Thursday, November 15, 2012
James River Assembly Moves Up To DiGiCo SD5/SD10 Consoles
New consoles help accommodate growing congregation on two campuses
James River Assembly (JRA) is among the first venues in the United States to take delivery and install a new DiGiCo SD5 consoles.
Taking advantage of a limited-time “Trade Up” offer from U.S. distributor Group One Limited–and working through Special Event Services (SES)–the 12,000-member house of worship in Springfield, MO, traded up their outdated large-format digital console with credit toward the purchase of two SD5s, plus an SD10 to accommodate its growing congregation.
The consoles were also a perfect fit for their staff, offering stellar flexibility, expandable I/Os for future growth, and a streamlined audio footprint for their South Campus as well as their West Campus, which opens in December.
JRA audio director Stephen Maddox selected the SD5 for the main campus FOH after seeing its debut at the 2012 InfoComm show, adding an SD10 for monitors. An additional SD5 was purchased for FOH at the West Campus with technical engineer Brian Roggow overseeing the installation there.
JRA pulled the old consoles—which freed up loads of space—after a Sunday morning service and had the DiGiCo units up and operational for rehearsals the following Tuesday.
“With the audio system revamp, we waited because we knew it would be a larger undertaking,” explains Maddox, “and one that would entail putting in an entirely new speaker system but also modifying the architecture of the room, and updating the microphones, soundboard, etc. We moved forward with the vision of our lead pastor John Lindell in mind. It was a team effort from the whole staff here. When the previous system was designed, the church was doing a classic contemporary musical style, which included a choir and orchestra.
“Since that time the church has transitioned musically to a rock/contemporary style of worship, but the old sound system wasn’t able to keep up with the output,” he continues. “The speakers were the main culprit and got the conversation started for the revamp. Once we decided on the PA—an Outline GTO with Powersoft K8 amplifiers and XTA DSP—we moved on to looking for consoles.”
Having consistency with the consoles at both the South Campus and the West Campus—running at 96 kHz—helped JRA achieve a streamlined sonic clarity as well. “It’s not like each venue is different,” Maddox says. “It’s the James River sound. Our tagline is, ‘one church, two locations.’ We want the experience at either campus to be the same. The PM1D was a nice board at the time we bought it but it lacked the warmth and depth that the DiGiCo has. When we first turned it on, I could hear the difference. It’s a very clear console, very warm, and the clarity alone is a nice feature in itself.”
The console’s flexibility was another bonus for both engineers. “I think the DiGiCos are very easy to understand and get around on,” Roggow offers. “You can see a lot of information at a quick glance. I like the fact that they can easily be a multi-user, multitasking console. I like that much better than a single-channel control approach, too.”
“With a lot of the other manufacturers’ consoles, you’re limited by its design in how you have to use it,” Maddox adds. “Since I started programming on the DiGiCo, it’s been very much of a, ‘this is what we’re giving you, how do you want to use it?’ experience. That was extremely beneficial to me because no longer was it how do I have to do it but rather how do I want to do it. Part of that intuitiveness is being able to lay out the console like you want to, with either a musical or logical layout, for a specific part in our service; it’s very straightforward and easy to program. Some of the specific features I like are the floating inputs, allowing you to put anything where you want it. The virtual sound check is a huge performance boost allowing you to mix without people on stage.
“Also, the Set Spill option is great. Even though I have each piece of the band individually laid out in layers and banks how I want, it’s very nice to be able to spill them out and it allows me to have the whole band show up on both banks with quick access to them. The macros are a huge plus, too, giving you the flexibility to program them for any scenario you can imagine because you can virtually program anything on the desk to a Macro.”
The Waves SoundGrid Bundle also adds to the overall palette. “Having them as an option is great,” explains Maddox, “but everything onboard is pretty phenomenal and the console itself is good enough on its own—from the DigiTubes, which give you the nice dynamic, tube-quality EQ, to the onboard dynamic EQ, to the multiband compressor or built-in De-esser they all sound nice. I would be fine if I didn’t have the Waves plug-ins, but they give you more to paint with and they’re a nice option to have. The PuigChild, modeled after the Fairchild, is a favorite, or the CLA compressors. The C6 is a great multiband compressor and it’s very easy to use. The Renaissance De-Esser is good, as is the SSL Compression or the SSL Channel Strip with its compressor and EQ options.”
