For the King of All Media, a Birthday Bash Gets a Royal Production
World Class Guests at a World Class Facility
By Sebastian Thaler
The crowd inside the Hammerstein Ballroom-and those listening to the live broadcast on SiriusXM Satellite Radio-were delighted with Howard, his cast of regulars, and a galaxy of guests ranging from Rob Zombie to George Takei, Jimmy Kimmel, The Black Keys, Joan Rivers, Jon Bon Jovi, Adam Levine and dozens more.
But behind the scenes, the quality of the production was just as brilliant. This was all the more impressive given the scale of the event, which involved an unusually complex mix of musical performances, interviews by Howard, and comedy. Topping it all off, the production staff had only two days to pull it off: one setup day and the show day.
Key to producing the show was Manhattan Center Productions' state-of-the-art TV 2 which is fully interconnected with the Hammerstein Ballroom. "From TV 2, production staff controlled the dozens of high-definition video monitors arrayed around the Ballroom and the bar areas for the benefit of the audience, along with four server channels," says Marvin Williams, Director of Engineering and Operations at Manhattan Center Productions. In addition to three green rooms for the performers, says Williams, TV 2 provided eight Ikegami cameras that recorded all the action.. (SiriusXM staff prepared a "best moments" reel for the E! cable network.) All the stage lighting was also controlled from TV 2, as well as the intercom system. TV 2 also handled the manipulation (or "switching") of the sophisticated LED screens involved in the show.
A distinct recording studio , known as Studio 7, was also instrumental to the event's success. This studio houses a unique custom-modified Neve VR 96-channel console recording to 5.1 surround on a Pro Tools HD Accel system, or to any of a variety of digital or analog multitrack tape formats. Wired directly to record or mix sound from the Hammerstein Ballroom and its counterpart the Grand Ballroom, Studio 7 has seen the birth of countless one-of-a-kind performances, including film scores, classical recordings, broadcasts and telethons. One person with a firsthand appreciation of Studio 7's appeal is Darren Moore, the Chief Audio Engineer of Manhattan Center Productions. "The acoustics are top-notch," Moore says. "We love the artists who come through these doors, so we make sure they have the best experience possible." Joel Scheuneman, Chief Tech at Manhattan Center Productions, adds, "Inside this facility, engineers recorded the sound for the entire Howard Stern event, and mixed the musical performances."
"My job was made much easier by the incredible staff and top-notch studios and equipment at Manhattan Center Productions' TV 2 and Studio 7," says Carl Freed, President of Trevanna Entertainment and executive producer of the Howard Stern Birthday Bash. "Our TV team could not have been made more comfortable."
Apart from Howard Stern and his friends, the facilities at Manhattan Center continue to attract a wide variety of musical clients. This is due in part to its reputation as the ideal venue to record and mix film soundtracks and other types of productions. Take Myspace, for example. When the music-oriented social network chose to showcase live performances of today's hottest up-and-coming musical acts, it chose the "Log Cabin" facility at Manhattan Center. To date, Myspace's Live at the Log Cabin series has hosted a wide range of acts whose live performances have been posted online, ranging from Manchester, UK-based alt rock band The 1975 to American hip-hop duo Run the Jewels. Joseph Patel, VP Content & Creative at Myspace, calls the Log Cabin as a "hidden gem of a studio in the middle of Midtown Manhattan."
Even musical equipment manufacturers love the way Manhattan Center makes their products sound. Last October, when Martin Audio Ltd., a designer of leading-edge live performance systems, wanted to conduct a series of exclusive demonstrations of its award-winning MLA Compact(tm) Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array, it set up shop inside the Grand Ballroom for a two-day special event for members of the concert industry.
Speaking of the Grand Ballroom, it's seen its share of excitement. As it turns out, the very first film score in the history of cinema-for Warner Brothers' Don Juan, which starred the legendary John Barrymore and Mary Astor-was recorded at the Grand Ballroom way back in 1926. The pioneering sound technicians of that long-ago era used Vitaphone technology-brand new at the time-to capture the sound of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, 107 musicians strong. Then as now, the Grand Ballroom's superb acoustics have assured that this magnificent venue is perfect for music recording. This is true whether the project is a full-blown orchestral film score, a live concert or other kind of recording. The natural reverberation of the room produces a particular sound quality that defies emulation.
Thanks to all of the technical wizardry at Manhattan Center and the wizards who operated it, Howard Stern's 60th birthday was an occasion to be fondly remembered by participants and audiences alike.