The first live rendition of Rick Wakeman’s 1973 debut solo album The Six Wives of Henry VIII took place recently at Hampton Court Palace as part of celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the English throne.
Accompanied by a 40-strong choir, a full orchestra and a rock band, Wakeman manned his customary rack of keyboards to perform the album in its entirety, with the Tudor monarch’s most famous residence as his backdrop.
For the Classic Media Group, the event marked the start of a major project to bring Wakeman’s performance to a much wider audience. Based at the legendary Shepperton Film Studios, Classic Media Group was responsible for filming the concert for subsequent release on DVD. The audio was mixed at Classic’s in-house production facilities using a newly installed Fairlight Xynergi Media Production Centre, which organises and delivers the tools needed for high-end audio for video production in all widely used surround formats.
Classic Media Group sound engineer and dubbing mixer John Buckley says: “Mixing Rick at Hampton Court was a huge project for any system, but the Fairlight coped with it effortlessly and with no loss in speed or performance. Throughout the mix we never got the impression that we were going to run out of processing power. The system was more than capable of handling the vast track count and ever changing video (you can edit the pictures with the audio), as well as supplying the final mixes in different formats. This saved us a lot of time because as the system allows you to apply the same mix to the required formats simultaneously, which meant we didn’t have to do several separate mixes.”
Founded in 1987, Classic became one of the UK’s busiest video production companies, producing over 320 documentaries and live comedy programmes for TV and Home Video. In 1999 the company expanded into the Music DVD & CD market and rapidly developed into a successful and well respected producer of music programming for a number of independent and major labels.
Classic’s in-house production facilities include a sound studio which, until recently, was equipped with a Pro Tools system. When the time came to change the equipment, John Buckley looked at various options and felt that the Fairlight Xynergi system was the obvious choice.
“This is not our first Fairlight system - many years ago we had an MFX3 Plus, but due to its low track count in those days we could only upgrade from 16 tracks to 24. That just wasn’t enough for the type of work we were doing so we had to abandon the system. However, the new Xynergi system has a track count of 192, which is more than enough for our current requirements. It does everything we need it to do and I really like the fact that it comes with everything you need to get started, without having to buy extra bits and pieces to control video machines or get some physical outputs. Systems that don’t come complete can become expensive when you start adding in extras that you can’t do without.”
Fairlight’s Xynergi Media Production Centre has already won a number of prestigious Awards for its design and ergonomics. The system harnesses the processing power of Fairlight’s CC-1 digital media engine and incorporates integrated PyxisTrack video and a desktop user interface that allows engineers to access all features and functions of the Fairlight CC-1.
“Fairlight’s software is very comprehensive and one useful and often overlooked feature is the on board autoconforming package, which is very easy to use,” Buckley says. “I also like the Audiobase library feature for sound effects, loops, etc. The fact that this is always available saves a lot of searching and loading time. There are EQ, limiters and compressors on all channels, groups and everywhere else you can think of. These are quite separate from plug ins, which you can use if you prefer, but once you hear the quality and see the versatility of these features, the plug ins suddenly seem unnecessary.”
Fairlight Xynergi’s compatibility with Classic’s Final Cut editing system is also proving advantageous.
Buckley says: “This compatibility means that I no longer need layoffs to fit the sound to picture. I just receive files and projects and because everything transfers as the editors left it I don’t need to spend a lot of time working from scratch trying to reproduce what they have already done or adding additional sounds to cover edits.
Making the transition from Pro Tools back to Fairlight has, says Buckley, been very straightforward, mainly because the system is so easy to use.
“One of the best features of the Xynergi is the actual edit controller,” he says. “Everything you need to access is right in front of you in a well laid out format. Once you get used to it, it is an amazingly fast way of working and makes trying to do everything on a separate qwerty keyboard and mouse seem very awkward and dated.”
Having completed the Rick Wakeman project (which will be released on DVD later this year through the Eagle label), Buckley is now working on a number of in-house projects for the Classic Media Group. These include releases for the Classic Studio T label, which has a reputation for high quality album products, world-wide digital audio & video download releases and DVD programming featuring high profile, established artists such as Dionne Warwick, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jon Anderson, Procol Harum, Bill Wyman and Greg Lake – all of whom have extensive and loyal fan bases.
Headquartered in Sydney, Australia Fairlight designs and manufactures media production systems powered by the company’s groundbreaking CC-1 FPGA digital processing engine. The Fairlight product range includes Constellation, Xynergi and the new Pyxis MT, all of which feature in the world’s leading broadcasters, commercial post facilities, music studios and film production studios. Fairlight has a rich tradition of innovation and development and is at the forefront of green computing technology. www.fairlightau.com