JoeCo BlackBox captures the musical spirit of New Orleans in Tremé
Film & TV sound recordist Robert C. Bigelow has been responsible for capturing the live music performed during the filming of HBO’s hit series Tremé. In television terms the show is unique as it features the live performance audio from the shoot, as opposed to a pre-recorded soundtrack that is mixed in afterwards. During three seasons of the show, BlackBox Recorders have been on hand to capture the musical spirit of New Orleans in a diverse range of performances from the city’s streets and clubs. Robert shares his BlackBox experience with JoeCo.
I record individual isolation tracks for each instrument along with a 5.1 surround sound array, mid-side mic and crowd mics. Track counts range from 8-24 tracks. One occasion called for a dual linked system of two BlackBox Recorders for a total of 48 tracks. It synced and worked flawlessly.
How is the BlackBox typically integrated into your recording set-up?
The location set-up varies. If we are filming in a club that has a Front of House system, I tap directly into the house system through the direct outs or the insert points. My standard everyday set-up is simple: JoeCo BlackBox, mounted in a three space rack with a two track recorder recording a mix back-up and generating a 48.048 sample rate to the JoeCo, a drawer and a keyboard. I use Lock Boxes for timecode syncing.
What was your main reason for choosing the BlackBox Recorder for this project?
The need for a reliable, excessively portable multi-track recorder that could be clocked to 48.048 and lock to timecode.
What features have you found most useful in the audio acquisition process?
I love that it is a no bells and whistles recorder. It does one thing and does it well. I love the D-sub cable configuration. It allows me to switch out any combination of i/o connections; TRS, XLR male or female, TA3s or D-sub to D-sub. I even had a special loom soldered for use at insert points. This allows me to tap into any board made, through the direct outs or insert points.
The BlackBox has been a game changer for me in the film production arena. It's incredibly reliable; the iXML firmware update allows it to work seamlessly with standard film and television workflows. The inexpensive media saves time and money, far better then burning DVD-RAM disk, which also saves production money because I’m not spending hours at the end of the day burning disks for post. I simply pull the thumb drive and turn it in. The headroom and transparent sound are fantastic. And with an added keyboard, the ease of use is extraordinary - with the arrow keys I can flow through the menu quickly. Before the BlackBox I was stacking 8-track production recorders. It wasn't practical to bring in your common computer-based recording systems because they are not as reliable and they are not as portable. Also they're too time consuming to set up with up to four location moves a day. They're just not practical …
What happens to your recorded audio files?
They're simply turned over to the music editor!
JoeCo’s BBR64-Dante helps RedRocket reach a new audience
Richard Peace is the lead vocalist and sound engineer of RedRocket, a UK based covers band. In addition to regular venue fans, the band is looking to build a Facebook and YouTube following thanks to its live show videos, online within hours, which enable everyone to catch songs from the latest gig. For audio capture, Richard recently added a BlackBox BBR64-DANTE to his set-up. He talks to JoeCo about his experiences with the 64-channel recorder.
Tell us a little about RedRocket
We play venues all over the UK but primarily in London and the South East. This includes the O'Neills pubs and a number of music venues from Camberley to St Albans. RedRocket play rock and pop covers, basically anything anyone can dance to, sing along to or tap their foot to! Things over the past few years have changed significantly for covers bands like ours in that great equipment has become more affordable, and with wireless technology the need for an extra person to run Front Of House sound is not essential. In fact for many of our venues, having a FOH sound position is not even an option.
Describe your general sound/AV set-up for gigs.
We run an Allen & Heath iLive system equipped with a Dante card into FBT HiMaxx 40a tops and Subline 15SA subs. The rig is completely wireless for gigs and we use an iPad mini for the mixer. This is a huge change for bands like ours in that you can do the soundcheck from out front and even check it mid gig without the need for an extra person. We use a MacBook Pro to configure the rig, but the gig mixing is all wireless. The Allen & Heath system gives us everything we need in 3u of rack space - 16 ins and 8 outs. We mic everything in case we need it, and for recording purposes, and use whatever is required in the venue to reinforce the sound. For us it can vary from a tiny pub to a very large O'Neills and this rig gives us the flexibility we need.
How did you first hear about the BlackBox Recorder and what inspired you to consider it as a live recording resource for the band?
I first found out about the JoeCo BlackBox Recorder when I encountered issues with using Dante into my Macbook Pro. I was finding that the virtual soundcard solution was producing an unpredictable set-up and since I run sound, capture video, record the gig and am also the lead singer, the last thing I need is something that doesn't work first time. I needed something that worked consistently every time. Searching on the web I found the BlackBox Recorder and it sounded perfect. 1u of rack space and the press of a button to record onto a memory stick. Too good to be true. Unfortunately the price meant that initially I could not afford it. However as I had invested in a Dante card, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with not being able to capture our live gigs.
What was your main reason for specifically choosing the BlackBox BBR64-Dante system?
The main reason was the reviews that said "it just works". That's the promise I wanted. I wanted a system where I can get back from a gig, mix a track down and add it to videos we capture at the gig. These are then published on YouTube and Facebook to generate traffic to our page and hopefully encourage people to come to our gigs, or book us for a party or wedding. In our business capturing the live recording, warts and all, is extremely important as it is easy to go "into the studio" and provide perfection... however people want to know what we are like live, as that is what they will get. With mic bleed our recordings may not be polished but they do show what we are like completely live and that is what we wanted.
How is the BBR64-Dante integrated into your system set-up for gigs?
It is rack mounted in a 10u flightcase alongside the A&H iLive and the wireless routers. One single CAT-6 cable connects the iLive to the Dante recorder. It's that simple. The configuration was a breeze. I just mapped all input channels to corresponding output channels in the Dante controller and it worked first time, and every time. Quite simply I have had no issues with it to date.
How many channels are generally used for the band? Do you ever make use of the ability to record additional analogue audience or ambience tracks at a gig?
We capture all 16 channels from the iLive plus the left/right main mix. Everything is mic'd up - three vox, guitar, bass, and drum kit. The cameras we use, Drift Innovation Ghost HD are used to capture a bit of ambience and we generally get enough from the drum overheads as well.
What features of the BBR64-Dante do you find particularly useful during your live recordings?
The monitoring is a breeze. In fact now we have it set up we just don't change it. I was worried initially that just having paired readouts would not be enough, but it's fine. I look forward to the iPad app for meters, but think with the hardware needed it will be overkill for us as a small band. The best thing though is the one button record. It's just so simple. Having the ability to use a (fast) memory stick means I get home from a gig and just take that to my Macbook - plug it in and I'm mixing immediately.
What generally happens to the audio that you record at gigs?