Along with their new in-ear monitor systems, comprised of a wired Shure PSM 600 for the six-to-seven-piece band, wireless Shure PSM 900 for the three to four main leaders and soloists, and Sennheiser EW500 G3s, (each with a stereo mix), for the five to six background singers, the SD10 at monitor world has been another seamless experience for JRA.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had such an easy experience on a monitor console,” offers Maddox. “It’s all right there and a very nice, simple process. Our in-ears are so much clearer and sound so nice. It’s been a seamless upgrade and a great experience for everyone.”
The console’s main monitor engineer, Tucker Fredock, has found a lot to love onboard the console. “The layer feature makes it simpler to move around the board,” he says “Also, since we have so many different musicians that play each week, I can save their mixes as mix presets. It’s great to have a touchscreen on the SD10. The DiGiCo Gain Tracking is very accurate since in our setup FOH has gain control and it seamlessly follows when FOH makes adjustments. I love the multiband compressors and use them on the output mixes.
“Also, because we’re running the console in 96 kHz, it brings out more of the clarity in each instrument. The drums sound fuller and the voices stick out more in the mixes, kind of like a 3D image. Overall, I think the SD10 is a better product than what we were using before.”
Group One Limited
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Yamaha & Steinberg Launch NUAGE Networkable Recording System
Allows engineers to choose and combine components to match individual application and workflow requirements
In an international launch of a joint collaboration, Yamaha and Steinberg have debuted NUAGE, a hardware and software system that adds the power of the Dante audio network to high-end recording, post production, live to tape broadcast, and house of worship recording for re-broadcast.
NUAGE is a complete, flexible system that allows engineers to choose and combine components to match individual application and workflow requirements.
NUAGE is the first truly networkable recording system consisting of hardware work surface components, sleek interface, comprehensive visual feedback, networkable audio interface units, and a software-based digital audio workstation.
The Yamaha control surface offers a combination of fader and main control units allowing for various system configurations, and the core of NUAGE is Steinberg’s Nuendo digital audio workstation software.
Dante audio networking provides unrestricted system design and expandability both in the studio and in situations where audio is to be shared with live mixing systems.
A Dante Accelerator audio interface card can be installed in the computer running the Nuendo DAW to provide extra-low latency multi-channel audio data transfer capacity, advantageous when communicating with NUAGE I/O units. A secondary port can be used to provide redundant connections for failsafe reliability.
“The NUAGE system will provide our customers a quality experience consistent with the Yamaha brand,” states Marc Lopez, marketing manager, Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems. “We’re providing the best of all worlds - a scalable user friendly work surface, the superior workflow of Nuendo, and the power of Dante.”
NUAGE provides intuitive operation and visual organization for enhanced efficiency.
Any 24-inch monitor can be used with the system. The system incorporates the computer LCD displays for “Extensive Console View” channel strip extension, customizable Nuendo shortcuts that can be freely assigned to numerous User Assignable Keys, Touch Slider functionality for instant channel navigation, touch sensitive faders and encoders, Channel Name Display, and Channel Color Bar.
A precision jog wheel supports accurate, error-free editing on the master section.
NUAGE modular architecture and network audio interface enable broad system flexibility. Two types of control surface units can be used individually or in combination, according to system needs.
Three types of high-end audio interfaces are available, used individually or in combination for up to 128 channels. 16-channel analog, 16-channel digital, and 8-channel analog + 8-channel digital can be controlled at once with two encoders per channel, or all encoders can be mapped to one or two highlighted channels in the Channel Setting Mode. NUAGE I/O also features proprietary JetPLL jitter reduction technology for extremely low jitter and superior AD/DA resolution.
NUAGE includes 32-bit/192 kHz support for superior sonic quality (Nuendo 6 supports sampling rates up to 384 kHz). Advanced audio interface DSP hardware offers “True Integrated Monitoring” for low-latency monitoring.
The DSP surround processing capabilities provide all the essentials for state-of-the-art surround sound including loudspeaker/level display adjustments and base management.
Native system processing allows a large number of plug-ins to be used simultaneously across multiple channels/tracks. Nuendo Syncstation provides sample-accurate synchronization for audio and video.
The system’s space-saving keyboard/mouse editing capabilities as well as compact rack-mount dimensions round out the package.
A basic NUAGE system starts at a targeted MSRP of $18,000 and has an expected availability of second quarter of 2013.
Computers and monitors are not included in the system components.
