Faced with a potentially time-consuming and costly refurbishment of a vintage Neve desk at the Blue Man Group studios in Manhattan, Creative Development Music Director Todd Perlmutter instead purchased a new 32-channel Rupert Neve Designs 5088 discrete analog mixing console. In collaboration with technical service and wiring company dB Sound Design and studio furniture specialists Sterling Modular, Perlmutter has now finished converting the 5088 into a one-of-a-kind console incorporating sixteen 1064 and sixteen original 1081 mic preamp/EQ modules in a custom penthouse section.
Perlmutter, Blue Man Group’s longtime recording engineer, is enthusiastic about the streamlined workflow of the unique new console: "My mics come in and go through my 1081 mic preamps, which go straight to the tape machine. Each tape machine monitor output goes right into the fader on the same channel. When I go to mix, if I want to put the 1081 EQ in, I just take the channel out of "tape" and it switches to the signal from tape going directly through the EQ. I work in Pro Tools but I also do fully analog, old school recording, so this is so much cleaner, so much more direct.
As Perlmutter notes, with a typical tape session it’s necessary to get a mix together before continuing a tracking session. But when he first brought a current tape session into the new 5088, he reports, "The first thing I noticed was that I could throw the faders up and hear everything right away; I didn’t even have to spend time getting the mix together. The amount of murk that disappeared with the 5088 was remarkable. Everybody noticed it immediately."
There was already a classic Neve 8048 console in a tracking room at the former Loho Studios on Manhattan’s Lower East Side when Blue Man Group relocated their rehearsal and production facilities there. Perlmutter subsequently discovered that he could buy a new Rupert Neve-designed console for only about twice the cost of refurbishing the old 8048. Initially planning to rack-mount the modules from the 8048 for use with the new console, he and Jeff DelBello, of New Jersey-based dB Sound Design, soon discovered that the modules were almost exactly the same width as a 5088 channel. "We came up with the idea of putting it all together into one console, one standalone item that could one day be moved if necessary," says DelBello.
DelBello delivered the modules and frame parts from the 8048 and an old Neve film console that had been in storage to Sterling Modular in Boyertown, PA. "They assembled the frame again for us", he reports, "but there were some challenges. Neve never made buckets larger than 12 modules wide. The weight of the modules would cause bowing or sagging in the center of the bucket. Sterling was able to reinforce the chassis to allow 16-channel buckets to be built and keep the modules centered over the 5088 input channels." DelBello wired the 1064 and 1081 modules into the 5088 frame, along with a number of custom panels and a DK-Technologies MSD series surround sound meter display in the 5088’s center section.
According to Jim Maher at Sterling Modular, "Because the 1081 modules were larger than the 5088 penthouse, we designed an entirely new penthouse with additional dividers and structure. At the same time we built in the DK meters and provided space for additional controls. We then added a matching 19-inch-wide patchbay and fabricated custom mahogany side trims to finish it off."
The first project for the new 5088 was a 5.1 mix of a Blue Man Group piece promoting Panasonic 3-D televisions. Perlmutter had previously performed 5.1 mixes on Blue Man Group’s SSL console, but notes, "The way that we were able to set up the busses and the auxes on the 5088 was just as easy to do without having to make any modifications." Perlmutter reports that the 5088 console will now get a good workout on a busy summer schedule of music production, audio and video post production, and sound design for Blue Man Group shows in Japan and aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic, as well as for its U.S. National Tour launching Fall 2010.
About Blue Man Group:
Blue Man Group is best known for its widely popular theatrical shows and concerts that combine music, comedy and multimedia theatrics to produce a totally unique form of entertainment. The blissful party atmosphere created at the live events has become the trademark of a Blue Man Group experience. Currently, Blue Man Group theatrical shows can be seen in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, Tokyo, Berlin, on tour throughout Europe, and on board the new Norwegian Epic by Norwegian Cruise Line – the Official Cruise Line of Blue Man Group. This fall, a touring production of the theatrical show will begin its journey around the U.S. As the company grows, it remains true to its vision of providing exciting experiences in a variety of media, appealing to a broad range of age groups and cultural backgrounds. Learn more at www.blueman.com.