I stay up most of the night mixing it down and then add it to video from three small cameras to create an asset for YouTube! This gives us a multi-camera shoot that adds interest without much effort at all. We use this video to promote the band to prospective clients and encourage people to come to gigs. We want it to be live and that is exactly what the unit does for us. Warts and all recordings!! It also means we can give clients who book us for weddings or parties a few songs and videos as a memento of their special event - that's a really nice touch for client care. The nice thing is that now I am able to produce pretty much one video from every gig in a fraction of the time it used to take and at much, much higher quality.
Rarely do you find a product that just does what it says with no issues. I have found that in this product and I am so impressed. Sure, for us it is a pricey piece of kit, but it is my passion and I will do anything I can to do it 110%. The BlackBox Recorder is in my view one of the best things I have ever purchased.
BlackBoxes Capture Hungarian Artists
Tamás Almási is one of Hungary’s leading concert recording engineers. Almási recently used BlackBox Recorders to capture a series of concerts in the Papp László Budapest Sport Arena that has a capacity of 12,000. He talks to JoeCo about his BlackBox experience.
Tell us about some of the recent concerts you have recorded in the Budapest Sport Arena. What was the main requirement for these multi-channel recordings?
I recently recorded concerts by a variety of artists ranging from a blues/jazz/funk band, a pop vocalist and a heavy metal rock band, to a symphonic arena concert and a New Year concert featuring orchestral musicians, singers and instrumental soloists. The various multi-channel live recordings are mostly being used to produce CDs and DVDs of the concerts. The New Year concert was recorded for TV broadcast.
Why have you turned to the BlackBox Recorder for your live recordings?
Compared with other hard disk recorders on the market, the JoeCo recorders are strikingly small and light. This feature is highly important, since doing sound recording of a concert is (often) a one-person job here. One sole technician transports and delivers the devices, builds the system, records the concert, disassembles and packs it up. That’s how the job can be cost-efficient. Thus, one of the crucial points of such systems is portability, size and weight; this is where JoeCo recorders are so splendid.
How are your BlackBox Recorders generally integrated in to the overall technical set-up at these concerts?
The most important aim is to produce the highest quality. That's why I connect my system directly to the stage box; I use unique, professional microphone preamplifiers. When it isn't possible to connect to the stage box, I use my splitter. On principle, I never use the live mixing console's direct outputs. Through the preamps I record with two independent HD systems. The main HD systems are the JoeCo BlackBox Recorders. The backups are either JoeCo or other devices.
The number of recorded channels has varied with different performances, from 40 at the Tankcsapda punk rock band concert for example, to 120 channels for the Zoltán Mága New Year concert.
What do you particularly like about the Recorder?
It produces great sound and it makes minimal noise. The A/D converters are of outstanding quality and perform impeccably, so I don’t have to use external A/D converters at all. It doesn’t cause any problems if the signal turns out to be weak once in a while, which is an unbelievable change in comparison with some devices I used to use. This feature comes in very handy when the device is rented out without a technician, because in these cases the received signals are often weak. Unfortunately Hungary has quite a bit of catching up to do in the field of “after works”. Even if I can record the audio at 96 kHz, only a few studios can handle and process this high rate with their devices.
Safety in sound recording is also of vital importance. It doesn’t matter how good the quality of the recording is if the HD makes an error; I cannot ask the band to play it again... I’ve used many different recorders but all of them generated some errors. In this respect, the Blackbox Recorder is also outstanding. Whatever I did during my testing phase, it never stopped. I tested it for shock and vibration (I put the recorders on the subs) and I also made it record for 10 hours continuously while its temperature rose above 80 ºC. I didn’t treat it gently. However, it never stopped and didn’t make a single error. It is hell of a device.
What has happened to the audio that you recorded at these and other concerts?
Usually my recordings are used for producing concert CDs or DVDs. I give the soundtracks to the studios and they do the mixing. I don't take part in the editing, mixing and mastering stages as I don't have enough time. In 2012 alone I did nearly 200 live concert recordings.
Anything else you would like to tell us about you BlackBox experience?
It definitely shows that the recorders were developed by competent experts who took the requirements of their users into account during the design process. The recorders are foolproof, easy and quick to operate. (That wasn't the case with the older systems I used to have.) This has also allowed me to rent out my BlackBoxes without a technician going too, because operating the system requires little professional knowledge or experience. For example I can rent the recorders to musicians for use at small club concerts or in rehearsal rooms. Thanks to this, anyone has the possibility to record his own performance at professional quality, for Hungarian prices.
(Interview January 2013)
Recording Mumford & Sons in America
Portland, Maine based mobile recording company Satronen Sound took JoeCo BlackBox Recorders on the road to capture a series of shows on the "Gentlemen of the Road" tour, headlined by Mumford & Sons. Recording engineer Pete Nenortas talks about his experience with the BlackBox.
What was the main requirement for having a multi-channel recording system for these shows?
Our main requirement for multi-tracking these Mumford and Sons’ GOTR festival shows was to supply the festival organizers with multi-track audio to be re-mixed later for a digital download audio compilation.
Why did you choose the BlackBox Recorder (as opposed to any other systems you had already worked with)?
The JoeCo BlackBox Recorders were chosen for lots of reasons: reliability for sure, 48-channel functionality, ease of use and great sounding converters! In my two years of experience using them for live concert recording, the JoeCo units have been so consistent for me. The Pro Tools option was a possibility as the master recording system, but instead I used Pro Tools as a redundant backup. For each Gentlemen of the Road festival show, the day consisted of 8-10 bands that we needed to multi-track. It was important that we supplied a system that could ensure that we would not have one hiccup in the recording. It was not known which tracks would be selected for the compilation, so we needed to capture it all. I was prepared for a long day of multi-track recording, tracking almost eight hours of music a day. Choosing to go with the JoeCo recorders made me most comfortable in being able to guarantee that I would be able to capture all the performances without missing a beat!
How was the BlackBox Recorder integrated into the actual technical set-up?
The festival had two stages and we needed to multi-track each stage with independent recording systems. We built a 48-track JoeCo system for each stage and ended up with more or less identical systems. Tour production had a three-way isolated split in place on both stages, so we took that split to feed our 48 channels of Presonus 96k mic pres. We then took the analog outs of the pres and connected these to our BBR1-Bs via D-Type 25 snakes. We connected the second BlackBox Recorder (inputs 25-48) to the master (inputs 1-24) via an SDIF cable to create the clock sync between the two units. Mounted in the same rack were 1TB Glyph GT062E external Raid drives connected to each JoeCo. These worked flawlessly.
What technical features of the BlackBox Recorder have you found most useful in festival recording?
What originally attracted me to the JoeCo recorders was the ability to multi-track without being tied to a computer. In a festival recording scenario like the GOTR shows, it was imperative to have a system that could record for long periods of time at high track counts with superior reliability. I always got nervous recording to Pro Tools when the set times exceeded 90 minutes and there was so little room in between songs to stop/save and begin recording again. I've found that with the JoeCo recorders there’s no need to break up a long set to save and begin a new file. They can record for long periods with no problems whatsoever. It also makes it easier and more seamless in post if each festival set is one continuous file when syncing groups 1-24 and 25-48. When syncing the two sets of files, I use the spot function in Pro Tools to line up the original time stamp information that each JoeCo unit embeds in every file. It's a very easy task and the tracks always line up perfectly between the two units.
