API goes back stage at the BRIT Awards 2012

With some of the biggest names from the world of rock and pop in attendance, Tuesday night (February 21st) saw the annual BRIT Awards ceremony arrive at London’s O2 arena to celebrate the finest musical achievements from the past 12 months.

Featuring notable performances from rock legends Blur and Noel Gallagher, as well as contemporary pop icons Adele, Rihanna and Florence and the Machine, this year’s show offered a well-balanced presentation of the industry’s biggest and best performers from the past 20 years. And Olly Murs.

However, while the aforementioned performers and the untimely interruption of Adele’s award acceptance speech have been grabbing the proverbial lion’s share of the headlines, Audio Pro International’s Daniel Gumble went behind the scenes to get a closer look at the process of broadcasting a show of such magnitude as the BRITS.

Sat firmly at the helm of the show’s audio broadcast, API columnist and 18-time BRITS veteran Toby Alington used Floating Earth’s digital recording truck, whereby he mixed the show on an SSL C200 console with 96 feeds from the stage. During rehearsals over the Sunday (February 19th) and Monday (February 20th) the mix snap shot for each band was stored on the C200, offering the ability to tweak the mix from multitrack playback and update the snapshots, which were ultimately recalled during both the dress run and the live show, allowing Alington a single console to mix all nine live acts.

With regards to outboard equipment, a mixture of analogue and digital systems were deployed. These included Vocal Distressors in line with dbx902 de-essers for vocal processing, as well as Lexicon reverbs and TC System 6000 for additional effects and final compression.

24 audience mics positioned on the stage and from the roof of the arena were premixed in a separate truck in the OB compound by Leaf Troup and David Loudon, while sampled audience sounds from previous BRITS ceremonies were added to boost the level of audience excitement heard by TV audiences. Furthermore, the sampled audience from show’s gone by was also played subliminally through the PA system, which was provided by Jessica Bowles operating an audience sampling system at a FOH mix position.

Brett Cox and Bruce McLaren took up stage left monitor positions, ensuring the integrity of Alington’s feeds from the splitters to the truck via the 96 SSL remote mic amps, while a playback system was operated by Erik Jordan for the three live vocal to track artists (Olly Murs, Rihanna and Florence and the Machine).

Commenting on the show, Alington said: “18 years on the BRITS, so somewhere in the region of two hundred performances later, 2012 gave me an expected combination of technical challenges, musical moments and unique performances. Coldplay as a band are unbeatable. Despite being a band it’s like recording a single entity, with an unmistakable style that demonstrates years of working as a musical entity.”

Having handled the BRITS’ audio broadcast for the best part of two decade, Alington is all too aware of the problems that can, and do, often arise. He explained: “When recording a live show like the BRITS you are almost waiting for something to go wrong, you have to be prepared to catch something and everything at any stage, constantly aware and looking for exceptions.

“I’m not being pessimistic but you have to be alert to every sound and nuance,” he added. “You have to be conscious of such a technical process with a lot of points of failure, from the instruments through to the transmission. On top of that you have the constraints of what is legal in terms of technical levels and keeping the audience watching and listening.

“It’s not mixing a track in a studio and coming back to change something an hour later, it’s now or never, and when all that is perfect, it’s time to get creative.“