MANCHESTER, England (Aug. 27, 2002) — Composer Julian Scott relied on Metric Halo’s Mobile I/O to assist him in the composition and production of original music for the XVII Commonwealth Games, including the centrepiece “Arrival of the Baton” and “The Queen’s Arrival.”
The Mobile I/O Series of Modular Processing Audio Interfaces are portable modular FireWire-based multi-format audio I/O for professional and multimedia applications.
Scott also assembled all of the additional music pieces for the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, held from July 24th to August 5th in Manchester, England. More than 5,000 athletes from 72 countries competed in the Commonwealth Games, held every four years. Over one million people attended the competition in Manchester, and a cumulative audience of more than a billion people worldwide watched the television broadcast.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, complete with soloists and choir, was enlisted by Scott to perform the music. “It was recorded 44.1/24-bit on 96 tracks in Logic 5 and mixed Dolby surround for broadcast,” he notes. “All analogue conversion was by the MIO, though it was digital from mic preamp through to final mix.”
He was also responsible for assembling the music cues for the performances, including work by Dave Stewart, Jimmy Cliff and Peter Gabriel. “For all of the pre-production and on-site work the Mobile I/O performed faultlessly. I have been very impressed with the sound resulting from our use of the MIO and glad to report it passed with flying colours. What struck me the first time I routed some programme material through the D/As was a wonderful transparency. In addition, material that was in a stereo domain exhibited a striking depth and positional realism.”
The crew arrived on site two weeks before the Games began, and created a temporary studio in one of the stadium’s hospitality boxes. At this point, all of the music composition and production had been completed, and the only work left was some minor editing of the arrangements for placement and timing. But that was not to be.
” Due to some radical changes to the various running orders, this turned into heavy duty music re-mixes and some on-site rescoring to provide additional music. All the orchestral stuff had been recorded as separate sessions, though with the same orchestra and sound stage,” Scott says. “So it was possible for this to be achieved with the knowledge that with the MIO on board we wouldn’t be compromising the audio integrity. Delta Sound Inc. were also instrumental in providing and managing, amongst many things, the direct links to BBC and what can only be described as excellent PA facilities.”
Co-owner of Delta Sound Paul Keating was responsible for the pre-production sound design for the stadium system, as well as the management of the on-site audio crew. He was also responsible, along with Scott, for working with the production crew and broadcasters. Keating produced high-level concert sound quality uniformly around the whole stadium.
” Another unexpected twist was an urgent request to record a short one-minute narration just two hours before the final dress rehearsal, which was to be in front of 38,000 spectators. As there was no time to find a facility house, we found we could squeeze a mic and headphone cable through a tiny hole that had been drilled between our box and a neighbouring hospitality suite. The acoustics were what you would expect from a 10-foot glass cube, so we put the announcer under the cloth sound desk cover, like on the back of those old-fashioned plate cameras, set up a mix with the Mobile I/O mixer, and did the takes.”
The Commonwealth Games were not the first opportunity Scott had to work with the Mobile I/O. He had employed the interface while doing pre-production work for Swiss Expo 2002 at the SwissCom Pavillion in Biel, Switzerland. “Two days before press day we had to make some adjustments to part of an incredibly complicated networked soundtrack,” he explains. “There were five hundred sound effects, music, and vocal cues routed over a fifty-channel sound system. It was possible to access the original studio post production mixes for the relevant sections, make the amendments required, demonstrate them to the client, and then burn a CD to transfer to the show soundweb — all within a black box environment with no easily accessible power or studio facilities.”
When Alton Towers Theme Park hired Scott to score the theme music for its new musical, “Webmaster — An Adventure on Ice,” he needed to take advantage of the venue’s multi-channel playback system. “I turned up on site with my laptop and Mobile I/O and sat in the audience seats fine tuning the mix for the PA. Once the numerous changes had been made, I downloaded the tracks through the optical interfaces to the master show system.”
Although Scott’s involvement in these projects is all but finished, Mobile I/O has already changed his workflow. “I don’t have to worry about PCI cards or mains; I can just pull Mobile I/O out of my bag and with one simple cable be up and running. I bounce between my G4, iMac, and Titanium knowing the audio will still spurt out in the same fashion with the same quality.” But he’s not the only one affected by the power of Mobile I/O. “I think the biggest change is the element of portability without sacrificing quality, though this is a double-edged sword, as producers wring their hands in glee as they discover how far down the schedule they can continue to change their minds!”