Conducting Grammys: Complex Arrangements for CBS
Three hours of live music makes for the most complicated production in TV
By George Winslow -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/4/2013 12:01:00 AM
The network has launched an Android version of its Grammy Live app and improved the version for Apple devices. CBS Interactive is also offering extensive live streams of events leading up to the awards show, original video series, expanded Web highlights and more extensive social media features.
The network does not live stream the show, but offers extensive additional cameras and features during the Grammys telecast.
Social media efforts will include a celebrity social media reporter, extensive activities by music stars who will be performing and the continuation of a kind of social media battle of the bands on Facebook called Gig of a Lifetime, which has produced nominations for nearly 1,500 bands and more than 1.5 million votes.
The 2012 telecast was the second highestrated in Grammys history. Marc DeBevoise, executive VP and general manager of CBS Interactive, Entertainment, News & Sports, says the network has strong hopes of beating last year’s social media record and, in the process, boosting this year’s ratings. —GW
This year’s three-hours-plus show will feature about 18 live performances on two stages inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, using 17 cameras, 300-400 microphones, three major production trucks and a plethora of screens for dazzling special effects. “It is the most [elaborate] entertainment event on TV,” says Sussman. “With all the live performances…there is something like a quarter of a million pounds of gear that has to be moved into the building.”
Thanks to that complexity, CBS will have about 500 people working directly on the production— the kind of numbers that a broadcast network might typically mobilize for the Super Bowl. Another 1,000 or so people will be helping with the event.
To help bring all that together, the production will use NEP Broadcast’s Denali Summit truck, which is one of the biggest in the business, and two nearly identical trucks from Music Mix Mobile, notes Eric Cook, supervising producer at AEG Ehrlich Ventures, the company run by the show’s executive producer, Ken Ehrlich.
The Summit is equipped with a Grass Valley Kalypso switcher, software from Playback Innovation to run the EVS playback system, the Ross XPression graphics system and a Calrec Alpha audio console, Cook says. Sony cameras, particularly the HDC 1500, are the workhorses of the show.
Inside the arena, the production uses DiGiCo mix consoles that are linked by fiber to two Music Mix Mobile trucks outside the Staples Center. These trucks are equipped with Avid Icon D-Control audio consoles.
Audio coordinator Michael Abbott, who just finished his work on the 2013 presidential inauguration that featured 16 live performances, calls the Grammy Awards even more complex.
One major challenge is managing all the RF frequencies and microphones, Abbott notes. The show uses microphones from Sennheiser, Audio-Technica and Shure, while Dolby also supplies some recording and encoding equipment. Around 48 microphones may be on at any one time, and hundreds of others need to be managed so they go on and off in the right sequence, Abbott says.
Over the years, the Grammys producers have also worked to set up workflows to handle the complex rehearsal schedules needed to bring the event off without a sour note, investing heavily in state-of-the-art audio equipment for the HD, Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound production. “There aren’t many people these days that are willing to go to such great lengths to raise the bar for audio,” Abbott says.
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