Soundcraft's compact Si3 digital desk continues to be put through its paces in the Indian sub-continent by New Delhi-based rental company, Dhawan Electricals Pvt Ltd — most recently in front of the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil.
Owner Yogesh Dhawan reports that Vayu Shakti 2010, a 3-hour spectacular which took place in the remote desert location of Pokhran, Rajasthan, was attended by the Indian President and other dignitaries, including the chiefs of all the armed forces.
The show included bone chilling air acrobatics, mid-air dog fights, supersonic aircrafts shelling targets, Air Force helicopters dropping tanks, and so on … all to the accompaniment of a 65-piece orchestra whose music filled the air with emotion, in recognition of the brave soldiers who fight for the country.
The view from the mixer bridge may have been somewhat different than from the air traffic control tower, but for Yogesh Dhawan and sound engineer Lokesh Dhawan, this show represented the first time that all 64 inputs on their Soundcraft Si3 had been deployed, with mic feeds from the orchestra as well as the live commentators, who guided the audience through the proceedings.
Building up production in such a remote location brings its own problems. Pokhran is around 50 km from the nearest city and 60km from the Pakistan border (it was the test site for India's first underground nuclear weapon detonation). Being a desert area there is scarcity of water, mobiles rarely work, newspapers don't reach the area and neither does television.
Vayu Shakti, which means â€˜air power,' was designed to provide a demonstration of the Indian Air Force's latest warfare technology, with the show running through the daytime and after dark.
All of which provided an exacting task for the Si3 (and its audio pilot). Lokesh Dhawan had to mic seven commentators (each a specialist in the different fighter aircrafts), with two mics for the VIP podium and one for the officer who provided a target briefing to the president — all assigned to Bank A of the desk.
The input division of the 65-piece symphony orchestra of the Indian Air Force, consisting of brass, jazz and Indian instruments, was also assigned to Bank A, with Bank B containing the rhythm section, Bank C all the wind instruments, and Bank D the strings, which used a further eight mics.
The next four inputs were from line devices (laptop and a CD player) while the other two line inputs were connected to the wireless receivers which took the commands of the aerobatic team commanders, for broadcast to the public. The final four inputs were for the Lexicon reverbs, which were used on the band.
As for outputs, feeds were sent to the L/C/R line array, with eight aux for the band monitors and two for side fills. From the output matrix the video set-up received four feeds, there was a 9-camera production unit, which recorded the entire event and fed the live telecast as well as about 50 TV channels and radio.
Two matrix outs were also used by Lokesh to feed the audio break-out boxes for all the electronic media — another matrix out fed a special monitor which had been provided for the Indian President in case she decided to sit in a covered enclosure specially built for her, and the final matrix provided a feed to the ATC, situated a mile away, so that they knew what was going on.
Despite the scale of this event, the ease of programming and configuring the Si3 meant that Lokesh Dhawan was able to set up the entire band in four hours. “We had to do this early in the morning because during the daytime the temperatures were 45°C and it was impossible to work. Once balanced, all I had to do was check once, do a little fine tuning and then save the program.”
“I had absolutely no difficulty of any kind, whereas with an analogue mixer it would have been impossible,” he says.
The show was such a success that Dhawan Electricals has already been put on standby for next year's event. Says Lokesh: “And this was all because, thanks to the Si3, we managed to deliver!”