Photo: Gabriel Iglesias’ production crew (left to right) at Icon Concerts’ new DiGiCo SD9 digital mixing console: Jorge Flores, audio systems tech, R&R sound; Ryan Cornelius, tour manager; Geoff Hidden, FOH engineer/production manager; Alex Cook, L2, Sacramento Production Services; and Patricio Codoceo audio systems tech, R&R Sound (image credit: Anthony Nunez)
“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” That aphorism has been attributed to numerous comedic actors, but it also applies in spades to mixing front-of-house for stand-up comedy.
“People think, ‘It’s one microphone—how hard can it be?’” says Geoff Hidden, FOH mixer for “Fluffy,” aka Gabriel Iglesias, the hefty comedian, actor, writer, producer and voice actor out on the road with his “Unity Through Laughter” world tour since February and known for his online shows I’m Not Fat… I’m Fluffy and Hot & Fluffy. “But there’s a lot more to it than that.” There is, and a DiGiCo SD9 digital console, including a D2 Rack and integrated Waves plug-ins, is providing Hidden with the specialized tools he needs to make sure that every word is heard.
Hidden says that audio for comedy is all about clarity. “The challenge is keeping Gabriel consistently above the noise of the room and the crowd while also keeping his level consistent from the stage, because in an instant he can go from a normal speaking voice to an explosive sound effect while cupping the mic,” Hidden explains.
For that he says he relies on the DiGiCo SD9’s Dynamic EQ processor. These powerful processors offer dynamic processing on each of the four standard parametric bands, plus 10 Multiband Compressors and 10 DiGiTubes.
“Using Dynamic EQ, I set a threshold, and when the mic level crosses that threshold, the EQ then activates and begins to turn down that specific frequency,” says Hidden. “No other console that I know of has this feature, and it’s changed everything about the way I work.”
Because of the drastic differences in Fluffy’s level throughout the show, Hidden keeps the compression ratio set at a fairly radical 9:1, which means he doesn’t have to ride the fader constantly. Fortunately, the SD9’s onboard compression is utterly smooth.
“On some consoles you can hear the compressor engage, you can hear it pump when the move is so radical, but on the SD9, it’s completely transparent” he observes. On the SD9, all you hear is Gabe.” In fact, he adds, “The first time I used a DiGiCo SD series console, the very first thing I noticed was the transparency of the compressors. That’s what got us started at looking into purchasing the SD9 in the first place.”
Hidden says the SD9’s compact 9U D2 Rack allows him to customize his control settings. “I use [Figure 53’s] QLab for live show control and the sound system is an L-Acoustics K2 rig [provided by R&R Sound, of Lodi, CA], and I’ve got AES audio running literally from the D2 to the console and into the amplifiers to the speakers, and from that point on we are completely digital all the way to the K2s,” he says. “When I come in to check the system before the show, I’ll crank the mic channel all the way up and all I’ll hear is silence. You’d never know the PA system was on.”
Hidden is also using the Waves noise-suppression plug-in, part of the SoundGrid package on the console, purchased by tour promoter/producer Icon Concerts from Sacramento Production Services. “I’m only using one of the plug-ins from the bundle, but it’s a critical one,” he says. “I’ll open up the mic and see what the room noise looks like through it, then I’ll adjust the noise suppression accordingly so that when he stops talking for a second or two, the ambient sound is suppressed. When he talks again, his level comes right back to where it was. It really increases the headroom I have on his microphone, so I can always keep him above the crowd.”
So comedy is hard, but the DiGiCo SD9 makes it a lot easier. No joke.