What is happening to the captured audio from these shows?
The multi-track audio from the Mumford & Sons Gentlemen of the Road festival shows was submitted to the festival team to review which live tracks they would consider for release.
On September 24th 2012, Mumford and Sons released a 500 limited edition, hand-numbered 7" vinyl record that included a live version of "I Will Wait", the current single from their latest CD "Babel". This was recorded by Satronen Sound at the Gentlemen of the Road stopover in Portland using the JoeCo BlackBox Recorder. This record sold out in pre-order from the Mumford & Sons website, and is now out of print.
For those who missed the opportunity to purchase this rare recording, there's a "Gentlemen of the Road" live recording digital download compilation in the works for future release. Concert goers can obtain the compilation online by using the bar code on their ticket stub to access a download link made available from the GOTR Festival's website. This recording will feature tracks recorded by Satronen Sound from both the Portland, ME and Bristol, VA/TN stops.
A video shot on-location featuring the BlackBoxes can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxo4H-k5yMs
(Interview November 2012)
BlackBox joins Charlotte Hatherley on Sylver Tongue UK shows
Former Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley recently took her Sylver Tongue project on the road, opening for Bat for Lashes in a series of UK shows. Sylver Tongue’s keyboard/synth player and programmer Steve Weston talks to JoeCo about his experience with "extra band member" the BlackBox Player.
How important is multi-channel playback for these shows?
I think it is very important to have flexibility with playback for live shows. However, on this run we are only using a few outputs from the JoeCo because we knew we would have minimal time to sound check and wanted to keep things simpler.
Why did you specifically choose a BlackBox Player as opposed to other systems you have previously used?
We wanted a piece of hardware (rather than a laptop), something that was small, easy to use and a good screen so you can see it easily whilst on stage.
How is the Player integrated into your technical set-up and who is responsible for triggering during performances?
We have the player operating in drummer world as he is the only one with a click and he operates it manually.
How often do you envisage set lists changing and who will be responsible for Playlist editing?
We’ve kept to the same set for this tour, but I found creating playlists very simple prior to hitting the road.
What features of the BlackBox Player have you found particularly useful in the live performance situation?
Knowing that it’s very stable is good enough for me! Also, it's only a 1u rack and very light. Perfect for touring.
(Interview October 2012)
Capturing Alison Krauss & Union Station
FOH engineer Cliff Miller recently used a BlackBox BBR64-MADI Recorder to capture a series of concerts performed by Alison Krauss & Union Station, featuring Jerry Douglas, in the USA and Europe. He talks to JoeCo.
Please tell us a little about your involvement with this project
The JoeCo BlackBox was used with Alison Krauss & Union Station, featuring Jerry Douglas. I’ve worked as production manager and FOH engineer for the last three years and was systems engineer for nine years prior to that. I’m also President of SE Systems Inc., the audio supplier for the tour.
What were the typical venue/audience sizes for this particular tour?
Our typical audience would range anywhere from 3,000 to 30,000 with the exception being “Hard Rock Calling” in London’s Hyde Park where the crowd was estimated to be upwards of 60,000.
What was the main requirement for having a multi-channel recording system for the shows and why was the BlackBox Recorder spec’d (as opposed to any other systems you had already worked with)?
Our main requirement was to have the shows documented and available for a possible “Live” CD. The JoeCo BlackBox was an ideal solution, as mixing the live show is the primary concern and set-up of the BlackBox required only a BNC connection.
How was the BlackBox Recorder integrated into the actual technical set-up?
The BlackBox was mounted in my UPS rack, along with a tray of (three) 1.5Tb drives, and connected via BNC to my DiGiCo SD-10 console.
What did you particularly like about working with the BlackBox?
Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity! I just had to remember to hit “Record” before the band started. No screens and keyboards to set up, just “Record”.
What is happening to the captured audio from these shows?
After I create reference CDs of each show for management, they will decide whether or not to send the tracks to the studio. I just wish the JoeCo BlackBox had been available before I’d invested tens of thousands of dollars on other recording systems over the years!
(Interview August 2012)
On tour with Cee Lo Green
Studio and live engineer Robert “VOiD” Caprio has spent the last 14 months mixing FOH for Cee Lo Green. During a break in the tour schedule, he talked to JoeCo about his experiences with the BlackBox Player.
What were your typical venue capacities on the tour?
Typical shows were mid-sized theaters and in some cases arenas and stadiums. We've played venues of all shapes and sizes and have never done the same show twice!
How important is the multi-channel playback aspect on these shows and what material is typically being replayed?
With an artist like Cee Lo, the playback is of paramount importance. To recreate his songs in a live setting with exclusively live playing would be cost and space prohibitive. For the most part the material being replayed is drum loops, samples of various types, string and horn parts, plus some additional background vocals and FX. We have 7 stereo pairs for 14 channels going along with a click for a total of 15 channels.
What were the main reasons for spec’ing BlackBox Players for these shows?
Size, ease of use and versatility. We were all very impressed with the fact that you can play back 24 channels using a system of only one rack space. Having a backup of the same size along with a power unit in 3 spaces is a huge benefit. The solid state nature of the unit is compelling as well, being steadfast and roadworthy.
How are the Players integrated into your overall technical set-up and how are they triggered?
Our set-up is quite simple. The main and backup units reside in a road case along with power and the disk drives. We place the case on the drum riser so the drummer (also Musical Director for the band) has access to the unit in case of set changes. The units are triggered via footswitch.
How often do set lists change and who is responsible for Playlist editing on the BlackBoxes, or for making any last minute changes during performances?
The set lists change almost every show and I am the one responsible for making the changes to the playlist. We normally have a pre-show briefing where we discuss changes and I then implement them. If a change occurs during the show, the drummer/MD will select the next song manually.
What technical features of the BlackBox Player have you found most useful in a live situation?
I've found that the DB25 connector with XLR fan-outs makes things quick and easy to patch, even in a festival situation. That, plus the fact we're using small solid state HDs, means that they are easily connected and within minutes the units are ready to go.
We've had an outstanding experience with our JoeCo Players and, in the isolated incidences when we've been in the field and have needed assistance, technical support has been quickly forthcoming and comprehensive. I for one would be very interested in getting the MADI recorder and using that to archive and virtually soundcheck shows.
2013 should see us busy with Cee Lo and his long term Las Vegas residency called "Loberace." It will be a true Vegas style lounge show in a proper theatre with Cee Lo at the helm, sure to be entertaining. For the time being right now I'm enjoying my time off during the summer!
(Interview July 2012)
Recording Sting at Henley
Award-winning engineer Donal Hodgson has been recording and mixing Sting for over a decade. At the artist’s recent Henley Festival show in the UK, Hodgson used a BBR64-MADI system to capture the performance. He talks to JoeCo.
