Gravity Media is a company providing comprehensive event broadcasting services worldwide. Over 30 years of experience in creating the contents that inspire is made possible by harnessing 
the potential of the highest quality professionals – engineers, vision and sound engineers, technicians and managers. The company employs more than 500 professionals and serves international clients by broadcasting sports, media, news and entertainment events.

Julien Gaulier is an engineer at the Gravity Media Division in France. On a day-to-day basis, he manages audio services such as intercoms (Riedel, Telex, Unity), as well as audio production and mixing for the broadcast of various events. He also specialises in computer network management. He manages Cisco switches for multiple broadcast vans and the Dante service for audio networks. Julien is investing in education in this field, gaining more and more Cisco certifications.

I am talking with Julien about both his work as a van engineer during sports broadcasts and his approach to mixing as a sound engineer. Please, join the conversation.

AV Tech Magazine: Julien, how did your audio adventure begin?

Julien Gaulier: Like all sound engineers, I was first and foremost passionate about music. After studying sound engineering, I began my career as boom operator for TV news. It was only meant to be a stepping stone into the world of sound engineering, but the taste for adventure seduced me and I spent 9 years doing it.
Then, seeing no way forward, I decided to move into TV broadcast ObVan, starting out as a sound assistant.
 Then I managed to climb the ladder by learning from some excellent sound engineers at Euromedia France and AMPVisual for 11 years.

When did you get into Gravity Media?

I’d already seen how well Gearhouse UK (formerly Gravity Media) performed at Roland Garros for Eurosport. So I joined them in 2020, even though there had never been an internal audio manager within the Gravity group’s French operations. Everything had to be done for audio, which was very motivating.

What is the scope of your responsibilities?

I’m head of audio at the French office. I work with technical management and production to respond to calls for tenders, I build or adapt broadcast fly pack, I train freelance audio operators and sometimes, I still go on the field to keep the experience and satisfaction of completing projects with clients and technical teams.

I wonder what your working day looks like?

It’s very varied, but it always starts with a review of the “to-do list” to make sure I don’t get my priorities wrong.
I design and build audio broadcast systems to meet the bespoke needs of our clients. This can involve technology watch and compatibility check (especially for IP-AES67 equipment).
 I regularly have to delay this activity in order to draw up equipment lists for events, configure consoles, simple network infrastructures and intercom matrices. I also have to train freelancers to take over or operate myself.

Among other things, you operate intercom systems. What does an engineer’s job look like with these types of systems?

The name of my job is ‘Audio In Charge’. In other words, we don’t normally mix. We manage all the audio technology, from the intercom to the configuration of the audio mixer for an A1 to come and mix the programme. On smaller jobs, of course, we do it all ourselves.
I often compare our approach to audio mixer to the work of a train station manager. There are so many inputs, outputs and interactions between them that you need a lot of experience and methodology. 
You have to be able to guess the customer’s needs, or quickly understand them, because if they can never express their needs clearly, they will immediately see if communication between the teams is not fluid.
 The intercom is like the backbone of a n event. Without it, nothing is possible. 
You have to put yourself in the head of each person involved in the show and imagine how to make communication intuitive for them.

Which intercom solutions prove the best during event broadcasting?

We are used to work with Riedel Artist or RTS Odin matrices as core. These two systems have long proved their robustness and effectiveness. I know that Clearcom makes excellent equipment too, but I haven’t often had the opportunity to use them. The Riedel Bolero system has become a must for all wireless communications today and we also use lighter but very clever solutions like Unity Intercom for external users (4G network or internet).

You have mentioned to me that you also deal with computer networks. Will you tell us a bit more about it?

When I arrived at Gravity, I first had to learn how to manage my own little Cisco switches to do Dante in good conditions. Then I discovered the facilities that Vlan and Trunk links between switches could bring me.
 We also had to take an interest in firewall management and port forwarding to provide Internet services such as AviWest (Video via 4G) or Unity Intercom (Intercom via 4G). 
After a few self-taught experiences, I became increasingly interested in these network tools. This allows me to be much more sure of my set up and to improve their efficiency.
What’s more, I wanted to consolidate my networking knowledge by taking a Cisco CCNA certification. It’s a long way from what we need in broadcast networks, but it gives me more tools to develop.

What are computer networks in audio applications for you today?

Just as digital technology has swept away analog audio mixers and their die-hards, the exponential possibilities of the IP network are taking everything with them. There is less and less equipment left in our control rooms that is not IP managed for audio.
Management of all equipment is centralised.
Good management of Dante is essential, and AES67 requests more skills to master.
Today, all audio streams are in IP (intercom, stagebox and mix). All that’s missing is perfect integration with IP video. It’s still quite complex, but I think you need to learn how.

I often observe sound engineers working in broadcast vans. Is the job of the sound engineer in the van different from that of Live?

I think it’s completely different. A sound engineer works on the basis of the venue and its acoustics.
In broadcast ObVan, we don’t have to deal with all the sound system issues and we’re more often with journalists than with musicians, but we have to integrate many more audio sources (camera microphones, audience microphones, graphic sound effects, video clips with or without commentary). We also have to manage all the intercoms and be able to listen simultaneously to the mix, production orders and all the occasional information (external coordination, communication with the video/sound technicians). We also have to carry out several simultaneous mixes as we often produce a Raw Signal (international signal without journalists), as well as one or more private signals (with journalists).

