Monday, March 17, 2014
Virtual Sound Checks Without A High-End Digital Console
Here are a few ways to get it done
Here are some thoughts on doing virtual sound check if you don’t have a digital console at your disposal offering that capability.
Disclaimer: This is not going to be exhaustive. There are hundreds of hardware/software combinations that will get you the same result. These are some ideas only.
Also, it should be noted that “cheap” is a relative term. All of these solutions are going to cost money, real money. However, if you church is serious about raising the level of audio technician performance, it’s money well spent. On we go…
First, let’s define “virtual sound check.” It is simply the ability to record the band with each channel on it’s own track and then being able to play that recording back, in place through the same channels on your console.
To illustrate with a very primitive example, let’s say your “band” is a worship leader with an acoustic guitar. To facilitate virtual sound check, you would need a way to record the vocals and guitar on separate tracks, and you want those sources to come off the board before any EQ or dynamics.
Typically, you’re using direct outputs or the insert outputs. When you get ready to practice, you do a little patching (in software or hardware) and play back that recording through the same channels you use if the worship leader and his guitar were live in the room.
One thing should be immediately apparent here; the bigger your band (and the more sources you have), the more elaborate the system you’re going to need for virtual sound check. If you are running 30-40 inputs every weekend, this post is really not for you as that system is not going to be cheap.
Rather, I’m focusing on those who run fewer than 24 channels per weekend (a number that is not arbitrary, as you’ll see in a minute) and using an analog board. Here are a few ways to get it done.
The simplest way of doing this job is with a USB or more likely a FireWire interface such as the M-Audio ProFire 2626, a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 or similar interface with 8 analog inputs and 8 analog outputs.
The first thing you’ll notice when shopping for an interface is that manufacturers get very creative in the way they count I/O. For example, the ProFire 2626 is listed as having 26 inputs and 26 outputs, which it does. But only 8 of them are analog.
M-Audio ProFire 2626
And if you’re using an analog console, that’s all you care about. If you have a digital console with ADAT I/O, you gain you an additional set of 8 useable channels.
Now, the catch here is that there aren’t any interfaces with more than 8 channels of analog I/O (at least I can’t find any). So that means if you’re running 12 channels of audio, 4 get left behind. Unless you get creative. You might ask why you can’t just connect two 8-channel interfaces to your computer and send those inputs to your recording software.
The issue is that most DAW software won’t support multiple I/O devices simultaneously. If your DAW of choice doesn’t support multiple I/O devices, there is a workaround, at least on the Mac.
In Audio/MIDI settings, you can create what’s called an Aggregate Device, which allows you to create a virtual device that is made up of two or more actual devices. You then chose the Aggregate Device as your I/O source in your DAW, and all the inputs and outputs on all devices that make up the Aggregate Device are available to the DAW.
So an example system might be made up of two Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 interfaces combined into an aggregate device and recorded using Reaper on a Mac Mini. That would give you 16 channels of recording and playback for around $1500, give or take. That seems pretty reasonable; at least until you consider the next option.
Focusrite Saffire Pro40
Hard Disk-Based Recorders
There exist on the market a couple of hard drive-based recorders, most notably the Alesis HD24. This little 3-rack-space wonder is capable of recording or playing back 24 tracks of 48 hHz, 24-bit audio.
The HD24 has 24 channels of analog I/O (plus 24 channels of ADAT I/O) and costs about $1600. Really, this is the way to go. It requires no computer, is simple to set up and operate and is rock-solid reliable. Add 24 channels of TRS patch cables and you’re done.
Other options include the Tascam X-48, which is a full-blown 24 channel workstation (and almost $5,000) and the excellent, but somewhat pricey JoeCo BlackBox, which will set you back almost $3,000 by the time you add a drive.
There are a few caveats with any of these solutions. First, if your board has direct outputs, it’s a fairly simple matter to patch those direct outs to the inputs of whatever recording solution you use.
Getting back in, however, will require some re-patching. You’ll want to pull your mic inputs, and patch the outputs from the recorder or interface(s) into the Line Inputs on your console.
If you don’t have direct outs, you’ll need to use the inserts. One cool thing about the JoeCo BlackBox is that the inputs are normaled back out to the outputs during every operation except playback.
That means that for recording (or just sitting there), the insert signal is returned and you can continue to use the board normally. When you hit “Play,” it opens the normal and sends the recorded signal back to the return on the board. From a user interface standpoint, that’s really nice. However, it will cost you twice what an HD24 costs…
When using the inserts, you will likely need to push the cables into the console until the first click. An insert jack is a TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) connector, so it has 3 contact points. Most consoles use the ring as the send, so if you push a TS cable in to the first click, you get the equivalent of a direct out (albeit an unbalanced one). Pushing it in all the way will interrupt the signal, so you’ll only do that on playback.
Using inserts is going to mean a fair amount of patching and some experimenting, so don’t decide to try this out at 8:50 on Sunday morning.
Once you get the system up and running like you want, start recording your services in all their multi-track glory. Then during the week, you can practice and experiment just like the band is there, only they aren’t.
Keep in mind, you won’t have any acoustic energy coming from the stage, so things like drums and vocals will be a little different. But this is still a great tool for training and experimenting with various processor settings.
Like I said, this isn’t exhaustive; I only intended to give a few examples. Hopefully though, it will get you thinking about how you can implement a virtual sound check system in your church.
Mike Sessler is the Technical Director at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA. He has been involved in live production for over 20 years and is the author of the blog, Church Tech Arts . He also hosts a weekly podcast called Church Tech Weekly on the TechArtsNetwork.
