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Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Robert Scovill and VENUE Get “Intimate” …

Only published comments... Jul 21 2010, 09:19 AM by Robert Scovill



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Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers playing to huge sold out shows in North America


Hello faithful followers of the Tom Petty / Robert Scovill / VENUE / K1 / (fill in blank) blog. Sorry for being away for some time now, but safe to say I have been extremely busy during that time fulfilling my duties for Avid as well leading the double secret life of a touring concert sound dude. I even made my way down to Mexico for some very spirited training and demonstrations of VENUE technology in Mexico City and Guadalajara while on a short break from the tour. While in Mexico City, I was really juiced by how excited our Latin American users are about our technology. They are eating it up and VENUE is growing leaps and bounds down there. I loved sharing my workflows and ideologies with them and look forward to going back, if for no other reason then the incredible tacos at the all night stand we hit on the way back from the gig in Guadalajara. In-freakin-credible tacos and salsa. Okay – okay – I know, this is supposed to be an audio blog, but what I also discovered while in Mexico is that, while concert sound technology is making great technological progress in the world, cell phone technology is still a not totally there – especially for international service, and especially for some carriers with certain phones. I won’t mention any names, but their corporate identity rhymes with the word “Splint” … which is what their customer service rep would have needed after about our sixth conversation without a resolution to my cell phone woes if he would have been within striking distance. But I digress … now we return you to your regularly scheduled blog.



Robert Scovill presents VENUE Technology at events in Mexico City and Guadalajara


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Late night taco run in Guadalajara!


At risk of jinxing myself, I must say that if you’ve been keeping up with us, then you know that the shows have just been going fantastic. We have done a number of venues that, over the years, have presented some of the biggest challenges for me to achieve high quality mixes at for Tom as well as some other acts. But I must say, this combination of Avid VENUE and LAcoustics K1 speakers is a lethal combination. I’ve walked away feeling like I have literally conquered them all. I think LAcoustics should consider making use of the tag line that Dave Ratt coined the first time he described the K1 to me – “ Dude, it’s just unfair”. I know I’ve used it many times since being out here. I’ve also been making note of some of the post show posts by fans and engineers on some of the more popular chat sites such as ProSoundWeb and am beaming after reading the reviews they’ve posted about the sound quality, even by people who are sitting very far away from the system. Nice … thank you people!


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Huge crowds in Milwaukee and the large LAcoustics K1 and Kudo hangs for Milwaukeefest


While in Chicago recently my good friends Scott Ragsdale, Matt Wilkerson and Jeff Pelletier from Willow Creek Church attended our show at the enormous United Center in Chicago (I know it’s enormous because it took me nearly an hour to run up and down every step in the building for my AM workout) They noted how the audio was of a size and a quality that it made even the enormity of that arena feel pretty intimate. I couldn’t agree more. It was interesting in that as I was mixing that night I was flashing back to my very first show in the United Center, which was THE first show in the United Center if memory serves me with Tom and The HBs. This was around 1994-5 with a traditionally arrayed PA and while we had a successful show, it was a very very different experience from what transpired this night. During the day, I also caught myself reflecting on a kind of funny story from that day in the 90s. Sam Berkow, the driving force behind SIA Smaart and now SIA Acoustics was just putting the finishing touches on his soon to be released software app and was in town doing some consulting for the United Center. He stopped by the FOH position mid day and said “ Hi, I’m Sam – would you mind if I borrowed your PA for a few minutes?” I didn’t know Sam from Adam and much to my assistant engineer’s chagrin I said, “sure, here ya go … let me know when you’re done.” I’ve been using Smaart pretty exclusively since that day and am now using Smaart V7. Oh … and Sam and I have been very good friends ever since … but frankly, it would cost him a lot of dinners in order for him to borrow my PA these days.


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Wilkerson, Pelletier, Scovill and Ragsdale along with Smaart V7 at the United Center in Chicago


I carried on some very interesting discussions with Scott, who is a very fine mixer by the way that I have a great deal of respect for, about audio and mixing consoles. I saw his ears kind of perk up as I submitted for his consideration that there is more to the live mixing game than simple input to output sound quality in any console be it digital or analog. Now, while input to output sound quality and the capabilities in terms of head room etc. of the mix busses are vital – which BTW are all great on VENUE products IMO – for us music mixers, the real key to a console’s success is when we combine it with best mixing tools available. As you know for those of us who use VENUE, we are blessed with the best array of tools available. As many of you know, there is a very rich palette of choices for us right at our finger tips in VENUE land. I gave him a few examples during Virtual Soundcheck in the afternoon. He was inquiring into how I actually use the Crane Song Phoenix plug-ins and I think he was a bit surprised in how many places I was using it to great effect. I explained that for the first time really in live sound, we can treat inputs much like we treat them when recording and mixing in analog. For example I use more or less tape saturation emulation on strategic inputs, just exactly as I would do if I was recording to analog tape. Some inputs I drive hard into the emulation, others not so much. Then, just as I would if I were mixing to analog, I use more across my actual mix bus, just as if I were mixing to an analog two track machine. I ran some tracks and by-passed the tape saturation and he looked a bit startled at the impact. At which time I re-emphasized -- “yeah, live music and analog tape emulation, another lethal combination that we’ve never had at our disposal before – good times huh Scott?” I’m pretty sure he visited the Crane Song web site when he got home. :) All in all it was a great day with Scott, Matt and Jeff and I was delighted to have them down for the big hang.


Well, we are off to The Palace in Auburn Hills MI tomorrow. As with every day now, I’ve begun to look more and more forward to the virtual sound checks to see how far we can raise the bar today. Take care fellow sound dude-geeks. Stay in touch! Well, unless I’m south of the border, at which time I’ll either be at the all night taco stand, or on hold with “Splint” customer service.


Robert Scovill over and out …



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About Robert Scovill

I am a 30 year veteran of live sound and 6 time TEC Award winner for Sound Reinforcement Engineer. I serve as Senior Market Specialist for live sound for Avid and am currently mixing front of house sound for the 2010 Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers North American Tour.

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