Fans recently flocked to cities across North America and Europe for a chance to see Beyoncé live during the Renaissance Tour: a 56-stop run to support her latest GRAMMY® Award-winning album.
Working with such a high-caliber artist, Renaissance Tour Monitor Engineer James Berry
has high expectations for his sound setup—one that would need to impress not only for the live shows, but also for the recently released Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé
Knowing this, Berry turned to
for a number of versatile solutions that would hold up rain or shine, including the new 2017 Shotgun Microphone
. “We did some beta testing with the 2017 and it ended up being a great crowd mic,” Berry explains. “The clarity and range of it was so full; we were able to cover more area with no distortion through the PA. I didn’t get any of that high-end distortion you hear with other shotguns. You can really ride it without getting any of that crunchiness you usually experience when the audience gets loud. I also didn’t have to high pass this shotgun as much as I do with others, which is rare.”
The 2017s were especially helpful for the live show recordings done at the Houston, Texas stops for the film. “We flew twelve 2017s from the ceilings of the catwalk to capture the upper levels of the stadium,” Berry explains. “The small size of the microphones really helped to hide it within the camera platforms and front of house decks.”
Berry also deployed the 4017 Shotgun
and 5100 Surround Sound
mics for the crowd, as well as the 4099 Instrument, 4011 Cardioid Condenser
and 4055 Kick Drum Microphones
throughout the band. The team hung 4017 Shotguns on the ceilings and placed them in other areas around the floor. To capture the crowd’s full authentic energy while recording, Berry and the team had to work around the tour’s unique stadium set, which was very wide with a thrust down the middle. For this, sixteen 5100s were used in a chase sequence to capture the audience in front of the artist whenever she went on stage.
“We really took those 5100s through the ringer,” says Berry. “We had them outdoors the entire time, even in the wind and rain. When it’s downpouring, you’re not always going to want to tear down and collect all those mics, so we used the weather protection covers and windsocks, which didn’t affect the sound. It was still the same crystal-clear audio, and we never lost a mic in the rain, which is a win-win for me.”
While the audio captured by the surround mic was especially great for the film, the 5100 was initially selected as a crowd mic for Beyoncé’s in-ears. “A couple of the band members used this audio, but the feed was mainly for Beyoncé,” continues Berry. “She likes to feel the audience and be a part of it, so that was the main drive behind our setup. We placed the 5100s downstage to capture the audience in front of the artist and the 2017s on the far outside to catch the upper seating, and we achieved great results. In total, we had around 128 channels of audience mics for our recorded shows, which fed from the 5100s and the shotguns——it always provided a fullness from the crowd. There’s nothing like being able to trust your audience mic setup.”
Berry says DPA’s instrument mics provided an equally impressive level of sound and ease of use. The esteemed 4099s graced the saxophone, trumpet, trombone and flute, while the drum kit was outfitted with a 4055 Kick Drum mic and 4011s on snare. “I chose the 4011 because it checked all my boxes: size, sound and clarity,” he adds. “The pickup pattern stayed super tight, and it was just the right size to get in tight on the drum kit. I placed the 4055 right outside the kick. That might be one of my favorite DPA mics. It picked up the full range and got actual clarity from the head and beater, which I can’t achieve from other mics at that position. It also held up very well on the road.”
To control the DPA sound, the Renaissance Tour had five DiGiCo SD7 Quantums. A large DiGiCo Opticore Loop was also driven by DPA’s 5100s, with the second loop mainly featuring the audience mic setup. d&b audiotechnik GSL Series loudspeakers also projected the sound throughout the stadium. For outboard gear, Berry had Waves on the computers and Universal Audio UAD on the band desk. The DPA 5100s and KLANG’s ground-breaking immersive mixing processor were used to create a fully engrossing experience for Beyoncé and the other on-stage musicians, who were outfitted with Wisycom in-ears.
Long familiar with DPA sound, Berry has accumulated several of the brand’s mics on his list of must-have gear for gigs. Whether for Beyoncé shows or other tours, Berry continues to be confident in the brand’s durability and sound quality. “A lot of the DPA gear that I used for Renaissance happens to be on my ‘short-list.’ On the monitor side, the 5100 and 2017 are going to be in my toolbox forever. When I’m out front, I’m definitely pulling the 4011 for snare and of course, the 4055 on kick. It’s one of those mics I won’t leave home without. Same with the 2017, I don’t ever plan on doing a gig without one.”
After more than two decades in the touring industry, Berry has worked alongside some of the biggest names in music, including Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Kings of Leon and Ms. Lauryn Hill. When not touring, the engineer loves sharing his technical skills and experience with audio professionals across the U.S. He notes that his passion for teaching and helping others drives him, and he feels fortunate to not only learn on the road but pass that knowledge on to others.
The talent and stage presence emitted by pop icon Beyoncé has demanded the world’s attention for almost three decades. From her time in R&B trio Destiny’s Child, to her success as a solo artist and businesswoman, Beyoncé has garnered a mass following dedicated to her musical ingenuity, stellar vocals and riveting performances.
Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur/Beyoncé RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR via Getty Images.