After a quiet music, TV and film awards show season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of Los Angeles’s major ceremonies returned in 2021 with live performances and in-person audiences. However, with social distancing requirements still in place, the teams behind these events had to adjust to smaller venues and limited capacities while still producing memorable primetime broadcasts. One of the key factors to achieving a balance between safety and spectacle was selecting an adaptable and reliable live audio system to deliver impactful sound within the structural and technical limitations of this year’s more intimate ceremonies.
ATK Audiotek, a longtime HARMAN customer, has installed and operated live rigs at major televised events for more than 30 years using JBL Professional products on many shows from the Academy Awards ceremony to the Super Bowl halftime show. They met the challenges of this year’s awards season by utilizing cutting-edge technology from HARMAN Professional Solutions. Using lightweight but powerful JBL Professional speakers and highly efficient Crown amplifiers, the ATK team implemented innovative techniques—such as hanging speakers from light trusses and concealing others using elastic fabric—to produce successful live shows.
Here are some of this year’s ceremonies that featured HARMAN systems by ATK.
iHeartRadio Music Awards, Los Angeles
The 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards took place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles in front of a crowd of 1,500 and featured performances by The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Dan + Shay, Silk Sonic, Brandi Carlile, Demi Lovato, H.E.R., Doja Cat and Usher. This year’s limited capacity show required a focused sound system that also provided exceptional dynamic range to accommodate both speeches and musical performances. To meet these challenges, ATK Audiotek deployed a JBL Professional line array system consisting of VTX A12 loudspeakers and S28 subwoofers.
“Our shows go from quiet dialogue on a podium mic to a loud rock band at 115 dB, so we need the whole dynamic range to be pristine and clear,” said Jeff Peterson, Front-of-House Engineer, ATK Audiotek. “That's something that the JBL products have done well for us. The A12 rig is fast and weighs less than a comparable 4889 or something powered, so we're usually able to hang more in the same space where we would be limited with something heavier. The sound quality is top-notch; they’re transparent and pleasant to mix on.”
MTV Movie and TV Awards, Los Angeles
The MTV Movie and TV Awards welcomed a small audience back to Hollywood Palladium a year after the canceled 2020 ceremony. The space was a lounge-style layout for a 50-person audience and primarily featured speeches and film clips, with Snoop Dogg as the DJ and sole musical act. Show organizers requested a versatile sound system with a wide dynamic range to best accommodate the space and talent, but the Palladium’s low ceiling height and unusual design generated the potential for acoustical issues and left minimal physical space for the speaker installation. To overcome these challenges, ATK Audiotek selected JBL VRX932LA-1 and VT4886 loudspeakers to deliver clear, high-quality audio that complemented the ceremony’s setting and avoided unwanted sound reflection and feedback.
“The Palladium is a challenging venue,” said Kirk Powell, PA Designer and System Tech, ATK Audiotek. “The back wall is a big parabola, so you've got to be careful with how you aim things because you can excite that room in ways that you don’t want. If we got really loud in a room like that, you would hear feedback on the presentation microphones. We were trying to keep the volume low and have a nice distributed system for even coverage so everybody could hear everything––the VRX932 is a good box for that.”
Billboard Music Awards, Los Angeles
Following an audience-free ceremony in 2020, this year’s Billboard Music Awards welcomed a crowd of more than 500 in the plaza outside of the Microsoft Theater—one of the largest awards show audiences of the year thus far. Musical acts performed either on the outdoor stage or to a limited indoor audience, while nominees sat by the outdoor stage in a lounge-style setup. Dick Clark Productions wanted an impactful live audio system that did not require additional infrastructure and remained unseen on camera. ATK Audiotek expertly worked within these limitations and deployed a system featuring JBL VTX A8 and VT4886 loudspeakers, VTX S28 subwoofers, AC29 two-way speakers, and Vertec 4889 speakers to create a memorable show for both artists and fans. Crown VRack Series amplifiers powered the system, and AKG C414 large-diaphragm condenser microphones captured the audio onstage.
“We had to use the existing lighting towers that are already in the plaza, which limited the amount of weight that we could hang and how high we could hang it,” explained Peterson. “The AC26 is a really good multipurpose box. It'll throw 30 feet, it's small and it'll fit into a truss. And you don't buy A8s without buying the VRacks; it all works together as a system. In general, it was a good show. Everything worked the way we wanted it to work.”