Continuing their successful 'Music of the Spheres' tour, British pop band Coldplay will embark on another long tour of stadiums around the world, starting March 2023. Since the FOH control package initial design and build in February 2021, followed by promo and the kick-off of the 2022 live season, DirectOut's extremely solid and powerful audio solutions have ensured maximum flexibility and efficiency. In the process, four PRODIGY.MP and one PRODIGY.MC are once again playing their part in bringing the band's aspirations for a more sustainable tour production one step closer.
“We have enjoyed a close working relationship with Alex (Hadji) Hadjigeorgiou and his colleagues for many years now. Almost all our products have already been used on previous Coldplay tours,” says DirectOut Managing Director Jan Ehrlich. “For us as a manufacturer, it is always special to see the tour push the envelope together with their technical crew. There are only a few setups as complex and sophisticated as Coldplay's on tour to thrill their fans and music lovers in general, tour after tour and take it up a notch.”
Tony Smith, Head of Audio, FOH-tech and sound designer for Coldplay and Alex Hadji, digital audio specialist at Hadji Audio, were looking at an early stage for the next advancement in system EQ, distribution and control to make the production at the forefront of currently available technology available in the industry. In the end it was the whole package that made DirectOut become an essential part of this audio system.
At FOH, Dan Green, Coldplay’s FOH engineer, and Tony had outgrown their current system EQ and I/O AD gear and looked for an improvement. PRODIGY.MP and PRODIGY.MC were more than up to the task. PRODIGY.MP as system EQ provides the functionality needed and more in tonality/EQ curves as well as usability. PRODIGY.MC came on board as an I/O AD converter to get the analog gear onto a MADI stream and on the DiGiCo Optocore loop. “I´ve been using both for their basic functions, but both do what I need and do that very well. They have also reduced our footprint, weight and added functionality with great tech support, which is also key,” states Tony.
Another PRODIGY.MP in the PA system drive rack is used by system technician Dom Thorne, where Tony and Dan were also looking for advancement and more flexibility for audio distribution and routing as the primary function. It is fitted with 16 AES inputs and outputs, as well as 16 analog inputs and outputs.
Inputs from FOH are taken as a Left, Right, Sub, Fill configuration, as well as two support band inputs via AES, with an analog backup for each input. The flexibility of the PRODIGY allows for those inputs to be in whichever configuration is required. The signals are then distributed to the d&b SL Series sound system as a Left, Right, Sub, Fill and Delay 1-4 output, utilizing the extensive matrixing features of PRODIGY.MP. Additional outputs for Ring delays are also utilized when Ring delay systems are deployed. These outputs are via AES, which is then distributed via fibre through the Optocore backbone. An analog backup of those same outputs is running concurrently.
Several local I/O sources for Smaart, local playback and Voice of God microphone give Dom complete control over the entire stadium d&b PA system.
PRODIGY.MP also acts as the PA system clock master, using the FastSRC’s on each input to allow sample rate independence for each console.
“We were originally clocking off the AES input from the DiGiCo FOH console, but for security and the continued possibility of isolation we made the decision to use the PRODIGYs internal clock due to its reliability,” adds Dom.
When looking back on the tour, he recaps: “Throughout the year the versatility and ease of control of the PRODIGY has meant that whenever an issue or variation in requirements has become apparent, I have been able to reprogram my original file easily and quickly to make it work. Whether it has been needing to find or repurpose extra inputs or outputs, to needing to distribute, time align and EQ the PA system completely differently. This is still whilst only using the PRODIGY in my drive rack to a fraction of its potential capability.”
Luca Giaroli, Strategy and Audio Solutions Manager at DirectOut made sure the immense and complex capabilities of the PRODIGYs were demonstrated and taught. In online meetings and an onsite training at Solotech/Wigwam, Luca ensured that everyone was ready to work with the PRODIGY when rehearsals of the large production started.
Dom remembers that the “potential complexity within the PRODIGY due to its power can at first be overwhelming, but Luca was brilliant in ensuring that, despite these options, the right knowledge and understanding turns the possibility for confusion into versatility and control.” And, in addition, Luca being responsive to any support needs made the team feel well equipped for the upcoming tour.
Alex sums it all up: “From my early dealings with Stephan Flock, co-founder and director of engineering at DirectOut in the development of the EXBOX.BLDS, through years of using the M1K2 devices on Coldplay to provide MADI splitting and format conversation, all the way through to our latest setup using EXBOX.MDs, multiple PRODIGYs, SPLIT.CONVERTERs and ANDIAMOs, the experience has remained the same - well-made equipment with good technical support and a feeling that the people behind the design of the products value our opinions and respond to our requests for new features.
“And I must add at this point that this ethos is continued through the distributor, Chris Collings at Aspen Media. Chris has been amazing to deal with and adds genuine value to the products as a great interface between the user and manufacturer.”
“Synergies like these fertilize both sides,” concludes Jan Ehrlich, DirectOut’s Managing Director. “As a manufacturer, we receive valuable input and feedback from creative minds who want to retain the maximum flexibility and performance from our solutions. At the same time, our customers should always know that we are with them, take their suggestions seriously and always want to implement them within the scope of feasibility. This basis of trust drives everything we do - from designing new audio solutions to supporting our customers.”
There were 5 PRODIGYs specified in the setup.
2 in the FOH control setup (1 MP and 1 MC)
3 in the Drive system - All MP units - Main system , Main system Backup and Spare.