Salzbrenner Stagetec Introduces Polaris evolution Modular Networkable Mixing System
Three primary components -- control surface, processor, and touchscreen -- all of which can be connected via standard Ethernet
Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup has introduced Polaris evolution, a new digital mixing system comprised of three primary components—control surface, processor, and touchscreen—all of which can be connected via standard Ethernet
Virtually any number of these elements can be combined within an IP network, irrespective of physical location, and can also be used in parallel simultaneously for different mixing projects. This enables users to select the appropriate audio processing power for each application with the required number of fader strips and controls.
A single Polaris access control surface has 16 faders and the same number of dual rotary encoders, 48 buttons, and a display screen strip across the width of the console. It provides remote control of the Polaris scala audio processor, a 19-inch unit for 256 audio inputs and 256 buses. Units can be cascaded to achieve larger numbers of audio channels when required.
Polaris evolution is very scalable and at the same time extremely user friendly: If another Polaris component is plugged into the network, it is registered automatically. The user decides which mixing process it will be used for and whether to integrate it in parallel mode or as a supplementary device, all without any major changes to the configuration.
Just as it doesn’t matter how many devices are logged into a computer network, it doesn’t matter how many Polaris evolution modules are deployed. They can be connected at any point in the network and used individually or collectively as desired.
Salzbrenner Stagetec Mediagroup
Friday, March 14, 2014
DiGiCo Announces New Optocore Software Implementation At Prolight+Sound
New format will allow Optocore devices to live on DiGiCo’s optical loop
At Prolight+Sound/Messe in Frankfurt (hall 8.0, stand G56). DiGiCo has announced the release of a new version of Optocore for all optically enabled DiGiCo consoles.
This new format will provide connectivity to X6R, DD2FR and DD4MR units, allowing Optocore devices to live on DiGiCo’s optical loop.
At PL+S, users will be able to see each Optocore interface as a part of the DiGiCo-Optocore network, showing how the X6R and V3R mic preamps can be controlled directly from the console. Using fiber connection between DiGiCo and Optocore booth, visitors will be able to see the real remote preamp application – the remote X6R mic preamp on the Optocore booth will be controlled from the console on DiGiCo’s booth
“Users can add a simple Optocore 16-channel X6R-FX interface to the DiGiCo network to provide additional I/O connectivity together with Ethernet and RS485/422,” explains Optocore application engineer Maciek Janiszewski. “They can also use Optocore cost efficient DD2FR-FX and DD4MR-FX MADI interfaces to increase the number of MADI ports available on the console.”
DiGiCo is the only console manufacturer to benefit from OEM Optocore and is running the native 2.21 Optocore protocol.
“The best way to demonstrate just how easy the system is to use is via live demonstrations,” says DiGiCo managing director James Gordon. “So we connected the DiGiCo booth to the Optocore and Clear-Com booth via an Optocore loop for audio, with a BroaMan Route66 core router for the video.”
“As a result of this large network we will be able to provide video, audio, intercom and data connectivity between all booths,” concludes Janiszewski. “I believe this is the first time that anything on such a scale has been implemented.”
Universal Audio Announces New Analog Classics Bundles For UAD-2 & Apollo Interfaces
Enhanced bundles add more classic UA plug-ins, new 610-B Tube Preamp, and Softube Guitar Amp emulations
Universal Audio has announced new Analog Classics plug-in bundles for its Apollo interfaces and UAD-2 DSP Accelerator cards.
Building upon the original Analog Classics bundle — which is still offered on select UAD-2 titles— the reconfigured Analog Classics line adds new analog emulation plug-ins such as the 610-B Tube Preamp & EQ Plug-In to new Apollo audio interfaces and UAD-2 PCIe and Satellite DSP Accelerator Cards.
2014 Analog Classics Bundle Lineup for UAD-2 and Apollo:
Analog Classics Bundle
Free with new UAD-2 PCIe SOLO/DUO and Satellite DUOs
Providing legacy versions of UA’s flagship 1176 and Teletronix LA-2A compressors and the Pultec EQP-1A and Pultec Pro equalizers, the Analog Classics bundle also features the popular RealVerb Pro and CS-1 channel strip.
Analog Classics Plus Bundle
Free with new UAD-2 PCIe QUAD/OCTO and Satellite QUADs
This new bundle includes all of the plug-ins in the Analog Classics bundle, plus the new 610-B Tube Preamp & EQ, legacy Fairchild 670 Compressor, and UA Precision Enhancer Hz plug-ins.
Realtime Analog Classics Bundle
Free with new Apollo Twin SOLO/DUOs
The new Realtime Analog Classics bundle features all of the plug-ins in the Analog Classics bundle plus UA’s new 610-B Tube Preamp & EQ plug-in and vintage guitar and bass amp emulations from Softube—both of which work seamlessly with Apollo’s onboard Realtime UAD processing.
Realtime Analog Classics Plus Bundle
Free with new Apollo DUO/QUAD and Apollo 16s
This new bundle includes all of the plug-ins in the Realtime Analog Classics bundle, plus the legacy Fairchild 670 Compressor and UA Precision Enhancer Hz plug-ins.
Mackie Debuts Upgraded SRM450/350 Powered Loudspeakers
Four application-specific modes available to re-voice the loudspeaker for the application at hand
Mackie has announced upgraded versions of the SRM450 and SRM350 portable powered loudspeakers, including a new 1000-watt amplifier and several digital sound-shaping tools. (See them at Prolight+Sound/Messe in Frankfurt in Hall 8.0, Stand L56.)
