Game of Thrones

by Thomas S. Friedman
in Production Profile
Photos by Todd Kaplan
Photos by Todd Kaplan

Not exactly your “typical” tour, the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience wrapped up last month, with the show’s composer Ramin Djawadi bringing the music of the wildly popular HBO series Game of Thrones off the screen and onto an in-the-round, 360-degree live immersive stage concert experience featuring 807 linear feet of jumbotrons and 3-D designs that rise from the stage floor. Oh, and sound — lots of sound.

Music-wise, it wasn’t quite the “usual” either. Djawadi conducted an 80-piece orchestra/choir performing highlights from the series’ musical score that included nearly a dozen unique instruments designed specifically for the show.

Game of Thrones Live photo by Todd Kaplan

The 24-city arena tour throughout North America tour kicked off Feb. 20, 2017 at the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis and then wound itself through 18 states and three provinces before ending on April 2nd at Portland’s Moda Center. Handling audio for the outing was VER Tour Sound, employing a massive 134-box Meyer Sound rig.

FOH engineer Greg Collins

‡‡         Big, Big Show

Two circular main stages, named “King’s Landing” and “Winterfell,” were powered by 96 Meyer Sound LYON-M two-way, double-12 line array boxes, 32 1100-LFC Low Frequency Control Element double-18 subs and six JM-1P 15-inch two-way, trapezoidal cabinets. Between the two main stages are four smaller stages, with each named after different locations from the world of Game of Thrones. A runway between the two main stages is also used as a location. The show reached full epic potential with scenery and footage from the show displayed via LED telescoping and wall screens.

Monitor Engineer Adam Stuart

The production is nothing short of epic — in every sense. The statistics associated with the presentation are on a scale that rivals the sweeping landscapes of the Seven Kingdoms on the continent of Westeros. The two connected main stages and five satellite stages are illuminated by 250-plus lighting instruments. More than 800 linear feet of video wall, moving multi-tiered screens suspended above the two main stages plus four IMAG screens are used to create scenic backdrops and display footage from the first six seasons of the popular HBO series. Everything is transported in 15 semi-trucks, which, along with eight buses for the musicians and crew, have traveled nearly 12,000 miles by the end of the six-week tour.

Conductor/composer Ramin Djawadi. Photos by Todd Kaplan

‡‡         Inside the Mix

Besides the lighting, staging and immense sound system, another key part of bringing the Seven Kingdoms on the continent of Westeros to life — where most of the action in Game of Thrones take place — comes via three DiGiCo mixing consoles.

A DiGiCo SD7 is at the FOH position, manned by Grammy Award-winning engineer Greg Collins, with a second SD7 at monitors, helmed by veteran engineer Adam Stuart, whose credits include working with top acts such as Kiss, Mötley Crüe and Alice in Chains. A DiGiCo SD11 handles utility mixing functions. “The thought behind the SD11 is to be able to do what we need to do with the P.A. and tune the rig before the front of house console is tied in, because originally front of house was going to be isolated in a separate room,” explains VER’s Beau Alexander. However, those plans changed during production rehearsals, he noted. “Now, Greg is located just off the big King’s Landing stage.”

The size of this monster drum dwarfs the E-V RE20 mic used to capture it.

The DiGiCo desks were chosen for several reasons, Alexander says. “Number one, it’s an engineer preference. Number two, the production is at 156 inputs.” The production’s 65-piece orchestra and 15-member choir are comprised of touring and local pickup musicians, plus eight traveling instrumental and vocal soloists — all conducted by Djawadi. And this is anything but the typical rock/pop tour — the show features nearly a dozen unique instruments designed specifically for the show, including the 12-foot Wilding horn.

Due to the multiple screens and overhead set pieces, the Meyer LYON P.A. system for the 360 degree in-the-round performance had to be hung in high ‘J” arrays’ and aimed steeply downward.

Alexander added that “being able to link the SD Racks together via the Optocore network made life a lot easier. Then, being able to dedicate which output cards the engineers can see, based on location — whether front of house or monitors — also makes life easier.”