Yamaha Commercial Audio
PreSonus UC 1.7 Expands VSL’s Smaart Analysis Capabilities
Easily view the frequency response of a venue, quickly calculate and set delay-system timing, and verify output connectivity
On November 19 (this coming Monday), PreSonus will release version 1.7 of its Universal Control, a free update to the company’s control-panel software that offers a significant expansion of the Rational Acoustics Smaart measurement technology that is integrated into the Virtual StudioLive section.
The update will be available for download at www.presonus.com/support/downloads.
In Universal Control 1.6, PreSonus added Smaart Measurement Technology’s Spectra module to its Virtual StudioLive control/editor/librarian software for all StudioLive mixers, which is part of Universal Control. This version also gave StudioLive owners access to an RTA and Spectrograph.
With Universal Control 1.7, StudioLive 24.4.2 and 16.4.2 users gain the abilities to easily view the frequency response of a venue, quickly calculate and set delay-system timing, and verify output connectivity. (Note that these additional capabilities are not available for the StudioLive 16.0.2 due to its different architecture.)
To accomplish this, PreSonus has added three Smaart system-check wizards to VSL. To use these tools, the user connects a measurement microphone to the StudioLive mixer’s Talkback input. A high-end mic is not required; most measurement mics can do the job.
Smaart Room Analysis Wizard
The Smaart Room Analysis (SRA) Wizard is an automated process that guides you through the steps of acquiring a frequency-response trace and then overlays the resulting trace on the VSL display for a StudioLive 24.4.2 or StudioLive 16.4.2 Fat Channel parametric EQ. (A frequency-response trace is the plotted result-frequency and amplitude-of the system measurement.) The user can then adjust the parametric EQ to get rid of unwanted anomalies in the room.
The SRA Wizard can do a basic analysis, which requires a single-point measurement, or an advanced analysis employing three separate mic position measurements and averaging them together.
Smaart System Delay Wizard
The Smaart System Delay (SSD) Wizard calculates and sets the correct amount of delay time between two full-range speaker systems, using the StudioLive’s subgroup-output delays. This helps synchronize the outputs of secondary (generally, side and rear) loudspeakers with the output of the main front loudspeakers in a front-of-house P.A. system. The user can synchronize multiple secondary systems using this tool and the StudioLive 24.4.2/16.4.2 mixer’s four subgroup outputs.
Smaart System Output Check Wizard
The Smaart Output Check (SOC) Wizard verifies that your system outputs are routed correctly and are passing signal. By momentarily taking over the routing and volume control of an output and patching pink noise to it, this tool lets you quickly discover which speaker is connected where and helps you quickly get to the root of a routing problem.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Church Sound: The Musicians Can Make (Or Break) The Mix
There is dependence -- in reality both need to be good
Recently, someone at our church sought me out to tell me that every week, our music mix for services sounds fabulous.
As merely the producer of our services, I quickly credited the front of house sound person, and then added, “without the great musicians, it wouldn’t sound good at all.”
Really, when the musicians are great (and just as importantly, playing well together), mixing shouldn’t be too hard. Similarly, if the musicians are substandard, there’s not a whole lot that the sound mixer can do to fix it.
Musicians generally have the same outlook. Several have told me over the years that they really enjoy playing at particular places where the sound is good, and vice versa.
Thus musicians know a sound person can ruin a performance, and a sound person knows that little can be done to improve a bad musical performance. Logic, yes?
There is dependence—in reality both need to be good.
It’s also a fact that good musicians can make a sound person look like the ultimate hero. I learned this early on, when I was a teenager and helping out the local sound company as a “gofer” at a concert featuring the great B.B. King.
He did something that I’ve never seen an artist do again to this date. During sound check, he stopped the band halfway through the first song, turned to the front of house engineer, and stated that he would really appreciate it if the compressor on his microphone were turned off.
He then explained how he likes to work the mic, and knew when to get on the mic and when to back off. In other words, no additional help needed! He knew what he was doing and wanted control to do it.
To his credit, Mr. King did this in a very nice way, even making a joke about how he was so old and had been using mics long before compression was even available, so he was just used to doing it that way.
I spent the night studying how he worked the mic.
One particular thing I noticed is that he would go from having his lips resting on the capsule to backing off almost two feet, using that to help his voice fade in and out of the music (when he wanted that effect).
Since then I’ve talked to several musicians about his approach, and shown them as well (it really needs to be demonstrated). More than one has said it’s helpful.
One final note about great musicians. On occasion, I get to mix big bands, and it’s almost always a joy because the band usually mixes themselves.
