The pop-culture teen phenom who is Justin Bieber is in the midst of a whirlwind US tour, playing cities across the continental U.S. and winning the hearts of American teens, tweens and parents alike. The "Biebermania" assault is one of the hottest tours on deck, and is literally sold out through the end of the year—pretty remarkable in the wake of declining ticket sales and mega tours calling it quits before they even commence. â€¨â€¨
Back in February when tour preparations were in negotiations, monitor engineer Tony Luna staked his claim on a DiGiCo SD8-24, the lil' sibling of the SD7 that Luna has mixed on with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and the next gen console replacing the D series consoles he had used previously with KISS and Aerosmith. The audio provisions for the tour were handled by production partner Clair Global.â€¨â€¨
"The budget dictated that we had to use a smaller console and the SD8 had all the features and power that I was used to in the SD7. It was pretty much a no-brainer that that's what we were going to need on this tour. I had first mixed on one at the NAB convention this April and had a cool experience on it. Plus, the audio quality was excellent."
For Bieber's 7-piece band—drummer, guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, DJ and four singers and four dancers—Luna is utilizing 53 channels overall. During the several weeks worth of rehearsals pre-tour he was able to pre-program the basics of the show. Once the group commenced rehearsals, it made building his mixes that much easier. "Everything was already panned, I'd already assigned my filters, and set up my basic EQ shapes… Being able to build the mix from there saved me a lot of time once we were on site."
There is virtually no supplemental outboard gear being carried for the Bieber tour. Luna was able to find everything he needed onboard the SD8. "The console sounds so good that that there hasn't been a whole lot of supplemental stuff that I've really needed to use, with the exception of a pair of Lexicon PCM91s, one for Justin's vocal and one for the drum reverb. Onboard, I'm using all eight of the onboard effects and those are the acoustic guitar reverbs and vocal reverbs for the background singers, and a short verb for the DJ scratch channel to pull it out of your face. I'm also using a little bit of the dynamic EQ on Justin's vocals and a little bit of the dynamic compression on Justin's main mix and that's it out of the dynamic section. Oh, and on this show, because of the screaming girls and all that stuff, I've had to compress some things in the ear mixes… Having that functionality has really been great!"â€¨â€¨
To accommodate the band, Luna set up full IEM mixes for each player, with additional mixes for wedges and side so any of the performers could pick up their cues around the stage. In addition, he's got a 3-way drumfill for added impact. "Basically everyone gets a full in-ear mix, while the background vocal guys share one mix at this time. In the future we're going to break that up into more mixes for them."
One of the tricks he found handy with the console was making use of the IEM cue bus solo to route all the microphones into one group. "Now, I can hear everything I want in my solo IEM bus, regardless if I'm cuing something up or not. I route all those channels into one group and then take that group and inject it into the solo bus, so no matter what I've got on, I can always hear somebody. If someone needs something from me, they can grab a shout mic on the stage and talk to me directly. This has come in very handy especially if there's an issue onstage. They can get my attention quickly because when we're in show-mode, most of the time I'm working with Justin and concentrating on paying attention to him."
In addition to Bieber, Luna is mixing one of the tour's three opening acts, R&B singer Sean Kingston, with the techs handling the other two that are basically singers with backing tracks. "Sean's band is nine members with eight IEM mixes, 2 mixes of wedges downstage, sidefills and drumfill. I'll set up my console with 8 stereo mixes and where that first IEM is patched, I'm able to ripple across those 8 mixes so that the outputs go into the right channels with the push of one button. This is another thing that makes the DiGiCo so fast; you don't have to do all those repetitive actions. Having to do that over the course of 48 channels would become a bit outrageous; the amount of time that you'd be spending just to set the console up. This is a real time saver for me, not to mention it makes things easy for us on the changeovers and the turn-arounds because we can quickly set the console up the way we need, hit â€˜store' and it's patched the way you last left it. We have 4 artists and everyone's happy on this tour… no complaints!"
Nathan McBee, Luna's tech, loves the remote editor that they have sync'd to the console via WiFi. "He is able to perform a complete line check on the stage with his MacBook Pro while I'm finishing up checking my IEM RF," Luna explained. "It ensures that our soundcheck will be flawless prior to me getting behind the desk!"
Overall, Luna is ecstatic about the console in specific and DiGiCo in general. "I love DiGiCo. It keeps getting me work. Really. It sounds so good and I'm psyched about the work that I'm doing with this console. It gives me the confidence I need to get through the day with a happy smile on my face. I can work with other consoles, and I have, but it's so much harder to get things done. It's so much easier on the DiGiCo and that's why it's been my #1 choice for consoles for the past 5 years!"