"I have been using Pro Tools in the studio, live on and off stage since version 4 but just recently I broke free of my comfort zone and decided to take a different route on a recent archiving project for Sting. I have been recording and mixing Sting for over a decade and always on Pro Tools, but for his recent Henley Festival show I decide to try Joeco’s BBR64-MADI recorder. Sting has been using a Studer Vista 5 for FOH so I was very confident that the A to D would be good and utilising the Studer meant I wouldn’t need to hire a van to carry my usual rig to the show, or upset production by taking up valuable seating space with a couple of big racks.
"Actually I was surprised how small my recording rig turned out to be. All I needed was a 2U rack, 1U for the BBR and one for the Glyph GT062E HD. The few cables and headphones I needed all fitted into the rear of the case. The BBR64-MADI is surprisingly small considering it records 64 tracks. It’s a standard 19” rack mount but barely even half the regular depth of most units. And as it has an external PSU it really doesn’t weigh very much. I must admit I liked the fact that the external PSU has a small locking device and can’t accidentally be knocked or pulled out.
"Connecting the device is simple, we used a fibre connection to the Studer console which is an in and an out. It’s a standard USB cable to connect the BBR to the hard drive, no bus powered drives are supported. The headphone socket is on the rear of the BBR and allows you to monitor any even pair of tracks. And that’s it - turn on the power and the BBR lights up. My drive was Mac OS formatted, so I used the BBR64-MADI to reformat the drive to FAT32 in a matter of a few minutes. It was pretty easy to find and then set the clock ref to the MADI input and I was ready to record. All this I did without looking at the manual. I think it says a lot about the thought involved in the design if you can use a piece of gear without going straight to the manual. Of course I could have plugged in a PC keyboard and named all the tracks and song titles in advance but it’s so easy to do afterwards once I had imported all the WAV files. I was really impressed with the simplicity and ease of use and I really like the safety features built into the unit, like having to hold any of the transport keys for a couple of seconds for them to respond.
"I found the BBR64-MADI to be a well built and thought out box. It’s like the Ronseal advert, "it does what it says on the tin" with no fuss. All in all the whole process for recording the show was extremely easy, I strongly recommend this unit whether you want to record for archive or for virtual sound check. This is a very impressive piece of kit!"
(Interview July 2012)
BlackBox Recorders capture The Charlatans
BlackBox Recorders capture The Charlatans. Sound engineer and music technology journalist Mike Hillier
Sound engineer and music technology journalist Mike Hillier recently used two BlackBox BBR1 balanced analogue recorders to capture The Charlatans performing their "Tellin' Stories" album in its entirety at Glasgow Barrowlands. The show was also being filmed as part of a documentary about the making of the album. Mike talks to JoeCo.
Please give us some background to the band set-up
The Charlatans were performing their album "Tellin' Stories" at Glasgow Barrowlands from start-to-finish. The band have a pretty standard indie rock setup with drums, bass, guitar, keys and vocals. The keys are interesting as they take a Kawai digital piano, alongside a Wurlitzer and a Hammond running through a pair of Leslie cabinets. They also run some special effects off a Fostex tape machine.
What was the main requirement for having a multi-channel recording system at the show?
The show was being filmed as part of a documentary about the making of the album "Tellin' Stories", so we also needed to get a good audio feed that could be mixed back in the studio to sync up with the video footage.
Why did you decide to use BlackBox Recorders on this occasion, as opposed to other systems you could have used, or had previously worked with?
I've used the BBR1 before on a small-scale video shoot and I was really happy with the results. It's incredibly easy to set up and I actually managed to record all my audio to a 32GB USB stick.
How were the BlackBox Recorders integrated into the overall technical set-up?
The Midas Heritage 3000 console at the venue has dedicated XLR direct outputs, which we toggled to be pre-EQ. The desk also has a trim knob for these outputs, although in the end we didn't find ourselves needing it at all. I split the 40 channels equally, 20 channels to each unit, which gave me just enough time to record the band and the support acts without having to swap in any larger drives.
How did you find the handling of the recorders during the show?
Once it was setup and I'd tested that everything was sync'ing between the two BBRs, it was pretty much hit record and leave it alone. I watched the meters for most of the show, but we didn't peak once, so I didn't have to do anything.
What has happened to the captured audio?
The audio from the show has been brought back to my studio, The Green Room, where I've been remixing it. The thing about live shows is that when you're there everything sounds huge, but when you bring it back to the studio you're no longer being pumped out through a massive PA rig at huge levels and what sounded incredible at the show starts to sound tiny. So I've been using lots of studio trickery to try and give it back the sense that you are actually there at the show. The finished mixes will be added to the visuals and released as a two disc DVD documentary. The first disc documenting the making of the album, and the second will be the live show itself.
(Interview June 2012)
BlackBox Players tour with Two Door Cinema Club
BlackBox Players accompanied Two Door Cinema Club as they headlined the NME Awards 2012 UK tour and played two shows in South Africa. Monitor Engineer Stuart Gilmore talks to JoeCo.
How long have you worked with Two Door Cinema Club and how is 2012 looking so far?
I have been working with Two Door Cinema Club for nearly 4 years, looking after monitors from March 2010. The band took some time off to write after finishing up a two-week tour on the West Coast of America in December 2011. However February 2012 saw them take a break from the studio to headline the NME Awards Tour in the UK, culminating at Brixton Academy, shortly after which we had two shows in South Africa. The second album tour schedule and festival season begins in late May.
What are your main reasons for taking a multi-channel playback system on tour?
Two Door Cinema Club have always used some form of playback. Since making the first album and the introduction of a live drummer, there has been opportunity to enhance and add to the live performances with the subtleties of the recorded album.
How did you hear about the BlackBox Player?
The Blackbox Player was brought to my attention after PLASA a few years ago, through word of mouth and reputation building within the industry.
What has made the Player a preferred option, compared with other available systems?
Working with a band that tours around the world, spending a lot of time on planes, the BlackBox Player offers a lightweight and compact solution. Auto sensing voltage makes it very adaptable to the various regions. The flexibility of the memory is a great option. Our previous system would succumb to vibrations that interrupted playback, whereas the Flash memory we have installed has yet to stutter or fail and it can be replaced or duplicated cheaply and quickly anywhere in the world. The functionality of the unit itself, with setlists pre-programmed, Auto Load for the next song and a simple “GO” footswitch triggered by the drummer practically removes any so called, ‘Pilot Error!’ Wrong button combinations etc. that can happen on other machines can really slow performances, however the result with the BlackBox Player is a smoother song transition and flow to the set. Then there is the audio quality: An immediate improvement in the quality was noted by all performers and engineers. Also, the flexibility of the file format will allow future studio sessions and files to be used with ease.
