On The Road with J-Lo

by George Petersen
in Production Profile

Jennifer Lopez tour photo by Steve JenningsEngineer Rick Camp is a man with plenty of frequent flyer miles. When your list of FOH mixing credits includes the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé, Anita Baker, Natalie Cole, Destiny’s Child, Chris Brown and Burt Bacharach, you’ve been around the block a few times. We recently caught up with Rick in Australia during Jennifer Lopez’s Dance Again World Tour. Camp, who had previously worked FOH with J-Lo, was brought in again to mix the European, Australian and Asian legs of the tour last September, which — possibly just for additional airline miles — concluded with two dates in San Juan, Puerto Rico, followed by hopping back to central Asia for a couple shows in Turkmenistan on December 28.

FOH engineer Rick CampLike many sound engineers, Camp had a musical background, having played trumpet for about 10 years back in the 1970s, and then attending the Berklee College of Music in the 1980s. “But then I realized all the horn bands — like Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang and Chicago — had kind of gone away. So I made a change and went into engineering,” Camp recalls.

“Engineering was always something I did with the local bands that I played for, but it just came natural to me. I made the move from Cincinnati — where I’m from — to L.A. At that time, I had a gig with a national recording group called The Whispers. From then on, I kept at it, and ended up mixing for Earth Wind & Fire around ‘94. I mixed them for about five years. Then I went out with Madonna, Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child and so on. Now I’m back out on the road with J-Lo.”

Clair provided a d&b audiotechnik system for the tour. Photo by Steve Jennings.The Team, The System

Clair Brothers is the sound company on the Dance Again World Tour, with support from Sydney-based Jands Audio for the Australian/Asian legs. Camp was brought onboard last September with the European dates starting at the Crystal Hall Arena in Baku, Azerbaijan, and joined monitor mixer Vish Wadi, a first-call veteran who’s worked with top names like Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Babyface and Sting.

The house system was all d&b audiotechnik. “I’ve been using a large d&b rig, with J8 and J12 line array cabinets and a couple subwoofers — in fact, quite a few of them,” says Camp, who became a d&b fan several years ago. “I’m using all the flavors of subwoofers they make with a couple of the J-INFRA triple-21s, the double-18 B2s (which are my main subs) and I’m flying 12 of the triple-18 J-SUBs. In terms of bass, this combination makes everything even and smooth — there are no holes or gaps in the LF coverage as you walk around the arena, which can happen if you don’t have enough sub boxes.”

Coming in halfway through a world tour is hardly time to make big changes, but Camp did add his own tweaks, mostly in terms of drum mics. “I like these new Lewitt Audio mics, a company from Austria. Most people had never heard of them but were amazed when they heard them — the drummer was totally amazed. I’m using the Lewitt DTP 340 on toms and the double-capsule Lewitt DTP 640 on kick. The overheads are AKG 414s, which [monitor engineer] Vish Wadi really likes using. There’s also a Shure KSM 137 doubling on ride cymbal, another on hi-hat and two KSM 137s are also used for bottom snare mics, with SM57s on top of both the snares.”

Camp is mixing on his longtime console of choice, an Avid VENUE Profile. “I always owned a studio while living in L.A., and I got into Pro Tools, when Digidesign/Avid came out with the Mix Plus system, where you could record 64 tracks,” Camp recalls. “So back around ‘95 I got heavily involved into the Pro Tools craze, and rode it all the way out to where it is now. But I was always doing the live thing as well, and one day I got to use the Digidesign console at a one-off. The sound company on the gig was demoing it, but I thought, ‘there’s no way this could work live.’ To my surprise, they really had it together; the sound quality was great, it didn’t crash and, from then on, I was requesting that board. It got to the point where my wife and I actually bought a 96-channel VENUE board for rental purposes. I would of course use it whenever I could on my own gigs.”

On the Dance Again World Tour, “I’ve been running about 56 input channels — or around 62 if I include talkback mics and all that stuff — which is a bit short these days,’ says Camp. “And the band’s not small, with two keyboard players, a percussionist and a drummer, bass player, guitar player and two background singers.”

» J-Lo’s handheld wireless mics of choice are two Sennheiser MMD 935 condenser capsule head (one black, one gold-plated) on SKM 2000 transmitter bodies with bling finishes that are strictly custom. Jennifer Lopez tour photo by Steve Jennings.The Money Channel

Jennifer sings into custom Sennheiser MMD 935 cardioid condenser capsule heads on SKM 2000-Series wireless handheld bodies that are blinged-out with gold plating. During certain parts of the show, she switches to a Crown CM 311 headset mic. From there, “all of her vocal mic inputs go into Avalon VT-737sp mono tube channel strips, so I bypass the console mic preamps and EQs for her channels. For reverb, I use the Reverb One [stock Avid plug-in] from the desk, although in an arena you don’t need much reverb.”

