London, UK – June 2017… For freelance sound mixer Tudor Davies, every episode of the BBC’s much-loved music TV show Later… With Jools Holland represents an ambition fulfilled. Having begun his 25 year career determined to become the go-to sound mixer for live music on television, he now counts The Glastonbury Festival as a regular gig, and he can often be found in Maidstone Television Studios, capturing performances on Later… With Jools Holland.
He also knows that when he’s recording a live performance, his equipment has to be dependable. “Whatever way you look at it,” he says, “this is a mission critical job”. Having previously used a DAW-based set-up, he recently switched to JoeCo BLACKBOX BBR64-MADI multi-track recorders, describing them as “rock solid”.
Originally a musician, Davies fell in love with audio and turned to broadcast sound, starting his career at the BBC. He describes it as “an amazing experience – my first week was Wogan, Top Of The Pops, Blue Peter and Eastenders”. But even then his ambition was clear. “Whenever there was any music related work I was always the first person to say I would do it.” After 10 years, Davies became a much sought after freelancer, with his company, Tudorsound Ltd. “Since 2008, I’ve done the Glastonbury John Peel Stage broadcast mix,” he says. “It’s a good time to be a sound engineer as far as equipment is concerned because there’s so much good stuff out there.”
Yet Davies’ work rests on the reliability of his rig, hence his recent change to a pair of JoeCo BLACKBOX BBR64-MADI recorders. “It’s particularly related to Later… because the JoeCo multi-track recording is the master, that’s what goes out on the TV,” he explains. “The show that goes out on Friday nights and is then delivered to the world is straight from the multi-track.”
He continues, “I work on the show with Sound Supervisor Mike Felton, he’s the senior mixer who has mixed it since day one, and I’ve been his co-pilot since 2003. What happens on the night is we mix the show and produce various stems of drums, frontline, backing vocals, vocals, audience mics, reverbs and the rest, and actually by the time you get down to it, with a relatively small number of tracks you have the show and also the ability to do a 5.1 mix. We record 42 tracks in total and that’s what we take away with us.
The show is rigged, rehearsed and recorded over the course of two days at Maidstone Television Studios (including a live broadcast on Tuesday evenings), but in the past when the bands had finished playing, Davies’ work continued. “Previously when we finished at 10.30pm, I then had to spend a lot of time transferring all of the data onto a drive so I could take it home with me.” After the show, Davies takes the recordings into his room at London-based post-production studio Ace Post Production. “As well as spending more time transferring data, it meant I was taking everything with me on just one drive, and while nothing ever did go wrong there was always the risk that it might have been corrupted in some way. There was a back-up, but it was in Maidstone – not ideal!”
Whilst looking for a solution, Davies’ discovered JoeCo’s unique Safe ‘n’ Sound feature, ensuring that even if the power fails, your recording will be safe. “Safe ‘n’ Sound is a big thing for me,” he agrees. “We all know that things happen with equipment – various mains plugs, MADI feeds etc are all things that can go wrong. So I need to know that if something does happen, I haven’t lost the files. So now we have Safe ‘n’ Sound.”
Now, Davies uses his BLACKBOX BBR64-MADI recorders to capture the mission critical audio onto “Sandisk Extreme Pro drives, which are extremely fast. We have two machines so the back-up is there, and as soon as we’ve finished a show I can unplug the drives and I’m immediately ready to go. I take one drive home and Mike takes the other. But of course in true television fashion, although I’m finished straight away, it actually means I’ve got more time to help the guys de-rig the studio so we can all go home a bit earlier!”
Having proven his BLACKBOX recorders in one of television’s most demanding environments, Davies is now turning to other music-related applications in which the 64 track recorders may prove useful. “Our room at Ace Post Production is now set up for Dolby Atmos, so I’ve been recording concerts in that format,” he explains. “Certainly the next time I record an Atmos concert, I’ll do it with my BLACKBOX recorders.”
Ultimately, he concludes, it all comes down to reliability. “They are rock solid,” he says, “and rock solid works well on Later… With Jools Holland”.