“The original SRM450 was the first active portable loudspeaker and, today, is still the most recognized speaker out there. SRM has always meant pro performance and sound quality that’s easy to use at an incredible price,” says Greg Young, Mackie product manager, “The new SRM450 and SRM350 continue this legacy, offering improved power, sound quality and flexible tools perfect for any gig.”
Users now have a choice between four application-specific modes, each re-voicing the loudspeaker to be optimized for the application at hand. Also built-in is an intelligent feedback destroyer that simplifies sound check. At the push of a button, SRM instantly identifies and eliminates feedback using up to four narrow 1/16th octave filters.
Both models now benefit from Mackie’s HD Audio Processing, which combines patented acoustic correction DSP with optimization features like a precision crossover and driver time alignment and phase correction.
Application flexible, the SRM450 and SRM350 also incorporate an integrated 2-channel mixer with input-friendly Wide-Z inputs, and are housed in rugged, lightweight polypropylene cabinets with a range of mounting options avalable.
The new SRM450 and SRM350 will be available globally late Quarter 2, 2014. The SRM450 will have a U.S. MSRP of $629.99, and the SRM350 will have a U.S. MSRP of $519.99.
SSL Live Console On The Road With Peter Gabriel’s Back To Front Tour
One for front of house, one for the band’s monitors and one for Gabriel’s monitoring system
When the company’s owner mandates the use of its latest technology for its first major tour, you can be sure everyone involved, knowing his perfectionist approach, gives it their full attention and then some.
Peter Gabriel’s Back to Front tour made full use of new Solid State Logic (SSL) Live consoles supplied by Britannia Row Productions for the first part of the tour in Sept/Oct 2013, and will continue to use them when the tour resumes in April 2014.
Three Live consoles were employed to handle the Back to Front performances—one for front of house, one for the band’s monitors and one for Gabriel’s monitoring system.
“The first thing to say about Live is that it sounds really good and makes mixing live audio very easy,” says Ben Findlay, FOH engineer. “You get lots of separation and clarity. The EQ is musical, never harsh, and the dynamics are transparent even when compressing a signal hard, as you would expect from an SSL console. The mixes come together quickly when starting from scratch.
“Because the audio is very clearly defined, you have more options regarding relative levels, so elements of a mix that may normally be masked with another console are still clearly audible,” he continues. “This leads to accomplishing the often illusive third dimension to a mix that live engineers strive for — and that is a real sense of depth.
“The console is also extremely reliable with not so much as a flicker during the whole tour. I am now at the stage where I am sure I would miss Live if I had to revert to my previous system. Live is a great console.”
The Live console was designed to appeal to engineers with a range of operational approaches and can be used very flexibly. The Back to Front shows provided clear evidence.
“Ben and I recorded a multi-track version of the Back to Front show during the U.S. tour in 2012, so we had a ready reference to run through the Live console when it became available before official show rehearsals,” says Richard Chappell, Gabriel’s live show coordinator and personal monitoring and studio engineer. “When we first worked with Live, we realized how very exciting and pioneering this console was. This console sounds great.
“The first part of the learning curve was the impressive touch screen that allowed each of us to configure the setup the way we wanted to work,” he adds. “The needs of monitoring are, after all, different from FOH. For me, Live is the engineering equivalent of what a musical instrument is to a performer. I can now do what I do better with Live. Secondly, I’ve heard horror stories in the past about other new consoles going out and crashing or not working. With Live, we never lost a show, it always worked.”
Monitor engineer Dee Miller notes, “Live is a hybrid console that has a touch screen but it’s also button operated; a real crossover between two ways of working. For an engineer, it’s a very powerful tool and capable of doing a lot of things. What I’ve had to do is learn how to use the desk to mix the show my way, so Live is a tool for any particular job as opposed to bending a job around a different manufacturer’s tool.
“It’s got some great features on it and it’s very powerful. Live sounds great, the clarity is extremely good and I would just say that you can hear everything really, really well. From an engineering point of view, I made many performers happy with their monitor mixes using Live.”
Solid State Logic
Yamaha Commercial Audio Announces Version 2.0 Of CL Series Digital Consoles
Yamaha CL V2.0 Available in May
Yamaha Commercial Audio has announced Version 2.0 of the CL Series of digital consoles at Prolight+Sound/Messe in Frankfurt.
The update includes enhancements for sound reinforcement applications as well as mix-minus capabilities for the broadcast market, broadening the range of applications where CL Series performance can be advantageous.
Another significant enhancement in v2.0 is discovery and head amp control for the compact QL Series consoles, also launched at PL+S, that inherits CL Series features and performance. A QL console can function as both monitor mixer and I/O rack, for example, while a front-of-house CL console can remotely control the head amp gain of the QL console’s I/O.
New features in CL v2.0 include DCA Roll-Put: Channels assigned to DCA groups can be instantly called up to the console faders for enhanced operational flexibility; output DCA enables the stereo/mono bus masters, mix bus masters, and matrix bus masters to be assigned to DCA groups. Mix minus, an important feature in broadcast applications, is now provided; with one simple operation the signal from a particular channel can be removed from a specified bus.
“CL v2.0 not only adds features that are also included in new the QL Series launched today, but provides additional support for our core sound reinforcement customers with features that were only previously available on PM digital mixers,” states Marc Lopez, marketing manager, Yamaha Commercial Audio. “Future plans include built-in Dugan automatic mixing similar to the new QL Series and additional support for broadcast applications in the CL Series. We will continue to keep a close eye on the market in order to provide features and performance that will maximize our customers’ investment in CL.”
