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Merging Science & Art: Can Anyone Catch Up With Systems Engineer Liam Halpin?

Case studies on fully utilizing new technology as an early adopter, even before there’s anything to adopt.

Out of the many narratives surrounding the life and times of Liam Halpin, perhaps one reveals the true nature of his character best: It was April 2006, and Culture Club was set to play its first live gig since 2002 at a nightclub in England called Too2Much.

With Mark Portlock at front of house and Halpin at monitors, the venue was so small that there was room for only one console. Faced with this rather troublesome problem, Halpin proposed an unorthodox solution – both engineers would use the same DiGiCo D1 desk.

“The plan just developed by itself really,” Halpin explains from his home in the UK following his return late last year from the Sam Smith Tour (Read more about it here) “We set out with the idea that we’d split the channels so that my monitor needs were laid out on the layers beneath front of house. With no production rehearsals or prep time allotted to us, I was programming the desk on the day of the gig while Mark and stage manager Keith Reynolds got everything else ready.

“As sound check drew closer, I realized that it was going to be difficult, if not next to impossible, for Mark and I to be physically going back and forth on the same console while trying to keep pace with a 9-piece band. I had to think of something, so I decided to use a PC and remote desktop control, which was a novel idea at the time.

Some of Halpin’s “homework” for the unusual yet successful loudspeaker deployment for the Sam Smith tour.

I spoke to DiGiCo and asked them if it would work. They said, ‘Yeah, we’ve had others do it for sound check, but no one has been stupid enough to actually try it during a show.’ I replied, ‘Challenge accepted,’ and just got on with it.”

Following a necessarily brief period of experimentation and introspection, Halpin ultimately made a wireless connection with the desk, reset some IP addresses, and the plan worked.

“I got through soundcheck while standing behind the band onstage,” he recalls. “They were quite confused at first, wondering who this bloke was wandering around holding a laptop. We explained that the PC was the monitor desk, and that seemed to be all the answer they needed.

“Now when I get asked if I think it’s OK to run a show from a tablet, I reply that I did it on a laptop with a DiGiCo D1 back in ’06 before there was even an app for such things, so why not?”

Going Deep

Such is the Halpin ethos, becoming an early adopter even before there’s anything to adopt.

Subscribing to the notion that new technology should always be put to full use, he has worked with various console manufacturers and others to beta test the latest generations of all kinds of gear, digging deep into each device’s functionality further than most prefer to venture for reasons of the time involved or just plain fear.

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