Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

Spilling the tea: The challenges of live music for television


Ciaran Doran reports on a recent RTS Technology Centre event that heard about the challenge of getting sound on live TV events just right, including dealing with spill, amplifying the audience, foldback for the musicians, and clean feeds for external use

By Contributor

Published: March 14, 2024

Ciaran Doran reports on a recent RTS Technology Centre event that heard about the challenge of getting sound on live TV events just right, including dealing with spill', amplifying the audience, foldback for the musicians, and clean feeds for external use

target=_blank title=Share on LinkedIn class=share-linkedin>

From Glastonbury to Glyndebourne, putting live music on television is challenging. TV doesn't lend itself naturally to music events - it always looks great but getting the audio right, for everyone, can be very hard work.

The University of Surrey, home to the famous Music and Sound Recording (Tonmeister) audio degree course, has produced some of the world's top BAFTA, Emmy and Oscar winning sound engineers. Earlier this month, Royal Television Society (RTS) members and guests were welcomed by Russell Mason, programme director for the Tonmeister course and Rupert Flindt, lecturer in recording techniques, to enjoy an informative and entertaining discussion with engineers Mike Hatch, Mike Felton and Tudor Davies.

Their TV credits include Later with Jools Holland, Eurovision, The Brit Awards, and Top of the Pops, not to mention the huge and iconic live events Glastonbury, BBC Proms in the Park, and touring with the band Simple Minds.

Speaking with guests as they arrived, there was an excitement in the air to learn about the complex art of audio for television, which is renowned for being difficult to get to grips with, given the many demands of running a live event.

Mike Hatch of Floating Earth with Tonmeister undergraduates How do you prepare for live music on television with multiple bands coming on stage sequentially or already there waiting their turn? Logistics and detailed planning are major factors because you simply can't predict what will happen on-location. Are we a guest here, fitting in with someone else's plan or are we in charge? Being in charge and the trust placed in your art as a sound engineer is rewarding and brings more freedom but it can be a lonely place. As in much of television, relationship-building is key.

Microphones get in the way of the cameras or lights. Cables can be a mess and get in the way of camera operators and artists. Live audiences are wonderful on camera and the director usually wants more cheering, clapping and buzz from the audience while the audio team are tearing their hair out to manage sound levels, amplification for the audience, foldback for musicians, clean feeds for external use and, of course, an amazing sound for us all to enjoy at home.

Among the many and wide-ranging problems faced at major live events such as Glastonbury is that the overall volume can be absolutely deafening and the spill nearly impossible to manage. A familiar scenario might be trying to manage spill from the drums over gentle strings while at the speaker stack is positioned to drown even the drums! There's the band that refuses to move to in-ear monitors and insists on cranking up the foldback volume on stage - perhaps to compete with the spill from another stage not far away. It's a constant battle to achieve a crisp sound and then maintain it, always riding the faders and manipulating many different areas to manage a dynamic situation.

In live classical music recording the spill can often be part of the mix but classical music for television can face quite different challenges. It's not uncommon to have a plan only to turn up on site and ditch it completely because someone has decided to position a dance set in the middle of the orchestra. However much you plan you generally have to make it work when you get on site. The key is to first understand what is to be achieved, who the target audience is and then work back from there while working out what good and bad things need to be taken care of from an audio point of view. At the Coronation, there were more than 190 microphones placed throughout and each one has to be carefully considered for not only the sonic quality but visual position to camera and congregation and spill.

Tudor Davies and Conrad Fletcher showing The Mixbus How does one choose the right microphone? There's often a feeling that the same old mics are used for years and without innovation getting through. As with relationships in any live location recording, trust is the element that can maintain a status quo; if an engineer prefers a mic because they know the exact sound they're looking to achieve and have a trusted mic that delivers it, then that's simply what will be used. The old phrase this is not a rehearsal becomes real with live production - there's no second chance and the sound engineer looks for surety as well as sonic pureness.

Speaking about the RTS event, Flindt said: Members and students engaged the sound engineers on various topics, including recording 5.1 surround sound for stereo home delivery, producing surround sound for TikTok, and maintaining uncorrupted metadata. They also explored the realities of limited rehearsal times and handling microphone failures during live performances.

This experience will undoubtedly be memorable for our students, significantly aiding their career development, he added.

Also discussed was, how much (or little) rehearsal time is given (sometimes seconds!) for a live performance, and how to cope when a mic goes down - it's not like simply switching to another camera!