How have your BlackBox Players been integrated into the band’s current technical set-up and what playback tracks do they provide?
Our BlackBox Players are wired into a Radial Passive DI within the playback rack. They travel everywhere with the band, regardless of whether we are flying or carrying production.
As we have only been running a few playback tracks to date - stereo pre-mixed stems and a couple of clicks - the BlackBox system has simply replaced an older device. But of course we now have the ability to change the channel count in the future, giving much more flexibility. Also, the old system had no back up: It required a physical re-patching of cables into the other machine. As we have two BlackBox Players in our set-up, simultaneously triggered by a footswitch, we now have an armed back up running so should the main fail, the other unit takes over without any break in audio.
Which BlackBox Player features do you find especially useful in a live environment?
All the features mentioned earlier make the BlackBox Player useful in a live environment. The auto sensing voltage, the flexible memory and various track formats, the Playlist function, the armed back up and the footswitch trigger all fit so well within the current Two Door Cinema Club set-up. With the band constantly writing and looking to advance the live show, I look forward to seeing the BlackBox Player meet any future requirements as needed.
(Interview March 2012)
BlackBox Recorder goes to the Grammys
Recording engineer Thomas Holmes recently gave the BlackBox BBR64-MADI Recorder an outing to the 54th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, followed by a whirlwind tour of the Univision Premios Award Show in Miami, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the NBA All Star Game in Orlando and BET Rip the Runway in New York. Tom talks to JoeCo.
What made you decide to use a BlackBox Recorder at the Grammys?
I have been looking for a simple low cost recording unit that works with MADI for sometime. The Denali Summit truck I use at the Grammys has tons of MADI i/o, and was a great opportunity to check out its features.
How was the BBR integrated into your technical set-up?
I connected it to an available 64 channel MADI stream and routed 64 of my console’s inputs. I routed the same 64 channels back to a second input, or an insert return on the console. I plugged a small drive into the BBR, and started recording. This allowed me to play back rehearsals and tweak settings when there was a bit of time in the schedule.
What features of the BBR did you find particularly useful?
Ease of use and no computer crashes to worry about! Just three connections in the back (MADI in/MADI out and LTC). It took about two minutes to plug it in, figure it out and start recording. Another thing I like is its ability to recover audio files in case of power failure. I yanked out the drive (on purpose) in the middle of a test record and then plugged that drive into my laptop. Sadly, no files. But, when I plugged the same drive into the BBR again, it said "found damaged files, fixing them" and a minute later, there were the files with all audio up to the point of me pulling the drive out. I don't know of another HDR that will do that.
What has happened to your captured audio from the various events?
For the Grammys, the files were for my professional use on site, as they normally archive everything on multiple computer-based systems. On NBA Allstars, the multi-tracks went with production, and at BET's Rip the Runway they were sent to post. I always recommend two recording systems, as all it takes is one hiccup, and no more audio. The BBR really can take the worry out of a recording session.
Image: Tom is interviewed by Dolby Laboratories at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards
(Interview from February 2012)
BlackBox Recorder Captures Wishbone Ash
Wishbone Ash drummer Joe Crabtree talks to JoeCo about his experience with the BlackBox Recorder on the band’s current European tour.
Please tell us a little about the band’s touring schedule
Wishbone Ash tour the UK, Europe and the USA. We do between 100 and 150 gigs a year with our own back line, plus a few festivals in Japan and more far flung places with hired back line.
What were the main reasons for taking a multi-channel recording system on the current tour?
We wanted to release live albums, as that's what many of the audience at a gig want to buy. They can get the studio albums in the music shop or online. After seeing and enjoying a gig, many of them want a memento of the occasion and a recent live CD is a great option. We recorded one gig from a UK tour and released that. Then we got an outboard truck to a gig in Hamburg the following year to record a gig.
There are many potential disadvantages to recording a single gig for a live album. You might have a bad one. There might be technical issues. You might not want to tailor your set just so you can have certain tracks on a live CD.
The beauty of the BlackBox Recorder is that it has a permanent place in our touring rig and it's extremely easy to record a multi-track of every single gig. Our plan is to record every gig on the tour and pick good performances of the songs we want to include on the next live CD.
Why did you choose the BlackBox Recorder? What features made it a preferred option to systems you had previously used (or had heard of others using)?
The BBR is compact and feels like a very sturdy solution to the problem of recording a gig. We contemplated buying an audio interface and a MacBook Pro, but that had the disadvantage of having to open up a DAW and hope it keeps up with the audio. Also, you need a way of splitting the signals to get the feeds to the interface (the BlackBox can just be used on insert points from the FOH console). There didn't seem to be anything else on the market that fitted so well with what we wanted to do - which is essentially to get a multi-track recording in a format ready for importing direct into a DAW project. I briefly looked at multi-track hard disk recorders, but it looked like you had to do file conversions and a whole bunch of other stuff to get the files into a DAW.
How is the BlackBox Recorder integrated into the overall technical set-up?
We use a Yamaha 01V96 on stage for in-ear monitoring. All of the signals are split and fed into that. The 01V96 has the ADAT option card fitted, which gives us 24 outputs. We just use 3 optical cables to connect the O1V to the BBR and it's ready to roll. There really couldn't be a neater solution. I just plug in a 32GB USB stick every night and hit record. Then after the show I archive the files off to a storage disk (you could record straight to the disk, but there's something reassuring about having an SSD device that you can carry on stage in your pocket and plug in as you sit down behind the kit)
What features of the BBR do you find particularly useful?
The simplicity of the BBR is what I find most useful about it. I'm not using any of the looping functions or virtual soundcheck things. I'm simply using it to record. The track mark feature is the most useful thing about it. Between songs I just hit the record button and it splits the files - so after the gig I have separate multi-track files for each song. That's a blessing when it comes to taking different songs from different gigs.
What has happened to the captured audio?
It's been archived to disk. I use track 24 to record a mono mix of the gig (set up in the 01V) and we listen to that to decide whether or not various songs are 'keepers'.
We're very happy with the BlackBox Recorder and would recommend it to anyone who wants to record their gigs.
Joe talks some more about touring with the BlackBox Recorder on our Videos page
(Interview from January 2012)
BBR64-MADI Recorders capture George Michael Symphonica Tour shows
A total of eight BlackBox BBR64-MADI Recorders were used on the recent George Michael Symphonica Tour to capture a staggering 2 x 256-channels of audio in what is potentially one of the largest live recording projects to date. Head of Audio Andy "Baggy" Robinson and FOH Engineer Gary Bradshaw talk to JoeCo.
How have the technical requirements for Symphonica differed from previous George Michael tours?
AR: For any of George Michael's tours the technical demands are always high, but for this tour we have simply increased the volume. We have more inputs and outputs than ever before - the addition of an orchestra has upped our numbers considerably.
With a potential for recording up to 2 lots of 256 channels via 8 x BBR64-MADI systems, surely this must be one of the largest live recordings ever made?
