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Audio Helps Deliver Strictly Experience

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While Strictly Come Dancing is mainly about the visual spectacle of the ballroom – fantastic sets, amazing choreography and stunning graphics – its often neglected cousin, audio, has a huge role to play in creating the overall Strictly experience, explains Andy Tapley, Sound Supervisor at BBC Studios and Post Production (BBC S&PP).

The technical infrastructure needed to cope with the exacting demands of a fast-turnaround, high production value show like Strictly is immense.

From an audio standpoint, consider the stats. 16 pro dancers, 15 celebrities, four judges, Claudia, Tess and various guest acts means the radio mic count alone touches 50! Each of these mics has to be on a unique frequency, so add to this complexity talkback channels, presenters' and guests' in-ear monitors, production walkie-talkies (the list goes on) and it's pretty mind-boggling!

The live music element sets the show apart. Twenty world-class musicians make up the Strictly band under the leadership of music director Dave Arch – including a drummer, a percussionist, a bass guitarist, two electric/acoustic guitarists, two keyboard players, three trumpeters, two trombonists, three woodwind players and four singers. They need 60 audio circuits to cover them.

Each band and radio mic channel is split so that as well as feeding the sound control room's desk they also feed the band’s monitor desk and front-of-house PA desk – providing the mix for the audience via a tightly controlled line-array speaker system. A variety of 22 mics slung and clamped pick up the audience reaction.

To meet the ever increasing complex audio requirements of supporting a full live orchestra and multiple mics, this year, we upgraded our dedicated audio production gallery at the George Lucas Stage and invested in a Studer Vista X large-scale mixing console.

The investment enables us to streamline the delivery of studio audio, ensuring the requirements of a complex audio set-up like Strictly are met without compromise. Together with a new Audio over IP Pyramix system, we have the ability to rearrange the band's mix as the day progresses.

Strictly is a very demanding show from a sound point of view, and the tight schedule leaves absolutely no room for error. We have to be ready for transmission every Saturday for twelve weeks. Of course, apart from the technology, this is only possible because of the professionalism of our sound team.

From mic-ing up the presenters and dancers – who often need their mics sewn into their many outfits – to managing the 20-piece band and working through scores of very diverse music, to controlling the audience PA and band monitoring, Strictly certainly puts our sound team through its paces!

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