The event was preceded by guided tours and live demonstrations of the Floating Earth OB truck, hosted by Mike Hatch and the Mixbus OB truck hosted by Con
See more stories from tvb

More from TVB Europe


UK's Media Bill heads towards Royal Assent

An amendment to the Bill includes retaining the Reithian principles of public service broadcast, ensuring PSBs continue to inform, educate and entertain By Jen...


BCE appoints Sylvain Merle as CTO

Merle joins BCE following a 30 year career including roles at Orange/Globecast and beIN Media Group By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 24, 2024 Merle join...


Virtual feelings: how haptic technology is creating immersive environments

Philippe Guillotel, senior director of metavideo group, InterDigital, explains how haptic technology could be the next big thing in watching everything from spo...


Meet the senior vice president, enterprise solutions architecture

Zeenal Thakare, senior vice president, enterprise solutions architecture at Ateliere Creative Technologies, explains why shes enjoying a front row seat to the o...


UK broadcast CEOs call on parliament to pass Media Bill before dissolution

The Bill is currently at its third reading stage in the House of Lords By Jenny Priestley Published: May 23, 2024 The Bill is currently at its third re...


The industry is at a tipping point': World Skills Caf to address media's skills gap

Carrie Wootten talks to TVBEurope about a new initiative aiming to understand wh...


Report: Media businesses facing HMRC R&D tax relief challenges

Research suggests media businesses are struggling to make successful claims for research and development tax reliefs By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 22, 2...


Avid partners with Post Super on post production training course

The programme aims to provide those working in post with a comprehensive understanding of their role within the broader post production ecosystem By Jenny Prie...


Stephen van Rooyen appointed VodafoneZiggo CEO

He joins VodafoneZiggo following the retirement of Jeroen Hoencamp and will be based at the companys offices in Utrecht By Jenny Priestley Published: May 21,...


TVBEurope May/June 2024 issue out now

Our latest issue hears from France T l visions about their plans for Paris 2024, we also celebrate the winners of our NAB 2024 Best of Show Awards and explore c...


Meet the VFX producer

Angus Berryman, VFX producer at UNIT studio tells TVBEurope how perseverance paid off as his career progressed By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 20, 2024 ...


Sony signs NDA with Paramount Global but is reticent about earlier plan

The New York Times said the move was a significant step forward in their effort to court Paramount By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 20, 2024 Updated: May...


Meet the product manager

Muster Ngobi, product manager at LYNX Technik tells TVBEurope how the ever-evolving media industry provides a truly dynamic working environment By Matthew Corr...


A year in live HDR production

John Mailhot, senior vice president, product management at Imagine Communications, gives an insight into how HDR is impacting live production today, as well as ...


1185 Films launches one stop shop' for industry talent

1185 Talent will include directors, editors, colourists, VFX artists and photographers By Jenny Priestley Published: May 16, 2024 1185 Talent will include...


Updated: Presteigne Broadcast Hire enters administration

The administrators said they are focused on trading the business as a going concern while they assess options, including exploring the possibility of a sale By...


AWS CEO Adam Selipsky steps down

Selipsky will leave the company on 3rd June, and will be succeeded by Matt Garman, a senior vice president who has overseen sales and marketing at AWS By Jenny...


Gary Heelas joins TSL as principal engineer

TSL said the appointment marks a strategic enhancement in the companys commitment to focusing on UK and US-designed and manufactured solutions By Jenny Priestl...


Is Sony about to pull out of its bid for Paramount?

Sony and Apollo may decide to acquire Shari Redstone's National Amusements, which is the controlling shareholder of Paramount Global By Jenny Priestley P...


Presteigne Broadcast Hire enters administration

The company appointed administrators yesterday (May 14th) By Jenny Priestley Published: May 15, 2024 The company appointed administrators yesterday (May 1...


CueScript announces passing of founder Brian Larter

Larter co-founded CueScript with Michael Accardi in 2014 By Jenny Priestley Published: May 14, 2024 Updated: May 15, 2024 Larter co-founded CueScript wi...


Opinion: Why it's important to give broadcast engineers support in the move to IP

Ed Calverley, manager at large, SMPTE UK, discusses how organisations can help t...


Sphere completes HOLOPLOT acquisition

HOLOPLOTs proprietary technology enables precise and digital control of sound propagation and localisation to deliver targeted, consistent and immersive audio, ...


TVBEurope appoints Jenny Priestley as content director

Matthew Corrigan has also recently joined the TVBEurope editorial team as content writer By TVBEurope Staff Published: May 14, 2024 Matthew Corrigan has a...


The Film and TV Charity launches fund for Black and Global Majority professionals

Funding will be awarded in three rounds over two years, with applications for th...