AR: It certainly is for us! I know from speaking with the DiGiCo boys that by using 5 SD7s on our Royal Opera House show at Covent Garden, we put together the biggest DiGiCo system. So I would also think that within the live world, recording 256 channels of audio twice is also quite rare.
GB: That’s correct.
How many musicians are on stage during each performance and how were the consoles and recorders configured?
AR: There are 50 on stage altogether, including George Michael, 6 band members, 4 backing vocalists and a 39-piece orchestra.
How big is the crew and what are your actual roles?
GB: There are 66 crew members altogether, including sound, lights, video, catering and truck drivers.
AR: We have a sound team of 8 people. I’m monitoring engineer for George Michael and I have the title "Head of Audio" – the person responsible for turning the ideas into reality. Gary Bradshaw is the FOH sound engineer and Simon Hall takes care of monitoring for the band and orchestra. Then we have Don Parks, System Tech and Crew Boss; George Hogan our RF Professor, Nick Mooney, System Tech and Conor Dunne and Ralph Smart who are both System/Stage Techs.
What are the technical challenges of putting on such a large show?
AR: We have designed our system to be flexible to the brief we were given. Because of its orchestral content, this tour has visited some very different venues. We have performed in opera houses, theatres, large and small arenas, town squares and outdoor venues that have included a stadium in Poland. The brief has left us able to remote sections of the system in order to fit into some of these venues. For us to be able to position the orchestra in a pit in a venue, rather than on stage for example, we’ve used two racks - the DiGiCo stage rack for ins and outs and an amp rack that powers the orchestra headphone mixes. These can be positioned in the pit local to their requirements, using house power provided locally under the stage, then connected to the system via 150m Optocore cables, which is a long way but there are no earthing issues! We’ve also been able to remote the monitor desk into the basement of the Albert Hall, as there simply wasn't room for us on stage there!
Other than that, we’ve tried to keep things simple; good mics in the right place into a DiGiCo stage rack, keeping the signal digital for as long as possible, with one analogue conversion before hitting the amps!
GB: From a sound point of view, the main challenge has been handling the large number of inputs. There is a 6-piece band, an orchestra and 4 backing singers, plus a number of Pro Tools tracks and of course George. Adding to this challenge has been the fact that the orchestral personnel have changed. For example, our one show at the stadium in Wroclaw, Poland, was with a predominantly Polish orchestra. The shows in Ireland had an Irish orchestra and there have been other changes for UK and mainland Europe. Another problem has been trying to cope with the large number of radio frequencies utilized in this production.
Why did you choose the BBR64-MADI for live audio capture? What features made it a preferred option to systems you had previously used?
AR: Because it focuses on recording as its primary function, rather than other systems I have used that are software packages that try and do it all. The BB64-MADI is a box that takes a Madi signal, you press record and you have your content captured. You can be recording a show from scratch within 20 minutes and most of that time has been spent plugging in the cables.
How have the BlackBox Recorder systems been integrated into the overall technical set-up and who is responsible for their operation?
AR: We have 4 BlackBox Recorders at FOH with Gary. He records every sound check and show. We archive it all! Gary has the added benefit of also being able to play back show content during system check. Simply brilliant!
GB: The rack containing the 4 BlackBox Recorders is part of my FOH set-up. There is a small BNC loom, which connects the rack to my DiGiCo SD7. We also carry 32 Glyph 1TB hard drives, which is enough space to record all 64 shows. I am responsible for recording the shows every night and keeping a log of what show is recorded on which set of drives.
What were the reasons behind your decision to expand from 4 to 8 BBR64-MADI systems during the tour?
AR: We added another 4 BlackBoxes to the tour for our Royal Opera House show because we added a broadcast desk to generate (broadcast) mixes for that particular show, taking us up to 5 SD7s in total. The extra rack of BlackBoxes was with the 5th SD7 running an additional record and also acting as a playback engine for tweaking the broadcast mix.
Which features of the BlackBox Recorder have you found particularly useful for large-scale live audio capture?
AR: The record button and its 10-second safety "Yes, I do want you to stop now"!
GB: The system has no problem in recording all 256 channels over the length of the show. During the rehearsal period we would record an entire session of three or more hours, with all 256 channels in record without any problems. I don’t know of any other system that is capable of doing that.
What is happening to the captured audio? Virtual sound checking / repurposing?
AR: We use it for virtual sound check, or for broadcast engineers to practise. We are also archiving everything as there is work being done towards an album of the tour. As and when that will be available is not yet known, but watch this space!
GB: The audio files for each show are recorded onto a set of 4 1TB Glyph hard drives .One set of Glyph drives can hold 8 or more complete shows. During the set-up period for each day I can replay the previous night’s show, or any other show, in Virtual Soundcheck mode to help EQ and balance the system. The Symphonica Tour is unusual in that the majority of shows are in large indoor arenas, but in amongst these are one or two much smaller opera houses. The acoustics of these two types of venue are completely different. So for the recent show at the Royal Opera House in London, I used recordings from the Prague Opera House to help EQ the PA system.
Thank you for talking to us.
Image used by kind permission.
For the Symphonica Tour, BlackBox Recorders were supplied by Wigwam Acoustics Ltd. and JoeCo Limited. www.wigwamacoustics.co.uk
BlackBox Recorder captures Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
A JoeCo BlackBox BBR64-MADI Recorder was used to capture the opening concert of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2011, performed by Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. Recording and post engineer Matt Saunders talks to JoeCo.
What were your main reasons for wanting a multi-channel recording system for this concert?
A number of channels were involved, 47 in total. Since we were using a digital desk the obvious solution was to do it via MADI. I’d been looking at the JoeCo recorders for a while and thought that the concept seemed very sensible.
As Marco Vecchi, the live mix engineer, was going to be using a Yamaha DM2000 desk, I approached HHB to see if they could find me some MADI cards for it. We had tried everywhere and in the end they went direct to Yamaha who kindly supplied an MY16-MD64 and two MY16-EX cards. (The Yamaha architecture only allows for 16 channels per card, so I needed three in total.)
How was the BlackBox Recorder integrated into the technical setup?
I set the cards to do 56-channel legacy MADI and fed the channels into the JoeCo. I also had a Calrec Soundfield Microphone, which I wanted to use for recording ambiance in both B- Format and stereo, so I used 6 of the JoeCo’s 8 additional analogue channels which I set the JoeCo to insert at MADI channels 1-8. The total channel output from the JoeCo went as 64-channel MADI, via an RME ADI-648, split to two further back-up machines, as it was a live recording. This also gave me an additional source of metering, although the JoeCo modulated LEDs were surprisingly good. Regardless of any potential limitations imposed by the unit’s compact size, I could always tell what was going on.
The venue was a big empty barn of a place that used to be a wool blending shed. There was a Portakabin right next door to the main mix position that was used as a Green Room. So although I was in the Portakabin, I was literally next door to the desk and we only needed a 5-metre optical cable from the desk’s digital output.