Individual violins and violas were miked via clip-on DPA 4099’s.

The tour is carrying five DiGiCo SD-Racks, split between inputs and outputs at FOH and monitor world and also supporting Pro Tools HD playback. “The whole show is run off time code,” says Alexander. “All the counts and everything that the conductor sees is all mapped to time code and everything is clocked from Pro Tools. As Pro Tools is running at 48 kHz, the whole system, including the desks, is also at 48k.”

A distant view of the orchestra and..

...a closer look.

Layout of the players during an orchestral soundcheck. Note the plexi barriers between the horn and string sections.

‡‡         The End… and Beyond

The “Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience” features some of the most memorable character themes and songs from the show’s six-year run to-date. “It really is all about the music,” Alexander comments. “They use the video to tie in whatever song they’re playing, using clips from that moment of the show, to put you into that place in the show.” According to the production statistics, by the end of the tour the performers will have played the Game of Thrones main title 850 times.

Game of Thrones, from another angle. Photo by Todd Kaplan

The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience wrapped up in Portland, Oregon on April 2 — but we have a feeling that we may just see a reprise of this successful production at some future date, as HBO recently announced that the show’s seventh season would premiere on July 16.

The enormous toms in the vast percussion setup were captured mainly by Heil PR-40 close-in mics and AKG C-414 overheads.

Game of Thrones Tour

CREW

  • Sound, Lighting & Video Company: VER Tour Sound
  • FOH Engineer: Greg Collins
  • Monitor Engineer: Adam Stuart
  • VER Sales/Accounts: Beau Alexander
  • Production Manager: Jimmy Pettinato
  • Stage Manager: Steve Roman

The audio crew takes a rare breather to gather for a group photo.

AUDIO SYSTEM

  • Main P.A.: (96) Meyer Sound LYON-M line array boxes, (6) JM-1P trapezoidal cabinets
  • Subwoofers: (32) Meyer Sound 1100-LFC Low Frequency Control Elements
  • FOH Console: DiGiCo SD7
  • Utility Console: DiGiCo SD11
  • Monitor Console: DiGiCo SD7

A Point Source Audio CR-8D headset mic was the ideal solution for miking featured winds soloist Pedro Eustache’s assortment of instruments.

A Slick Miking Trick

The featured winds soloist for the tour, Pedro Eustache “was honored” to be invited on the outing by composer Ramin Djawadi. Eustache, is a flautist, reeds, world woodwinds, wind synthesist, composer and lecturer, with his career spanning more four decades. He has a long history of symphonic experience and a collection of some 600 instruments from all over the world, many of which he designed, built or modified himself.

Eustache channels Game of Thrones’ iconic “Songs of Ice and Fire” through 15 different instruments including and a 12-foot horn he flexes across the stage, saying it feels “like I’m doing martial arts.” Capturing the eight exotic flutes he plays on the tour, Eustache uses a Point Source Audio flagship CR-8D cardioid headset microphone. Besides offering the sonic quality he was seeking, the mic also provides a few additional bonus features that proved invaluable on the tour.

Using a headset model — rather than detachable instrument mics — was a clear advantage. “I can get it incredibly close to my mouth to capture the sounds,” said Eustache. “A typical instrument mic is not going to work; I play too many instruments and they’re not that practical for me.”

He also took advantage of the CR-8D extendable boom length, which “allows me a lot of placement choices.” added Eustache. Additionally, the mic’s “unbreakable boom” flexibility allowed Eustache to quickly stair-step the mic’s boom to the right angle no matter which instrument he was playing. He also cited the CR-8D’s collapsible ear hooks as a definite convenience. The mic can “become incredibly compact for transportation,” he noted.

Immediately after the “Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience” tour, Eustache was on the road again, this time with the Hans Zimmer Live Tour. And given his headset mic success for that outing, he would also be packing Point Source Audio flagship CR-8D.

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