ATK President Michael MacDonald discusses the history of Audiotek, and explains why they were early adopters of the new JBL VTX A12 line array solution.
ATK Audiotek specializes in providing audio systems for high-profile live television shows and events, including the Super Bowl, the Grammy Awards, The Voice and more. They also have a thriving integration business, and install audio systems for some of the world’s leading tech and retail companies.
ATK were early adopters of the JBL VTX A12 line array solution, adding it to their massive deployment of HARMAN products. We recently sat down with ATK President Michael MacDonald to discuss the history of Audiotek, find out what kind of gear they use for live events and installations, learn about the challenges of providing audio systems for television broadcasts and more.
How did ATK Audiotek get started in the industry?
ATK Audiotek was founded in 1984, so we’ve been in the industry for 34 years now. We have an eclectic blend of clients and services. On the rental side of our business, we provide sound systems for televised special events and broadcast work. As an integrator, we work with Silicon Valley companies and their retail operations, as well as major sports venues. We are very fortunate, and we’ve earned the reputation of doing work right and offering a high level of service on an ongoing basis.
How many events does ATK do each day?
When you add it all up, typically 12 to 14 shows every day across four categories. There are daily shows like Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, and episodic reality shows like The Voice, America’s Got Talent and American Idol. There are TV awards shows like the, the Grammy Awards, the Emmy Awards, the Country Music Awards, the American Music Awards, the Billboard Awards…the list goes on and we do almost every one of them. We also do corporate events like board meetings and shareholder events. Sometimes it gets crazy, like when we did 24 shows in a day, and there are times when it is quiet and we’re only doing six.
What kind of gear do you use? Does it differ for live events and installations?
HARMAN is our go-to for almost all of the product categories. If you want to pick a single brand that has the biggest catalog of products that are really cost effective, JBL cuts across a massive swath. We have a lot of experience using these products in really hostile and difficult applications during special events. We apply what we learn during the live events and use the same products and practices in our installations.
We own about 3,000 loudspeakers, and 90% of those are JBL. That ranges from hundreds of Control 25s all the way up to the new VTX A12 cabinet—we’ve got 96 of those in our inventory that we’re using every day. We have 148 of the VTX V20 10-inch three-way line arrays, and we love them. We have hundreds 4886s. We use tons of BSS signal processing, and we’ve bought hundreds of Crown amps in the last couple of years. We also own hundreds of AKG mics.
What are your thoughts on the new VTX A12 line arrays?
Our collective opinion is the A12 is the single best speaker that JBL has ever made. It’s a fabulous speaker—it comes out of the box, it sounds good, the transport capability is extraordinarily well thought out, it packs in the truck right, the vertical transporter is easy to use, and the angle setting and the rigging is intuitive and fast. The A12W gives us the options we need for the bottom of the array, and the the two different horizontal coverage patterns work very well together—it’s very well-balanced. It’s a pretty amazing product!
What is the biggest challenge with live television production?
On a television production, the live audience acts as a proxy for the people at home. Viewers know what’s funny or entertaining by listening to the applause and looking at how the audience is reacting. But it does not translate well to the viewers at home if the audience can’t hear the articulation of the words in the venue where the event is being held. It’s actually surprisingly critical to the show.
When you put a sound system in the room with audience reaction mics and podium mics, they tend to pick up a lot of room tone or reflected energy. And if there’s too much room tone, it makes the broadcast sound hollow. So the director and the producer sitting in the TV production suite will tell the PA mixer who’s sitting in the audience to turn down the PA. And as he brings the down the mics so that the broadcast sounds right, people can no longer hear the jokes, they may stop laughing, this results in the show becoming bland and flat, people change the channel and the ratings go down.
So there is a very, very high bar of performance that’s required to do these events, and the system needs to be incredibly balanced and deliver high levels of articulation and coverage. In a very short period of time, the JBL A12 system has proven to be a very high performance system that provides the articulation needed in the audience, while controlling stray acoustic energy throughout the venue. It also exhibits exceptionally flat frequency response that helps with gain before feedback. These critical attributes combined with flexible transport options make it an exceptional tool in the live sound world.
Stay tuned to the HARMAN Professional Solutions Insights blog as we welcome more partners to the JBL VTX A12 family, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and look for the hashtag #WelcomeToTheA12Family. For more information on ATK AudioTek, visit www.atkaudiotek.com.