The concert itself was recorded as one huge 75-minute file set, as it was a continuous performance. But we also recorded a whole day of sessions beforehand. These were done in 10-minute chunks – one movement at a time in various takes.
Which features of the BBR64-MADI did you find particularly useful?
I love the track naming capability – plug in a keyboard and you can name your tracks as you're working. And you not only have the track names but also the song names appearing in the output file names. From the day’s recording I ended up with 150GB of audio, 832 individual files, so if they were just numbered 1,2,3, etc, it would be really hard. Instead I know exactly what each file is – brilliant!
The error reporting is also very nice, as is the info telling you what's going on with the sync in the MADI stream. And of course it can record 64 channels onto a USB hard drive. We bought a Glyph GT062E to use for the recording, because that has mirrored drives and JoeCo recommend it, so I actually had two backup sources. (I think you can never have too many!)
What will happen to the recorded audio?
We’re going to hopefully make an album from it. There may well be an actual release of the concert, but then we also have the whole day of recorded sessions. So that audio might get mixed down into a more conceptual surround sound album of the piece, rather than a direct representation of the live performance. It’s an improvisational piece; no two performances are identical.
I found that the BlackBox Recorder gave me a sense of confidence that allowed me to feel almost relaxed during the concert recording since it had performed faultlessly during the day's sessions.
Thank you for talking to us.
Evan Parker's ElectroAcoustic Ensemble
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
Photos © Matt Saunders and Caroline Forbes 2011.
BlackBox goes live at the Royal Festival Hall
A BlackBox was used to add electronic tracks to a live performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The Video Game Heroes concert was part of the Vision Sound Music Festival - the UK’s first festival of music for visuals. Chris White, programmer for the project, talks to JoeCo.
How did you become involved in this project?
The idea was to do a live event at the Royal Festival Hall and to release an album of popular video games music. I was brought in by Andrew Skeet, who was to orchestrate the album and conduct both the recording sessions and the concert. On this project, there were a number of pieces of music that involved a fair amount of sound design and programming, so Andrew asked me to produce backing tracks both for the album and to be run live at the performance.
What made you decide on a BlackBox for live playback?
We discussed various options and settled on using a hard disk machine, as the idea of running on a laptop was too scary! As there were quite a few different types of track (Pads/ Percussion/Bass/FX etc, we needed something that had at least 8 tracks. We initially looked at the Alesis HD24 but a friend suggested we try JoeCo. The things that I immediately liked about the BlackBox were the fact that the screen was incredibly bright and simple (the gig was fairly dark so quite hard to see!) and the fact that the unit was so compact (I knew I'd have to carry it around to a tech rehearsal or two, so it was great that it was so portable.
What was involved in producing the backing tracks?
This consisted of tempo mapping the original pieces and then programming the electronic parts alongside Andrew's MIDI files, which he had prepared for the recording sessions. The sessions themselves were done at both Angel Studios and Watford Town Hall (Abbey Road Mobile) so as and when tracks had been recorded, I got sent rough mixes of the LPO, which I could fly in and that allowed me to adjust for any timing differences between the records and the original tracks. I could then sit the programmed parts within the orchestral material.
Preparing the backing tracks for transfer involved bouncing stereo stems from Logic and also a mono click for the conductor, drummer and bass player. These were done as BWAV files. We were initially going to have a lot of stems running on separate tracks but were worried about the number of inputs on the RFH FOH desk (the orchestra were close mic'd so the desks were pretty full!) So we decided to keep it simple and for most items we just had a few stereo stems (Main Backing/Percussion/Bass) plus a mono click track.
How did you manage the process of triggering the tracks during the performance?
As I was going to trigger the tracks manually, the unit was situated by the monitor console so that I could see Andrew and get visual cues. Connection wise, the FOH engineer took the analogue outs from the BlackBox and ran them through DI's into the monitor console. From there, the click was sent to the conductor, bass player and drummer and the stereo stems went to the FOH desk to be mixed with the orchestral tracks.
The backing tracks themselves were stored in the session folder on my Glyph drive (GT050) and came up in the order they were to be played. I then triggered each track manually on cue from Andrew. It all ran beautifully on the day and the concert went very well.
On tour with a BLACKBOX PLAYER named "Joe"
The new BlackBox Player is out on tour with the band IS TROPICAL and has already become a firmly established member of the team. Drummer Dominic Apa and FOH engineer Mark Scurr talk about their experiences on the road with "Joe".
How is the BlackBox Player used during your live set?
Dominic: It’s controlled using an SPD pad. We run 4 stereo pairs to the desk, which carry things like electronics, VST synths, sub synths and FX; essentially anything we can't play and some things we play over (like processed drum sounds) for added sonic depth.
Mark: We have a full band setup with a full electro setup on top. 30 channels to FOH, which, for a band playing the size of places we play, is a lot. We're actually only using eight (Player) channels right now as four stereo sends to FOH. I keep them next to each other on the board and just whack em up! We've gone from a stereo track to this and the difference is huge. The BlackBox Player has definitely been our biggest step up production wise to date.
How have you created the material and the playlists for the set?
Dominic: The playlists are super easy to make in TextEdit on a mac, once you get a hang of the syntax - it's a little like HTML. The wavs themselves started off as stems from the Pro Tools sessions we had while recording the album. We painstakingly went through and removed anything that would be played live and boosted some levels to 'fine tune' our live sound.
How easy has it been to technically integrate the Player into your live performance setup?
Mark: Well it took a good few sessions in the studio and a lot of home time to fully get to grips with “Joe”. I think maybe because Joe can be applied in so many ways. After initial rehearsals, making sure everything was present and correct, Joe has been totally flawless in the live situation. No latency issues, easy to navigate etc. Joe has proved fully reliable for us. The room to expand is also a massive bonus.
What do you particularly like about working with "Joe"?
Mark: The audio quality is absolutely awesome and the sounds that come out of it are incredible. I also like the fact we can run all our audio from a flash key! It's rock solid. And, it doubles up as a multi-track recorder, which is a massive bonus.
Dominic: The ability to have everything split up nicely for our engineer is a real advantage - we've tried compressing everything together into one solid backing track and the lack of freedom that gives you in terms of dynamics is a real drawback. You wanna push some bits at certain parts of the set; you wanna EQ the drums and bass differently depending on the venue; you might even want to take parts out completely if we're changing the way we're playing something last minute. Joe also allows us to really get a comfortable, uncluttered sound in our monitors because obviously every person can have their own mix of what’s coming back to us on stage.
Where has "Joe" been on tour so far?
Dominic: So far Joe has come with us to Tokyo, Italy, France (Printemps de Bourges festival etc.) and a couple shows at home, like Heaven. Basically he's one of the lads!
Mark: We actually treat Joe as the fourth member of the band. He gets his own seat on planes and rides shotgun in the van. He's also the most reliable member .
