A Look At The Amazing Feat Of Super Bowl Halftime Show Audio

Photo: Patrick Baltzell

Whether you like football or not, you have to admit that the Super Bowl has risen almost to the level of a national holiday. While most of us tune in for the game itself, the halftime show is also the music event of the year to many. With an audience of around 100 million, what artist wouldn’t want to be on stage (the Kaepernick issue aside)? Most of us never think about the issues involved in the logistics of the halftime show though. Did you know that it’s all put together in an amazing 6 minutes?

The Verge just did an excellent article featuring the long-time mixer for the Super Bowl Patrick Baltzell, who’s now done one of the toughest industry jobs for 20 years. While you can read the article for more details, some of the revelations about the show were:

  • The planning for the show begins in June due to the logistics involved. The talent is hired in September.
  • The entire stage is put together in 6 to 7 minutes after the end of the first half. Holes are drilled in the concrete floors in order to facilitate the cable runs to make things go faster. Everything comes through the same tunnels that the players come through. Each stage is custom and thrown away afterwards!
  • The show is broadcast to 180 different countries in 25 languages, so all of those extra foreign announcers have to be accommodated.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the lead vocals are always live, but the band and background vocals are pre-recorded. The only exception was the Rolling Stones, who refused to play to tracks! The vocals are also pre-recorded as well just in case there’s a glitch. This is what’s known as a “protection track.” There are 16 to 18 tracks played back from a Pro Tools rig.
  • The artists don’t get paid, but their production costs are covered. It can be up to $10 million.
  • Sound reinforcement for the stadium is supplied by 16 to 18 speaker carts placed around the playing field pointed up at the audience, along with the house sound system. There are about 120 speakers (JBL VTX) along with 36 subwoofers.
  • It takes 8 hours to tune the sound system. This takes place over 2 evening sessions before the event after everyone on the field stops working. The session is put on hold if it’s windy or rainy.
  • Open-air stadiums are easier to do than stadiums with a roof since the acoustics are usually made to reflect the crowd noise to make it louder.

This is a fascinating article and well worth the read! It makes all other sound reinforcement jobs pale in comparison.

Check out the time-lapse of the actual stage construction for the SB 53 halftime show.

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