Britannia Row Productions provided comprehensive audio reinforcement for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, including the main house systems for all three stages and the live rig for headline act, Queen + Adam Lambert.
Britannia Row has an impeccable track record of delivering audio equipment and crew for Britain’s Royal occasions; the Queen’s Silver, Diamond and recent Platinum Jubilee mark a decades long relationship with the prestigious events.
This year, even before the set design had been finalised, broadcast sound supervisors Kev Duff and Andy Deacon decided that Ben Milton of Ben Milton Associates was the right person to create a TV-friendly sound design for this huge hybrid live / broadcast show.
“I’ll turn away a show if I can’t manage the live and broadcast elements holistically and it was certainly no exception given the huge logistical task of running a globally watched event like this,” says Kev Duff of Zen Broadcast. “Luckily, the BBC understand the importance of the broadcast / live link and always support us in this area.”
When it came to the live sound rental company, it was a combination of Brit Row’s staff and capabilities that that helped secure its place in the anticipated production.
“Brit Row have a fantastic talent pool and massive resources to help out when a job is this big,” begins Milton. “Brit Row’s Josh Lloyd and Laurie Fradley have the kind of gravitas and knowledge that just puts everyone at ease with something that could potentially be daunting.”
The momentous Jubilee event named Platinum Party at the Palace – saw Alicia Keys, Hans Zimmer, Ella Eyre, Craig David, Mabel, Elbow and George Ezra, Duran Duran, Andrea Bocelli, Mimi Webb, Sam Ryder, Jax Jones, Celeste, Nile Rodgers, Sigala and Diversity perform. The concert was broadcast on the BBC to a huge audience, while estimates suggest that there was also a million people in attendance at the height of the show held outside Buckingham Palace.
“We started on the Monday with two and half days of rehearsal, but between the Beacon Lighting Ceremony on the Thursday and Trooping of the Colour on the Friday, it became a very intense situation very quickly,” says Milton, who was keen to highlight how integral the 50-strong audio team was in creating a success of the complex assignment.
“The final audio design consisted of two ‘cake stand’ stages and one that ran all the way around the Queen Victoria Memorial,” he explains. “I knew I was going to have to treat them all as individual stages, in terms of imaging, so the loudspeaker design needed to be timed in relation to each position. I used outboard’s TiMax spatial audio software for this, which basically became the lynchpin of the whole design.”
“Limited rehearsal time meant that Ben’s brilliant live sound design needed a great rental company to actually make his vision come to fruition. It really was a team effort that made this gig happen,” adds Duff.
“For me, capturing the sound is about hearing the event, not sanitising it. I need something in the room I can use, and both Ben and the Brit Row team provided exactly that - under the most testing of conditions.”
The North and South stages were designated as the Orchestral and Pop stages, respectively, simply due to the kind of musical artists they would feature, while the Queen Victoria Memorial stage served as the centrepiece of the design. Milton deployed flown loudspeaker systems on each stage, repurposing the speakers as delays when needed.
“It was quite an immersive take on a sound design,” he says. “I wanted to place each piece of sonic information where it was coming from, physically, while making sure everything was really clean and focussed for the TV side of things. I also wanted to avoid any spill or colouration between stages, as well as maintaining the clean, architectural look the set designers were going for.”
With so much to consider, Milton decided to stick to what he knew in terms of equipment, selecting an L-Acoustics K2/K3 PA system (due to his familiarity with both the hardware and Soundvision software) and a deployment of DiGiCo desks for both live and broadcast applications.
“DiGiCo are my go-to desks,” he says. “They sound fantastic, and with multiple artists and their engineers coming in, I knew the DiGiCo brand would be something that everyone would be happy to work with.”
Milton allocated two engineers per stage, as well as another handling the spoken word / presenter sections of the show. The broadcast audio department followed suit, with a truck per stage and a fourth gallery truck.
“Bill Birks, who mixed monitors on the Orchestral stage, had a busy time of it with a maxed-out Quantum 7,” says Milton. “Simon Fox was on FOH there, while Phil Down and Stefano Serpagli mixed monitors and FOH, respectively, on the Pop stage. There was also James Neale mixing monitors on the Queen Victoria Memorial stage, Chris Vass at FOH, and Chris Coxhead covering FOH duties for the spoken word portions. All in all, we were one big happy audio family!”
Milton also acknowledged the duty of care made by Brit Row personnel, who went above and beyond.
“Our account handler, Tom Brown, worked so hard. We were averaging around 13 miles per day walking around the massive site. It’s such an asset to have people like Tom around on a job of this scale. He’s amazing at dealing with the challenges associated with the site and will always take unexpected things – like the torrential rain and lightning on the first day – in his stride. I can’t thank him and Brit Row enough.”
Duff agrees: “With three broadcast trucks across multiple stages, we all had our work cut out, but the Brit Row team dealt with everything that was thrown at us with an attitude you can only obtain from years of perhaps the most under rated skill; experience!”