Beyond the Stage

May 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By David Weiss



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Hank Neuberger (left) and TD Russ Rodriguez at Coachella video control

Hank Neuberger (left) and TD Russ Rodriguez at Coachella video control

Neuberger and his team of video and recording engineers communicate closely with stage managers, and front-of-house and monitor engineers before deploying their technology to the concert site, which could include separate multitrack Digidesign Pro Tools recording systems either in Flypacks or on trucks, truck-based HD video production and a variety of hard drive- or disk-based storage solutions.

“It's all in the pre-production,” he confirms. “If the pre-pro is good, if everybody is in touch and communicating, it makes all the difference. The reason that's critical is that we're going to need to not only agree on real estate for camera positions, but also how we're going to capture audio, because, generally speaking, the FOH position is not ideal for capturing multitrack audio. The FOH's Number One priority is to give the best mix possible to the live audience in the room, so I generally opt for a separate mobile recording solution that does not get in the way of the live audience or distract anyone working on behalf of the artist from their mission. In a festival, we always take the live FOH 2-mix and have that on our desk as our primary backup. Sometimes there are effects that the traveling soundman knows that only exist on FOH. We rely on the FOH expertise at every show.”

Once Neuberger knows who and what will be where at the gig, staying organized is critical. “At a festival like Coachella or Rothbury, we might shoot and record multiple stages on multiple days that can total as many as 60 or 70 different bands. Multiply that times the multitrack and a number of cameras — having your storage plan for prelabeling your tapes, DVDs, your Pro Tools hard drives and video hard drives is essential. Then knowing where they're going to go if there's an edit is key, as well. Typically, the more you can get done onsite when everyone is in the same place, working on the same project is the best, but, of course, there are parts that are going to happen after the show.”

While Neuberger and his team travel from show to show to make gigs and festivals as download-ready as possible, there's also a new breed of club appearing that is built with after-show availability in mind. One such example is New York City's Le Poisson Rouge, which planned ahead for maximum-quality live recordings — often available the next day online — by enlisting recording studio designer John Storyk of Walters-Storyk Design Group to shape the space.

“There's an awareness on the part of our public that concerts are recordable in very high quality, and they can often be made readily available,” says David Handler, who co-founded the 800-capacity Le Poisson Rouge along with Justin Kantor and opened in 2008. “That was our priority in working with John because he's predominantly a studio designer. Likewise, our decision to have 5.1 surround was not only to accommodate film screenings, but contemporary music that is made that way.”

Handler points to a series of Rickie Lee Jones concerts at Le Poisson Rouge as an example of the workflow. Her shows were recorded onsite, mixed and mastered immediately, and then made available for paid download the following day. Guests who had signed up and paid in advance received a file in their inbox the next morning. Le Poisson Rouge has also begun a relationship with the site, an independent music download site for distributing live recordings of Le Poisson Rouge concerts.

“We're working on partnerships for live concerts, working artists and labels with whom we already have a relationship, and when our artist plays, it's available on Amie Street for download,” Handler explains. “It does require quite a bit of interaction in terms of rights and license to record and make material available. The best relationships are ones where communication is good. We're coming to artists with this opportunity, and they are more often than not wholeheartedly into it.”

Handler notes that the genres of acts in his club that are most receptive/proactive in the downloadable-recording department are indie and electronica acts, followed surprisingly closely by the next generation of classical artists that often play at Le Poisson Rouge. “In a sort of Darwinian way, those who embrace it will reap the reward for it, and those who don't have to endure what comes with that.

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