Digico desks handle huge channel count on Hans Zimmer tour

Britannia Row Productions has designed and supplied an audio control system centred around two Digico mixing consoles for Hans Zimmer’s current tour.

Designed by Brit Row’s Lez Dwight and FoH engineer for the tour – Colin Pink (pictured above) – along with monitor engineers Gavin Tempany and Jimmy Nicholson, the system includes an SD7 and an SD11 to cope with the huge input count.

Hans Zimmer is one of the world’s most renown film score composers who has written over 100 scores and has been nominated for seven Golden Globes, seven Grammys and seven Oscars. The music for his current tour is selected from his extensive collection of work.

“There’s a 19-piece string and brass orchestra and a 16-piece choir,” said Pink, “but because Hans jumps around genres so much, there’s also a band and a lot of electronics involved which gives me a grand total of 262 inputs. There aren’t many desks that can deal with that input count and we needed great flexibility in the system, so we went for the DiGiCo SD7 because of its functionality and great channel count.”

The different musical genres, with big changes happening quickly in the middle of pieces, make the style of mixing more akin to a theatre production than a concert, for which Pink has found the Snapshot facilities on the desks very useful.

“From a mix point of view, when you deal with high input counts, the 12 faders in the central section with another 12 faders above are ideal as I can have 24 Control Groups within very easy reach,” Pink added. “It makes mixing the show a joy and means I have whatever I need immediately accessible. The extra functionality and speed of the StealthCore2 software has also helped us refine the show and given us the ability to improve on the sound from last year’s tour.”

The other SD7 sits at monitors with Tempany, whilst the SD11, operated by Nicholson, is used for sub mixing the choir and the orchestra. Three SD-Racks handle all the inputs on stage with MADI used for playback of special effects, layers, etc.

“Because of the amount of people on stage, we wanted to keep it as silent as possible, so everyone is on IEMs,” Pink continued. “We have live drums and a bass cab, but that’s all you hear acoustically, so there’s very little spill into the choir, orchestral and woodwind mics which gives us the separation we need.”

However there was an issue, in that Tempany (pictured above, left) has 40 mixes to deal with at monitors and these outputs reduced his input channel counts, so he could not accommodate all the inputs needed. The solution was for Pink to take the inputs at FOH, except for stems of the choir and orchestra, which he gets from Nicholson (pictured above, right).

“As well as the band, I handle a sub mix of the playback and the shout buss,” said Tempany. “There are 23 musicians and some of them, such as the drummer, have multiple sends. He has a little personal mixer and he alone takes up ten of my outputs. Despite the SD7s high channel count, I ran out of busses, which is why some of them come from FOH via the optical loop. For some of these I copy the audio straight to an output, which does not use any additional DSP.”

Tempany has also found the SD7’s video screen useful as from his position he has no view of the stage: “There’s also a function where I can inject the talk channel into any of the mixes, so if want to talk to one of the players it’s very easy to pull up their mix and hit a button,” he added. “Then I can talk to just them and not disturb anyone else.”

“It’s nice to be able to programme it all and helps a lot with the fact that there are only 12 faders and multiple layers,” remarked Nicholson. “The fibre loop is a great help, too. It means that everything’s done internally. It would be a much messier gig if we didn’t have that and there’s much less to go wrong.”

The tour has already covered the West coast of America, Australia and New Zealand, Scandinavia, Eastern and Western Europe and is now travelling around the US.