Prism Sound/Sadie and Pink Floyd producer take on The Wall Live in Athens

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters recently tookThe Wall back on tour for the first time in 30 years, with Prism Sound/Sadie and producer James Guthrie handling sound recording and mixing.

The show, with a reported production value of £37 million, has been performed a total of 120 times at venues all around North America and Europe, culminating in Athens in July, where Waters performed three shows at the 2004 Olympic Stadium. These were captured for posterity by a crew of nearly 100 people just to tackle the filming, making this the biggest European concert film project for nearly 30 years.

With the audio being just as important as the visuals, Waters hired Pink Floyd producer James Guthrie to handle the sound recording and mixing. Guthrie subsequently requested the services of Prism Sound to help build a 96-track, 96kHz fully mirrored Sadie recording set-up modelled on his own private studio in California.

Prism Sound’s sales director Graham Bowell, explained: “James is a perfectionist who has a passion for clean and transparent recording. For this project James used the “Le Voyageur II” mobile with the 48-channel Neve V-Series analogue recording console onboard the truck, but this time recordings were captured using the Sadiedigital multi-track recorders interfaced through Prism Sound ADA-8XR AD-DA converters. For monitoring, he used Le Voyageur’s ATC units, another brand that he favours.”

In Athens, Waters spread the performance over two stages – the main stage and the front stage outside the wall – with audio lines switching between the two at various points during the concert to reduce channel count. A total of 96 tracks were recorded, distributed between the main 64-track Sadie system and a smaller SadieLRX2 system running 32 tracks. All of the tracks were recorded at 96kHz sampling, 24-bit resolution.

Alongside the Neve console, 16 channels of outboard Neve pre-amplifiers were used, a mixture of 1073 and 1081 units, which were provided by London-based FX Rentals. These were bolstered by the addition of 16 channels of Prism Sound’s Maselec Master Series MMA-4XR mic preamps. Two separate Neve 16:2 mixers, also courtesy of FX Rentals, were used ahead of the V-series console to help contain the total number of recording tracks.

Audience reaction and ambience were captured using a SoundField MK V microphone system, loaned for the project by Ken Giles, CEO of SoundField. The microphone’s output was recorded in 4-channel B-format for later decoding to stereo or surround formats during post-production. The top 32 tracks on the Sadie LRX2 unit also captured playback of SFX and pre-recorded orchestral mixes.

The main 64-track system comprised two identical Sadie H128 dual MADI units each running RAID mirrored drive pairs, making 4 identical versions of all takes. The Sadie units were connected to the Prism Sound ADA-8XR units through two RME ADI6432 MADI-AES interfaces.

Main vocal channels, including Waters’ main mics and his radio mic, were controlled using a number of Prism Sound Maselec MLA-2 dual-channel compressors configured on console insertion points. Extra UA 1176 compressors were loaned by Dinos Ioanides from Sierra Studios in Athens to cover extra channels.

“Prism Sound provided Sadie expert Mark Overall as an additional resource to work alongside James Guthrie’s long-time collaborator, Joel Plante,” Boswell explained. “Mark normally looks after build and test of SADiE hardware systems at our HQ near Cambridge in the UK, but he has experience of field-based recording and film work gained with SADiE and the former business Spaceward Graphics on a variety of projects spanning television, film and music projects.”

Recording in Athens took place over 6 days, with three live shows and three days of filming for close-ups. The 1TB mirrored drives in the main SADiE systems were changed every two days and the main and backup disk sets were dispatched separately to reduce risk in transit.