The 89th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, honored the best films of 2016 and took place on February 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California. The audio workflow for the show has changed since the orchestra was moved, two years ago, from a remote production location at Capitol Records Studios back to the orchestra pit at the Dolby Theatre. What is optimizing that workflow was the use this year of the Roland M-48 Live Personal Mixer. Fifteen M-48s were deployed for the event, provided by ATK Audiotek, the live-SR vendor for the event. Each of the M-48 Live Personal Mixers offered up to 40 audio channels via 16 stereo groups unique to each mixer, which allowed for an unprecedented level of individual control for the musicians in the orchestra.
“Everyone was able to dial in exactly what they wanted to hear,” says Tom Pesa, a six-time EMMY® Award winner who managed monitor and foldback audio for the Academy Awards show. “We were able to provide the rhythm section with a very detailed individual mix, with kick, snare, toms and click all on individual channels, as were bass, both guitars and two keyboards.” Pesa was also able to provide individual group mixes for the various sections of the orchestra, such as high and low strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion. Each musician or section first chair was able to create a highly individualized mix, all with volume, pan, 3-band EQ and built-in reverb per group and all instantly adjustable by convenient encoder knobs. Pesa was also able to maintain a high degree of control over the entire monitoring system: he could see and hear everything each M-48 user could through a serial connection to a PC and a single Cat-5 cable from his DiGiCo SD10 monitor console that carried all 40 channels of audio as well as Roland’s “REAC Embedded Power” feature, which carries the power to each M-48 personal mixer.
“The simplicity and flexibility of the M-48 is welcome on a project like this,” says Pesa, adding that he was able to use MADI between his console and the M-48s. “I could call up any of the M-48 panels they were using in the orchestra on my PC, so if there was an issue, I could hear and see what they were listening to and see their panel settings, without having to send an assistant over there. The musicians were able to dial in discrete mixes that worked for them and concentrate on their performance. That’s why that kind of flexibility is so important — the musicians only have to think about the music, because they can have the monitor mix they want.”
ATK Audiotek, which provides live-sound services for such industry-leading events as the Academy Awards and the GRAMMY® Awards shows, has been a satisfied user of the M-48 for six years, deploying it for all live orchestral broadcast shows. “The flexibility the M-48 offers is pretty remarkable,” says Jeff Peterson, Project Manager for ATK Audiotek at the Academy Awards and other events. “Other systems are limited in a number of critical ways, such as providing just 16 channels. We’d need to combine three or four systems together to get close to what we can get from just one M-48 system.” Peterson says the way the M-48 let Pesa set up separate mix panels for the rhythm section and the various orchestra sections has become standard procedure on complex shows like the Academy Awards. “We wouldn’t be able to do these shows nearly as efficiently without the M-48,” he says. And the sound? “Just great,” he replies. “The M-48 sounds better than any other personal mixer product we’ve ever tried.”
Tech specifications and more info about Roland Pro A/V – M-48 | Live Personal Mixer you can find here.