The Grammy Awards broadcast (Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on CBS) is arguably the largest musical event of the year, featuring live performances from some of the biggest names in music.
What you may not realize while you’re watching the event at home Sunday evening is that each one of the 21 live performances during this year’s show were only rehearsed with the live crew just a few times.
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Every Grammy performer was given between an hour to an hour and half Thursday through Saturday to rehearse in LA’s Staples Center. Take away time spent on things like figuring out how to get gear on and off stage and selecting camera shots, and you’re often left with just three passes of the song on stage for audio, certainly the most important part of the show.
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During that rehearsal time a sound engineer is sitting in a truck outside the Staples Center listening and tweaking, attempting to find the optimal audio settings for that performer.
While the Grammy’s sound engineer is in the driver's seat, someone associated with the artist on stage -- such as a producer, manager or sound professional -- is sitting right behind him, making suggestions for improving the overall output.
This year’s show has two main audio engineers who split the responsibilities of the 21 acts.
Once the artist’s rehearsal is complete, everyone in the truck heads to an identical vehicle parked beside the original to spend a little more time tweaking the audio for the performance. Meanwhile, the other sound engineer moves into truck number one to start on the next group’s rehearsal.
Called Horizon and Eclipse, the two trucks are identical down to their paint jobs, ensuring that what you hear in one truck will be exactly the same thing you hear in the other.
Redundancy is an ongoing theme at this year’s Grammy Awards. Almost every piece of equipment down the guitars has a double nearby, ensuring that if something fails there will be another piece of equipment on hand to replace it. Most of the audio and video equipment is set up in such a way that the switch is automatic, so if a piece of equipment fails the backup will automatically take over.
The two-truck system for audio also makes rehearsals for the show go much faster, simply because they can move on to the next performer while an engineer is still working with another. Before the two-truck system, the process would often mean long nights preceding the Grammys, with engineers working until 2 a.m. or later.
When the performers take the stage on Sunday, the audio levels on all equipment will already be set, ensuring the quality you hear at home is outstanding. While there will definitely be adjustments made on the spot the day of the performance, the rehearsal time gives the audio team an idea of what to expect.
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Microphones for vocals are all stored in numbered containers near the stage, with each number corresponding to a particular artist. The bins help prevent signals from microphones interfering with each other.
Microphones are all pre-placed on equipment, and instruments are all preset on risers that are moved on and off the stage in seconds. The only thing that needs to happen when the risers hit the stage is for them to be plugged in.
Audio is run from the Horizon and Eclipse trucks outside the Staples Center to another truck located under the arena called Denali. Denali is where you'll find the director for the show, and where the live broadcast is also being recorded for posterity, surprisingly on digital videotape. While the show will eventually be moved over to a tapeless digital format, videotape still remains the easiest way for the crew to capture the performance for posterity. Videotapes are also used to cut international versions of the broadcast later on.
In the Denali truck the audio and video for the show are combined, creating the final feed that is then sent to CBS in NYC using a giant satellite outside Staples Center to be broadcast.
Rehearsals are not done in order. A final dress rehearsal from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Sunday, just hours before going live, will be the first time the show is done from top to bottom.
A unique advantage of shooting the show live in Los Angeles, when the live broadcast wraps up, the recording has just started to be shown on the west coast. Once the live broadcast is over, the team will often hit a local bar to watch the show, unwind, and prepare for their next big broadcast.
Check out the gallery below for a look at some of what goes on behind the scenes at the show.
Are you excited about this year's Grammys? Let us know what you're looking forward to in the comments.
Photos by Mashable/Emily Price
This story originally published on Mashable here.
- Audio Technology
- Arts & Entertainment
- Staples Center