For the 82,529 fans that braved forecasts of cold, snowy weather predicted for Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers delivered an enthusiastic show that was long on great musicianship and killer showmanship. And making sure that show also sounded great were a pair of DiGiCo SD5 digital audio consoles used for both front-of-house and monitor mixes.
The SD5 used for the FOH mix was positioned at the NFC end zone end of the Met Life Stadium, the site of the 2014 Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. The monitor SD5 console, meanwhile, was located in field-level suites underneath the stage, which was built into one side of the stadium. Between them, the DiGiCo SD5s filled the stadium with crystal-clear live sound pumped through 66 JBL VT4889 speakers and 32 VT4880A subwoofers.
The two DiGiCo desks are part of a recent acquisition of six DiGiCo digital consoles--two SD5s, two SD7s, two SD10s and 14 full-sized SD I/O Racks, capable of delivering up to 192-kHz high-resolution analogue I/O converters and multiple digital formats, including MADI, AES and ADAT--by ATK Audiotek, which provided the live sound for the Super Bowl halftime show, as it has for the past 16 years. No stranger to live broadcast audio, the award-winning DiGiCo SD console platform has also been the choice for FOH and monitor mixing for many other high-profile televised awards programs, including the GRAMMY Awards and Billboard Music Awards.
"The DiGiCo consoles performed fantastically," comments Patrick Baltzell, sound designer and FOH mixer for this year's Super Bowl halftime show and for 16 of the iconic events that preceded it. He mixed the live show for the stadium audience with the SD5 FOH console connected to a Mini-SD Rack, which held all of the I/Os for the live and recorded elements of the show, as well as for several key pieces of outboard processing, including four Empirical Labs Distressors used on vocals, an Izotope ANR-B adaptive real-time noise reduction hardware unit, a Dolby CAT-430 dialog processor, and a Lexicon PCM 96 digital reverb. However, the rest of the processing used for the live sound for the entire show was from the SD5 console alone, including all of the EQ, compression and gating for all of the performers and instruments.
"Anything that was outboard was something very specific for the show, like the Distressors, which Bruno likes because they give vocals a real vintage R&B edge," Baltzell explains. "But everything else was just the SD5, which made managing the mix much easier." Baltzell was particularly enthusiastic about the Dynamic EQ on the SD5 that he says was especially effective on the large choirs backing Queen Latifah and Rene Fleming during the pre-show music segments. "The EQ on the SD consoles has exceptional transparency in the upper frequencies," he says. "We could do things with the sound that you cannot do with any other console."
This was only the DiGiCo SD5's second Super Bowl, so it was naturally going to be under some scrutiny. "This would be a similar venue for all of the other Super Bowl halftime shows I've worked on, and the music would be played through the same PA system we've used for over a decade--this would be the ultimate A/B comparison for a mix console," Baltzell observes. "And the sound was just great. The SD5 really came through sonically."
It also came through on another level. For 11 days preceding the Super Bowl, rehearsals had to endure temperatures that went into single digits at night and wind chills that reached into negative territory. When it wasn't freezing, it was raining or snowing. It was, in short, a horrific environment for audio equipment. But the SD5 consoles weathered the adverse climate, in part, because once they were turned on, they stayed on--for a dozen days straight. "We left the DiGiCo boards 'simmering'," Baltzell jokes. "In weather like that, condensation can build up inside the console, then freeze, and then turn back into liquid as soon as the temperature goes back above 32 degrees. When you're constantly going above and below the dew point outdoors, leaving the electronics on all the time is the way to deal with it, and the SD5s were totally reliable, even under those difficult circumstances."
Photo: ATK Audiotek's DiGiCo SD5 console used to mix FOH for Super Bowl XLVIII's halftime performance by Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers (credit: Dave Rat)