There were many challenges ahead on this one, not the least working within COVID restriction’s. Add two that a live orchestra underscoring most of the programme, plus guest acts, a choir, marching bands and a flyover and you get the general idea. However all the above pale into the darkness of Horseguards when compared to the challenge of keeping the orchestra and all the projection in sync across 5 days of recording and then knitting that back together afterwards in post before remix.
It was essential that every musical sequence was driven by us from the sound truck by sending timecode to the projectors and also click to the orchestra to keep everything in time. Given months of pre-production this would be fine but we none, so once on site we had to have the flexibility to programme sequences daily (as that is the only point we got the final projection sequences through). In practical terms that meant as well as sorting the audio for the day we had to sit and lock to projection locally and move and adjust the speech sections around to make sync work on the buildings. This would have been enough in itself but then at certain points in numbers the MD and artists wanted to come off click to “emote” meaning we also had to record bespoke MD counts and tempo map sections to keep everyone happy. So much of this was “on the fly” and we had to have our eye on post production as we are right at the sharp end of that being the last point of delivery for the show …..any mess up with sync or timing would destroy us in post production and thats not always and easy thing to make everyone understand when people are in the midst of production on site ..luckily we had the support of the production team who let us do what we needed to do.
Practically we had around 180 channels of microphones into our truck including orchestra, arena , roof and roaming mics plus performance radio mic’s and chat. We had to play the timecode and click tracks to drive the show projection and did a guide mix on site but crucially a full multitrack of everything for post. A very complex job also for our monitor engineer who had to do mixes for all the socially distanced orchestra plus choir and artists ..no mean feet that and we didn’t wait a minute for anything concerning fold back or ears mixes which is testament to his skill.
We left site with terra bytes of recordings from not only the 5 record days but also many rehearsals. What followed in post was one of the scariest conforms I think we have ever done …you need to be a geek but pulling 5 days of recordings all which went over midnight (the dreaded 00:00:00:00 in conforming terms ) and with a channel count of 180 inputs was challenging and frightening at the same time. We only had 6 days in post and it was 2/3 days of number crunching to get it into shape before we could start even thinking about mixing. Start to early and we would fall foul of the changes and re-edits ..start to late and we just wouldn’t get through it. Luckily we had a very talented off-line VT editor who understood our predicament and like all good projects we worked as a team. The stitch happened and we had around 2.5 days left to start tidying and mixing.
The key to making these big events work is finding the detail but that takes time….you can find gold digging round the records but with so many channel’s it’s labourious work but so necessary. After some very long editing and mixing days we managed to get ourselves time for a final fine pass (which we didn’t expect to get ) and with the scores out we could dig deep into the music as well as lift FX and atmos to make something as filmic as we could .
The sound scape was also important as with no audience (and no big PA system) it would have been very easy to loose the scale in the audio mix….we worked hard to add that in and make sure the audio matched and enhanced the scale of the visual production.
Being a BBC show it was also a proper 1.5 hours with no breaks…this was like mixing a film in a week from standstill but the creativity was wonderful for us and in the end we were very happy with the results.