First established as the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 1890, "America's New Year Celebration" this year featured 45 floats, 16 equestrian units plus numerous marching bands, all led by 2014 Grand Marshall Vin Scully, the Hall of Fame broadcaster. Officially titled the Rose Parade presented by Honda since 2011, the two-hour procession is typically watched by as many as 700,000 people along its 5.5-mile route through Pasadena, CA, where it runs mainly along Colorado Boulevard.
All of the signals from the parade floats (outfitted with wireless audio - six in all), including NBC's The Voice float, were mixed and routed through a DiGiCo SD10 digital console and fed to the audience PA at the start of the parade route as well as also being sent as a broadcaster pool feed. This year the parade was broadcast live in the US on nine TV stations, including ABC, NBC and Los Angeles station KTLA5, as well as reached tens of millions of viewers worldwide via eight international networks, and was streamed live over a variety of internet platforms.
Technical director for the 125th annual Rose Parade's opening and closing live performance events was Ron "Elvis" Stephan, who was hired by FiveCurrents, a creative consultant and production firm that specializes in major events such as the Olympics and the Super Bowl. "We've worked with Rat Sound Systems in the past and they do good work, so they got the gig," Stephan reports. Once Jon Monson, Rat Sound's director of touring and production, understood the complexity of the show, says Stephan, he recommended the SD10: "I said, PLEASE!"
Stephan continues, "I'm spoiled, because Steve McNeil at MacWestGroup, DiGiCo's rep in Long Beach, CA, is a friend of mine. He's brought the console out on a lot of the gigs that we've done. I've always been blown away by how they sound; they really sound great. I love DiGiCo boards - they're awesome."
The SD10's fiber connectivity was critical. According to Jamie Harris, Rat Sound's local events account manager, two 150m fiber lines were run to local host broadcaster KTLA's engineers. "We had originally discussed using another console with a separate modular I/O junction at the base of the grandstand to run audio 380 feet to the broadcast truck and feed a hard line under Colorado as a backup to the PA's RF sends that were sent directly from the console," Harris recalls. "However, we gladly changed to the SD10 to use fiber giving us the flexibility to send and receive to and from the broadcast truck as well as remove the junction and the analog run to the truck that would be ripe for noise and ground faults."
Ivan Ortiz, Rat Sound's A1 on the show, ran the SD10 at 96 kHz, mixing inputs including announcer wireless mics, float wireless audio and crowd mics, which were then distributed from the 56x24 MADI Rack to the PA covering the seating below the front of house position and to an SD-Rack 56x24 to provide outputs and mix minus mixes to KTLA engineers. "Having the SD10 at FOH gave me plenty of flexibility to deal with the performers' mics being used in front of the PA for the grandstand performance, with plenty of graphic EQs and compression available, and routing to either local or remote locations," says Ortiz.
As the floats reached the grandstands, says Stephan, any wireless audio would be picked up and fed through the SD10 to the PA. "We subbed out the wireless through Rat to Soundtronics," a Burbank-based RF specialist company that supplied an antenna array and a Shure Axient wireless microphone system. "The float would show up, they would stop for 30 seconds while they did their bit - and that played in the house sound system - then they would turn the corner onto Colorado and we would pull them out of the house system." Each float would repeat the performance just around the corner on Colorado, where the audio would be sent only to the broadcast pool. "So we had a little bit of juggling to do, to make sure we didn't have two floats at the same time, one on Orange Grove and one on Colorado."
The input list totaled 32 signals, says Ortiz. "All channels were doubled according to their respective layer, either PA or broadcast. I also used local AES I/O on the SD10 for a 360 Systems Instant Replay and playback rack." Due to the distance between FOH and the remote truck, he adds, fiber was the most reliable choice for signal transport. "Also, having fiber in between two different audio sources not sharing the same power solved the problem of ground issues or buzzing when interfaced together."
Photo: The city of Sierra Madre's award-winning float (credit: Jose Ybarra) shown alongside the SD10