Romain GHEZAL sound engineer / Ableton (SEXION, GIMS, DAMSO, JAMES BKS, JAHNERATION)

"the LIOBOX controls all the triggers and the synchro of the show" 

We met Romain Ghezal, during his performance at the U Arena with SEXION D'ASSAUT:
Hi, my name is Romain Ghezal.
I've been a sound engineer for several years, doing both front end and monitor work and Ableton management. I'm currently working on GIMS and SEXION for which I manage the Ableton control room, and I take over JULIEN's monitor control room. I also do the front on JAHNERATION and JAMES BKS.
- Can you tell us about your setup on SEXION?
Our setup consists of two Ableton in arrangement mode, with two MADI cards RME MADIFACEboth connected to a BLDS automatic switch DIRECT OUT with audio signal interruption detection.
The switch can be set according to selected priorities, in our case the two computers have priority, so the MADI switch is set to the faster computer.
We also have the possibility to force a computer.
I always monitor the switch indicator at launch so that I know which computer the audio is synchronized to.
- How are the two computers synchronized?
The two computers are not really synchronized. We thought of the configuration as two completely independent systems, so any problem encountered on one does not affect the other.
The sync is done by the track launch info that is sent by the LIOBOX simultaneously to both computers via a MIDI RTP card IConnectivity.
- How is the LIOBOX integrated in your configuration?
On SEXION, we have a LIOBOX at the DJ's place which allows him to launch the tracks during the show. Another LIOBOX is installed at the Ableton control room, so that I can have the hand on the setup. Thanks to it, we have a view on the Autotune keys, as well as on the duration of the tracks and the time remaining before the end of the song. This allows us to check that the autotunes are on the right tonas and gives us an end of song indicator.
On GIMS, both the keyboard and the drummer have a LIOBOX and can trigger the sounds.
- How is your Ableton session designed?
I organize my session in steps. So I have one track per instrument and per song.
Each song is cut into stems and placed in a group. So when I unfold the group I only see the tracks on which there is audio. This makes the session easier to organize and read.
Each track is then sent to what I call "master" tracks that are routed to the sound card outputs.
This also allows you to add processing to certain tracks on certain pieces without having to automate them.
I get all the tracks from the set into Ableton in MADI and I can record what I need. This allows the musical director (BOOM) to work on the arrangements in repetition. This work is very important because it allows us to offer the public unique versions of the songs so that the show is different from the album and more adapted to a live listening.
- Do you use the LIOBOX functions within your session?
I use the hide marker function so that I can put indications without it being displayed for the musicians on their LIOBOX.
I also use recently the autostop function which allows to stop the playback without having to automate the stops via midi notes. You just have to name a stop marker. This is a function we asked you for from the start and I think you integrated it in the last update.
- I see that there is a structure track on the session?
In general, the music director (BOOM) cuts the songs into verses, choruses, etc. This allows you to start playing directly on the part you want to work on during the rehearsals or the sound check. It's more visual than markers, with the colors you can directly identify the parts of the track.
For example on SEXION, there are sometimes 8 singers, by making this track and identifying the part of each one, we know exactly who is going to sing at what time. Julien has a visual on the screen, which allows him to anticipate the mic follow-ups. It's clearly useful for us!
It's also useful in rehearsal or balance if the guys want to work on their verse, we can very quickly and easily make a loop.
It also allows us to record all the director's notes during the shooting, as well as the indications for the musicians.
- How are musicians' clicks managed?
The clicks are sent to the musicians thanks to a drum rack in midi, so I can select the sound of the click according to the musician. The advantage of midi is also that the click will be necessarily set on the grid even if the tempo of the song is changed, without the sound being modified.
I always have a quarter note click track and an eighth note click track ready.
- You also use Ableton to synchronize the technique?
Ableton sends midi info to the instruments on stage. The presets of the KEMPER (digital guitar amp), are sent by Ableton.
For the keyboards on stage, it is the main keyboard that sends the preset changes to all the other keyboards, we only send a program change to this keyboard.
The SPD-SX is also synchronized by Ableton.
Once the musicians start a track with their LIOBOX, all the instruments on stage are tuned to the preset of the song.
The snapshots of the return console are also synchronized. With JULIEN, we have set up "midi events" that allow us to trigger actions from the console within a snapshot, depending on the midi information sent by Ableton. For example on the GIMS show, the song "Bella" starts with an acoustic guitar and ends with an electric guitar. Ableton sends a midi control change to the return console to switch the acoustic guitar and then switch the electric guitar. This allows the musician to be more free and not to have to use his pedals. Everything is automated.
The autotunes are managed via a third computer, on which is connected a LiveRack from UAD. They are inserted on the voices in MADI and the automation is also done by Ableton, with midi CC. It is important for us that the activation is precise because on the GIMS show for example, the autotunes are only used on certain tracks for an assumed production effect and not for correction, so it only intervenes on certain passages.
This computer is connected to the Ableton computer via an RJ45 cable which transmits a MIDI network in which we pass the midi information.
The sync with the light and video is also managed by Ableton. We have a time code on each track, which is sent on an audio output to the lighting console and the video control room. We generate the time code and put it in Ableton. Then we send the Ableton session with a LR mix to the light operators so that they can pre-encode the show.
- On a show like SEXION, how is your pre-pro organized?
The pre-prod process starts with exchanges with the service providers on the technical needs in terms of material. Once the material is validated, we go to prepare the kits directly at the provider's, usually during two days. It is at this time that the interconnections between the various audio equipment are set up and tested.
Then come the rehearsals in studio, in this case Planète Live, on which we install the return control room and sometimes the front control room. The rehearsals can last up to 10 days depending on the shows and their duration.
Here we check the communication of the Ableton session with the different instruments on stage.
The rehearsals are first dedicated to the work with the musicians, in order to set the different mixes and to prepare a flattening for the artist before his arrival.
There are often adaptations of levels on the sequences, according to the energy and the play of the musicians.
It is also at this time that the musical director (BOOM) makes the new arrangements for the live show according to the playing of the musicians and the aesthetic that we want to give to the show.
Once the rehearsals are over, we start the residency on stage, during which we validate the sendings to the different posts like light and video.
Residencies are usually held at the Zenith over 4 to 5 days, with a concert at the end of the residency.
After the first shootings, the artists sometimes ask us to lengthen choruses or verses. It is often more complicated than it seems because the light, and therefore the TC, must be extended and tested so that the light follows the show well. That's why these modifications can only be implemented before the sound check in order to validate everything.
Once the session is set up, it controls all the triggers and the sync of the show.
The sound check is about to start, thanks a lot for your welcome, and good show !

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