Famed German composer Hans Zimmer’s recent tour of Europe has received technical support from the UK’s Britannia Row Productions.
Zimmer has scored a wide range of films over several decades including Rainman, Thelma and Louside, Twelve Years a Slave and most recently Batman v Superman. To make possible a live rendition of such variety has seen Zimmer assemble an equally diverse team of technical talent.
Nathaniel Kunkel, a Grammy and Emmy Award winning producer, sound engineer and 5:1 surround mix specialist has had a long association with Zimmer, “but this is a totally different animal”, he says.
Kunkel, sound designer for Zimmer’s latest tour, has engaged the services of Britannia Row Productions after he supervised and mixed the composer’s highly acclaimed exploratory outing at London’s Eventim Apollo last year. “Since then I have been the main liaison between the Hans team and Lez (Dwight) at Brit Row in relation to staffing decisions and system specification approvals. I was also responsible for the architecture of the show control, capture, and sync setup that we employ in the show,” he explains.
Britannia Row crew chief and orchestra monitor mixer Dee Miller, more normally found at the controls for Robert Plant, describes the audio set-up: “The system is two full trucks of equipment. We have typical L-Acoustics K1/K2 mains and side hangs as you’d expect in an arena, plus flown K subs and 21 SB28 subs and fills on the floor. Then out at the back of the room we fly a further eight K2 a side for a surround system.
“The input count is enormous; 24 musicians in the orchestra, 24 choir, plus 23 in the band plus Hans. We have 180 inputs for the monitor system, I’m mixing orchestra and choir on a DiGiCo SD8 (10 stereo mixes each), Maurizio Gennari is mixing the band (27 stereo mixes to IEMs), while (live sound mixer) Colin (Pink) out front has in excess of 230 channels of input when you add in the special effects and other tracks; both use an SD7. That said, most of it is live, even the special effects. We have rotating orchestras to contend with, they change every time we move territory, and we have some principal performers who guest with the core band, Johnny Marr at the UK shows for example. All in all, it’s a big complex presentation.”
“The first half of the show is characterised by a broad range of classic cinema music,” continued Pink. “I spend a lot of time mixing that band sound and bringing it into a live experience with something as simple as a touch of reverb. The second half is what Hans calls his super hero music, needless to say there are a lot of special effects throughout a montage of his various film scores. Some is pre-recorded as Dee said, but most is played live so I do have to pull out the old quad joystick and pan around.”
“The key role for us all is that Nathaniel came already in possession of Hans’ trust,” notes Pink. “Now that he’s working through and with us, we too now have Hans’ trust.”
Kunkel concludes: “This team truly embodies the truth that ‘those rise highest who lift as they climb’. I cannot give them enough credit.”