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Farm Aid 25: the mix is spot on with Lawo

Willie Nelson opening the Farm Aid Concert in Milwaukee

Geared to increase awareness of the importance of family farms, Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America, took place at Miller Park on Saturday, October 2nd. Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews performed, as did Kenny Chesney, Norah Jones, Jason Mraz, and several additional high profile artists. The event was broadcast on Willie’s Place, Sirius/XM Radio as well as DIRECTV's The 101 Network.

Ensuring the best possible audio quality for this event was a huge undertaking—one that was very ably managed by MTV’s Remote Unit 8 truck and its crew, which consisted of Marc Repp and Browning McCollum. At the center of all this activity, Lawo’s mc²66 digital audio console and Plug-in Server handled the mix.

Marc Repp is the Senior Audio Operations Engineer with Remote Unit 8 and Browning McCollum oversees technical and maintenance operations. In addition to engineering many of the events that Remote Unit 8 serves, Repp also handles mix assist duties when guest engineers are on on-site. For Farm Aid 25, Marc was the man behind the board. Seated at the 56-fader Lawo mc²66 console—configured as 48 and 8 faders with eight DSP cards (the maximum number available) for over 500 fully processed DSP channels, Repp was tasked with mixing all music performances. Interestingly, only half of the acts actually had a sound check prior to the show. This presented several challenges, as Repp explained.


“For this year’s Farm Aid, which I mixed for broadcast in 5.1 surround sound, I only had actual sound checks with half the acts on the roster,” Repp reports. “For those acts, I was able to use the mc²66’s snapshot automation capabilities and simply recall the appropriate mix. The bigger challenge occurred with the remaining acts that never had a sound check. For those eight or so acts, I was advised of the inputs, what lines I could find them on, and we essentially mixed on the fly.”

“One aspect of the mc²66 that really helped me address this situation is its DSP Library feature where you can save favorite DSP setups per channel and they remain with the console until you actually delete them since they’re not project specific,” Repp continued. “I had saved several favorite kick drum settings, drum settings, guitar settings, voice settings, etc., and I used these as starting points for those acts we never did a sound check with. This way, I didn’t have to completely define EQ, compression, and a host of other parameters for each new act.”

Lawo’s Plug-in Server, which accepts all VST-type audio processing plug-ins without any modification, integrates seamlessly with the company’s mc² series consoles and has a dramatic impact on the manner in which DSP processing takes place at the mc²66. The system is integrated with the Lawo HD Core processor, with control of the system originating at the console. This eliminates the all-too-common process of patching external processing equipment into the console and, as Repp points out, is a tremendous time saver.

“We mix a lot of multiple act TV shows and recordings,” said Repp, “and if you’re setting up an outside processor on an act to act basis, somebody has to keep up with all those settings so they can be reset as you move from one act to another. By contrast, if the signal processing is saved as part of the console’s automation—as it is with the Plug-in Server—it gets recalled as part of the snapshot and is ready to go instantaneously. In addition to dynamics processors such as compression and limiting, we can just as easily deploy reverbs, delays, and other effects that, previously, were only available via the outboard gear.”

As he turned his attention to his next project, Repp offered this closing thought. “The mc²66 was, absolutely, the right tool for the job on this project,” he summarized. “The fact that it uses the DSP Plug-in server enabled me to have rapid access to a huge amount of DSP capability without ever leaving the console. There’s no patching in of external gear and everything’s extremely fast in terms of its operation. The entire system sounds great and comes together to save you a tremendous amount of time and frustration when you’re scrambling to get a mix up. Those of us working in Remote Unit 8 also work with other manufacturers’ equipment and, frankly, I feel as though the other companies are playing catch-up to Lawo. At the end of the day, it’s all about sound quality—and this is where the Lawo system excels.


About Lawo AG

Lawo, headquartered in Rastatt/Germany, specialises in developing, designing and manufacturing mixing consoles and matrix systems for radio and TV broadcasters, as well as for use in live events. Standards of high quality and innovative technology are supported by decades of experience in the field of professional audio technology. In 2010, the company celebrates its 40th anniversary.Lawo’s product range covers digital audio mixing consoles for use in radio, broadcast, production and live applications, including the required software. In addition to the provision of matrix systems and audio networks, Lawo also carries out project engineering tasks and acts as a main contractor for radio OB trucks; these services include user training and maintenance. This high level of expertise results in a comprehensive support service for Lawo customers.