With Read Only Scene Memory, it is now possible to create read-only scene memories. A new daisy chain insert feature allows two devices to be inserted into one channel or bus for enhanced processing freedom. A GR meter (dynamics meter) option within the channel name display will show the dynamics 1 and dynamics 2 gain reduction meters in the channel name display.
The CL v2.0 update will be available for download from the Yamaha Commercial Audio web site in May and is free of charge. Those attending the upcoming NAB show in Las Vegas can also check out v2.0 at booth C2143.
Yamaha Commercial Audio
Behringer Launches Free “Artist Presets” Library For X32 Digital Console
Free downloads from live and studio engineers available online now
Along with feature set and workflow improvements in version 2.0 firmware, Behringer has announced a free library of “Artist’s Presets” for the X32 digital console.
The library was created by noted sound engineers for use on the X32 for specific situations or instruments. Included are collections of presets from the Whisky A Go Go nightclub in LA and Big Blue Meenie Studios in NYC, as well as engineers Peter Moshay (Live from Daryl’s House, Hall & Oates), Rick Camp (Jennifer Lopez) and Terry “TJ” Jackson (Earth Wind & Fire).
Located on Sunset Strip, Whisky A Go Go installed X32 consoles at front of house and monitor positions in 2013. The “Whisky A Go Go Collection” presets come straight from those X32 consoles, which serve are starting points for engineers who often don’t get sound checks for the up to six bands that perform on any given night.
Located just across the Hudson River from the heart of New York City, Big Blue Meenie is one of the oldest, largest and most prolific “Open for Hire” private production houses for rock music on the U.S. east coast. The “Big Blue Meenie Studios Collection” from studio owner and mix engineer Tim Gilles frames a typical rock mix on the X32 and provides an extensive set of complete instrument channel strips and effects presets. These presets give users an in-depth look at Gilles’ favorite effects and channel strip settings on the X32.
Peter Moshay began his live sound career in the early 80s, hitting the road as a tech and consultant with some of the biggest names in popular music, including Journey, Kenny Loggins, The Cars and Hall & Oates. Currently he continues to work with Daryl Hall on the TV series “Live from Daryl’s House,” and over the past year, he’s used the X32 on live shows with the group and has provide some of his starting points for EQ and compression on the console.
Known for his work Jennifer Lopez and Madonna, among other A-list talent, Rick Camp—considered by many as the “best in the industry”—offers vocal and instrument presets from a consummate audio engineer in the “Rick Camp Collection.”
The “Terry ‘TJ’ Jackson Collection” comes from the noted engineer who’s traveled the world running FOH for such top acts such as Michael Jackson (Project Africa Tour), George Benson, Anita Baker, Whitney Houston and Al Jarreau. Jackson has provided the presets he’s using on the current Earth Wind & Fire tour, which includes an X32 and the Powerplay P16 personal monitoring system.
“TJ is known for his powerful and immaculate mixes,” says product manager Jan Duwe. “We’re proud to support the legacy that is Earth Wind & Fire – and we’re thrilled TJ has agreed to share his signature presets with our X32 users. This is just the beginning of a dynamic library of X32 presets, that will only grow – as more and more world-class artists and engineers turn to the award-winning X32 Digital Mixing Console.”
The “Artist’s Presets Library” comes with the v2.0 firmware download for X32, and is available free of charge at www.behringer.com.
SM Pro Audio Announces uMiX Series Of Wi-Fi Remote Controllable Digital Mixers
Models provide 56-bit double precision audio signal path with detailed parametric EQ, dynamics, and digital FX available on all channels
At this week’s Prolight+Sound/Messe in Frankfurt, SM Pro Audio has announced the uMiX family of Wi-Fi remote controllable digital mixers, including the uMiX mini (8 channels), uMiX 12 (12 channels), uMiX 16 (16 channels) and uMiX 24 (24 channels). (SM Pro Audio is in hall 5.1, stand B86)
uMiX models provide a 56-bit double precision audio signal path with detailed parametric EQ, dynamics, and digital FX available on all channels. All also include an on-board secure Wi-Fi and Ethernet router and remote microphone preamps, providing a truly out-of-the-box remote mixing solution.
Built for both desktop and touch devices, uMiX brings remote access, multi-touch, key commands, and an intuitive GUI with the look and feel of a hardware mixer. All this is needed is a desktop PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone with a modern web browser (no apps or software downloads).
uMiX mixer functions include sub groups, view groups, mute groups, mute FX, mute all, permissions, channel safes and more. uMiX stands for “You Mix,” which means everyone in the band can control their own monitor mix. A copy main mix to aux button makes it simple to set up personal mixes.
Gigs can be captured with built-in “One Touch” stereo recording to any USB stick/drive (excludes uMiX mini). Simultaneously play back digital media using the integrated digital media player for remote controlled background music and/or backing tracks—no docking required.
The uMiX16 and uMiX24 offer additional processing on the master outputs from Waves Audio. Waves MaxxBass and MaxxVolume adds drive, punch and polish to mixes while protecting the PA.
uMiX Series Overview:
—Built in router (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)
—Remote microphone preamps
—Wide device support
—Scalable - Link 2 x uMiX24 units with one Cat 5 cable for a total of 48 inputs
—Optional multi-track recording expansion card is available for the uMiX 16 and 24
—One Touch stereo recording. No Dock required
—Media Ppayer for background music or backing tracks
—HDMI display output
Danny Olesh, SM Pro Audio CEO, states, “uMiX is a really exciting product, not just for SM Pro Audio, but for the industry. uMiX technology breaks new ground in relation to affordability especially considering the on-board remote preamps and built in Wi-Fi router.
