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News Feature: Streaming Paul McCartney Live from Grand Central Station in NYC

by FOH Staff • in
  • Features
  • January 2019
• Created: January 16, 2019

NEW YORK — Typically, when a live Paul McCartney concert is organized, the venue is a massive stadium or a mega-festival appearance. However, to promote his recent Egypt Station album, the ex-Beatle wanted to go small — in this case, an intimate show for some 300 lucky individuals at the former main waiting room in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

In 2013, the locale was converted to a 6,000 square-foot space used as a multipurpose room for events and receptions. But beyond the 300 or so fans in attendance, the 102-minute “Paul McCartney Live from NYC” performance would also be streamed free to millions of viewers around the globe as a YouTube Originals production, so the audio had to be spot-on perfect.

Sir Paul’s usual sound company of choice, Clair Global, provided the live consoles and front-end, with Firehouse Productions bringing in the racks and stacks — in this case, a relatively modest P.A. rig that was appropriate to the intimate space. The feed from live FOH engineer Pablo Boothroyd was routed to two recording vehicles, supplied by Music Mix Mobile, with the main truck helmed by producer Giles Martin, and recording engineers John Harris and Steve Orchard.

David Kahne photo by Jen Maler

In the smaller M3 truck was producer/engineer David Kahne. Featuring a set list of Beatles and Wings classics combined with songs from Egypt Station, Kahne’s job was to ensure that the vocal mix for the stream was picture perfect, and with only half an hour of delay between the live performance and the streamcast, do-overs were a luxury he did not have. Kahne chose Steinberg Nuendo 8 for this critical mission.

“I was in one of two broadcast trucks,” Kahne explains. “The first took a split from the FOH mixer, and that truck sent me about 20 stems: drums, bass, the rest of the instruments, then individual tracks for all the vocals. I was taking feeds into two redundant MacBook Pro laptops, so I could stop one to tweak and sweeten tracks while the other kept recording. I would do that, render the audio, copy it all to a USB stick, then physically run that up to the guys in the video editing suite, again and again, sneaker-net style.”

What aspects of Nuendo helped Kahne rise to this challenge? “The main thing I like about it is that it always works,” he laughs. “With a running half-hour window in which to do everything, it all had to go down without a hitch. I’ve run much larger projects on just a laptop — such as a recent project for National Geographic where I had over 100 tracks — and Nuendo is always extremely stable.”

Another factor of the slim time frame in which Kahne had to work is that any audio processing and sweetening had to be done with the most ready-to-hand tools. “For doubling or tripling vocals, the Automatic Audio Alignment tool in Nuendo is simply amazing. You select one track as your timing guide, then you can select a bunch of other tracks and — boink — they all sync up with the timing of the master. We had to do plenty of this in real time, and it’s normally a tedious process that requires busing to and from a third-party plug-in like VocALign. In Nuendo it’s just crazy. You can make it happen in, like, two seconds.”

Speaking of third-party plug-ins, Nuendo relieved Kahne of using them. “Because I had to work so fast, I didn’t need to be searching for the perfect plug-in for every track,” he recalls. “The fact is, the plug-ins included with Nuendo — the brickwall limiter, the EQs, the compressors on each track — all sound so good and are so well-integrated with the program that for this show they were preferable to anything third-party. Though this was a simple stereo mix, I’m also very impressed that all the bundled compressors are surround-compatible.”

Nuendo’s time-accuracy also proved invaluable. “I’ll mention time code only to say I didn’t really need to think about it,” says Kahne. “Everything came in time-stamped, and when I finished working, I gave the rendered files to the video guys, and all of it synced up with their workflow perfectly.”

Kahne concludes by reaffirming that his three favorite Nuendo features are “stability, stability, and stability. It never gives me any glitches, freezes or dropouts, even with tons of tracks, even on just a laptop. For my composition and more MIDI-centric work I love Cubase, but for anything to do with film or video, or live streaming, it’s Nuendo all the way.”

 

Paul McCartney Live from NYC

Date: Sept. 7, 2018

Venue: Grand Central Terminal, New York

Producer: YouTube Originals

LOGISTICS

Sound: Clair Global, Firehouse Productions

Broadcast Audio Trucks: Music Mix Mobile

CREW

FOH Engineer: Pablo Boothroyd

Broadcast Audio Producer: Giles Martin

Bcast Engineers: John Harris, Steve Orchard

Streaming Mix Engineer: David Kahne

BAND

Paul McCartney: bass, guitar, keys, vocals

Rusty Anderson: lead guitar, vocals

Brian Ray: guitar, bass, vocals

Paul “Wix” Wigens: keys, guitar, accordion, vocals

Abe Laboriel Jr.: drums, vocals

SET LIST

  • A Hard Day’s Night/Hi Hi Hi
  • Can’t Buy Me Love
  • Letting Go
  • I’ve Got a Feeling
  • Come On to Me
  • My Valentine
  • Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
  • From Me to You
  • Love Me Do
  • FourFiveSeconds
  • Blackbird
  • Dance Tonight
  • Who Cares
  • I Saw Her Standing There
  • Fuh You/Back in the USSR
  • Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  • Birthday
  • Lady Madonna
  • Let It Be
  • Sgt. Peppers (Reprise)
  • Helter Skelter
  • Golden Slumbers
  • Carry That Weight
  • The End

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