Rio, July 2014: It was one of those gigs where failure of any kind is not an option. The FIFA World Cup Concert at the HSBC Arena in Barra de Tijuca was due to be broadcast delayed-live to more than 50 countries within hours of finishing, starting with China. The concert starred Plácido Domingo, Lang Lang, Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez, the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra and Opera Chorus in addition to local singing sensation, Paula Fernandes who made a surprise appearance. The musical feast featured highlights from Domingo’s extensive operatic repertoire married with songs from Broadway, operetta, Zarzuela and popular music from around the world.
Renowned production company, Bernhard Fleischer Moving Images was retained to ensure the highest quality result and they in turn entrusted the audio production to Grammy® Award winner, Jesse Lewis whom they had partnered on several previous occasions. The planning was meticulous and clear instructions were sent ahead; input lists were done, MADI splits were arranged, cabling specified and all the equipment was organized to be there well in advance. Brazil presents some challenges for importing equipment so part of the consignment, including the Horus networked audio converters from Merging Technologies, was shipped direct from Europe. Jesse Lewis always uses Merging’s Pyramix solution for recording so plans were in place to record at 96 kHz with one Horus unit on stage and the other in the OB truck. And, it always goes according to plan… except when it doesn't.
The weather at JFK delayed Jesse’s flight to Rio by 24 hours, cutting the preparation time in half. When he finally arrived, the OB Van location had been moved an additional 50 meters to accommodate construction for the 2016 Olympics. This extended the copper cable runs to about 100 meters; on the limit for both coaxial MADI and gigabit Ethernet. The only cables available at short notice would be below spec (100 meters of fiber MADI wasn't an option on 6hrs notice); every vendor was completely bereft of stock because of the World Cup. There was an option of either slightly longer cable runs without electrical interference or shorter ones with a high probability of problems; longer runs without interference were obviously chosen. Both RAVENNA and coaxial MADI were run to provide redundancy but nobody could speculate which solution would work. The team connected redundant MADI streams from the DiGiCo racks, one for each Horus. One Horus was installed in the rack with the DiGiCo stagebox, with short coaxial MADI cables feeding it, and a long CAT6E RAVENNA feeding the truck. The other Horus was placed in the truck and received the pair of long coaxial MADI cables.
Jesse Lewis takes up the story: “We knew ONE of them had to work. We looked first at the MADI connections in anticipation of green lights - signal? Lock? MADI had nothing, completely blank. We checked the connections, checked them again. Moved them just in case – nothing. Moved them back - still nothing. We moved to RAVENNA, by now our only hope. Green. Lock. PTP means Precision Time Protocol and the light was green! From the DiGiCo rack, two coaxial MADI connections fed 128 audio channels to our Horus unit, which in turn fed the RAVENNA network on 100 meters of CAT6E. Flawless. Thank God for Horus and the RAVENNA network! I can’t think of any other I/O unit/network combination with this level of flexibility.”
The Horus device also allowed for routing of the MADI signal in 8-channel blocks to overcome certain limitations of the Studer Vista 5 MADI input. It also came to light that the truck was not able to cope with a 96 kHz recording so it was switched to 48 kHz without compromising the final transmission. The two 56-channel coaxial MADI streams from the DiGiCo were fed from the Horus via RAVENNA and then to the Studer console on a pair of 64-channel MADI fiber streams allowing the recording of all signals to hard disk. The Pyramix recorders were perfectly reliable, and even allowed for some convenient remixing prior to the delayed-broadcast a few hours later.
“The stress was unimaginable, but so was the relief of Pyramix and RAVENNA in action,” recalled Lewis. “I hardly had time to worry about the rain and the mosquitoes!”