“We are also very proud that the uMiX software works on a range of devices and operating systems maximizing user choice. No downloads, no apps. uMiX is fully remote controllable with all the benefits of digital mixing and delivers a range of large console features at small console prices.”
Projected European street pricing including 19% VAT:
uMiX Mini - €199.99
uMiX 12 - €399.99
uMiX 16 - €699.99
uMiX 24 - €999.99
Projected U.S. MAP pricing:
uMiX Mini - $249
uMiX 12 - $499
uMiX 16 - $699
uMiX 24 - $999
Expected availability in-store Q3, 2014.
SM Pro Audio
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Avid Announces Expanded Live Sound Plug-In Platform For S3L Mixing System
Release of free VENUE 4.1.3 software update provides support for the latest qualified plug-ins
At Prolight+Sound/Messe in Frankfurt, Avid has announced an expanded AAX live sound plug-in platform for the S3L live mixing system, including new plug-ins from Avid as well as Crane Song, McDSP, and Sonnox. (Avid is in hall 8.0, stand G40A)
“With its unique capabilities and growing plug-in platform, Avid S3L is quickly becoming the console of choice for users requiring a compact, no-compromise system that can meet the toughest challenges,” says Sheldon Radford, director of product management, live systems and consoles at Avid.
“Avid S3L gives live sound professionals the greatest flexibility to choose the right plug-in for the job,” he adds. “The plug-ins appear within the VENUE software and are fully integrated within the session file and snapshots. This provides the best possible user experience without the need for additional hardware or management.”
“Partnering with Avid helps ensure that we stay at the forefront of industry innovation when it comes to delivering high-performance plug-ins for the live sound industry,” said Colin McDowell, CEO/CTO at McDSP. “Together, AAX and VENUE offer live sound professionals the perfect integrated processing solution, so we’re delighted to be able to bring our range of plug-ins, including our 6030 Ultimate Compressor, to the Avid S3L system.”
The release of the free VENUE 4.1.3 software update provides support for the latest qualified plug-ins, with Avid continually qualifying additional AAX live sound plug-ins. As part of the update, current and new S3L customers can also download additional free AAX plug-ins for their system through their Avid customer account.
Church Sound: Successful Mixing Starts With The Right Recipe
It takes the right blend of quality ingredients and salient directions to produce the best results from any recipe.
If a dessert recipe calls for cream, it’s not essential to use Alpine milk from hand-milked Bavarian cows, but using skim milk instead of cream may jeopardize the final results.
The same holds true for sound reinforcement. A microphone for a singing vocalist that’s substituted with a pulpit microphone designed for spoken word simply isn’t the right ingredient for the recipe. It won’t help attain the desired result.
The bottom line is that all sound system components should be of as high of quality as possible. There also needs to be an understanding of the expectations of those who are going to taste the results. For example, a chef may like extra spicy food.
But when preparing food for others, the chef must take into consideration the guests for whom the food is being prepared, and may need to slightly vary the recipe. Further, and absolutely vital: before using any recipe, the sound operator must communicate with everyone involved with a performance, both spoken word and musical.
They must understand that a given recipe may take several attempts before it produces the desired results. This process requires extra time, effort and patience on everybody’s part.
Just as you wouldn’t start a food recipe 10 minutes before it needs to be served, don’t wait for dress rehearsals or worship services to start building your sound mix.
Vital point: Always seek natural acoustical solutions before adding more sound reinforcement, i.e., system components and increasing volume levels. Too much can lead to a big mess!
Let’s start with the basics. It’s vital to understand the acoustical elements of the sound mix and their effect on each other.
Think of it as a multi-layer cake. This represents the concept that each layer builds on the other, while they all work together to create a desired outcome.
Think of it as a multi-layer cake…
It should be pointed out that all of these layers might not be used or needed. However, the principles remain the same.
The amount of ambient noise in the room establishes the base layer of sound. In other words, the air system, conversations, people moving, etc., create noise the sound system must overcome. Ambient noise will also change overall levels. For example, an empty room is much quieter than one filled with people.
The second layer consists of acoustical instruments. It’s important to first begin with main instrument(s) like acoustical piano and/or guitar(s), then add drums, and finally, any other acoustical instruments.
Begin with the pianist playing a selection. Then the guitarist should join after the first verse.
If the guitar can’t be heard clearly, it may be necessary to reposition the guitarist. If the guitar is still not loud enough, then a microphone might need to be added.
If drums are part of the performance, again begin with the piano playing, then guitar. After a minute or two, start the drummer. Listen first to determine if the piano and guitar can still be heard.
Hint: The higher octaves of the piano are usually easier to hear above other instruments.
If either lead instrument starts to get buried, try moving the drums further back on the platform and/or enclosing them with isolation panels. As a last resort, gradually increase the microphone level on the piano and guitar. Then, add any other acoustical instruments, including backing guitars, woodwinds and brass.
The third layer consists of electronic instruments such as keyboards, electronic guitars, bass guitars, acoustic instruments with electronic pickups, electronic drums, and so on.
Using the same procedure as before, begin with piano, and then add electronic keyboards to the mix. (By the way, the drummer and other acoustical players can take a break - they aren’t necessary at this particular point.)
Continue by adding other electronic instruments. When it’s at a satisfactory point, take a break of your own. Leave the room and enjoy five minutes of silence, then come back and evaluate the entire instrumental mix.
