MONTREAL, Canada - Utilizing an arsenal of cutting-edge audio tools highlighted by a HARMAN Studer Vista 8 digital mixing console, audio engineer Alain Poirier of Radio-Canada Montreal recently earned a 2011 Gémeaux Award for Best Sound in a TV Show (Humor and Variety) for "En Direct de L'Univers," a one-hour weekly variety show on Radio-Canada French TV Network. The Gémeaux Awards honor French Canadian achievements in Canadian television and is sponsored by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.
"En Direct de L'Univers" is a variety/entertainment program that airs live, in which the lives of famous guests unfold before their eyes in songs. Through interviews, the star reveals his/her fondest memories, associating each event with a special song. Viewers learn more about celebrities' musical universe, as favorite performers of theirs serve up the great songs that have marked guests' lives. "En Direct de L'Univers" often includes surprise performances and first-time-ever versions of famous songs, producing strong emotions in front of a live studio audience.
Poirier has worked for Radio-Canada for almost 30 years, beginning as a front-of-house and monitor engineer before moving to on-air mixing around 1990. In 1992, he won an Anik Award for the Canadian premiere of "Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio" featuring conductor Carl Davis.
However, experienced as Poirier is, "En Direct de L'Univers" still posed a unique set of challenges. "With shows that are broadcast live, there is no margin for error," Poirier said. "On top of that, there are a lot of performances and interviews, so it's always a challenge dealing with the numerous transitions and the very quick pace of the show."
"It was also a challenge because we didn't have a lot of rehearsal time," Poirier continued. "We would come in on a Friday and rehearse for eight hours, then go on air on Saturday at 7 PM. We typically did around nine or 10 pieces of music in one hour and although they are all just pieces of each song, we still had to rehearse them many times, because you might have 60 inputs and 30 seconds to mix it!"
"For a live show like 'En Direct de L'Univers' the technology has to be reliable, first and foremost," Poirier said. "Secondly, when you do a live show, things happen quickly so the console needs to be easy to use-I need to be able to navigate without scrolling through a bunch of menus."
Intuitive operation is also a crucial part of Poirier's formula for success. "The technology has to follow the way I work, not the other way around," he said. "With digital consoles, sometimes it's easy to paint yourself into a corner, so it's important that I can customize the board to operate the way I want it to."
The Vista 8's ability to handle this pace is another one of the console's attractive qualities. "The ergonomics of the Vista 8 are perfect for live shows because it's so easy to operate and the Vistonics(tm) interface is a perfect example of this," Poirier added. "I can easily change from snapshot to snapshot. My presets on the Vista 8 perfectly mirror my cue sheet, so everything on the console follows accordingly. The filter on the board is amazing because it allows me to tailor the board to recall only what needs to be recalled. That precision helps me do my job better and faster."
There are six Vista 8 consoles at the Montreal TV facilities, along with a Vista 7 and two Studer D950 consoles. The Vista 8 used for "En Direct de L'Univers" is part of a portable HD audio/video package that can be moved from studio to studio. "We have three different HD audio/video packages that we can install and this is the biggest one," said Bruno Vigneault, Technical Instructor for Audio, Radio-Canada Montreal. "We can install these packages at a rented location for the whole production season, and we primarily use this one for variety shows."
As an Instructor at Radio-Canada in Montreal, Vigneault provides training to Vista console operators and sometimes assists them during special events. "All these consoles perform very well and all the engineers just love to use them," Vigneault said. "It's very easy to train engineers on the Vista consoles because their operation is so intuitive."
"The best quality I find for this console is of course great sound quality, but also easy and intuitive operation and versatility," said Vigneault. "Those capabilities contributed to Alain's achievement and show the potential for one of the most talented sound engineers in the business using Studer technology."
Photo Caption: Alain Poirier (left) and Bruno Vigneault
HARMAN (www.harman.com) designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of audio and infotainment solutions for the automotive, consumer and professional markets - supported by 15 leading brands, including AKG, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon and Mark Levinson. The Company is admired by audiophiles across multiple generations and supports leading professional entertainers and the venues where they perform. More than 25 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and infotainment systems. HARMAN has a workforce of about 13,000 people across the Americas, Europe and Asia, and reported net sales of $4.2 billion for twelve months ending December 31, 2011.