Digico Consoles Pump Up Audio for Kinky Boots, London’s Viva Forever!, and Hungary’s Tatabánya Theaters

Digico audio consoles have stayed plenty busy lately as productions from across the globe have opted for Digico consoles in recent months, including Broadway musical Kinky Boots; the Spice-Girls inspired musical Viva Forever! in London, and regional theaters in Tatabánya, Hungary,

Kinky Boots Has Broadway On Its Feet
Sound designer John Shivers [pictured with Associate Sound Designer & Production Sound Engineer David Patridge] opted for a DiGiCo SD7T to handle the production of the new hit broadway musical Kinky Boots. He selected the console after becoming familiar with the system on his previous productions for Bonnie & Clyde, Sister Act and The Lion Kingoverseas.

“A few years ago, I saw a brief demo at Masque Sound when the SD7 first became available,” he recollected. “Seeing the feature set and the redundant engine and power supply all onboard got me interested. When designing The Lion King for Singapore in 2010, part of my negotiation involved suggesting that we swap out the Cadacs with SD7s in New York and London for both creative and financial reasons. Before I knew it, I’d gotten an email telling me to move forward. Within 6 weeks of that conversation we were implementing the SD7s on the New York show and a month after that we were doing the same in London. I’ve been using SD7s pretty much on every show since.”

Shivers says the console offers a lot of flexibility, especially with the new “T” software, which he says brings features and functionality specific to our needs on theatrical productions as well as a solid sounding foundation in a very compact package.

“The SD7T software has added these very beneficial features thanks to [award-winning sound designer] Andrew Bruce’s involvement in the development. Having onboard compression, gating and delay—along with the programmability and recallability of those parameters on every channel—opens up possibilities that you just can’t have with an analog console. It’s definitely been an upgrade for us from that standpoint. A positive byproduct has definitely been the size of the console, which allows you to get into smaller spaces and require less seats and has served as a large financial windfall for producers. For me, from a purely creative and design standpoint, it’s about the capabilities of the console. I’m not one to follow the crowd necessarily, but the SD7 has become a standard of our industry and the reason everybody’s using them seems clear. It has proven itself to be a very capable and reliable console.”

Digico SD Consoles Spice Up London’s West End
Girl Power is back and, since mid-December, has taken over London’s Piccadilly Theatre, as the musical Viva Forever! brings the Spice Girls hits to the West End via a pair of of DiGiCo mixing consoles.

The show’s sound designer is Bobby Aitken, who is no stranger to musical theatre, having produced sound designs for some of the world’s most successful shows, including We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia and, most recently, the opening and closing ceremonies for London’s Olympic and Paralympic games.

For some years his console of choice has been from British manufacturer DiGiCo. This production is no different, with an SD7T at Front of House and an SD8 handling the monitor mix’s for the show’s live musicians. Both consoles, along with the rest of Bobby’s equipment requirements, are supplied by Autograph Sound.

The SD7T’s suitability stems from a number of reasons, not least the production’s high channel count.

“We have an A/B audio system – effectively two complete systems – to avoid unwanted audio issues from the actors’ microphones, which include 24 Sennheiser SK5212s and seven SKM5200s,” says Viva Forever! head of sound Ben Evans. “This set up means double the amount of outputs and double the amount of processing required within the desk, so the SD7T was the best choice.”

Bobby explained, “Because we mic the performers with onmi capsules, it’s very common to hear a destructive phasing sound when we open multiple mics. Its very noticeable during duets when the performers get close to each other. The only way to get round it is never to mix the two mics together. So, they route to separate busses on the mixer, through separate amplifiers, separate reverbs and effects, separate processors and, ultimately, separate loudspeaker systems. The signal for the mics never meet each other till they are in air. This technique was developed by Martin Levan in the late 80’s but, because of the high demand on mix busses, was always very difficult to fully implement. The high buss count on the DiGiCo products makes it possible.”

“Needing ‘two lots of everything’ made the SD7T the ideal console for the show. Also, it has been specifically designed for theatre audio and that makes a real difference,” says Ben. “There are a lot of little functions that have been developed within the T software that help us do things more quickly and efficiently.

“On this show we use around 150 Snapshots as the console is firing sound effects and changing control groups to maintain the A/B integrity. If there are multiple cues within a song, you can ask the desk not to change the faders during that song, so you can step through the cues, changing your allocations for the control groups and firing sound effects without upsetting the mix of the band – it’s little things like that that make it a lot easier for us to do what we want to do.

“DiGiCo has also made huge steps forward with the software,” he continues. “Over the past few years they have adopted suggestions made by operators which have made our lives at lot easier. It has made the creative stuff that the designer wants achievable with a lot more ease. There’s a lot of time pressure in technical rehearsals, being able to do everything quickly and never hear the stage manager say ‘We’re waiting for sound’ is great.”

A function that has proven very useful is being able to share audio over the SD7T and SD8 and output it at different stages. This allows the SD8 to handle audio for the band monitoring completely independently of the main console, but its cues are controlled from the SD7T via MIDI and alleviates the need for a dedicated engineer to operate the SD8. To ensure maximum flexibility, the multi-channel mixes sent to each musician can then be fine-tuned on personal, 16 channel mixers.

The audio system is undoubtedly one of the stars of this show, with both Bobby and Ben enthusiastic about how the DiGiCo consoles are performing.

“All the SD products I’ve used have been very reliable,” says Bobby. “The SD7T is doing a lot of work on this show – as well as the main mix it’s firing sound effects, stopping sound effects, sending timecode to other people and other tasks. It’s functioning as much more of a production hub than just an audio mixer and both consoles are doing their duties flawlessly.”

DiGiCo’s Tatabánya Trio
For the past two years, the Hungarian government has been funding a special project to bring regional theatres up to date and into greater community use. The town of Tatabánya has been one beneficiary, where three DiGiCo SD9 consoles have ensured that further capital investment will not be needed for many years.

Titled Agora, the project aims to modernise the venues and help them to stage a greater range of multicultural events. In Tatabánya it has included a complete technical refit of the town’s theatre, which has featured three new DiGiCo SD9 consoles – two for the venue and a third as part of a mobile audio system, which can be used at events in different locations throughout the area.

Supplied by Budapest-based Chromasound, the SD9 was chosen thanks to its perfect mix of channels, outputs and onboard processing for the events that Tatabánya stages, plus the regular software updates issued by DiGiCo, which ensure a large degree of future-proofing.

“This is a one off project and, as there will be no chance within the next ten years to get further investment, the very best of today’s technology was needed,” says Chromasound’s Imre Makkay. “DiGiCo continuously upgrades its consoles with many new features, which is the kind of future-proofing that was essential to Tatabánya.

“We also know that the sound quality is the same on every DiGiCo product, so whichever console was chosen, we knew we would be supplying the best equipment.”

The theatre mainly hosts plays, with the audio system predominantly used for speech. But musical events are also staged, ranging from jazz trios, through world music to rock, for all of which the consoles needed to be versatile enough to handle equally well.

“Some of the local engineers already knew DiGiCo consoles, but after just one day of training even those who had no previous experience were fine,” Imre continues. “We stood behind the beginners on the first shows, but to be honest we had nothing to do. The guys were instantly happy thanks to how intuitive the SD9 is to mix on and the clear overview of its control surface. The shows went really smoothly from the start.

“The theatre directors and technicians are all really happy with the consoles. Having three of the same type has made things easier, so it doesn’t matter if they are working in the theatre or on the mobile system.

“For a company like Chromasound it is pretty rare that we have the opportunity to supply three high class digital consoles like the DiGiCo SD9, so it is an achievement we are very proud of.”