THE GEAR OF THE GRAMMYS THE GEAR OF THE GRAMMYS TM By JOE COFFEy
Sure, those golden phonograph trophies are significant, but have you
considered what it takes to make that gig happen? The Grammy Awards
are broadcast live—and involve the biggest acts of the year. 16 took to
the stage this year, bringing their own gear, live sound requirements,
unique sets, dancers, techs, etc. Now imagine what it’s like to make those
stage changes, get the FOH and monitor boards switched up and ready
without sound checks, do the same with audio boards dedicated for the
broadcast, solve problems on the fly, keep A-list artists happy, and stay
on time. The performances are all live, too—with minimal canned tracks/
effects, as per the wishes of the Recording Academy (also known as the
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences).
Premier Guitar had a chance to crawl around in the belly of the beast—
the Staples Center, as it was configured for the 52nd Grammy Awards
Illustration by Meghan Molumby
show—in order to report on the gear involved and the behind-the-scenes
effort that makes Music’s Biggest Night happen. Here’s what we found…
The evening involved a handpicked crew of 38 audio engineers and
technicians, 160 stagehands, 150 event technicians and 26 stage managers. It took 40 riggers 7 days to hang 130 tons of lighting, sound
equipment and set pieces from the ceiling. 300 chain motors hoisted
it all to 260 anchor points and 70 fall protection points. 3000 feet of
trussing was involved. More than 450 mics were used, ( 80 were wireless). The 100,000-watt house sound system involved four Yamaha
PM1D consoles, 94 speaker cabinets flown from the grid, with a cluster of 12 subs in the middle, 9 delay clusters to solve timing issues
throughout the venue, and 14 fill speakers under the stage so that the
celebs in the first few rows could hear a good mix.
winner names and titles, “Coming up next…”
slates before commercials, final credits, etc.
H. The playback booth is where audio techs
control the rare pre-recorded elements of
a Grammy performance, such as string sections and hip hop samples. The Recording
Academy takes great pride in the fact that
very few canned elements are used these
days. It’s not unusual for large string sections to be mic’d and used live on stage for a
I. The wireless station is where signals
from wireless mics and body packs for
guitarists are received.
J. The FOH mixing boards, operated by Ron
Reaves and Mikael Stewart, control the mix
for the live audience.
K. This mic’d hot spot of audience activity
is named as such because true fans, rather
than industry executives, are sitting here
reacting to the performances, which makes
for better live audio during the broadcast.
Many hot spot tickets are given away via
radio station contests.
L. The center platform allows presenters and
performers to have a presence in the middle
of the audience. This year it had a removable
top that concealed a hot tub inside it. Pink
PREMIER GUITAR APRIL 2010 123
was lowered into it during her acrobatic performance of “Glitter in the Air.”
M. The main camera platform was the central focal point for most presenters and performers, supporting broadcast cameras and
N. 14 video screens were used in conjunction with the evening’s presentations
O. The last stop booth is the last place an
artist goes before walking up the stairs to go
onstage. Inside this booth are refreshments,
lounge chairs, make-up stations and color-corrected mirrors.