Santa Fe, NM (October 22, 2015) — Classical music recording and production company
Soundmirror has been an early adopter of Lectrosonics wireless technology ever since acquiring the
manufacturer’s 200 Series analog transmitters nearly 20 years ago.
More recently, the company put the first Lectrosonics Venue
2 Digital Hybrid Wireless® modular
receiver to work on the world premiere of Cold Mountain at the Santa Fe Opera
in New Mexico, an opera composed by Jennifer Higdon with a
libretto by Gene Scheer.
Soundmirror’s veteran recording engineer, Mark Donahue, and
Massachusetts-based independent wireless specialist David Williams, working
with classical music record producer Elizabeth Ostrow, employed a total of 30
channels of Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless transmitters. Twelve SMQV
and 18 LT
body pack transmitters, combined with DPA 4071 lavalier microphones, were
paired with four six-channel Venue
receivers fitted with VRT tracking filtered modules plus a new Venue 2 receiver
with six VRT2 modules.
A number of transmitters were deployed in the minimalist scenery in order
to unobtrusively capture some of the on-stage action. The dual-battery SMQVs
were mainly reserved for the female singers, where the smaller pack was a
better fit for the tighter costumes.
“The nice thing about the Venue 2 is being able to tune across three
full blocks with a single unit,” comments Donahue. Designed to address the
challenges of increasingly congested RF environments, the new receiver tunes
across a wide 220 MHz range, matching the flexible tuning ranges of the SSM and
L Series "large bandwidth" transmitters, including the LT body packs
used on Cold Mountain. Each of the
Venue 2’s six receiver modules covers 75 MHz, or three Lectrosonics blocks.
“From a logistical standpoint, walking into a location where we can
use blocks 21, 22 and 23, it’s easy enough to find frequencies that work. But
once you start operating all 30 wireless channels in close proximity to each
other on a 46-foot by 28-foot stage there’s always a need to adjust some
frequencies. Being able to move between blocks without having to think about
what hardware we have is a quantum leap forward for us,” reports Donahue.
Williams says that Lectrosonics provided him with a plot of the
available frequencies in Santa Fe, but the day before the opening he had to
change some packs around. “The tuning on the Venue 2 is even quicker than on
the transmitter—it’s very quick, very simple and very intuitive. The fact that
the Lectrosonics stuff is so rock-solid meant that I didn’t worry about what I
was mixing and matching. Working with them is just a joy,” he says.
“We’re using Lectrosonics exclusively, mostly because of sound
quality, which has always been the reason to use Lectro,” says Donahue. “The
first wireless units we owned were the 200 Series, and we bought them because
they sounded better. Opera is a very, very different kind of vocal source from
virtually anything else; it’s akin to putting a microphone in front of a jet
engine. What we’ve found with Lectrosonics is that we can set them up so that
we don’t get the pumping and distortion we would get with companding equipment
from other vendors.”
Williams also got to work with the new Lectrosonics
Wireless Designer software for the first time during Cold Mountain. "I love the new software,” he says. Each
receiver window on the screen displays 10 seconds of history. “There is lots of
continuous information, and the 10-second window is terrific. It’s very easy to
enter information, too."
Donahue recorded 80 tracks at 192 kHz to redundant Merging Pyramix
DAWs, with a laptop for back-up, via Merging Technologies Horus interfaces and
a SmartAV Tango control surface. “We were outdoors, so we had to deal with a
lot more environmental issues compared to working inside—wind and rain, as well
as the highway, which is a little over a quarter-mile from the stage.” In such
situations, he says, “We record as much as we can so we have as much material
to work with as possible.”
The team recorded four performances of the opera, which, like the
award-winning 2003 motion picture, is based on Charles Frazier’s best-selling
and prize-winning Civil War-era novel. The production, which was in repertory
during the month of August, is scheduled for release on the Pentatone label in
surround SACD format.