Coldplay Implements DirectOut Audio Solution in Upcoming Tour
Continuing their 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 initial design and build of the FOH control package was released in February 2021, DirectOut’s audio solutions have ensured flexibility and efficiency. Four PRODIGY.MP and one PRODIGY.MC play a 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,” said 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 in the industry.
Dan Green, Coldplay’s FOH engineer, and Smith had outgrown their current system EQ and I/O AD gear and found PRODIGY.MP and PRODIGY.MC. PRODIGY.MP as a system EQ provides the functionality needed in tonality/EQ curves and 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,” said Smith.
System technician Dom Thorne used three PRODIGY.MPs in the PA system drive rack, a main plus backup and a spare. Smith and Green were also looking for advancement and more flexibility for audio distribution and routing as the primary function. The system is fitted with 16 AES inputs and outputs and 16 analog inputs and outputs. Inputs from FOH are taken as a Left, Right, Sub and Fill configuration and two support band inputs via AES, with an analog backup for each input. The PRODIGY’s flexibility allows 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 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 Thorne complete control over the entire stadium d&b PA system.
The PRODIGY.MP also acts as the PA system clock master, using the FastSRCs 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 PRODIGY’s internal clock due to its reliability,” said Thorne.
When looking back on the tour, “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,” said Thorne.
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 onsite training at Solotech/Wigwam, Giaroli ensured that everyone was ready to work with the PRODIGY when rehearsals of the large production started.
Thorne 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.” In addition, Giaroli ‘s responsiveness to any support needs made the team feel well-equipped for the upcoming tour.
Hadji said “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,” said 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.”