DiGiCo's Got the X Factor!
Over three months of Saturday night television saw primetime UK talent show The X Factor crown its latest winner in time to get the coveted Christmas Number 1 chart slot. February and March 2009 gave many of the finalists and their newly found fans a chance to get up close and personal as the X Factor Live tour played multiple shows at the UK and Ireland's main arenas.
With a live backing band and the various different performers singing individually before all coming together for the finale, it is a complex show to mix. But with sales and rental company Wigwam Acoustics supplying a DiGiCo SD7 and D5 on monitors and at Front of House respectively, the show is able to maintain its pace.
On stage, monitor engineer Sean Horsman has a combination of in-ears, wedges and sidefills, with 56 input channels and 12 mono and 12 stereo outputs on his SD7.
"As each artist comes on, I recall a snapshot for their mix as well as the band mix for that number, the latter of which is probably the more important aspect because it has a greater dynamic range," says Sean.
"There was a lot to get to grips with, but after the first few gigs, I had it nailed. I keep certain parameters within the snapshots recall safe and adjust them on a daily basis, depending on the venue. The SD7 gives you that kind of flexibility, which is great."
Another facility that Sean has been making great use of is the SD7's dynamic EQ, which helps to overcome the high noise levels coming from the predominantly young audience.
"The dynamic EQ is brilliant - I didn't discover it until Alex [Hadjigeorgiou from Wigwam] mentioned it - and the compressors are really smooth," he says. "This is a really loud show with kids screaming in the audience. Being able to control the low mids, but still have that musical weight is great. And when they do shout it out, I can just let the dynamic EQ on the vocal channel sort it out.
"It's a lovely soft sounding desk and it responds beautifully. With many other digital consoles Ive used, you would have perhaps one channel you could work on at a time. But with the SD7 you can see 24 at a time. To need any more than that in front of you, you would have to be an octopus. It's more than enough to give you the feel of an analogue console. Im absolutely in love with it!"
Meanwhile, at front of house, Nigel 'Foggy' Fogg is enjoying his first tour with a DiGiCo D5.
"I spent a couple of days in the warehouse with it and then it was straight into production rehearsals," he says. "Alex at Wigwam was really helpful to both me and Sean, giving us tips to find our way round the consoles quickly. It didnt take long to learn because it's logically laid out.
"Patching-wise it's really easy. Being able to move channels round as blocks or individuals makes programming very straightforward."
Nigel is also using snapshots extensively which, as with the monitor position, makes moving from segment to segment in such a fast-moving show much more seamless.
"The recall is really good on the D5," he says. "I have snapshots for each artist and each song, with most of the band channels recall safe. I put them all to DCA's for when I want the keys a bit louder in some numbers, or the guitars a bit narrower in others."
"The control interface and facilities are really good. You touch something, it works and you can hear what its doing. In terms of its responsiveness, its a positive console."
"This is a very demanding production," adds Hadjigeorgiou. "As well as the high pressure of the continually changing segments of the show, there are a wide variety of different performers and music styles. All of these will very quickly show up the smallest deficiency in a console. The SD7/D5 combination meant we could be sure that wouldnt happen."
Indeed, the exemplary performance of the SD7 and D5 on the tour have proved that, beyond doubt, both have the X factor...