The phantom sound source of the opera

Peter Hecker on working with Sequoia and his greatest live mix challenges at the Bayreuth Festival.

The Bayreuth Festival has been taking place on the green hill in Bayreuth since 1876. This institution of musical history is exclusively devoted to the operas of Richard Wagner, who originally commissioned the festival hall to be built in 1872. The live broadcast of the music festival set a milestone in broadcasting history in 1931 with over 200 European, African and American stations tuning in.

Responsible for the broadcasting and production of this year's performance of "Tristan and Iseult" is established sound master Peter Hecker. Since Katharina Wagner took over the management of the festival, the performances have been shown live in movie theaters and on TV, and have also been made available on DVD. Peter Hecker has worked regularly with the festival, having overseen the productions of The Flying Dutchman, Parsifal and Lohengrin since 2011. To meet the high standards of this renowned event, Peter Hecker uses a Sequoia system for live mixing, which is connected to RME hardware via MADI. At the festival, up to 64 tracks are recorded together direct in Sequoia. During the live mixing, the challenge is to make sure that no discrete stereo signals get sent to the broadcasters. This means that the stereo signal, which ends up on your TV at home, has to be generated first from the Surround mix. Changes to the Surround mix also always influence the stereo mix simultaneously, without this being directly audible. Peter frequently has to cope with comb filter effects in addition to differences in duration and levels between the channels and moving phantom sources. The lack of a stereo signal is justified by the fact that the end device, normally a television, isn't standardized and handles stereo signals in different ways. Leaving the mixing out guarantees that the devices all get the signal from the same source and process it in the same way, even if this means the live mixing becomes more difficult.

Peter usually has two recordings to work with when editing the sound for the DVD production: One from the dress rehearsal and one from the live broadcast. Since this means he's working with two complete takes of the entire performance, Peter uses the Sequoia-exclusive features Source Destination Edit and Multi-Synchronous Cut. This makes it easier for him to exchange problematic parts in the recording with the identical part in the other take.

„MuSyc and SD Edit really save me a lot of time. The cuts are placed so precisely that I don't even have to listen again to check them. It works like a charm."

Right after the broadcast, he receives the video files in the production truck. The SD Edit feature also makes it possible to synchronize video to music. This way Peter can see that his mix is compatible with the available video footage and doesn't need to make any additional changes. Without SD Edit, the project would need to be sent back and forth between Peter and the video people to obtain the same results.

After the video department has finished editing, Peter receives the recording to be mixed for the DVD. In his studio, another Sequoia system is used for playback. The mixing is done on an old Studer mixing console. Following mixing, all necessary formats are generated during mastering. As opposed to a live mix, a discrete stereo mix is generated in addition to 5.1 Surround and burned to DVD. The resulting master is sent to the press to be duplicated and then sold in stores on DVD.