Sax soloists, at the right time, lean into the mic and increase their playing volume, while the band eases off just a bit. The same with piano when it’s a solo, and the band backs off even more, without going too quiet.
I love it because it makes me look good, and I can also focus on more subtle things like EQ, effects, and dynamics.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: great live music requires both Tech and Talent (TnT).
Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at churches for more than 30 years.
Arturia Announces Availability Of SPARK DubStep Software Suite
Sample library plus rhythm track construction kit that includes 960 pre-programmed MIDI patterns
Arturia has announced the availability of SPARK DubStep, a new production and performance software suite dedicated to heavy-duty dubstep rhythm track construction.
SPARK DubStep features a comprehensive library of 30 kits/480 instruments created in partnership with London-based pro audio loops and samples provider Sample Magic.
SPARK DubStep is more than a sample library, also offering a complete rhythm track construction kit, including 960 pre-programmed MIDI patterns of hard-hitting drums, virtual analog synths, and filter-modulated mayhem.
SPARK DubStep’s powerful, inherently user-friendly interface simplifies beat- and bass pattern-creation, especially when using the step sequencer situated at the top of the default center panel.
Advanced looping modes combined with the XY pad’s real-time slicing and filtering controls allows users to produce stunning breaks.
The 480 instruments comes complete with 12 sound-sculpting parameters that allow users to put their own stamp on the resultant sound—modify the noise color of hi-hat, clip basses using various analogue filters, adjust the LFO rate and depth of a wobble bass, and more.
SPARK DubStep’s integrated 16-channel mixer offers 14 high-quality effects and also mapping of each instrument’s stereo output to the host DAW when seamlessly running as a plug-in (RTAS, AU, VST3) with real- time automation available on all parameters.
It’s also possible to export patterns as .wav or MIDI files to the DAW via simple drag and drop.
SPARK DubStep can be used as a stand-alone instrument independently from a software sequencer and played a MIDI keyboard, or as a drumpad-based controller. Either way, all onscreen key knobs and pads are easily assignable via MIDI.
SPARK DubStep can be purchased as a software download for €99 EURO/$99 USD or boxed for €119 EURO/$129 USD from Arturia’s Online Shop here.
Listen to Arturia Director of Sound Design Mike Hosker putting SPARK DubStep through its stylistic paces here.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Road Test: Yamaha CL Series Digital Consoles
Assessing the CL5 and companion I/O units in the shop and in the field
The CL5 is the largest model in the new Yamaha CL Series of digital consoles.
The line-up comprises three consoles, the CL1, CL3 and CL5, all founded on the company’s Centralogic interface and ranging in scale from 48 to 72 mono plus eight stereo inputs.
All offer 16 DCAs, 24 mix/8 matrix output buses, eight mute groups, 300 scene memories, and recording options.
The CL5 provides three banks of eight channel faders in addition to eight Centralogic and two master faders, as well as an onboard meter section. The CL3 sports two banks of channel faders (plus eight Centralogic), while the CL1 has a single bank of eight faders (plus eight Centralogic) and both smaller consoles, with the meter bridge optional for both.
CL Series consoles can act as stand-alone units and feature on board inputs and outputs as well as the ability to utilize up to three mini-YGDAI I/O cards to expand the number of inputs and outputs, and they also work in tandem with the new RIO rack mountable I/O units.
The RIO3224-D offers 32 inputs and 16 analog outputs plus four stereo AES outputs, and the RIO1608-D features 16 inputs and eight outputs. The consoles connect to the remote stage boxes via Cat-5e or Cat-6 cable and run on Audinate’s scalable Dante network.
The Yamaha CL5 in the author’s shop. (click to enlarge)
While it’s largest of the three consoles, the CL5 is rather compact for the amount of features it packs. Dimensions are 41.5 x 26.25 x 11.75 inches (w x d x h), and weight is just under 80 pounds.
The top surface of the CL5 has two angles – a flat section where the faders and most controls are located, and an angled back section that houses the screen, meters, USB port, as well as the user defined knobs and the selected channel controls.
The large color touch screen is located in the center of the angled section and the selected channel controls for gain, EQ, aux sends, etc are located directly to the left of the screen.
Four user defined knobs are located directly to the right of the screen. The meters are located to the right. To the left is a large area that can hold an iPad or iPod and features a shelf to keep the phone or tablet from sliding down.