Reality TV for Sabsound and the BLACKBOX RECORDER
Sabsound Ltd is a location film and TV sound recording company operating world wide with facilities in the UK and Spain. Formed by award-winning sound recordists Stuart Bruce and Danny Munoz, the company has an impressive portfolio of international productions for leading broadcast channels. Stuart Bruce talks to JoeCo about a recent reality TV experience with the BlackBox Recorder.
How did you first hear about the BlackBox Recorder?
I heard about the BlackBox Recorder a few years ago from a colleague, but only seriously looked into it for use on the recent MTV Geordie Shore project for Lime Pictures. I came to the BVE Exhibition at Earls Court earlier in the year, spoke with Joe and tried it for the first time. It was simple and did exactly what I needed it to do.
What were your reasons for choosing the BBR1B balanced analogue version?
The reasoning behind my choice of analogue, as opposed to either of the digital versions, was to allow maximum flexibility when operating in the many different project environments that we encounter. I thought I had a better chance of getting analogue feeds from various desks or installations across the world. For this particular project, the BBR1B also offered me a better and safer signal path with direct Iso’s from the preamps, while I utilised ADAT light pipes for monitor and sub group mixes.
How were the BBRs used on the reality TV project?
The installation was designed to allow maximum possibilities for audio capture and 24/7 coverage from whichever camera that was shooting at the time. We had four fixed remote cameras with infrared capabilities and four main cameras following the action in the house and out in the city. I generated Time of Day time code sent via a DA to feed all the remote cameras, the two BlackBox Recorders and spike lines that fed all the Ambient lockit boxes attached to the PSC cameras. The BBRs were used to multi-track all the audio in the house, which was split into two main set-ups.
JoeCo "A" was set up to record all the planted microphones, which were rigged to capture any audio from the five house zones that were covered by the remote cameras and a few additional mics for better coverage. We used over 600m of cabling to hand wire this bespoke installation, making sure that it could all be hidden without damaging the property. The mics were powered by preamps that fed the BBR directly from 1/4-inch jack outputs. All the tracks were named on the BBR and drawn up in a diagram with positioning for the post production report to help with the track laying. I used 22 tracks for this purpose alone, but also had a caller side feed of all telephone conversations made in the house.
JoeCo "B" dealt with the isolated tracks of the radio mic installation. I used Tracks 1 - 8 to record the cast, tracks 9 - 12 allowed for guests either on individual TXs or using the two radio booms. All twelve radio channels were fed directly from the racks to the BBR and again sent by ADAT light pipe to the desk for later monitoring and mixes. Guide zone mixes were then sent down to individual isolated tracks using light pipe out through the A to D converter of one of the preamps and back into the BBR on channels 17-24. The BBR then fed the record units of the remote cameras from the direct outputs laying down a guide mix to help with post production
Which features did you find particularly useful?
Whatever format I record to, I always want to have easy access to monitoring tracks, groups and any sub mixes. This I found fast and effective with the BlackBox Recorder. The unit was recording for 24 hours a day over 6 weeks and remained solid throughout. It was fast to mount drives and format them. On one occasion when we had a power cut, the "Safe n Sound” record recovery feature saved data that would have otherwise been lost. The hold/stop record feature prevented mistakes from happening, as it forced you to be certain that you wanted to stop the recording. The machine was simple to use and proved a cost effective way to multi-track with confidence during this installation.
How do you envisage the BlackBox Recorder being used on future projects?
Sabsound is hoping to run out the same system on a second series of the show if all goes well.
I work on a project by project basis across many different types of location recording and use multiple recording formats depending on the technical specifications of a job. I plan to use the BBR on anything that has multiple mics or radio mic installations, as I want the confidence of knowing that I can record isolated tracks or master mixes to it. Also, with 24 tracks I know I can cover many types of television productions.
I feel that the BlackBox Recorder will become a regular solution to my recording requirements as it offers me flexibility and security. I’m confident that it will be used on a range of future projects including reality shows, music and conference work.
(Interview from June 2011)
On location with Sound Moves and the BLACKBOX RECORDER
Steve Williams, a TV sound supervisor and Technical Director of Surrey-based Sound Moves in the UK talks to JoeCo about some recent location projects involving the BlackBox Recorder.
Where did you first come across the BlackBox Recorder?
I think it was at the PLASA Show in London during 2009, when the recorder was quite new on the market. I was looking for a non-computer based solution that was easy to operate. I knew Joe Bull from his days at SADiE and had always found him incredibly helpful and supportive. This was one of the factors that actually influenced our initial decision to purchase the first of our BlackBox Recorders, the balanced BBR1B version.
Tell us something about your work
Sound Moves’ “core business” is essentially location sound recording and live broadcast for radio, terrestrial and satellite TV. We do an extensive amount of recording and mixing of live music to air, both classical and rock/pop, as well as coverage of sport events, theatre and light entertainment. In addition, I work as a TV sound supervisor/sound designer on a range of different projects, as well as doing HD installations for high profile clients.
Were your BlackBox Recorders bought with a specific project in mind?
Yes. I was working as Sound Supervisor/Designer on a reality TV show in the autumn of 2010. This involved a significant number of radio mics and room mics. We needed something that could not only record large numbers of tracks, but would also enable the recorded audio to be made quickly available to post production. The project involved a 48-track double-head recording, using a total of four BlackBox Recorders. The track count gradually decreased over the course of the series as contestants were eliminated and one big advantage was the ability to quickly reconfigure and rename tracks, making life clearer and easier for the post production team.
How are your BlackBox Recorders generally used?
On a weekly basis, we tend to use the recorders both as a main record path and as add-ons for location recording projects that have a smaller footprint. In fact, I’m just about to go and record a solo artist performing in a barber’s shop window and will be taking along one of the BBR units! We find them reliable, compact, easy to operate and they sound great. They are particularly good for the simple, “straight to hard drive” recording projects that require a small box count. As such, they have quickly become part of our portfolio of “problem solvers”.
Any particularly notable projects so far this year?
At the start of 2011, we worked on a series of shows for HMV that involved recording over a hundred bands during a ten-day period. We had five different recording teams out altogether and used BlackBox Recorders at one of the venues, The Relentless Garage in North London. We recorded up to five bands a night at the venue, moving the recorders between the upstairs and downstairs performance areas. This was another 48-track double-head record involving four machines, used as both main and backup systems for added security. However, I’m happy to say that none of the backup material was actually used as the BBRs delivered 100% recording reliability throughout.
I’ve had some very positive conversations with Joe Bull about the use of the product and about potential developments that might occur in the future, some of which I believe are due to materialise shortly. This may well result in further purchases, for example the new Dante or MADI systems.
Any final thoughts?
Most importantly it’s worth remembering there is a quiet passion in Joe Bull and that is that his kit must sound good. At the end of the day that is what we are all trying to deliver to our customers. That is why we use it!
(Interview from May 2011)