IBC2024 opens for registration and announces new AI tech zone

This years show features an expanded venue including a new AI tech Zone and a second Content Everywhere area By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 13, 2024 T...


Zille Media aims to enhance media accessibility with Audio Description Editor

The company has worked with Motion Picture Solutions (MPS) on the development of the solution, which sits in the cloud-native Zille Platform By Jenny Priestley...


Meet the head of entertainment

From The Tube and Top of the Pops to head of entertainment at 1185 Films, Chris Cowey tells TVBEurope about his journey through the ranks during a time of chang...


Dimension bolsters senior team with four new appointments

Dimension said its new hires signal its investment in creative new production techniques for feature films, episodic series, music videos and more By Matthew C...


How sound (and the technology behind it) can set the tone and enhance emotions in film and TV

Sefi Carmel, CEO and founder of SphereTrax, talks about the importance of the so...


Sony and Apollo plan to break up Paramount'

Companies are expected to sell off Paramounts linear channels as well as close Paramount Plus By Jenny Priestley Published: May 9, 2024 Updated: May 10, 20...


Post production houses adopt Cleanfeed Cinema solution

The solutions in-browser stream focuses on low latency, making it suited to low bandwidth scenarios By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 8, 2024 The solutio...


TAG unveils subtitling language detection feature

Driven by algorithms, the solution performs a quality analysis informed by language-specific dictionaries By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 8, 2024 Drive...


Mobilelinks acquires 2 SAT Europe to increase SNG truck fleet

The increase in fleet size will reduce travel distances, aligning with sustainability goals, said Mobilelinks By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 8, 2024 T...


Arqiva adds Caroline Cardozo and James Lelyveld to technology team

The company said the new arrivals would drive collaboration and technological transformation across key business units By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 8, ...


Maximising resources: Keys to POST Luxembourg's success in the evolving media landscape

POST Luxembourgs journey with TAG Video underscores how finding a vendor who und...


Limecraft updates content delivery platform

Enhancements to its Delivery Workspace solution provide increased content delivery robustness and security By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 3, 2024 Enha...


Sony and Apollo submit $26 billion bid for Paramount Global

According to reports, if the bid is successful, Sony would be the significant majority shareholder of the new private company By Jenny Priestley Published: M...


Global Academy launches Manchester media school

Located in Manchesters Spinningfields district, the course aims to equip students with the skills, knowledge and industry insight for a career in the creative s...


Can AI find a way to reduce the broadcast industry's energy consumption?

OpenDrives Trevor Morgan asks if AI has the answer to making data centres for the media and entertainment industry more sustainable By Contributor Published:...


Former BT Sport COO Jamie Hindhaugh joins EMG / Gravity Media

Charlie Cubbon has also been appointed chief operating officer By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 2, 2024 Updated: May 7, 2024 Charlie Cubbon has also b...


NXTGENbps powers Molinare's Notorious DIT

NXTGENbps battery solutions are designed to replace diesel generators and offer silent, emission-free power for various applications in film, TV, outside broadc...


NXTGENbps powers Molinaire's Notorious DIT

NXTGENbps battery solutions are designed to replace diesel generators and offer silent, emission-free power for various applications in film, TV, outside broadc...


Amazon CEO: AWS has multi-billion dollar revenue run rate in AI already

Sales rose to $25bn during the first three months of 2024, up 17 per cent year-on-year By Matthew Corrigan Published: May 1, 2024 Updated: May 2, 2024 S...


Hotspring unveils Slapshot ML-driven rotoscoping solution

Hotspring said the breakthrough had been achieved through the acceleration of machine learning technology By Matthew Corrigan Published: April 30, 2024 Ho...


SES to acquire Intelsat in $3.1 billion deal

Speaking about the deal, Adel Al-Saleh, CEO of SES, said: it will bring value-added, efficient, and reliable offerings for both companies media customers By Je...


Bob Bakish officially out at Paramount, new Office of the CEO finalising long-term plan'

Paramount said the Office of the CEO is working with its board to develop a comp...


BAFTA Television Craft Awards winners announced

The awards celebrate the craft of behind-the-scenes TV talent and the best programmes of 2023 By Matthew Corrigan Published: April 29, 2024 The awards cel...


Watch: How Milk VFX helped create 259 shots for Netflix's Scoop

The team at Milk had to create and deliver the VFX and environment work for the royal residences featured in the drama from scratch By Jenny Priestley Publis...


What's going on at Paramount Global?

CEO Bob Bakish is expected to leave the company as early as today, with a new leadership committee likely to run the company on an interim basis By Jenny Pries...