12 December 2007, LAS VEGAS — Following her five-year, 700-plus performance run with A New Day at the Caesar’s Palace Colosseum in Las Vegas, Celine Dion is now poised to embark upon her first world tour in eight years. Her highly anticipated return to the road – which is in support of a new album, Taking Chances – is also newsworthy in that it will benefit from a pair of brand new Studer Vista 5 SR digital live sound consoles, a design that was unveiled at the recent AES Convention in New York City.
Pictured with the Studer Vista 5 SR during system set-up and rehearsals for Celine Dion’s upcoming Taking Chances world tour are (left to right): FOH Engineer François “Frankie” Desjardins; Tour Manager Denis Savage; Studer USA Sales Manager Jamie Dunn; and Monitor Engineer Charles Ethier.
Purchased by Quebec-based production company Solotech – which has been providing sound, video and lighting systems for Dion since 1992 – the two Vista 5 SR desks will handle front-of-house and stage monitor duties throughout the Canadian songstress’ entire 2008/2009 world tour. Commencing with its first show on Valentine’s Day in Johannesburg, South Africa, the concert itinerary is scheduled to run at least a year and visit a wide array of venues ranging from intimate ballrooms to huge stadiums across South Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe/UK, North America, and the Middle East.
During rehearsals in Las Vegas for the tour, Dion’s FOH engineer, François “Frankie” Desjardins, explains his reasons for selecting the digital Studer Vista 5 SR consoles. “All of the systems we considered sound good and offer similar features. But, for me, the top three reasons for going with the Vista 5 SR were easy. Number one, it is very compact and light. Since we will be taking the console with us throughout the tour” – the production will only carry its complete PA system on the European and North American legs of the tour – “weight is very important. And its small footprint means that we can place it within the audience” without taking up valuable seating space.
“Secondly,” the engineer continues, “the Vista 5 SR produces very little heat. When touring Australia in February, for example, the local temperatures can cause major reliability problems with equipment that runs hot. Finally, we need a design that can handle FOH and monitors equally efficiently. Our operators will be out on the road for perhaps two years, so we may need to swap between mix positions; having to learn two console systems just wasn’t viable for us. The Vista 5 SR is perfect for our needs and very quick to use.” In addition, “maintenance of the console is easier – we will need to carry fewer spare parts – and we’ll have a better knowledge of the product,” he considers.
Denis Savage, Dion’s longtime FOH engineer and now tour manager, offers that mixing on-stage monitors for the Taking Chances tour – a task that will fall to Charles Ethiere – will be particularly complex. “We have a number of sound sources and other elements locked to video that need to be sent to different artists. Because we are planning [to provide] 16 stereo monitor mixes, the Vista 5 SR’s routing flexibility is a big deal for us.” The front-of-house Vista 5 SR features 64 mono inputs (54 plus 10 spares), 36 stereo inputs (15 plus eight effects returns and five spares), eight aux mono outputs (seven effects sends plus a spare), ten aux stereo outputs (eight sends to stage plus two spares), eight stereo group busses, four master stereo and four stereo matrix busses; all channels and outputs feature full signal processing. The monitor Vista 5 SR offers 64 mono and 36 stereo inputs, routing to 16 aux mono and 20 aux stereo outputs, plus a master stereo and 20 stereo matrix busses.
The Vista 5 SR console is a road-ready version of the standard Vista 5 and features Studer’s powerful Vistonics™ graphics-based user interface. The patented display/control technology utilizes an array of encoders mounted directly into TFT screens that provide immediate access to all channel and output settings. The system is supplied with preset configurations to handle dedicated front-of-house and monitor applications. A stand-alone Config Editor streamlines the set-up of the Vista 5 SR’s channel/bus topology, with all setup parameters for each show capable of being saved and recalled from memory or a USB device. An expandable I/O array accommodates the available Studer D21m Series cards, including CobraNet™ and Aviom A-Net®. MADI is used along the optical snake link from stagebox to the FOH/monitor processing rack.
“We’ve had great support from Studer,” Desjardins concludes, “but I think Jamie Dunn from Studer USA made the difference. He spent many hours with us in Las Vegas. Given that our audio setup is a bit unusual for FOH and monitors, he was able to build two different setups really quickly, and it worked the first time. That made a positive influence on us regarding the choice of Studer consoles.”
“We are constantly investing in cutting-edge technology,” adds Solotech Sound Department Special Project Director Mario St-Onge, “and continually developing ever more effective solutions. Our sound, lighting and video teams work together [to] find the best solutions.”