Production sound mixer Jim van Bergen plays an essential role in helping sound designer Abe Jacob make “Rain” on Broadway. Live Design touches base with this master of live mixing, as he brings the sound of The Beatles to live eight performances a week:
Live Design: What was your role in pre-production?
Jim van Bergen: I studied the songs diligently for months, and brought Craig Van Tassel, our monitor engineer, to the project. Abe shared his thoughts, his initial plans, and design concept as well, and I feel fortunate that Abe listened to my input and considered my thoughts early in his design process. Once the bid was awarded, I worked with Josh Reid (Abe's assistant designer) and oversaw the shop prep where we prepared and built the sound system and the ancillary parts of the design that are never seen by audiences—everything from power distribution to multi assignments to communications, dressing room feeds, paging systems, etc. Then Craig and I led the installation into the Neil Simon theatre, and programmed our respective parts of the show.
LD: What are your day-to-day activities on the show?
JvB: First, I get to mix this show weekly, which is an amazing and fun job! Beyond mixing, while Abe constantly checks up on the production, I am tasked with the daily maintenance and supervision for the sound for Rain. I get to work closely with the producers and musicians to not only keep the sound of the show right, but to continue to work on making it better. For this company, it's a lifelong process of always tweaking the songs to make sure they are as close as possible to the record. I also am fortunate to work with the company on all the promotional events, be it live, radio, TV broadcasts, whatever—I advance and mix these events and make sure the band's needs are looked after and the sound is right as "Rain!"
LD: Please talk about the choice and use of the DiGiCo console for Rain...
JvB: The DiGiCo SD8 I use at front of house to mix RAIN is the ideal choice of console for this show. At the start of each day, I can load the appropriate show file, then the combination of actors we use and their respective EQ and dynamics patches for the vocal and instrument channels as are appropriate- to make them all sound just like the recordings, and like each other. Those differences are most evident in the acoustic guitars, and the varying pickups used between vintage or current models, and the software in the SD8 makes it easy for me to match them so the audience never hears a difference.
As we move through the course of the show and the various albums, the sound of the songs changes so dramatically—from the basic guitar & harmony balances of the early music to the Sgt. Pepper concept album and beyond, with orchestra, effects, and some unusual recordings and techniques. This is where the SD8's scope function is really powerful, and I'm able to utilize some radical processing and effects that are all built in to the SD8, to replicate those recordings quite well. More importantly, thanks to a great deal of programming during the tech process, I can mix all of the 60 inputs we use in the show on the compact surface of the console without having to drop into different layers of the console. It's a nifty trick most people would never notice, to hit a cue and have a different configuration appear under my fingers. All the audience knows it is sounds like the records we all love, they have no clue how difficult it is to make that happen show after show, and how hard it would be to do this with an analog desk and racks after racks of outboard gear.