Roland M-48: Monitor solution for “The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House”The Roland M-48 Personal Mixing System provided the monitor mix for the house band at the February 24th concert in the East Room of the White House. The President and First Lady host the latest from the “In Performance at the White House” event series produced by WETA, in celebration of Black History Month. It focuses on the legacy of Motown, a distinctive soul-infused pop music sound, style and presentation that was born in Detroit and embodied by the Motown Records label. The evening featured artists such as Jamie Foxx, John Legend, Sheryl Crow, Ledisi, Seal, and Gloriana.
East Shore Sound was contacted in the early planning phase of the production to coordinate the house audio and RF systems for the show. “We have worked on several events at the White House over the last decade,” said Bill Saltzer of ESS. “The East Room is not your typical performance venue. The room is only 40’ x 80’ and there is no offstage space to house the traditional amount of equipment that goes into making a one hour TV show. The stage is only 14’x32’, so with 8 musicians on stage, space is at a premium. Adding to the complexity of the logistics, since the event is being shot for television broadcast, it is not feasible to have a monitor engineer on the side of the stage where he can easily communicate with the musicians. Also, since there will be a separate recording and broadcast mix, controlling the ambient sound from the monitor mix becomes even more critical.”
To accomplish this, Music Director Greg Phillinganes — whose music directing credits include Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson’s first solo tours and The 60th EMMY Awards — agreed early on that the band would wear in-ear monitors. Traditionally this would have equated to a monitor mixer controlling 8 independent mixes of audio for the band as well as mixes for the various guest artists. Given the limited amount of time in the production schedule, it was obvious that a personal mixing system would efficiently provide each member of the band with the flexibility to get the mix they needed for their in ear monitors. This would also allow the monitor engineer to focus his attention on each of the sixteen guest artists.
Chris Anderson, of Anderson Audio, the provider of the PA system for the event, comments, ”Once everyone agreed that we would use a personal mixing system for the band, there was really no question that it would be a MADI-equipped digital console along with the M-48 Live Personal Mixers and S-MADI REAC to MADI bridge. The M-48’s offer several unique features that set them apart from other personal mixing systems on the market. First of all the M-48’s allow you to choose up to sixteen stereo groups from forty sources in any order. The flexibility of this allows each of the musicians to choose and group the audio sources and assign them in any order providing a truly personal mix. Each M-48 sees forty audio sources in 16 stereo groups along with power via a single Cat5e cable. This makes for a much cleaner stage free of wall wart power supplies. Additionally the local ambient microphone built into the M-48 allows them to have conversations with each other without having to remove their ear buds.”
At the end of the day, there is nothing but praise for the M-48’s. Rehearsals were held in a hotel ballroom. By utilizing in-ear monitors with the M-48’s the mixes translated perfectly from the hotel ballroom to the East Room. This saved a huge amount of time getting the band up and running once they moved from the rehearsal space to the East Room.
After sitting through the first day of rehearsals, Mitch Maketansky of Music Mix Mobile commented, “The Roland System is great. While the band wasn’t too sure of the personal mixer concept at first, after a quick explanation of how the M-48’s worked, rather than spending an hour having the monitor engineer dial in a mix for each of the musicians, within 5 minutes they each had their own mixes created allowing them to get on with rehearsing the music.”
“The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House” will premiere Tuesday, March 1 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. (Check local listings.) “The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House” is a production of WETA Washington, D.C., in association with Bounce, a division of AEG, and the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). Corporate funding for the program is provided by Pepsi-Cola. Foundation support is provided by The Annenberg Foundation. Major funding is also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers.