On March 1, 2, and 3, congregations from all three major Methodist denominations within the African American community— the African Methodist Episcopal (AME), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion), and Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Churches —gathered in Columbia, South Carolina, to discuss major issues facing the United States. Such a gathering had not occurred in more than 45 years, making this a historic occasion.
Dubbed “The Great Gathering,” the conference included a big concert on opening night, and multi-platinum mix engineer and producer Dale “Rambro” Ramsey of RamTrax Entertainment (The Temptations; Ludacris; Earth, Wind & Fire; Justin Timberlake; Jay-Z; Stevie Wonder; Sean “P. Diddy” Combs; Pink; NSync; and countless others) was asked to record the show. Rambro’s new PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2 digital mixer was about to get its first workout.
The show organizers didn’t commit to hiring Ramsey until the Thursday before the show, allowing only three or four days for advance work—not nearly enough for a show of this magnitude. Ramsey was to record 7 songs by a 34-piece orchestra and 300-voice choir.
Obviously, Ramsey is a total professional, so ready or not, he and his crew, Larry Reeves and Will Bowels, made the 240-mile drive, arriving at the University of South Carolina’s Carolina Coliseum at 8 a.m. The stage was up and the riggers hard at work when the recording team arrived. But this was not to be an easy gig.
“The problems were crazy,” Ramsey relates. “There was no sound check at all, the sound company was short-handed, and there weren’t enough venue stage hands. So I got in there at the last hour before the show/conference/event was to begin at 8 p.m. and helped set up mics and run cables and assist the musicians. By the time we got the mics set up, the audience had arrived, and the Coliseum was almost full.”
Ramsey needed a splitter system to route signals from the large-format front-of-house console to his PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2, which served as the recording mixer. The splitter was a problem, too. “I didn’t get what I wanted but I got a makeshift split, and I was happy just to make it work because we were down to the last minute before the show was to start,” Ramsey says. “I ended up with a total of 11 recording feeds: 7 direct feeds and 4 assorted mixes from the front-of-house engineer.
“When the program started, I was still down front with the orchestra,” he continues. “In the pit were a full string section with violins, violas, cellos, and upright bass, and a horn section with three saxes, one trombone, two trumpets, and two French horns, plus a percussionist. Onstage was the rhythm section with drums, bass, B3 organ, and three keyboard players with synth rigs.”
But Ramsey also had a lot going for him. He had a good crew Reeves and Bowles; he had his own extensive experience recording major acts; and he had his StudioLive 16.4.2.
“The StudioLive is the best recording rig I've use to date, and I’m not new to doing live recording for hit acts,” he states. “I have used many different types of recorders from analog to the early days of digital tape, to all the versions of Pro Tools, and the whole concept of the StudioLive is off the scale in my book. Man, this console is smoking! The footprint, the channel strip layout, the FireWire inputs, the "FatChannel"—man, that's "phat" in my book.”
The StudioLive 16.4.2 did a great job for him at the Great Gathering, and now Rambro can’t wait to get down with the new StudioLive 24.4.2. “The 16.4.2 is cool but I work with the big boys, and we always need more under the hood, baby, you know what I mean. We need 48 plus and more, tracks on top of tracks. I’m sure two or three StudioLive 24.4.2s will do me for mixing live shows, and I can use them for studio overdubs, too.”
Ramsey is making plans for the future—and those plans very much include PreSonus. “The StudioLive is killing anything out there in my book—and I mean way better than any remote-truck system of the past with the analog two-inch machines or the Pro Tools rigs. The cost of doing business like that is still an arm and a leg. I have a CD/DVD live recording in June 2010 in Atlanta. Want to know what mobile company I’ll use? The name is PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2!”