Over 20,000 watts of QSC K and KW Series Active Loudspeakers are helping to bring an authentic concert experience to the set of “Nashville,” ABC’s new hit primetime musical drama.
The compact, high-powered speakers are being used to deliver pre-recorded music tracks to the actors and an audience of extras on the “Nashville” soundstage with a clarity that not only creates a lifelike concert atmosphere but also helps the show’s editors achieve perfect lip sync.
A critical and popular hit, “Nashville” focuses on a country music star, played by Connie Britton, who accepts the opening slot on the “Red Lips White Lies” tour of a new teen sensation, played by Hayden Panettiere, in an attempt to revive her fading career. The show’s creator, producer and writer is Callie Khouri (who won a screenwriting Oscar for “Thelma and Louise”); Khouri’s husband, T-Bone Burnett, a multiple award-winner in his own right, is executive music producer.
The production has rented a large warehouse in Nashville, constructing a 2D/3D green screen virtual stage set that can be made to look like different cities as the show’s fictional concert tour progresses. Tasked with finding a speaker system capable of delivering the requisite power and clarity, the show’s sound mixer, Joe Foglia, CAS, of Southeast Audio Services, contacted his longtime friend and vendor, Mike Harris, of Harris Audio in Miami, for a recommendation.
“Without hesitation Mike insisted that we consider QSC,” said Foglia, whose background encompasses over three decades of live and studio recording as well as film and television sound, during which he has picked up six Emmy nominations, and one win for NBC’s “Scrubs.”
In seeking a solution that would meet the sonic requirements of the audio team while also appealing to the show’s set designers, Foglia consulted with QSC director of marketing communications Ray van Straten, who recommended a combination of K and KW Series loudspeakers for the various stations.
“Two KW181 subwoofers are positioned under the stage while two KSub subwoofers reside under the drum riser," said Foglia. "Onstage we use KW122s. We have four down the front, four down the rear, two on the drummer, one on the keyboard, one on the pedal steel, two for the background vocals and two for Connie and Hayden.” The production recently also built a replica of Nashville’s famed Bluebird Café music venue, which uses a pair of K8s above the stage for the audience and a pair of K10s for the performers.
“We use Pro Tools for playback. It's got to be loud and it's got to be clean but it can't overpower the stage,” said Foglia. Although the actors are performing to pre-recorded music tracks, he records the actors singing. “They need a clean, audible track of the singing to get the lip sync 100 percent, even though we use time code. Even in a big, echoey hall, the QSCs are cutting through.”
Furthermore, says Foglia, “The actors can feel it; the stage vibrates because of the subs, so everybody gets in the mood. And they bring in a thousand extras and plant them around the stage, so it needs to be good enough for them to get into it, too. The QSCs kick butt, and they’re very clear.”
“I wanted a real strong sub under the drum riser. Through Pro Tools we send the drum set to the subs so the drummer can get the feel. Sometimes we just send a click track. We use those subs and cut off the top frequencies as much as we can; it's basically a thumper. The dialog is not affected because it’s way above the frequency range of the sub.”
The initial episode of “Nashville” included concert footage filmed at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, using production elements from Rascal Flatts’ touring set, but not the band’s sound system. “I've used QSC amps all my life, so I ended up going with QSC speakers, because they're compact and powerful,” said Foglia. When the “Nashville” production relocated to its soundstage, “We had to have the best quality sound—so that's why I stayed with QSC.”