A look at the clean layout of the right side control surface. (click to enlarge)
The flat control surface features a Centralogic control section in the center that offers eight faders, each with an ON, CUE and SELECT button, meter and rotary knob. Nine function buttons to the right of the faders allow the operator to select between inputs, DCA, Mix, Stereo, Matrix or Custom layers.
The scene memory section and 16 user-defined keys complete the center section. To the left are two channel banks each with fader, ON, CUE and SELECT button and meter. Each fader also has a rotary knob that can be selected in banks to control the GAIN, PAN or assigned to a parameter. To the right of the channel section are button to choose layer for the channels, Stereo inputs, DCAs, or Custom layers.
The right side of the console contains the last channel bank that allows control of DCA layers, Stereo ins, or six Custom layers.
The far right of the surface sports the master section that includes two faders, each with ON, CUE, SELECT, meters and a rotary knob.
The master faders are also customizable able to become inputs, outputs, DCAs, etc. The front face is outfitted with a headphone jack with volume, as well as a talkback XLR input with level knob.
On the rear panel, there are eight omni XLR mic/line inputs, eight omni XLR outputs, the mini-YGDAI I/O card slots, an AES/EBU digital output, 15-pin GPI connector, two BNC connectors for word clock in/out, MIDI in/out, a pair of Ethercon connectors for the Dante network, an RJ connector for the computer network connection, and XLR lamp connectors.
A locking IEC connector is supplied for power but the CL5 also sports a multi-pin connector for the optional (PW800W) backup power supply.
If the internal power supply has a problem, the PW800 will seamlessly take over.
Overall the CL5 has a great look and feel. The fader caps are a new design from Yamaha and are very comfortable, and all the knobs are well laid out and easy to reach. The buttons, knobs and faders have a solid feel and should last for a long time.
Further, the user interface is easy to learn and get around on without spending a lot of time in the manual. The touchscreen allows multiple button selection by simply sliding your finger across the screen, and rotary knobs can be depressed to recall a screen.
Building an effects rack on the touch screen. (click to enlarge)
The console offers a few new tools, including a premium rack that features VCM analog circuit modeling technology, and some Rupert Neve Designs EQ and compressors.
For my evaluation, Yamaha also sent along a RIO3224-D stage box. This unit provides 32 inputs and 16 outputs via XLR, as well as four AES/EBU outputs in a 5RU package. The stage box offers both a Dante primary and secondary connection point that allows daisy chaining additional boxes or the ability to connect a network in a redundant fashion.
In The Field
After checking out the console in my shop and getting comfortable with the patching, I took it out on some gigs. The first was the typical corporate type show for my company, a few presenters with some playback. With all of it’s capabilities, the CL5 was overkill, but the smaller CL1 would be perfect for these smaller (but high end) types of events.
Because I was using only one hardwired microphone as a podium backup, I didn’t feel the need to use the Rio stage box and operated the console as a stand-alone desk. I patched the Omni inputs into some channels and placed the wireless rack next to me at front of house.
I also patched in the outputs from a video deck as well as a computer for walk in/out music.
Interfacing the video deck and computer was easy because I carry a bunch of adapters and DIs to every gig, but I wished that the console also offered a stereo pair of RCA and a SPIDIF input to make it easier to interface “prosumer” gear.
This is understandable because these types of connections aren’t required by everybody.
While I brought a small rack with an EQ for the mains, I just patched a digital EQ inside the console to the mix and used that.
The second gig had a corporate party band playing in a ballroom. I set up the RIO3224-D onstage and ran a single Cat-6 run of about 120 feet to the console. Not being completely familiar with the CL5, I accidentally patched the mix outputs to 2 and 3 – not outputs 1 and 2 – but the great thing about the RIO is that it features signal lights above the output XLRs.
Troubleshooting was as easy as following the flashing lights. I quickly swapped my output cables and was ready for the gig.
Because there wasn’t a lot of time for sound check I didn’t get to really set up a lot of effects, but during the gig, it was easy to go to the menu, choose a new effects unit, assign it and adjust parameters all on the fly.
Front and back views of the Rio3223-D stage box. (click to enlarge)
When word got out that I had a CL5 in the shop, lots of folks stopped by to check it out. Everyone seemed impressed and had nothing but good things to say about it. It sounds fantastic and the new premium rack was a big hit.
Overall the CL5 is an exceptional console. The compact size makes it easy to transport, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space at front of house while still offering up tons of features. It sounds great and is easy to get around on. My only dislike, in fact, is that I have to send it back.