Last, but certainly not least, come the vocals. Begin with the background vocals, adding them one at a time, just as was done with instruments.
The topping is the primary vocalist(s), who must be heard and understood above all other aspects of the performance.
Keep in Mind
- Always listen for what is too loud as well as what is too soft.
- If a musician or vocalist expresses need to hear more monitor level, first try turning down other monitors (and instrument amps).
- Make level changes to the monitor mix or channel gain/trim control when the musician or vocalist is not active.
- Any changes should be small and gradual.
- Occasionally turn down the master levels for the main system and listen to the monitor system to evaluate its loudness - the monitors may be negatively impacting the main system.
- Regularly walk through the first few rows of seats to evaluate monitor versus main levels.
- If your church primarily features a rhythm band, drums and bass form the layer above the ambient noise, followed by rhythm guitar(s) and keyboards, then lead guitar and other lead instruments, with vocals on top.
- Become familiar with every song – for example, understand that lead guitar may need to jump to the top layer during an instrumental break, and don’t let this come as a surprise!
Travis Ludwig is a faculty member of the Internet Sound Institute.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Business Savvy: Doing the Numbers
The importance of having goals and objectives in your business
Entertainment technology professionals—including sound contractors, recording engineers, and live event technicians—are often driven by creative or artistic goals and dreams, and frequently downplay their financial and personal aspirations.
They assume that someone else is going to handle the business, so they can focus on making the show go on. From my standpoint, that is too risky. You’re in a better position than anyone else to determine what your goals and objectives should be.
How much do I want to earn? How hard to I want to work? What am I willing to risk to get what I want? Many technical people never really address these questions.
Having realistic written goals and objectives is your best tool for managing the inherent challenges in balancing your technical work, business, family, and other interests.
Essentials Of Planning
There’s an old expression that goes “What gets measured, gets done.” This is an important business truism. Having written business goals and objectives are essential for planning, for creative and personal development, and for congruity with your personal values.
You may be thinking, “I have goals in my head. I don’t need to write them down.” It’s good that you have goals. It’s better to write them down and turn them into a set of actionable objectives with milestones.
Goals and objectives are different from one another, but they work together. Here are the definitions.
Goal: A desired result; often long term. Something good that you aspire to over a long period of time.
Objective: An aspect or subset of a goal that is specific, measurable, and achievable.
For example, many people have a goal to get rich and retire young. That’s a desirable result and likely to be a long-term proposition. Now let’s turn this goal into a set objective.
Objective: Own a $2 million investment portfolio by age 60 and be able to live on the interest or dividends.
This is a clear statement of objective. It is specific ($2 million in investments by age 60), measurable (can be tracked over time) and - for the sake of discussion - achievable.
Goals In Three Categories
Goals and objectives relate to all aspects of your technical and personal life, not just finances. For most audio professionals, goals fall neatly into three categories: creative, financial, and personal. Let’s look at a few examples of each.
Creative Goals: Creative or artistic goals are the long-term results that you desire from your audio work, whether you make money from them or not.
Goals in the creative category define the business playing field before adding the financial elements. Here are examples of creative goals:
Live show dates produced: provide technical support for successful live events.
Sound systems designed and installed: be a successful systems integrator.
Records recorded, produced, and released: be a successful recording engineer.
Products or techniques invented: earn a patent for audio technology.
Award nominations and wins: get nominated and perhaps win a prestigious industry award.
Financial Goals: Even if you’re working as an audio technician part time or on a not-for-profit basis, you need financial goals. Your financial goals need to tie to your creative goals.
Once you “do the numbers” you will be better grounded in reality. Your financial goals may include:
Revenue from live show production: earn a living (or part thereof) as a live event technician.
Revenue from systems design, installation, and integration work: earn a living as a systems contractor or integrator.
Revenue from recording sessions: earn a living as a recording engineer.
Revenue for inventions and patents: earn a living as a product designer.
Profit (revenue minus expenses): be profitable; have something left over to save or invest.
Personal Goals: Your creative and financial goals need to be consistent or in harmony with your personal goals.
By identifying those goals up front, you can optimize all results and prevent problems down the road. Personal goals may include:
How much you work in the course of a year: work enough to make a living and get ahead while preventing burnout.
Family time, projects, and relationships: have plenty of time for family and personal life.
Spiritual growth and activities: have time to develop my spiritual beliefs” or “be active in my church.
Educational development: have time to learn new things, business and otherwise.
Health and fitness: stay youthful and live long.
When In Doubt, Quantify
When you feel those uneasy feelings coming on (like wondering if your goals are realistic), it’s time to do the numbers. Quantifying your goals is the first step in designing a set of objectives that are specific, measurable, and achievable.
Everything, including non-financial goals, can be quantified in terms of number of units, pricing or revenue, and timing or date the results are achieved.
As they become quantified, your creative, financial, and personal goals turn into objectives. Here are a few examples of solid, trackable objectives in each of the three categories.
Produce “X” live shows each month.
Design and install “X” systems each year.
Create “X” patent-able products or processes each year.
Earn “X” from pro audio work each year.
Increase average per-project fee earned from “X” to “X” by “X” (date).
Earn “X” from non-traditional sources (patent royalties, consulting etc.) by “X” (date).
Work “X” days per year (the rest is free time).
Contribute “X” ($) or “X” (time) to my local charity, church, school, or community.
Get my weight to “X” pounds and cholesterol level to “X.”
Are My Goals Realistic?
