ACL mixes concert sound with Avid

For more than 30 years, “Austin City Limits” (“ACL”) has brought a wide cross-section of live-music concerts to public-television audiences, in addition to CD and DVD releases from the “Live from Austin” TV series. Since the 1974 “ACL” pilot program, sound engineer David Hough has mixed sound for virtually all of the show's taped live concerts.

Although the initial idea for the series was to showcase the music of Texas, “ACL” now features regional, national and international artists performing a wide range of musical styles.

The show acquired its first S5-BP in 2001, and according to Hough, its combination of fixed and fully assignable controls fit the needs of a live concert where there wasn't the possibility of a second take.

From 1976 through its 2010 season, “ACL” was recorded in Studio 6A located on the University of Texas at Austin campus.

To provide additional audience space for the series' recent tapings, which are recorded live in front of up to 800 patrons, the production recently moved to a new, purpose-built facility at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, sited next to Austin's W Hotel. The theater was equipped with a second S5-BP.

Both the original studio and ACL Live at the Moody Theater are equipped with identical 32-fader Avid S5-BP consoles with the latest V5.0 software, which includes EUCON control. The two consoles need to be fully compatible because, with the exception of other video productions, the original studio now is used pretty much exclusively for reconforming and remixing the audio tracks for concerts recorded at the Moody Theater. Each console features 72 mic/line inputs that route via multichannel MADI connections from the stage boxes or Pro Tools playback sources to the main DSP engine, which can handle 160 full-featured signal paths.

The new upgrade was added through the able assistance of two Avid support personnel: application specialist Ozzie Sutherland and professional services solutions architect Scott Wood.

Wood also introduced the show's staff to a new AAF-based auto conform feature from Avid: the Expand Tracks function. This function lets “ACL” video editors, who cut the show on Media Composer, quickly conform Pro Tools tracks from the recorded concerts to match the picture edits. Because there are high-speed audio and video fiber-optic links between the two locations linked to Avid ISIS servers, this allows Hough to record the show at the Moody Theater, return to the original studio and start remixing the edited show quickly.

For Hough, S5-BP's V5.0 software adds several other useful operational features, such as the ability to quickly set up an auxiliary mix and send it to the musicians as a stage-monitor mix for overdubs. “We had that situation during a recent session with the band Explosions in The Sky, who were asked to record a new theme song for the show,” he said. “I used the Aux Page to create a monitor mix for the band so that they could add overdubbed guitar and bass.”

While remixing the live concerts for subsequent broadcasts on PBS stations and other outlets around the world, Hough makes substantial use of the S5-BP multitrack mixing functions to create enveloping 5.1-channel and stereo mixes.

Mel Lambert is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.