U.S. MSRP for the CL5 is $27,499; the RIO3223-D stage box is $8,499, and the RIO1608-D is $4,799.
Find out more about the Yamaha CL Series here.
Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International and ProSoundWeb, and is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.
In The Studio: Five Quick Ways To Excite Your Sound
Adding a little pop and life to the mix
You’ve balanced your tracks, you’ve got everything sitting nice and sounding punchy and defined – now what? How can you add a little pop and life to the mix?
Here are some techniques I use to excite and enhance sounds in a mix – some are obvious, some are a little tricky.
1) Exciters and enhancers. Pretty straightforward, but harmonic exciters or enhancers are a quick and easy way to give a little spark to your sound.
Just be careful – a little goes a long way. Exciters tend to give an immediate gratification by focusing on colorful harmonics in the sound – but this is often at the expense of the rest of the frequency domain.
The effect shouldn’t be a substitute for EQ. Once you’re making distinct frequency boosts with one of these tools, it’s probably too much.
2) Saturation. Saturation is like the little cousin of overdrive. It gives you just enough to liven up the texture of whatever you’re saturating.
Saturation is not limited to emulation plugins – any piece of hardware can be used as a saturator – and a worthwhile experiment is to run a signal through a preamp and crank the gain and listen for how the texture changes.
Really nice pre-amps overdriven a bit can bring out certain textures and frequencies in a cool and unique way.
3) Parallel distortion. Say what? Clone your source, and run the clone through distortion. From there, EQ the distorted clone to highlight the frequency you want to enhance.
Need thicker mids? Hi-pass and low-pass the clone. Need excited upper mid-range? Throw on a hi-pass at around 1.5 kHz. Then take the cloned signal and start blending it in against the original.
About 15 dB down from the original you’ll start to hear a just noticeable change in the texture and liveliness of the original. A little pinch goes a long way here.
4) Short reverb. Early reflection heavy, short tail reverbs have a unique power on a dry source. What we hear in the reverb, we quickly prescribe onto the dry signal.
In other words, if you need to make a source brighter, but regular EQ methods just aren’t working out, you can use a short, bright, reverb to make the high end of your dry source come alive.
I prefer plate emulations for this method, rooms and halls tend to be too “open” sounding.
5) Modulation. Frequency based modulation in particular, such as the Enigma plugin from Waves, or flangers and phasers can be used in really interesting ways. These effects tend to be a bit more dramatic than the other one – but sometimes a sound needs to come back from the dead.
Unfortunately, there’s too many options to really describe in one article, but play around and you’ll find all sorts of gems.
Matthew Weiss is the head engineer for Studio E, located in Philadelphia. Recent credits include Ronnie Spector, Uri Caine, Royce Da 5’9” and Philadelphia Slick.
Be sure to visit the Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article go here.
Friday, November 09, 2012
From Bass To Ace: Catching Up With Audio Engineer Mitchell Holman
A rock star finds life good on the other side of the board
Fate brings people down many paths, and more than a few seem to converge in the multi-faceted world of professional sound. Mitchell Holman began his career as a musician, as did many of us in the audio industry.
But while many future engineers played cover songs in local bands, Holman became a bona fide rock star in 1968 with a gold record hanging on his wall for his work as the bassist in the band It’s a Beautiful Day, best remembered for the hit song “White Bird.” It’s a staple of classic rock radio stations today.
I recently caught up with him at “West Coast Live,” a weekly radio show that he serves as audio engineer. The show is live-on-the-air Saturday mornings from a variety of locations in (and around) the San Francisco Bay area, and it also occasional migrates around, traveling to gigs as far as Ireland.
One show was even run “live-to-DAT” on a steam train in Alaska. The content varies greatly from week to week, which is a big part of the attraction for Holman.
We slid into comfortable seats at the Goldman Theatre in the David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA just as the live broadcast started. This particular show included interviews with several provocative book authors (a major component of each week’s show), interspersed with performances of three bands – The Dufay Collective, Uncle Bonsai, and Arann Harris & The Farm Band.
The Goldman Theatre is a small, beautiful auditorium populated that day by a lively audience of about 150. While West Coast Live has been a long-running independent fixture in the Bay Area, the privately funded show is also picked up by National Public Radio affiliates, reaching a weekly audience of about 1 million, plus an Internet audience of several hundred thousand.
Following the show I talked with Holman, who has worked the show every Saturday for 16 consecutive years.
Ken DeLoria: What made you change from playing music to sound engineering?