Camp has been using Sonnox plug-ins since 2000, first in the studio, and now they’ve become part of his virtual outboard rack at FOH. “In the studio, I used the Reverb, Dynamics, SuprEsser and the Oxford EQ. I always liked how accurate the EQ was, and finally it kind of hit me to use it to tune the PA. That way, I could use it instead of the Dolby Lake EQ, which most sound companies use. It’s just as accurate, and I could save it with my show files for later recall. That’s what led to me using it live. On this current tour, I use it on the most important thing — to EQ the main speaker system. It’s so accurate for tuning a PA that I can totally rely on it.”

The Oxford EQ also is called in on J-Lo’s vocal. “The settings change every night, depending on the room and on her voice. I can even shift it around on the fly for each song using the ‘Drag Handles’ option, depending on how she’s on the mic and so on. In addition to the vocals, I use it on some of the drums and bass and anything that’s critical to the show. There’s nothing else out there that is more accurate than this,” Camp explains.

Every show is multitracked to Pro Tools 10 HD. But beyond the archival function, Camp also employs the VENUE console’s Virtual Soundcheck function every day to tune the PA using a Sonnox EQ and Waves L3 limiters on all the outputs. “I’ll use an analyzer to see what going on,” adds Camp, “but I tune the PA by ear. It’s all about making sure her vocal mic sounds good in that room.”

Beyond doing shows in a long list of places most people can’t even pronounce, this tour presented a few other pitfalls, says Camp. “One major challenge is a 30-foot thrust in front on the stage, with Jennifer singing into that headset mic 40-feet in front of the PA. It takes a whole lot of tooling to make sure the mic doesn’t feed back and I can get it as loud as I need. That was my major challenge. After that, everything else was a piece of cake.”

On the Horizon

After four months of international touring, Camp arrived home just in time to celebrate New Years. So what next? “This is my last long major tour,” states Camp. “I’m getting ready to launch Master Mix Live [mastermixlive.com], an audio engineering school, which is to open in March in Las Vegas. There won’t be any recording or English classes — Master Mix Live will focus on live sound and will only have eight students at a time, so everyone gets plenty of hands-on time.” That, and a chance to learn first--hand from a live mix master.

Jennifer Lopez Dance Again World Tour: The Input List

1 Kick Inside: Lewitt 640 Rex

2 Kick Outside: Lewitt 640 Rex

3 Snare Top: Shure SM57

4 Snare Bottom: Shure KSM 137

5 Snare #2 Top: Shure SM57

6 Snare #2 Bottom: Shure KSM 137

7 Hi-Hat: Shure KSM 137

8 Tom 1: Lewitt DTP 340

9 Tom 2: Lewitt DTP 340

10 Tom 3: Lewitt DTP 340

11 Floor Tom 1: Lewitt DTP 340

12 Floor Tom 2: Lewitt DTP 340

13 Overhead Left: AKG C-414

14 Overhead Right: AKG C-414

15 Ride: Shure KSM 137

16 E. Drum Left: DI Box

17 E. Drum Right: DI Box

18 Conga 1 Shure SM56

19 Conga 2 Shure SM56

20 Conga 3 Shure SM56

21 Bongos Shure SM56

22 Timbale Left: Shure SM57

23 Timbale Right: Shure SM57

24 Percussion Toys Left: Shure KSM 137

25 Percussion Toys Right: Shure KSM 137

26 Roland SPD-S Left: DI Box

27 Roland SPD-S Right: DI Box

28 Bass: DI Box

29 Bass Synth: DI Box

30 Guitar Dirty: Shure KSM 32

31 Guitar Clean: Shure KSM 32

32 Acoustic Steel String: Avalon DI

33 Acoustic Nylon String: Avalon DI

34 Stage Right Keys Top Left: DI Box

35 Stage Right Keys Top Right: DI Box

36 Stage Right Keys Bottom Left: DI Box

37 Stage Right Keys Top Right: DI Box

38 Stage Left Keys Top Left: DI Box

39 Stage Left Keys Top Right: DI Box

40 Stage Left Keys Bottom Left: DI Box

41 Stage Left Keys Bottom Left: DI Box

42 BG Vox (Belle Johnson): Sennheiser 965/2000

43 BG Vox (Erin Stevenson): Sennheiser 965/2000

44 J-Lo Vox: Sennheiser 935/2000

45 J-Lo Vox (spare): Sennheiser 935/2000

46 J-Lo Headset: Crown CM 311

47 J-Lo Headset (spare): Crown CM 311

48 Unused/Spare

49 Percussion Left: XLR

50 Percussion Right: XLR

51 Music Left: XLR

52 Music Right: XLR

53 BG Vox Left: XLR

54 BG Vox Right: XLR

55 Vox Left: XLR

56 Vox Right: XLR

57 Click: XLR

58 J-Lo Click: XLR

59 FOH TB Mic (with switch)

60 MD TB Mic (with switch)

61 Monitor TB Mic (with switch)

62 Pro Tools TB Mic

63 Unused/Spare

64 Unused/Spare

All photos by Steve Jennings