Solid State Logic System T at the heart of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, with 22 artists on 20 consecutive nights
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo returned for a 90th anniversary celebration this year after a private event in 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The world’s largest cattle show and rodeo, attracting 2.4 million attendees this year, the event also featured 21 consecutive nights of concerts, all captured via a Solid State Logic System T network audio production console and fed from stage to chamber music control via a range of SSL digital transport solutions.
The SSL System T S500-48 console, powered by a TE2 Tempest engine that supports up to 800 input and output paths with processing, is a new addition to the audio production setup for the rodeo, which takes place over three weeks in several indoor locations. and outdoor locations at NRG Park in Houston. The Dante-based System T was installed in a music control room near the NRG stadium, where the concerts are held, shortly before this year’s events.
System T S500: numerous networking options
Malcolm Harper, owner and operator of Reelsound Recording, a Texas-based mobile audio recording service, was at the event for its 28th time this year to mix shows for each artist. “Solid State Logic’s System T S500 gave me all the options to interface each tape’s audio with analog mic inputs, MADI Bridge, and SRC Dante units. The onboard effects and processing covered all my needs with great sound that SSL is known for,” says Harper.
Each year, Harper captures the concert performances on a multitrack recording system for the rodeo archive. It further generates a stereo mix which is transmitted to the broadcast control room near NRG Stadium. From there, it is also distributed throughout the park to places such as the NRG Center, NRG Arena, Breeding Area, shopping and dining areas, and other public areas.
Best talent on 21 consecutive nights
This year’s concert lineup featured music in a variety of musical genres from artists such as George Strait, Brad Paisley, Marshmello, Chris Stapleton, Khalid, Gwen Stefani, Dierks Bentley, Journey, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Ricky Martin , Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and others. Houston-based country music artist Cody Johnson became just the third performer to sell out an opening night at the event, drawing a crowd of 70,544 and entering the record books alongside by George Strait and Garth Brooks. Strait made his 31st appearance at RODEOHOUSTON®, playing this year’s closing night before an audience of 79,456, just 652 shy of his 2019 attendance record.
Each night’s concert at NRG Stadium follows the rodeo competitions that take place on dirt trucks and lay on the floor of the venue at the start of the three-week program. At the end of each night’s competitions, a 120-foot-wide automated, motorized stage in the shape of a five-pointed star is set up with the night’s musical production already in place. This year, to enable the transport of each performer’s audio from the stage to Harper’s music control room, connected by fiber optic cabling nearly half a mile away, SSL provided a selection of its interfaces. digital and analog capable of handling and converting a variety of formats.
The ultimate in flexibility
“Part of the challenge is being ready for anything,” says George Horton, SSL Vice President, Western Region. “We don’t know what brand of console artists are going to offer, or what sample rate or split flavor they’re going to provide.” To deal with any eventuality, he says, SSL provided several units from the company’s Network I/O product line, which were housed in a rack at the side of the stage next to the monitor mix position. and powered the System T on a single mode. fiber link.
Two Net I/O MADI Bridge devices, with built-in sample rate conversion, were available to each accept 64 channels of audio at 48 kHz, supporting a total of 128 inputs. Each MADI bridge could alternately take two 32-channel 96 kHz streams and combine them into a single 64-channel 48 kHz Dante stream, handling 128 channels of 96 kHz MADI between them if necessary, Horton explains.
“We also provided an HC Bridge SRC, an optically isolated Dante bridge. If someone came in with a Dante split, we could take up to 256 Dante channels at 48k or 96k,” he says.
As an analog option, Horton continues, “there was a traditional 64-channel copper split that ran from the stage umbilical to a rack room in the stadium. There we had three SSL SB 32.24 stage boxes handling 96 mic/line inputs.
Harper and the SSL team on hand during setup built a 128 channel model for the System T to accommodate 96 artist channels, with the rest available for various other inputs and streams, thinking that would cover all eventuality. But while preparing for the John Pardi show, Horton said: “Malcolm called and said, ‘They have 113 MADI sources. What are we doing?'”
System T is built on a multi-core processor with an open architecture, rather than a more typical FPGA or SHARC-based design, allowing a user to reconfigure the console to suit project requirements. The platform also includes integration of TeamViewer remote control software. “So one of our support engineers logged into the system remotely, quickly rebuilt the model, and Malcolm ran the show with no problems,” Horton reports.
Top flight production in Houston
“The team running it has been doing this for years,” Horton says of the team behind the show. “It’s so well organized and professional. They do a superb job.
There was one final piece of SSL equipment on hand at NRG Stadium, Horton said. Houston-based live event production company LD Systems, a longtime rodeo technology partner, provides an SSL Live mixing console annually as part of its audio production for rodeo-specific competition sound elements. Each night’s performer’s audio team also provided a mix of their own monitoring gear to the L550 – which LD Systems last year upgraded to an L550 Plus – and which in turn fed the matrix. to the public address system and to other public areas.