Mitchell Holman: I didn’t change! Working as an audio engineer supports my singing and playing habit (laughs). I still write and play, but I’ve also been involved in audio since the early days of rock when you had to literally build everything yourself. In those times it was rare to find any solid advice on how to properly interface equipment, so I learned it on my own.
KD: You’ve been doing West Coast Live for a long time. How has content of the show varied over the years?
MH: Not by much, other than to stay contemporary and to focus on interesting and provocative guests that might otherwise slip under the radar. It’s always been a variety show – one of the very last that still thrives in the radio medium – and it probably will always remain as such.
KD: Do you work other shows as well?
MH: Yes, I’ve done many industrials including Banana Republic, Apple, Google, and Charles Schwab, but I have steadily moved away from that highly competitive world over the last few years.
KD: What are the challenges you routinely face with this show?
MH: The first is that I need to provide three mixes at a time – house, monitors and the critically important air mix. This show doesn’t have the budget to provide separate mix positions, let alone an OB truck in the parking lot, so it all falls to me.
If something goes awry, it’s my responsibility, even if it’s the fault of an intern who’s helping me, or a house sound operator in a particular venue. You might call this a “self-equalizing” course of action.
KD: You work with interns. Is this a normal part of the weekly process?
MH: By all means. Part of my mission is to teach interns to run sound. Over the past few years, I’ve trained at least 10 regulars, some of whom have gone on to tour with major acts.
Second, I always load-in the morning of the show, and my assistants are volunteers or interns. Some have knowledge of how to mic a stage and run cables, while others do not. I rarely know what to expect. Third, this is a not-for-profit company, so I’ve got to be exceptionally careful about how money is spent on audio equipment.
As a broadcaster, we must always provide a clean, clear signal, and we strive to ensure that the tonality is of exceptional quality. To help keep costs down, I prowl eBay and even pawn shops. Recently, I found a large-diaphragm RØDE condenser mic at a pawn shop for pennies on the dollar, which I immediately grabbed and added to my mic kit. It’s perfect for certain vocal styles, as well as numerous instruments.
KD: Do you carry PA?
MH: Often I‘ll use the house PA, depending on the venue, while other times I provide a PA of my own design. The biggest trick is getting all three mixes to work for all performers during the two hour show. Never, never can I let the house PA or the monitors show the slightest hint of feedback while the show is on-the-air.
KD: Would you rather be touring and mixing national or international acts?
MH: Not in the least! In the past I’ve toured as both a musician and as a sound engineer, and while large-scale events have a certain draw, I’m very happy with what I do at present. That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t get back on a tour bus if the right circumstances presented themselves, particularly as a performer, but this small, steady Saturday gig provides a sense of satisfaction that I’ve rarely encountered elsewhere.
Church Sound: Don’t Touch That Knob—Why Every Song Mix Needs a Vision
Mix the sounds with the song already playing in your head
I was going to be an architect. I attended every drafting class my high school offered.
While my career choice changed, I learned the number one way for drafting the perfect home: having a vision.
Looking back on the homes I drew in my middle school drafting class, I can’t help but be embarrassed. Middle school tech class wasn’t about the best way to draft a home floor plan, it was more about how to draw floor plans.
The first floor plan I did in high school, where I thought it was the best floor plan ever, was greeted with this phrase from my teacher: “how are you going to put a roof on that?”
I designed my floor plans by creating the rooms I wanted (office, indoor pool, bedroom, kitchen, etc.) and putting them where I thought they belonged. The problem was my process made the exterior of the house have about twenty corners.
I didn’t have a vision for how the house would look like from the outside and I definitely didn’t have a vision for how the roof would look. Had I submitted such a floor plan to a builder, I think the roofer would have killed me.
Thus, my high school drafting teacher, and licensed architect, taught me how to have a vision for a home. Not only did having a vision include imagining the outside of the house and the roof line, it also included how to build a house that would meet the vision of the home owner. And it’s this same type of vision that you have to have before you start your mixing.
Creating a song mix which produces the best sound for your particular church, for your particular congregation members, using your particular band, and the particular equipment you have available, requires you to have a vision.
Using steps similar to how an architect creates a vision for a house, you can create a vision for your mix which meets all of those needs.
The Three Steps to Forming a Vision
1. Learn the vision of the worship leader. Much like designing a home for a homeowner, you must know their expectations. Will they be playing a ska-version of the song? Will they be playing a more subdued version? Do they want the acoustic guitar to lead the song?
