The summer kicked off for SSE Audio Group with MTV Crashes Coventry at the end of May, then for the next 15 weeks SSE Hire’s Redditch warehouse was a constant production line of prepping, packing, dispatching, unpacking and re-prepping the company’s festival systems.
L-Acoustics K1 ready to load out
Amp Racks for T In The Park
Rigging K1 for Download
SSE Hire invested in L-Acoustics KS28 for 2016
Yamaha CL5 was deployed for monitors
SSE's revised DriveRack 2
Across the summer, SSE supplied a total of 36 stages on 23 festival sites. Over 50 megacube articulated trucks were required to ship the equipment from Redditch to site. On average each weekend SSE Hire were supplying 138 line array cabinets and 72 sub bass cabinets just to meet its festival commitments.
SSE’s Hire Operations Manager Stefan Phillips expanded on the numbers, “If you look at the totals for the summer we sent out over 500 K1 cabinets, 600 K2 cabinets, 900 subs and nearly 600 wedge monitors. The festivals have required 179 crew to be on site (crew numbers on a single site can range between 2 and 8), many of whom were moving straight from one project to the next.
“Typically we’d have trucks tipping from a weekend’s festivals on a Monday and everything had to be tested, prepped and out on a truck again by Tuesday afternoon. The only way we can achieve these turnarounds is by running the warehouse like a military operation.”
SSE MD John Penn added, "None of this would be possible without the fantastic commitment and support we get from all our staff in the warehouse. Desk prep, the wireless team, the service department, I could go on - every department has to work together and they deliver for us week in week out to ensure every system leaves the warehouse fully prep'd and on time."
To meet the tight turnaround times SSE is constantly looking to refine its festival package. At the beginning of May they assembled Flip-Flop A, a control system that includes two Avid Venue Profile consoles for Front of House, two Yamaha CL5 consoles for monitors, an SSE Drive Rack and all the ancillary equipment required to run a festival system. This package then stayed together as a system throughout the summer. Alongside this an identical Flip Flop B was assembled for the two-festival weekends and then Flip Flops C and D were added to cover off additional requirements such as second stages and one off events.
With a standardised control system, SSE then tailors the speaker and amplification package to the requirements of the individual stage or festival. SSE retains a core crew of engineers throughout the summer who can be interchanged from festival to festival yet all have the experience of the SSE system.
For 2016 SSE expanded its existing L-Acoustics festival solution, based around the K1 and K2 systems.. The Hire department invested in the latest L-Acoustics KS28 subs with LA12X amplification and these were well received by engineers on the circuit.
"You’d have thought that one sub is much the same as the next, however I was surprised at just how musical they are," commented FOH Engineer, Robbie McGrath. “Their tone and energy is absolutely second to none compared to anything else on the market.”
SSE also opted to upgrade the consoles used on monitors, from Yamaha PM5Ds to Yamaha CL5s. Output requirements have steadily increased over the years,” commented Dan Bennett SSE Hire Manager. “24 ‘outs’ used to be fine, but with more wedges, sidefills and stereo in-ear monitors, nowadays that isn’t enough, so the CL5 was the obvious replacement as a monitor desk.”
Much of SSE’s development work has been focused on simplifying the setup procedures on site, with the aim of saving time and making hire systems more flexible and reliable. At the heart of every SSE festival system is the SSE DriveRack, which SSE has further refined this year. The key hardware remains the same including Lake Processors and an Antelope world clock, but the packaging of the rack has been greatly improved.
Dan Bennett explained, “By patching all the inputs and outputs onto the rear panel of DriveRack, our systems can be quickly setup and configured. They can accommodate just about every conceivable production request from front of house engineers. By making the panel hingeable, our engineers can get access to the individual units quickly to make a change.”
“The new rack is all about making the system tech’s life that much simpler. It’s not just a case of providing somewhere for them to recharge their phone, but features like the provision of a wifi tablet really help when we are conducting the initial system equalisation and conducting walkabouts during a show.”
The aptly named ‘End of the Road’ Festival took place over the first weekend in September at Larmer Tree Gardens in Wiltshire, bringing to a close SSE’s festival season.
And breathe....... until we start it all again next year!
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