The technical side of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix after-race concerts has evolved and adapted for every edition. For the last six years Delta Sound has been supplying the audio package for the Flash Entertainment organised event, and each time the needs of Yasalam have grown. For the 2014 event, it was simplicity and common ground with the various artists which led to arguably the smoothest technical setup the festival has had.
The area of commonality which offered the greatest benefit to the production crew came from the control package. ‘Control-wise the changeovers were quite easy. On all the three of the race evenings, fortunately all three bands had requested DiGiCo SD7 consoles so we had a DiGiCo control package,’ recalls Delta Sound senior engineer Rob Eatock. ‘Our house console was a DiGiCo SD9, the FOH was the SD7 and the monitor console was an SD7. We told the Arabic guys on day one that it was a festival system and they would be using SD7s. We also offered to teach anyone how to use them if they didn’t already know.’
At FOH, the SD7 was paired with an SD-Rack as a local rack with an additional SD9 used for system control. A pair of Meyer Sound Galileo 616 units distributed signal down to the stage as well as to the delay stacks. A combination of TASCAM CD players and recorders were part of the drive rack while a pair of Summit Audio TLA 100 compressors, four Avalon 737 channel strips, a pair of BSS Blu 160 SLs and TC Electronic D2 and M6000 units formed the outboard gear.
Another area of continuity was the main PA which had the same configuration for each artist. However, there was one major change for the 2014 event from previous Yasalams. ‘This year there was no V-Dosc on site which is different from before,’ says Mr Eatock. ‘It was K1 and K2 with SD28 subs and the smaller boxes were all Kara. It was all the new range from L-Acoustics which proved to be really good.’
The system saw 12 K1 with six K1 Subs per side for the main PA hangs, with an additional three Kara per side as downfills. Outfill came from side hangs of K2. These cabinets were a new addition to the rental company’s warehouse for the start of the season and 12 per side were called into action for the concerts. Front fill consisted of a further 16 Kara cabinets while 32 SB28 subs in an arc configuration supplied low end reinforcement. Power for the main system came from 16 LA8 Raks. Completing the list of speakers were the 16 K2s and six SB28s used as delay stacks to ensure even coverage for the entire 220m long du Arena site.
‘The transition between the K1 and the K2 was a seamless process, it really makes a difference,’ notes Mr Eatock. ‘The V-Dosc is a good box, but the actual changes needed to make it sound like it’s all coming from one place is negligible using the K2.’
The biggest changes to the technical setup each night came on stage. Each act had their own staging requirements which meant the Delta team needed to work some long hours to ensure the on-stage sound was correct.
‘There were some crazy overnight turnarounds,’ says Mr Eatock. ‘It was getting the stages set because obviously each band had their own set of risers and those were all very different. Going from Armin van Buuren which was quite a massive riser with lots of LED, we had to wait for that to get built before we could do any work on it. And then to tear all of that down to get the Pharrell Williams stage which was again completely different and quite a big setup was again quite a long night.’
There was a level of consistency with the equipment being used on stage for the majority of the acts. The monitor package was led by a DiGiCo SD7 with a pair of SD-Racks. On stage, 26 L-Acoustics 115 HiQs were used as wedges while 16 channels of Sennheiser 2050 in-ear monitors completed the setup.
Each act required different quantities of the L-Acoustics stage monitors for the first three nights, but on the final evening, The Who requested a completely different setup. ‘Their guys were very helpful in the preproduction with different variations and things like that. We took the time to go out and get what they asked for which was eight d&b audiotechnik M4s on stage and then another four Q wedges. They had two monitor consoles for The Who. We supplied an SD7 and then they brought in a Midas XL3 analogue console which was used for all of Pete Townshend’s stuff.’
While the main components remained the same, there were small differences for each performance. The dance music focused Friday night called for eight Pioneer CDJ2000 players as well as DJM900 and DJM2000 mixers. The Saturday night Pharrell Williams performance, meanwhile, featured a full band and as such extra Røde, Shure, Sennheiser and AKG microphones were supplied. For the closing performance, The Who brought their own control package but Delta were still called upon for the support control package. This consisted of a pair of Yamaha PM5D mixing consoles and four Yamaha PW800, along with Shure, Røde, Neumann and Sennheiser mics.
While the main stage was the highlight for the concerts, the 2014 event also featured a second Plaza Stage where local band The Boxtones played to warm up the crowd. Here Delta supplied a combination of three Kudo boxes a side and six 115XTs along with four SB218 subs, powered by LA8 amplifiers. A pair of Mackie speakers were supplied for the control unit along with Pioneer CD players and mixer. A variety of Shure microphones were also put to use as well as a Yamaha M7 CL console.
Away from the main PA and monitor systems, the other aspect where Delta was called into action was with the comms system. The rental house supplied dozens of Motorola GP340 site radios for the organisers and production teams, while a Clear-Com master station and various headset units ensured the smooth running of stage-house communications.
Reflecting on another successful Yasalam, Mr Eatock is clearly very satisfied with the results. ‘The gig itself was really good. I enjoyed all three nights and we had quite a positive response from all the bands. All the guys were really happy with how things worked. We try to make it as easy as possible for us and for everybody else,’ says the senior engineer. ‘The Who guys were over the moon being their first show of the tour. The tour manager came over and said we had certainly set the bar for the rest of the tour and if they had the same sort of support for the rest of the tour they’d be happy people, which was nice to know.’
Commonality and continuity were the key words for the festival. The 2014 series of after-race concerts may not have been the most demanding in terms of technical changes between each performance, but this all added to the smooth running of the event.