Times Square Rings in ’08 With Studer Vista 5 SR and Soundcraft Vi6

By benkrumholz

NEW YORK CITY -- When it comes to daunting audio gigs, few can match the challenges presented by the annual New Year’s Eve Show in New York City’s Times Square. With a live audience in the hundreds of thousands and a TV audience in the tens of millions, this is one of those gigs where the whole world really is watching. Long-time audio provider Maryland Sound International (MSI) pulls off the seemingly impossible every year, but the most recent show was made better and easier with the addition of Studer and Soundcraft digital mixing technology.

Two performance stages – each with a 96-input Studer Stagebox – and a broadcast stage with 10 inputs were all fed to an optical splitter, which fed both a Soundcraft Vi6™ running monitors for each performance stage and a Studer Vista 5 SR in the main “mix container.” According to MSI Owner Bob Goldstein, “The Studer Vista 5 SR is the console we have been waiting for. In the smallest of footprints it provides a ‘no limits’ solution to this project. We can bring three stages worth of inputs, truck feeds and playback into one console that is easy to use, sounds great and provides all of the outputs required, with total redundancy. With a ton of Vista consoles in the broadcast field and the extensive abuse we have put them through we know reliability is a non-issue. That is really important for this gig.”

Among the challenges of the Times Square production is the need for even coverage throughout an area that runs seven city blocks. “Both analog and digital outputs – a total of 20 matrix output busses – were sent via Optocore to an army of Crown amps which fed JBL VerTec line arrays installed throughout the square from 42nd to 48th streets,” said Shane Morris, principal engineer for Soundcraft and Studer USA. “And each of those matrix outputs had its own EQ and dynamics control.”

The system included more than a mile of optical cable with more than 20 signal “drop” points. Additional outputs were supplied for both an analog broadcast split and Pro Tools recording of the entire event.

Adding to the obvious technical challenges was the fact that this show takes place in one of the busiest commercial corridors in the world and the powers that be can’t exactly shut things down so the sound company can come in and set up.

Studer and Soundcraft Desks in Times Square / Add One

“We have provided sound for some of the most difficult productions in the world – Pink Floyd on the Grand Canal in Venice and at the Palace in Versailles; Super Bowl halftime shows; inaugurations and Washington DC Mall events; and large-scale sports events, concert tours and festivals – yet these all pale in comparison to Times Square New Years Eve,” says Goldstein. “Not only can it be really cold, it is extremely crowded on the streets and sidewalks except for 2:00 a.m. until 7:00 a.m. Furthermore, we are not permitted to make noise at any time other than show time. In other words, we have to be able to set up the system in a very short period of time, turn it on, and have it work flawlessly the first time – all with the most complex set of circumstances imaginable. But we love this gig! It forces us to stretch the definition of flawless performance.”

MSI took delivery of a pair of Vista 5 SR consoles in October with an eye toward using them for the Times Square event, which the company has been doing for longer than anyone cares to remember. Goldstein adds: “The first time I saw the Studer Vista 5, I was blown away. It has features that no other console has and its ease of use is hard to beat. An engineer no longer has to worry about layers or pages. This console answers a lot of the gripes engineers have with digital consoles. For a show like Times Square New Year’s Eve, it provides a control surface that is straightforward, small and easy for our engineer to navigate through three stages, nine or ten artists, plus various feeds. The footprint we have to work with is really minimal and going to the Vista 5 SR this year freed up some real estate that just wasn’t available in years past. So the bottom line is that the Studer desk’s size, speed of navigation, reliability, redundancy, audio quality and ‘no limits’ makes it the best console for the job available today.”

In the end, the audio setup became invisible as far as the crowd and TV audience were concerned – as it should on a gig like this. “One would have to say that the whole six-hour show went off without a glitch, hitch, lockup, pop or crack,” notes Morris. “It was a perfect application of the Studer and Soundcraft mixer group technology and MSI ingenuity!”

Known as the touring sound company of choice for top artists like Josh Groban, Neil Diamond, Pink Floyd, Hall & Oates, Disturbed and many others, MSI has also notably provided sound reinforcement for the most recent Presidential Inaugurations (2005 and 2001) and the dedication of the National WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. More info on the company can be found online at www.marylandsound.com or by calling 800.76.SOUND.

Studer and Soundcraft Desks in Times Square / Add Two