VENUE | S6L-16C Makes its Unofficial Debut at the Sundance Film Festival

By in Live Sound

I woke up in Park City, UT on January 25th, and it was 14° F! Having lived in Phoenix, AZ for the past 30 years, that’s a bit of a shock. I was at the Sundance Film Festival which is held each year at numerous venues across the town of about 8,300 residences. During the festival, the town’s population increases by roughly 100,000 over the two week-long event, and it generates upwards of 200 million dollars for the state. It is a big deal.

What is Sundance? It’s the largest festival for debuting new feature films and short films in the US. So, why was I, as Avid’s live sound market development manager, at a film festival? Well, let’s just say there is a lot going on at Sundance. The festival kicked off on January 24th and ran through February 3rd. During this time, not only is there a lot of film viewing, but there’s also entertainment that goes into the wee hours of the night—everything from panels discussing topics related to the industry to live music performances—and therefore the need for a live sound mixer. Actually, multiple mixers.

Sundance ASCAP Café

I was there with the guys from Performance Audio based in Salt Lake City. They are one of several production companies that are providing equipment for the events. Rental manager John Anderson and I met up late last year and got to talking about the possibility of using our newly conceived, but as of then unreleased, S6L-16C at the Sundance ASCAP Café during the festival. The space is extremely tight at the ASCAP, but it’s a high profile venue and the only one that is actually officially sanctioned by the Sundance Institute.

Although the new S6L-16C would not be shipping by the festival, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to use this new ultra-compact surface for the gig. After speaking with our product team, we agreed that the system and software were close enough to release to do the event. Perfect! I called John to tell him that we were good to go, and he then asked if we could do a shared I/O setup due to the space limitations of the space. Oh… okay… well, that adds another level of complexity doesn’t it? Again, I go back to our product managers and they sign off on this… phew…

“Let me start by saying that I have been an Avid fan since the debut of the VENUE series, but when I saw pictures of the S6L-16C, I was skeptical. It looked like it was too small to be practical for mixing on a large scale. I was completely wrong. When it arrived at our shop and we set it up, I was amazed at the versatility and power packed into this small fame. It has everything you need to mix in a front of house or monitor position.

The software update is extremely well thought out. It has made it so that everything you need can, quite literally, be in front of you. We routinely do audio for concerts and events where space is at a premium or the client wants to reduce the impact of the mixing positions. I cannot think of another compact console with the sheer mixing power of the S6L-16C. It may not be as flashy as its big brothers in the S6L line, but it holds its own in virtually every way.”

Brett Morgan – production manager, engineer, Performance Audio

Avid VENUE | S6L-16C

Rob McWhorter

So there I was on Day One, and made the trek to the ASCAP Café to meet with Rob McWhorter, who among other duties mixes FOH for Lindsey Stirling. Rob has overseen production at this venue during the festival for the past 17 years, along with Greg Downs, owner of Pale Horse Sound Studios. Rob is handling FOH on an S6L-32D and Greg is going to mix monitors on the S6L-16C. To my knowledge, this was the first use of S6L-16C for real world events in the US. Today, there would be five performances, including The Dumes, Patrick Martin, Judith Owen, Beulahbelle, and Everlast.

Tony Cooper mixing Everlast

“This desk sounds amazing—it brought an entirely fresh nuance to the stage mixes. The flexibility is mind blowing as I was able to configure mix setups individually to each artist. Being new to the S6L I found it a complete joy to customize every bit to exactly how I wanted the desk laid out, while user layouts made sound checks and sets for five acts a day super easy. I loved how easy it was to share a stage rack. Setup was a breeze and tear down was so quick and easy I kept thinking I must have forgot something!”

Greg Downs – engineer, producer, owner of Pale Horse Sound Studios

Greg Downs

Once Everlast wraps up their set, I head over to see Eric Stoddard and Jeremy Cornwall from Performance Audio at the Acura Festival Village; a massive tent purpose built for the festival. There are tents setup in multiple locations to house speaking engagements and performances. Eric and Jeremy are working with a Profile at FOH and an SC48 at monitors. Avid products made an excellent showing this year with John Anderson texting me on load-in day exclaiming, “Holy Avid. Just occurred to me how many (Avid) systems (being used) tomorrow!” After the Acura tent I was going to head over to the Park City Live venue where they had a Profile at FOH and SC48 at monitors, but as the temperature dropped and crowds increased, I decided it was time to pack it in for the night. I’ve seen those consoles a few times 🙂

Acura Festival Village

On Saturday the 26th, I checked in with Rob and Greg to see how things were going, and now I’m heading further up the mountain to the Empire Canyon Lodge, where Salt Lake City-based Poll Sound is providing a VENUE | S6L-24D system sub-rented from Performance Audio for the Counting Crows monitor position. I arrive an hour after load-in is scheduled, hoping to miss some of the fun, but weather and traffic was anything but forgiving. Setup is about an hour behind schedule, but they pull it together and get everything ready in time for soundcheck. The band rehearses for a bit and the show goes great.

S6L-24D used to mix the Counting Crows at the Empire Canyon Lodge

It was nice to see our older desks still being used and the adoption of our new S6L platform doing so well. The only S6L console not on display this weekend was Performance Audio’s S6L-24C, but I learned from John that they used the Stage 64 from that system to accommodate the inputs required for the Counting Crows gig—a perfect example of why the whole S6L Unified Platform of 100% hardware, software, and show file compatibility is so compelling to rental companies like Performance! And the 32D/16C setup remained at the ASCAP Café for the next seven days, and were used to mix over forty acts by the end of the festival!

Jeremy Cornwall from Performance Audio

My words of wisdom to anyone attending the festival for the first time, expect to wait in lines for absolutely everything! As you can imagine, a town of this size is not well equipped to handle the influx of people. However, amazingly, they do it year-after-year with great success.

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With over 20 years of experience as a sound reinforcement mixer, studio recording engineer, and as a higher education curriculum developer and instructor, I'm now contributing to the world of Avid Live Sound as the Market Development Manager.