. So it was very fitting that when they were choosing a place to have the party for the New York premiere of their animated feature "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" they chose the world's largest cathedral. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan was completely decorated in medieval style, including tents (all indoors), costumed performers, singers, and tons of lighting. It really looked incredible.
The first thing that struck me about this location was the size. I couldn't believe that it took me 3 minutes to walk from the front doors to the mix position. All the seats had been removed, and banquet tables lined the large open areas in front of and behind the stage. There was a huge stage in the center, and mix position was about 8 feet in the air around one of the huge stone columns that line the cathedral. The building is unique in many ways, not the least of which is the absolutely smooth 6 second natural decay time for sound. This makes it very tricky to get a clean, recognizable sound. The trick is to use lower than average sound levels, but distribute the sound with speakers placed all over the cathedral.
Many of the performers who did voices for the film were there, and Alan Mencken (the composer) played piano while the woman (forgive me, I forgot her name) that sang in the film performed. It was an exciting place to be in, let alone work in.
Lido Beach, Long Island, New York
The Coasters, a doo-wop rock and roll group from the 60's, was a refreshing change from some of the shows that I normally mix. When you add to that the fact that it's an outdoor concert in a large field near a beach on the South shore of Long Island, it makes it even more special. For such a large field, it seemed a little strange that the stage was a showmobile, but I guess it gave the performers enough room to work. The lead singer spent only part of the time on stage anyway. The rest of the time he was wandering around in the audience, singing into his wireless mike.
We had stacks of EAW 850's (big speakers) up front on platforms left and right of the stage, and two more platforms about 100 yards back from the stage to cover the rear of the field. Mix position was center, about 125 feet from the stage. Mixing from that far back makes the performers seem very tiny, and makes it tough to see what's going on. Luckily, Mr. Rick (the other sound engineer) was up on stage at all times, organizing and orchestrating everything that went on.
I'm not sure how many people were there, but I know it was more that 5,000. Probably closer to 10,000. Oh, did I forget to mention that there were Grucci fireworks? I'm sure that helped. Oops, I guess the fact that it was FREE helped also. I don't think I've ever mixed for a larger crowd, but everything went just fine. It was very exciting to see a sea of bodies spread all over this field. Oh well, maybe some day -- Jones Beach?
More stories coming soon!
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Contents updated on 05/07/04