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Recording Placido Domingo

As yearly we record many world famous artists, you may wonder why it is a big thing to record one of the most famous opera singer now. Well, because this time we’re not inside our perfect hall with our installed equipment with a plethora of mics to choose from, all the necessary gear installed, tested and ready to go, but inside Budapest’s biggest arena.

BP arena

The equipment

Arena concerts are always a challenge, we need top-notch and reliable equipment. Regarding the microphones it’s a serious balance game. You must go much closer to the instruments or else it’s impossible to have a working PA system with enough gain before feedback. However, you shouldn’t go too close or else you won’t be able to really get that lush symphonic sonic picture, it’s going to be more rock n’ roll, which is not appropriate in this genre.

Although I know that many hates the term industry standard, but in this case in absolute agreement all audio engineer wanted Schoeps microphones. So, after the set up the stage looks like going a proper Schoeps forest.

For the singers we have mk21 capsules. Those have a wide cardioid pattern which give more freedom in positioning, and if the singer moves or misses the his/her proper position, we’ll still have perfect sound. This capsule is a fantastic combination as it has all the good things of a cardioid while they managed to eliminate almost all the downsides of this pattern.

The orchestra is pure gear porn really. All instruments is captured by 56 piece of Schoeps mk4. The mk4 is a simple cardioid pattern capsule with one exceptional capability. The off-axis response is superb. Not that bad, full of boxy and honky tones, nasty midrange, but really usable sound. It can be so clear that sometimes you might mistakenly think that it’s full on-axis. Schoeps has been a outstanding choice for all kinds of recording situation, be it more complicated like this, or more traditional and controlled one.

Besides these, at least 6-10 mics cover the audience area, mainly some DPA shotguns and Schoeps cardioids.

Our cosy recording space and the rig:

arean rec rig

We have separate consoles for the live sound part and for the recording as we have to mix a proper stereo guide for the OB van. For the PA it’s a Digico SD10, for the recording we use Avid’s new S6L. Separate gain is big advantage as with that we’re not tied to the PA gains as they might need different levels than us.

Two separate Pro Tools HDs are the main recorders of the show, while two separate additional MADI recorders is serving as safety backups.

At least 14 camera positioned on and around the stage area with a HD capable OB van near the stage.

The PA system is Meyer Sound Lyon with 1100LFC subs. Delays are Meyer Leopards with HP700 subs. The system provider team is one of the best in the country so I’m sure it couldn’t be better than this.

Doing your job

A concert like this really requires full attention from all who is involved in the production at any level. There’s no room for error, everything must be perfect as this is a one time show with only a small rehearsal at the afternoon. Proper planning and attention to detail is our best friends on occasions like this. For some it might look like overkill, but multiple checks and test must take place during the day. It’s simply not enough to have an A and B plan, we have many more. These are not merely theoretical plans, we always check them through to make sure they are truly working ones in case we’d need them.

Results

Both the rehearsal and the show went well, without any technical problem. This is natural, because we had well thought out plans and tested everything rigorously before the show.

Now we’re back in the studio mixing the show, because the National TV will probably broadcast this very soon due to the high demand. More than 2 thousand people couldn’t get in that night.

It was a great collaboration with the live sound guys, and a rare occasion where truly there were no ego fights. Everybody only cared about the production, which makes this experience even better.