The new home of BBC Studios & Post Production, Elstree Film Studios operates around a Madi/fibre-optic infrastructure and flexible routing and mixing framework, with Studer Vista and OnAir technology at its core.

BBC PostOnly the second show to use the new facility, flagship BBC family show Strictly Come Dancing made full use of the George Lucas 1 sound gallery’s 70-fader Studer Vista 8 console for primary mixing. In addition, a Studer OnAir 3000 console was used for grams and as a system routing hub – with control from BBC Studios & Post Production’s Broadcast Network Control System. A Studer Vista 1 console took care of the surround mix and down-mix check for the BBC 1 HD channel feed.

Sound Supervisor Andy Tapley specified the audio system, which is replicated across the other BBC Studios & Post Production facilitiess at Elstree, in order to maintain consistency and cope with some of the UK’s most complex TV productions. Strictly Come Dancing is one of most demanding: ‘By half past six on a Saturday night we have to be ready to go,’ Tapley says. ‘And that involves the live music as well, which is one of the things that sets Strictly apart from other shows.

‘The music is incredibly diverse,’ he explains. ‘It can range from Carmen to classical pieces to heavy rock for the next one. We rely on instant snapshot recall. You can’t rely on the woodwind section just being one type of instrument so you might have to dial in another 15dB on a mic, plus high-pass filtering, just to get a flute through – and it has to happen just like that.’

Studer D21 I/O systems were used for approximately 150 feeds from the show floor, including a 20-piece band and 60 channels of RF from contestants, presenters, a judging panel and IEM systems. More were used for the Vision Apparatus Room (VAR) I/O, the grams/OnAir 3000 system, and the reverb/outboard bay.

Studer OnAir 3000 The Vista 8 was the main show console, configured as a dual-operator desk for Tapley and Sound Mixer Tony Revell. ‘The dividing line between operators is constantly re-definable,’ Tapley says. ‘It doesn’t have to be set before hand – if I need a hand I can drag and drop channels anywhere, as we go.’

On the evening, Tapley takes responsibility for the band mix, while Revel manages all mic feeds, including an extensive audience mic set-up. The Vista’s cascading control groups make the surround stem provisions straightforward, while for Tapley every spare moment before the show starts is an bonus: ‘Because of the schedule, we grab every opportunity we can to refine the music mix,’ he says. ‘The second we get a break we can, at the press of a button, turn our band channels round to their second inputs and have the multitrack replay back though, refine the mix, and then save that as a snapshot.’

The new Studer VistaMix automatic mixing system was used for managing the judges’ and contestants’ microphones – especially effective in the show’s mezzanine area where co-presenter Tess Daily and the contestants gather in close proximity, often contributing ad-hoc comments.

Through productions like Strictly, the facilities and crew at BBC Studios & Post Production, Elstree are proving themselves on the biggest and most demanding broadcast productions around. Studer’s Vista and OnAir systems are part of that story.

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