If your entertainment business information comes primarily from the general media - television, radio, newspapers, and magazines - you would conclude that all music industry people are either rich or dead.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Still, think about it. Working technical people are rarely talked about in the media. Some are lured to the entertainment field by the promise of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” along with the “American Dream” scenario of getting rich doing something glamorous.
I trust that most readers understand that the chances of getting rich quick in audio production are about the same as in any other line of business: pretty low.
Is there a middle ground between celebrity and oblivion? You bet. In fact, that’s where most of the thousands of professional audio people and live event technicians in North America are: somewhere in between.
Here’s the point. You don’t need to be a technical superstar to make a good living in pro audio.
Portrayals of music business celebrities—including their roadies and record producers—in the media can be illustrative and entertaining, but seldom serve as a real business model.
What’s Realistic For Me?
How much can I possibly earn in pro audio? Do I need to aspire to technical stardom to make it all worthwhile? Many audio people just want to be able to “pay for their habits” (like buying more gear) and be near the action in the entertainment business.
Others want to make a modest living doing audio work full time. Others want to “get rich and retire young.”
Theoretically, all the above are possible. Your business plan, including detailed goals and objectives, is an important tool for achieving what you want and staying in control throughout the process.
Goals and objectives are essential for financial success, creative development, and personal growth. Writing down your goals and objectives is a powerful exercise that provides clarity and the ability to communicate the information with others.
Along with developing technical chops, the time you spend on developing business chops is your best investment in your career as an entertainment technology professional. And remember, “What gets measured, gets done.”
John Stiernberg is founder and principal consultant with Stiernberg Consulting.
DiGiCo Introduces New D2-Rack At Prolight+Sound
More efficient and affordable rack solution for connection at either 48 kHz or 96 kHz with no I/O reduction
At Prolight+Sound/Messe in Frankfurt this week, DiGiCo has announced the launch of the D2-Rack, currently available for use with SD8 and SD9 systems.
DiGiCo, exhibiting with new German distributor united-b at hall 8.0, stand F60) at the show, is also announcing a number of new software features and an expansion of a third-party development project.
Designed to support and expand the DiGiCo SD Range’s higher sample rate I/O solutions, the D2-Rack comes with either BNC or Cat-5 MADI connections, allowing it to be used with a number of DiGiCo consoles.
By using the latest converters found in DiGiCo’s SD Racks, the D2-Rack offers a more compact, more efficient, more affordable rack solution for connection at either 48 kHz or 96 kHz with no I/O reduction.
“The D2-Rack means we are able to open up the full 96 kHz potential of the SD8, SD9 and SD11 with this next generation of I/O conversion is an impressive upgrade,” says DiGiCo managing director James Gordon. “The D2-Rack allows users to get unrivaled audio quality at a total system latency of just over 1 ms. It was very well received at ISE and we’re anticipating even higher level of interest at Prolight+Sound.”
The D2-Rack offers two I/O versions:
• 48 x mic inputs
• 16 x line outputs
• 2 x blank output slots allowing an additional 16 outputs in the owners desired format – analog, AES and Aviom
• 24 x mic inputs
• 24 x AES inputs
• 16 x line outputs
• 2 x blank output slots allowing an additional 16 outputs in the owners desired format – analog, AES and Aviom
Embrace The Tone: Optimizing Electric Guitar Sound
Weeping, with tears running down my cheeks, I can no longer hide my feelings. The microphone hangs lifeless; the cable, like a noose, suspends it midway down the amp for all to see. Yet the guitarist plays on, oblivious. Poor amp miking strikes again.
Mixing electric guitars should be easier like mixing acoustic guitars or vocals. Know the guitar’s sound, know the song arrangement, and blend accordingly. That’s a bit simplified, but many electric guitar mixing mistakes are found in these areas. A root problem is failing to recognize the value of tone.
Guitarists spend thousands of dollars on guitars, pedals, and amplifiers desiring to obtain the “perfect” tone for their signature sound. Consider the unmistakable sounds of B.B. King and the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. I can name that artist in three notes.
Moving beyond equipment, musicians want the right sound for a song. They choose the guitar pickups and pedals they use for each song, change guitars between songs – and I haven’t even mentioned amplifier possibilities.
Creating a great guitar mix starts with respecting the tone. It’s here where two common mistakes are made, and the first starts with amplifier miking. Pardon me for a moment while I dry my eyes.
Amplifiers alter the tone of the incoming guitar signal. Common tonal controls include treble, bass, and reverb, and can extend further such as the Marshall DSL100H amp head that includes resonance, presence, midrange, and two types of reverb (“classic” and “ultra”).
Amplifiers include two basic components, the speaker cabinet and the amp head, which can be either separate components or housed in the same enclosure. The head is the controlling part, sending power to the speaker(s) and providing tone and volume controls. Cabinets typically include four speakers, though smaller amps may only have one. The speakers emit sound waves differently across the speaker cone, and this is why microphone placement is a critical part of capturing the best tone.
Before discussing placement, let’s talk mics. They naturally alter tone, so it’s best to test various models until finding the right one for the job. The Shure SM57 dynamic is a popular choice. Rode makes a selection of instrument condensers, including the NT1, and Royer offers the R-121 “live sound” ribbon mic – if price is no concern. Look for mics with a unidirectional polar pattern for eliminating excess stage noise.
Begin the miking process by making sure the amp is correctly positioned. Guitarists must hear the right sound when setting up their pedals and amp controls, so be sure to point the amp at their heads. This is easy with single-speaker amps, but with full stacks, put a few feet between them and the stack.