I’ve seen you work on various consoles -> Carlec, Lawo, Studer or Yamaha. Could you list 
a few characteristics of each?

I really enjoy working with Calrec and Lawo. Without preference, these two brands have a few differences but they are excellent, efficient and robust. Very flexible routing and delay management.
 I haven’t touched a Studer for a while and that’s not going to happen any time soon. But I have fond memories of their user-friendliness.
Yamaha’s consoles are more live-oriented but they’re very reliable and can be used for a lot of broadcast projects, with a bit of internal tinkering (CL series).
 The Rivage series seems to me to be really Live-oriented but the new DM7 looks very interesting. I can’t wait to test it.

I’m very curious to know which audio tools available in the consoles you use most often?

In my opinion, the vital tools of a broadcast console are:

  • Cutom layer (to be able to change fader positions easily at will),
  • Fast, flexible multipoint routing,
  • Reverse Buss (to re-control all the routing of a large configuration),
  • Delay positioning everywhere (pre fad, post fad, post aux, direct out)
 And when everything’s ready, you can finally work on the EQ and dynamics.

I have the impression that working in a broadcast van is a combination of studio and Live work. Can it be called that?

You could look at it this way. “Live” because we’re covering an event with a lot of technical constraints, and “Studio” because we have to follow a production timeline and deliver a product that can be broadcast immediately.

Tell us a little more about your sound preferences. What is a good mix for you?

Like music sound engineers, we have reference tunes with which to evaluate loudspeakers. But the comparison stops there.
I remember the simple, pragmatic advice of one of my mentors, Thierry Perault:

  • “First of all, you have to hear what you’re looking for immediately”. So there’s no point in thinking about EQ and dynamics processing until you’ve got the gain right. Especially for live service,
  • “One sound, one picture”: sounds silly, but it’s essential. We often have unplanned events, video clips with audio problems, interviews with the wrong microphone. You always have to be ready to react to correct issues and continually anticipate future events. The trap is to concentrate too much on the details and miss essential moments. The customer judges us more on our responsiveness than on the quality of the voices on air.
I always try to be as simple and responsive as possible in my configurations.

You have got a lot of interesting projects in your portfolio. Will you present the most interesting ones?

I love diversity. I get just as much pleasure out of small events that require ideas for getting around technical limitations (Indoor Athletics, Reality TV), as I do out of huge events that push back the comfort zone (Olympics, Triathlon in remote production from Australia with over 20 cameras).
Since 2021, we have been working on an international Esports competition ESL. Their requirements are specific and demanding in terms of resources. First we had to meet their expectations, then we had to overhaul the entire control room to make it more powerful and quicker to set up.
 We also covered the Tennis outercourts at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics: 5 courts in 5.1 on two mirrored LAWO MC²56 consoles. A huge configuration for very few microphones to begin with. 
We’re still covering Tennis at the PARIS 2024 Olympics, but on the 5 main courts this year. All in Atmos, which gives us a new challenge.

The Tokyo Olympics must have been a real challenge 🙂 Tell us, with such a large sporting event, what are the preparations and logistics like?

The work on the Olympics is special because it takes place over several months. First we had to study the requests from OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services) to find out what equipment to choose. Then you have to do location scouting, technical diagrams, reliability tests and find all the necessary equipment. This requires an enormous amount of upstream work.
Knowing that we’ll only have time to install and correct problems on site, we have to do everything we can in preparation to ensure that everything works and make all the configurations. For these projects, my best tool is excel ;), the last straw for a sound engineer. 
Once the show has started, you can finally take a breath and check that all the equipment is working properly.
It’s still an extraordinary service.

How are microphones selected for this type of events?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, we have no say in the matter. OBS has an agreement with Audio Technica, who supply all the microphones, and the layout plans are also imposed by OBS. Our role is to make all this possible.

Regarding the hardware potential, it must be really impressive. What audio tools did you use?

For the time being, the security and availability of the equipment remains a priority, so we use LAWO or CALREC consoles, Madi Directout M1k2 or Prodigy routers, with Madi connections to video router. It’s not always hi-tech, but it’s very reliable and facilitates interoperability. There are a lot of service providers from different countries at these events and you have to make sure they can all work together: that’s why the latest technology isn’t always the best choice.
 On the other hand, it’s an opportunity to push the quality of the audio capture with Atmos. We have to completely overhaul our workflow to adopt this standard.

Did any technological challenges occur during the event?

On the outercourts, the priority is performance (5 courts in 5.1 on a single console), and we had to capture at a broadcast level with equipment that isn’t: the ‘All-in-One’ Vibox, which was the heart of our productions, isn’t designed for such reliability. We had to redouble our inventiveness and efforts to get round its flaws (often video/audio desynchronisation). 
For PARIS 2024, we will be covering the main courts with more suitable broadcast equipment. It will be more comfortable, but also bigger.

And what was the communication like between engineers or editors?

For Tokyo 2021 Tennis, we were in charge of the technical side (engineers) and the production side (camera operators, A1 mixers, video director, etc.). So it was natural to come to an agreement and find compromises that suited everyone.
 For Paris 2024 Tennis, we are providing the technical facilities for the 5 main courts, as well as the entire production. This makes communication much easier.

I would have a couple more questions. How about arranging a second interview?

With pleasure

Jakub Krzywak


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