A number of Digico desks were recently deployed fro Beyonce and Jay Z’s recent On The Run tour.
The highly complex production featured a large live band, including an entire horn section, as well as back-up dancers kitted out with in-ear monitors. All of these elements are connected via an Optocore HMA fiber loop between two Digico SD7 consoles for the FOH mix (one primary console and a second for use by supporting acts on the tour) feeding a d&b audiotechnik J-Series PA system, while four more SD7 desks are assigned to the monitor mixes. Another SD7 combines full-band rehearsals as set lists are due to change and songs or new arrangements may be added – their album, Everything Is Love, dropped during the tour.
A Digico SD12 console will be used to mix vocal rehearsals. The five primary consoles on the tour use five Digico SD-Racks, with a sixth used as a support rack.
Jason Kirschnick, the international operations officer and global project manager at Eighth Day Sound, which is the sound-reinforcement provider for On The Run II, said: “The Digicos are the only consoles that can do this show, Stephen Curtin, FOH engineer, uses a lot of subgroups to keep and manage all of the stage inputs on a single SD7, with the second SD7 on the same fiber loop and with the sessions loaded and ready there as a spare. No other desk could touch what the SD7s are doing here.” He added: “The wireless and in-ear counts are enormous. Everyone is sharing fiber on this tour, that’s one of the reasons that it’s the preferred console for the FOH and monitor mixers: its work-surface flexibility makes it the only console that lets them set up the exact custom workflows they need. It just has more options than any other console. That’s why it’s number-one on all the riders.”
The SD7 consoles are connected to an Optocore fiber loop – a double loop in the case of the monitor consoles, two of which are primarily dedicated to the band members and two more for the artist on stage, with one for each task assigned as the primary console and a second as a spill-over deck for ancillary inputs such as talkback and audience mic inputs.
Even with such a massive number of sources coming in, versatile expansion options allow Digico’s flagship console to stay on top of everything. “With the SD7 we were able to utilise a second HMA Optical Loop doubling the available I/O in the fibre network allowing us to add not one, but two additional record systems capable of handling all 160 channels plus an additional 16 audience mics,” says Curtin. “More important to us was the additional 504 inputs or outputs along with the 504 on Loop #1 to the system, which on this show is critical. That’s enabled me to be able to keep everything on just one primary console, which streamlines the workflow considerably.”
Monitor engineer, James Berry has been alongside Beyoncé for 12 years. Curtin joined Beyonce in 2011 as band monitor engineer, then became FOH when Corbin joined the Mrs. Carter Show world tour in 2013. Berry said: “We’ve been using the SD7 with Beyoncé since the desk came out; plus we were on Digico’s D5 before that. Even the monitor guy before me was on a Digico; it’s the only desk that can handle the size and scope of her shows.” The Digico setup is suited to the biggest of stadiums because “it definitely won’t fit anywhere else. But the SD7s can handle it all. When the SD7’s Quantum 7 processing update becomes officially available, we’ll technically be able to handle even bigger productions, but I’m not sure that we should tell them,” Berry adds.
Digico’s 32-bit Mic Pre-Amp cards are being used for the first time on all of the insert inputs, as well as a number of the brand’s new 32-bit DAC modules. Berry said: “One of our stage racks is completely full of outboard analog processors, so we’re taking everything D-to-A and back. The 32-bit cards give a really pleasing, warm, wide sound, and it was immediately noticeable, especially on keys and drums.
“What really adds to this setup—the way that I’m linking my two desks together—I’m using the Merge Input on the auxiliaries and groups, and we’re linking on MADI, so the second desk is actually feeding my first desk through the Merge feature. I haven’t done that in the past, and it’s making my setup so much easier—it’s just two MADI cables and we’re done, plus it gives redundancy. The desks are also MIDI-triggered to each other so that they all switch snapshots at the same time, so it’s all very seamless to operate.”
The SD consoles are also used for recording the live shows, using Digico’s MGB MADI interface at FOH and Optocore DD4MR network MADI interfaces in monitor world. This will convert the MADI output from the consoles to a network signal for input to a Mac Pro running recording software. “This is a very complex tour,” says Kirschnick, a commercial-rated Air Transport pilot who definitely understands complexity. “It couldn’t have been done as reliably or effectively without what the SD7 brings to it.”