Mexico - During a recent week-long tour of Mexico, Pope Francis addressed record audiences at five venues around the country, accompanied by SSL Live L500 and L300 consoles in a variety of roles.
Miguel Angel Tapia Trujillo was the Front of House Engineer at the Parque Chamizal in Ciudad Juárez. His SSL L500 console used the SSL Blacklight II high bandwidth multiplexed MADI connection for around 90 inputs from stage including choir, orchestra, and podium microphones, plus the stage feeds from five opening bands.
"We did that all in one console," says Tapia. "I set it up so every tile on the console could access any channel - inputs, VCAs and stems."
The Stem Group path type - a versatile audio group available with full processing and extensive routing options - was used extensively for the show. Tapia used Stems for all effects (rather than auxiliaries) and to manage the large number of orchestra microphones.
"I had 14 fully processed String section stems alone!" Tapia explains. "Then every section of the orchestra had its own VCA, and I had several main VCAs on top - including the orchestra, the choir, and the Pope."
"I used the internal FX quite a lot as well. Every Stem had multiband compression on it, and I used doubling and chorus on the strings, plus some small room reverbs. I also used the Cathedral reverb preset on the choir, which sounded great.
Processing on the Pope's SM58 microphone was minimal. "I used some soft-knee compression and the tube emulation that you get in the standard processed path. The voice sounded huge… It was fantastic."
Yerye Marrun was the Monitor Engineer at the event in Ecatepec (East Mexico, audience of approximately 400,000) and chose the SSL L300 for the job. "It was my first time with the console," he explains. "...And I really enjoyed it. The sound is great, of course, but so was the ease with which we ran the soundcheck, making sure everything worked for both the stage and the broadcast. It made me feel confident, and in turn it was easy to run the show with confidence."
According to Marrun, the main challenge was providing perfect monitoring mixes for two very large stages simultaneously - one music stage for the orchestra and choir, and one for the priests. "We built side-fills for the orchestra and a backfill behind the choir, just to simulate a concert hall. They had to hear everything happening on the Pope's stage, and vice-versa.
"We only had a one hour soundcheck, although we had already loaded the input list for the orchestra and had done a lot of pre-EQing and gain structuring during the rigging.
"At one point during the show there was a solo vocalist on the Pope's stage, accompanied by an organist on the music stage. They couldn't see each other, didn't get a chance to rehearse, and I was told about it just before they went on! It only took me a couple of seconds to make sure that both performers had a good monitor feed." In this, Marrun praises the console Super-Query ('Q') function, a forward and reverse interrogation feature that can instantly spill both destination and source mixes onto the surface with one button press on the interrogated channel; ideal for fast access to any and all monitor mix contributions.
At the same show, Everado Cano, a high profile engineer with more than 35 years’ experience in live sound production, was at the Front Of House position. He chose the SSL L500 console for this event, with a second L500 making a completely redundant system, as required by the show organisers. There were 119 inputs (66 orchestral mics, 40 Choir mics, seven SM58s for the Pope, plus 4 wireless mics), which were grouped into more than 16 Stems for mix and processing. This was all controlled by 24 VCAs assigned to Tile 1. Cano kept the Pope’s microphones permanently assigned to Tile 2 for fast access at any time.
“I choose the L500 this time because of SSL's reputation,” says Cano. “And I made the right decision! The sound of this console is absolutely superior to any other competitor in the Live market... It's like mixing on the best studio console in the world but for close for 500,000 people, live! Such a pleasure.
“The amazing dynamic range and the stereo imaging are stunning, but the depth and width in the mixing planes was the best; every sound has his own space in this huge 3D sound image.”
Indeed, in their final assessment, Marrun, Tapia, and Cano make particular note of SSL Live console sound. "The pre-amp is the headline of the console," says Tapia. "It is the best of the best - and there are some great pre-amps out there!"
"The sound," notes Marrun. "...It makes you feel like you are actually working on an analogue mixer."
“This console is the next evolutionary step in the live sound quality,” says Cano. “And the flexibility is something I have never seen before”
SSL’s Platinum Partner in Mexico is Audio Acústica.
Peter Frampton, concluded his final tour, where FOH engineer, Jim Yakabuski, used an SSL Live L550 console.