Next, place the mic an inch away from the cabinet mesh, pointing it at the outer edge of the speaker (or one of the speakers). Listen to the sound of the amp through the house system, then move the mic an inch toward the speaker’s center and listen again. Repeat this until attaining the sound you’re seeking. Also try varying the distance; just be aware that farther away, the mic will pick up more stage noise, while closer will add bass to the sound, thanks to the proximity effect.
Art Of Mixing
Famed painter and sculptor Michelangelo once said of a statue, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
Mixing electric guitar works in much the same way. The guitar’s sound coming into the console is something to be refined and sculpted into a better version of itself. Don’t try changing it into something it isn’t.
Michelangelo knew the properties of marble as it was his artistic medium. Likewise, the guitar’s tone is the medium of the mix engineer. I didn’t say “a” guitar’s tone but rather “the” because each one is different.
Before beginning any detailed mix work, go to the stage and listen carefully to the amp’s tone. When an amp is not in use, which is common with digital pedal boards like the Line 6 POD HD500X, listen to the guitar channel in the house system.
Note the nuances of the tone. Does it sound heavy, gritty, biting, airy, warm, grungy, or bright? What’s present in the low end? What about the high end? Mix with these audio properties in mind, not to completely change them but to free them, carving away what’s not necessary.
Be prepared to forget that newly-gained tone knowledge. Guitarists pick their tone for a song and will freely change it. Be happy when they do, and be prepared. From personal experience, guitarists regularly change patches and pedal selections between a practice and a sound check when performing new songs. They learn the song, have an idea for the sound they want, play with the band, and then re-evaluate the sound.
Getting mic placement right can make all the difference in the world. (Credit: Steve Jennings)
Gating can be applied on the amp’s mic channel for additional mix clarity. This can lessen stage noise in the mix, and besides, when the guitarist isn’t playing, there’s no reason to broadcast that into the house.
Nailing The Solo
Part of good electric guitar mixing is knowing the song arrangement and the guitar’s role in the song. The electric guitar, like a piano, can play the melodic line or take a supportive role. Guitarist Adam Lipps explains his supportive style to me as “grind behind,” typical of 80’s rock, providing a driving energy. But what about a solo?
“A guitar solo should be like a lead vocal,” says engineer Steve Dennis. The solo should stand above everything else in the mix. It’s more than an instrumental interlude, it’s an emotion. If you have any doubt about this, listen to a blues album.
Guitar solos should stand out both in volume and in presence. Volume differentiation, the more obvious of the two, can be simple or complex. The easiest method is boosting the guitar’s volume. Go a step further and lower the volume of other instruments, especially a rhythm electric guitar, so the lead guitar really pops out. Finally, for a nice bit of added shine-through presence, try boosting in the upper range and beefing up the mid-range.
Despite the limitless tonal-variations of electric guitars, mixing these instruments is not an insurmountable task. Listen to the tone at the source, look at the arrangement of the song, and then bring the instrument in line with the needs of the song. And whatever you do, please use miking approaches that accurately capture the sound – I’m trying to limit my crying to romantic movies.
Chris Huff is a long-time practitioner of church sound and writes at Behind The Mixer, covering topics ranging from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians – and everything in between.
New Aviom D800-Dante A-Net Distributor Now Shipping
Offers easy integration of Aviom personal mixing systems with Dante networks
Audinate and Aviom have announced that the D800-Dante A-Net Distributor is now shipping. This unit, and the new D800 A-Net Distributor, which is also shipping, distribute audio and power to up to eight Aviom personal mixers and make them easier to integrate with various digital consoles and networks.
After licensing Audinate’s Dante protocol last year, Aviom used the protocol to create this new distributor because the integration of Dante allowed users with consoles and networks from various manufacturers to easily connect to an Aviom personal mixing system.
Built on existing networking protocols and standards, Dante is a plug-and-play networking solution which delivers ultra-low latency and tightly synchronized media, while simplifying installation and configuration of digital media networks.
Aviom product research and development manager Ray Legnini says, “The D800-Dante A-Net Distributor is one of the simplest solutions for getting up to 64 channels into the network digitally. With the D800-Dante, both channels going to the Aviom personal mixers and stereo mixes back from the personal mixers can remain in the digital domain, thus simplifying the workflow. Dante is an effective solution for users looking to integrate their audio gear across a single network.”
“Aviom has always been known for their innovative, technology-based products that meet the needs of audio professionals and musicians working in a number of environments,” addss Lee Ellison, CEO of Audinate. “The D800-Dante A-Net Distributor provides Aviom customers with a means to integrate easily with the rapidly expanding number of audio products on the market that are already operating on a Dante network.”
The D800-Dante A-Net Distributor simplifies connections to the Aviom personal mixers by making it possible to connect directly to any Dante console or network. With the D800-Dante A-Net Distributor, 64 channels from the network can be available to the personal mixers in the system. Each performer with an A360 Personal Mixer can mix those channels he or she wants from this pool of 64 available channels.
Both the D800 and D800-Dante A-Net Distributors are compatible with Aviom A-16II and A-16R personal mixers, but when used with the A360 personal mixers, the D800 and D800-Dante also offer the new Network Mix Back feature.
Network Mix Back sends a digital copy of the stereo mix output from each A360 personal mixer connected to the D800 or D800-Dante back to the Dante network or to an AN-16/o v.4 output module for simplified connections to musicians’ wireless in-ear transmitters. With Network Mix Back, transmitters for wireless in-ears can easily be set up off stage and cabling for the personal mixers on stage is simplified.
In addition, both D800s serve as a communications hub for iOS devices connected via an Ethernet WiFi router. iOS support for the A360 is scheduled for release later this year.