Britannia Row Productions: Live at MTV’s EMAs

Story - Kate Lyon

2016 marked the twentieth year Britannia Row Productions have supplied audio services to the MTV European Music Awards.  Rotterdam’s Ahoy provided the setting for the event.  A live show for a packed house, with a simultaneous live TV broadcast bringing with it all the accompanying challenges of ensuring great audio for two audiences.  All FoH engineers approach this dual challenge with a different perspective but it is up to the audio supplier to guarantee everyone goes home happy.

Project Manager, Lez Dwight explains the set up: “This year we had three stages side by side, straddling the Ahoy at 40 degrees playing to two thirds of a full house.  It was an overwhelmingly L-Acoustics K2 rig with four main hangs. We used Kara for a few fills and flew most of the KS28 subs; in fact, we only had four of the subs on the floor.  For control, we had two Digico SD5s FoH along with an SD10 for the presenters and two SD7s on stage for monitors.  Two acts bought their own consoles as they had complex internal patch set-ups and they were integrated into our overall patch and splits system. Our team included Colin Pink who coordinated the essential ‘live to broadcast’ interface, while Dee Miller headed up the live sound team.”

Chris Coxhead (presenter mix), Warren Grimsley (FoH1), Nahuel Gutierrez (FoH2), Lex Dwight (project manager), Sergiy Zhtnikov (system tech)

Chris Rabold is FoH engineer for Bruno Mars and a veteran of the dual audience gig.  “I can honestly say that Colin Pink and the Brit Row crew are as hospitable and professional as you'll find in an awards show environment. I've said this for a while now about them; it's refreshing to see that a high profile gig does not automatically mean high stress. When you're with an artist doing the promo routine you encounter it all. Both in terms of logistics and attitude Colin and the Britrow team are top tier. Sonically it's always a joy as well. I'm a big fan of L-Acoustics and Britrow routinely deploys stellar rigs.”

Rabold elected to bring in his own console, “Specifically to feed to broadcast, doing the mix from a hallway backstage.”

Dwight from Britrow watched the operation, “Chris dialled his show into the SD5 for our engineer Warren Grimsley out front when he first arrived. Told us he liked what he heard in the room and then attended to the broadcast. He’s a very proficient and effective engineer.”

“I didn’t focus on the house sound, past a brief conversation with them,” confirmed Rabold. “Part of that is because I trust the Britrow guys so much. The band were very comfortable with the set-up. That’s good for their performance on the night.”

One Republic’s engineer Zito took a similar approach, but had a tricky issue to contend with, as Dwight explained. “One Republic’s stage design meant they performed in what you might term a monsoon – yes, really, tons of water raining on the performers!”

This was not done without some careful planning by Zito. “My priority with these shows is the broadcast, 100%. I worked extensively with the audio advance team for our performance. Because it was a water gag, there were some specific challenges that we had to overcome. We knew that the performance would be vocal to track, but it was important to the band that the vocal was 100% live. I worked with Telefunken in advance to order some M80 capsules for this performance that would withstand the water. We weighed the options between going hardwired and the potential shock hazards it presented and going wireless and risking the extra electronics. In the end, we opted for hard wired and iso’ transformers in line to prevent any accidental deployment of phantom power to the mic and potential shock to the artist. When we went into the dress rehearsals, the very first time the water hit the capsule it completely failed!  The show producers did sort of freak out! The folks from Britrow stepped right in with a solution… cellophane (cling film) inside wind screen! I was very sceptical but it worked. We expected the top end to be dull but that wasn’t the case… we did however lose low end from the extra phasing, which we compensated for with EQ. The trick worked and the performance was a great success.”

Dwight has the final word, “As always, this was very much a team effort. We had Barry Mac take care of the RF with Andy Lillywhite from Sennheiser supporting. Sergiy Zhytnikov was the system tech, Nahuel Guttierez did one FoH, Warren Grimsley the other. The ever-dependable Chris Coxhead looked after presenter mics. Tristan Farrow and Mike Gibbard did monitors, Dee Miller was crew chief as mentioned, Colin Pink took the role for TV sound interface. It was Colin, with his deep theatrical experience, who came up with the cling film solution for Zito.  From my perspective, I have to agree with Chris Rabold when he tells me our teams are top tier.”