For nearly 70 years, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has delighted visitors with a spectacular display of music and fireworks from the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. Throughout that time the show has been seen by thousands of people and has never been cancelled due to inclement weather.
In recent years DPA microphones have a played a key part in delivering great sound for the show and 2018’s performances were no exception. Sound designer Sebastian Frost, who has worked on this event for 23 years, specified a vast selection of d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones, d:screet™ 4061 Miniature Microphones and d:fine™ 4066 Headset Microphones incorporating the new CORE by DPA amplifier technology. In total more than 110 DPA microphones were deployed across a wide range of musicians and performers, including a Malawian choir.
“My main task is to amplify lots of different elements and not just the musicians,” Sebastian Frost says. “It's all about time-management and making sure that all the sounds produced by the various performers in different locations (marching, choir stage, moat stage, castle ramparts) arrive at each audience member's ears at the correct time. Getting all those performers to play at the same time, even though they can be 100 meters apart, is complex. There are up to 1300 performers taking part in the Tattoo, and we need to mic up a few hundred of them at various points in the show.”
Sound equipment for the show was supplied by Wigwam Acoustics, which has been dealing with this event for many years.
“They provide the most amazing support,” Frost says, “Not least from Katie Worsick who plans and configures the huge RF plot and systems. The microphones we use are half wired and half wireless. This year, we used 70 channels of radio mic and 20 IEMs for the mobile performers, plus about 60 channels of fixed microphones for the choir, moat stage, boundary.”
As a long term DPA fan, Frost had no hesitation in specifying the company’s products, particularly for an event where the weather can be unpredictable.
“Continuity of sound and durability are my main reasons for choosing DPA,” he explains. “I've used DPA mics for a very long time and was, in fact, the first sound designer to use the d:fine 4065 Headset Microphones in the West End. On a recent show – The Last Ship, featuring music and lyrics by Sting - I used just two DPA models on the entire rig because they gave me predictable, even sound. It worked a treat, so I always try to do that now.”
For the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Frost used d:vote CORE 4099 Instrument Microphones for all the stringed instruments including a 40-piece fiddle group and 18 piece string orchestra.
“They are perfect for strings and the clips are so easy to use,” he says. “We also have the largest collection of Rycote Fluffies, as it can get pretty windy on the castle ramparts. The bulk of the radio mic capsules are d:screet 4061s, while for the choirs we used d:fine 4066 Headset Microphones, which have long been my first choice as a headset. I used the omnidirectional version because the cardioid mics were too sensitive in the wind, plus I love the open sound of the new d:fine CORE 4066 microphones. All of our mics have to be durable because they get very rough handling in all weather conditions – shows never get cancelled so the mics have to go out regardless of the weather.”
Tackling sound for multi-channel live soundscapes in unusual venues is a speciality of Sebastian Frost’s. During his career he has designed more than 500 live productions including comedy, awards ceremonies and global product launches. He has also been the sound designer on many plays, operas and musicals around the world, including London’s West End and on Broadway. Several of these productions have won Olivier Awards and in 2008, Frost received the first ever Best Sound Design for a Musical Tony Award nomination for Sunday In The Park With George.
“Overall, the advantage of using DPA microphones on a production like the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is continuity of sound,” he explains. “Having the same brand of microphone makes it much easier to get an even sound across so many different applications and this makes it much easier to mix. The microphones are also very easy to deal with, which is important because we have up to 500 pack swaps during the course of the show, and that is tough!”
With the Tattoo over for another year, Sebastian Frost is getting ready for a new project in Macau and preparing to take The Last Ship to Toronto in the New Year. As ever, DPA will play a key role in both of these productions.