Ngaiire letting loose on some electro synth-driven future soul.
Story & Photos: Nick Harrison
This year for the 22nd annual WOMADelaide global music festival I tagged along with veteran ABC sound engineers Steve Fieldhouse and Tom Henry as they produced recordings for Radio National’s
The Live Set (formally Music Deli). The South Australian ABC OB Truck was rolled in to record the three main stages, with feeds from SSL MORSE stage boxes running back to the onboard SSL C200 console. Additionally, a swag of Sound Devices 788 and 702 field recorders were set up on the smaller stages to capture artist talks, forums and performances.
Around 90,000 people passed through the gates in 2014, helped along by the great weather. Some of the music highlights this year included: Femi Kuti, Airileke, Carminho, Arrested Development, Roberto Fonseca, Ngaiire, Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen and Asif Ali Khan.
At front of house on the main stage, Chris Braun works a Midas Heritage console. Nick Filsell (Production and Site Manager) discussed some production info: “WOMADelaide is held together by approximately 65 AV techs. It takes about eight days to build the site from when we paint lines on the ground and tweak the layout to when we open the gates. Then about four and a half days to pack it all out. Novatech supply the audio visual equipment for WOMADelaide and everything on site is L-Acoustics Kudo.”
On the Saturday morning the ABC engineers also worked on a two-hour live Radio National broadcast of The Music Show, hosted by Andrew Ford. Steve points out that it can be a fast-paced event for operators behind the scenes though everything should appear in cruise mode up on stage and to the listeners back home. This year, the broadcast featured performances and interviews from four different WOMAD artists in front of a festival audience. Steve: “We build a temporary broadcast studio side of stage in the park. Prior to the broadcast, the pressure is on a bit given this broadcast follows several days of rigging on different stages. The day kicks off with sleepy musicians commencing sound checks from around 7.30am in the morning. Each sound check is pretty quick with changeovers performed during news, CD playback or interviews. The whole event goes out from the park to the world via ISDN.”
Steve Fieldhouse patching feeds to an SSL MORSE stage box, connected via MADI over fibre-optics to the SSL C200 console back in the ABC OB truck. Depending on the needs, each stage box can be configured to offer up to 56 I/O using SSL-adapted MADI. The ABC’s stage boxes are set up next to the monitor positions, enabling an operator in the OB truck to quickly switch between the three main stages. Steve: “We also take camera feeds from each stage back to the truck to keep a visual on the stage so if instruments are being used and we’re not getting matching audio we can dash back to the stage to troubleshoot.”
Back in the OB Truck with Steve Fieldhouse (left) and Tom Henry (right) and the signals are coming through nice and clear. According to Tom, when he first started recording the festival in the late ’90s, the ABC used several 70kg drums of copper-based Burndy multicores. At the time, the OB truck housed an old analogue MCI console and a 2-inch Otari analogue multi-track recorder. Steve: “A few years ago we couldn’t get the OB Truck here so we put together a portable recording system. It comprised five synced Sound Devices 788T field recorders strapped to a makeshift trolley, giving us a portable 40-channel recorder that worked surprisingly well… Sound Devices said it was the first time they’d heard of that many 788T units being synced for a recording.”