Focusrite's RedNet Technology Lets GRAMMY® Award-Winning Composer And Instrumentalist Jacob Collier Scale Up His High-Tech Solo Concerts For A Full-Band Setup
Acclaimed English singer, arranger, composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier integrates digital technology in a seamless and sophisticated manner. Helping him accomplish this has been Ben Bloomberg, a music technologist working towards his Ph.D. at MIT, who helped Collier envision and build his remarkable live-performance infrastructure. Helping make that a reality are products from Focusrite's RedNet range of Dante™-networked audio converters and interfaces and Red audio interfaces. Collier and Bloomberg use the RedNet D64R 64-channel MADI bridge and Red16Line 64-In / 64-Out Thunderbolt™ 3 and Pro Tools | HD™ compatible audio interface as the I/O and output matrix for Collier's digital stage setup. Bloomberg says that these two elements have made the entire assembly possible, thanks to their incredibly low latency and high reliability.
“We called his live solo show system 'the creature,'" laughs Bloomberg, who is nearing the finish of his doctorate at MIT's Media Lab. All of his educational experience contributed greatly to the creation of a virtual ensemble to accompany Collier on his first solo tour, in 2016, in support of his debut album, In My Room, which was entirely self-recorded, arranged, performed and produced in his home in London, and which in February 2017 won a pair of GRAMMY Awards. On stage, a circle of musical instruments, with six looping stations capable of simultaneous playback, is backed by synchronized real-time 3D-captured video loops, projected onto a screen behind the instruments. Central to the one-man show was a custom-built vocal harmonizer that Collier designed and created with Bloomberg, which enabled Collier to perform multi-voice harmonies in real time. That system is also at the heart of the most recent tour, for which four live musicians joined Collier. And at the critical point of that system, where all of the outputs from the stage are sent to a pair of DiGiCo SD series consoles and then onto the PA system, the Focusrite units play a deciding role. “The RedNet D64R is the Swiss army knife of this system," says Bloomberg, who also mixed Collier's front-of-house sound on his first solo tour and joins the current tour on the road periodically to fine-tune the system.
“What makes the RedNet and Red interfaces so unique and so critical to this is their very, very low latency – literally less than one millisecond," says Bloomberg. “That's absolutely critical when you're looping, because any latency that gets into the system is compounded with every passing loop."
A laptop is the primary engine for the heavily software-based system, backed up by a redundant second computer that can takeover instantaneously in the event the primary fails. The output of both of those computers is sent to the Red 16Line interface, and then via Dante into the RedNet D64R 64-Channel MADI-Dante Bridge, and then to the inputs of the audio consoles. “What makes the RedNet and Red interfaces so unique and so critical to this is their very, very low latency – literally less than one millisecond," says Bloomberg. “That's absolutely critical when you're looping, because any latency that gets into the system is compounded with every passing loop. And Jacob is incredibly sensitive to latency; that's why we were so hesitant initially to go with an IP-based system for this. But Red and RedNet made it possible, and the use of the Dante protocol meant we didn't have to worry about needing additional hardware to do mixing and splitting, and we could have a nearly unlimited number of splits. It can be complicated, but Red and RedNet made it all happen."
Photos by Chris Mayes-Wright