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Keeping the Grammy Awards in Tune

The audio side of this Sunday's 53rd Annual Grammy Awards production on CBS will draw on many of the same advances in technology and workflow that won Music Mix Mobile, the mobile producer of the event, an Emmy for sound mixing in 2010.

For the event, Music Mix Mobile has once again hired Tekserve, which has worked on the Grammy Awards for six years and helped put together the audio system and workflow that were important in last year's Emmy-winning production.

"We are not going to be changing a lot on the audio side," noted Chris Payne, director of professional audio sales at the Tekserve Pro, which provides equipment and technical services to professionals in the film, TV and music industries and is a division of Tekserve, New York's largest independent Apple store. "We didn't want to change a lot in the systems that had been so successful and take a chance on new equipment for such an important production."

Like last year, that means the Sunday night February 13th 53rd Annual Grammy Awards show on CBS will be produced by Music Mix Mobile, which will deploy two trucks equipped with Avid's Pro Tools audio production system. Each of the trucks is outfitted Avid´s ICON D-Control work surfaces and employs Pro Tools HD systems for the mixing and recording of the award show performances.

A few years back, Tekserve worked with Music Mix Mobile to develop some workflow improvements for the production's audio that will also be important in this year's production.

Rehearsals for the live performances during the show, which this year include Mick Jagger and Lady Gaga, began on Wednesday, February 9th. In the past, sound mixers had set levels during the sound check for each performer and used those for the live performance, but didn't have time to tweak those mixes. "As soon as one act was done they had to get ready for the next one," notes Payne.

Tekserve improved that workflow by allowing the sound mixers to set their levels in one truck and then move over to another, where they had time to work on the mix and improve it while the next act rehearsed their song. "It allowed them to improve the mix and to sit down with the talent to see how the mix was sounding and how it might be improved," explains Payne.

That system has resulted in steady improvements in the quality of the sound in recent years, an important consideration as more homes have large screen HD TVs and home theater systems with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, Payne says.

"We were the first reseller to be recognized as part of the Grammy production," Payne notes.

For its work, Music Mix Mobile also gave Tekserve a certificate of the 2010 Emmy it received for sound mixing.

Advances have also pulled down the cost of doing high end audio, Payne adds. "In the past, the audio console for the mix for a broadcast like this might cost three quarters of a million dollars," he explained. "Today it isn't cheap, but a full blown Icon system from Avid, might run $150,000 to $200,000 and that is soup to nuts-console, recorder, mixer, etc."