Whenever I’m preparing to mix a new song during the sound check, I ask a few important questions—who is singing the song, and what instrument is leading the song?
You should find out the theme for the service/worship set. For example, if the sermon is on rejoicing and the worship set is filled with related songs, then you want a mix that reflects that positive emotion.
Every song has a specific arrangement the band has decided to use and such an arrangement calls for certain attributes to your mix. For example, if they want the drums to dominate during the chorus, then you can’t have the drums pushed to the back of the mix during the chorus.
In short, find out the song arrangement, the lead singer, the lead instrument, and the feel of the song. Additionally, when the band has decided to do a new song, they should contact you mid-week with this information and you can ask if they have a youtube/iTunes version that’s similar to the sound they are trying to copy.
2. Know how it sounds on recordings. The majority of Christian worship music played during church services is music most people already know.
Therefore, you should consider much of your work as “remixing.”
I cover the idea of remixing in this article, Remixing; You’ll Never Look at Mixing The Same Again.
Mixing music which people are used to hearing on the radio or on their iPod means you have to create a mix that’s similar enough to what they expect while taking into consideration your worship band and the equipment you have available.
This isn’t to say you must mix a copy of the radio version. Viewing your work as remixing, you are actually starting off with a huge advantage.
Knowing how the song sounds on the radio, you can learn a lot about how it is mixed.
Listen to the song and note areas such as:
—Sound volume relationship: Which instruments are upfront in the mix and which are tucked in the back?
—Instrument frequency spectrum width: How does each instrument fill in the frequency spectrum? Does the electric guitar fill a lot of the lows and highs or does it cover a more limited frequency range?
—Reverb length: How is reverb used? Is there a little or a lot? How long is the decay?
—Instrument definition: Which instruments stand out in the mix? How are the others treated?
—Tone of song: This can vary a lot when you consider all of the remixes that professional musicians have produced of popular worship songs. Therefore, you need to listen to the version which most closely aligns with how your worship band would play it. Is it bright? Happy? Somber? Country-fied? Are they going to do the reggae version?
3. Remember how you sculpted sounds in the past. In drafting house plans, one of the most important rooms is the kitchen.
And the kitchen is a tough one because, not only do you have to consider the work-flow, but you also have to work with a room that usually has several doors such as to a garage and dining room and even a hallway to another room.
Oh, and if I recall correctly, the work-flow includes a 21-foot triangle. This means if you walk from the fridge to the sink to the over, in a triangle pattern, you shouldn’t walk more than 21 feet.
I’m not sure if 21 feet is right, but I do know that the bigger the kitchen, the harder to conform to that triangle.
Regarding those kitchen designs, I learned that once you have drafted a few different kitchens of varying sizes, you learn what placement works best. You learn where to place the fridge and where to place the oven so they are in proper relationships but they that also make sense in their placement.
And so it is with mixing. The more you mix for the same band in the same room with the same congregation, the more you know what works and what doesn’t. Let’s look at how this can happen.
The more you mix in a room, the more you know how to achieve:
—The proper drum sound for energetic songs
—Vocals which sound energetic and sit above the rest of band while still blending in the mix
—A subtle bass approach when it’s called for in a song
—A big sound from a small band and vice-versa
Consider your experience in mixing as a wealth of knowledge in mixing the band as well as mixing different instruments and different vocals. Therefore, when you are establishing a vision for mixing the song, you already know how you can bring many of these sounds to fruition.
The One Step To Executing Your Vision
Mix the sounds with the song already playing in your head.
Now go back and re-read that last sentence about 20 times. You know the vision of the band. You know how the song usually sounds. You know what you have done in the past. Not that your past work is a limitation but it’s instead a great starting point.
Take all of that information and form a sound in your head of how that vision would be realized. You’re mixing the song in your head not by thinking of how you would do it but how it should sound. With that vision, next you work on the “how.”
Mixing is a three-step process. The first thing you do is evaluate the sounds you are hearing. Does it sound like you want? What is wrong with it?
The second thing you do is evaluate the sound against your vision. Before turning any knobs, you must know your desired sound.
Lastly, take action against that evaluation and vision. Boost the guitar at 800 Hz because that’s what you think it needs. Don’t randomly boost it and ask yourself “does this sound right?” You need a reason for ever turn of a knob.
Every step in your mix process should be about matching your mix to your vision. By starting with the end in mind, you’ll find you’ll reach that end sooner—and with much better results.
The Take Away
Over the last month or so, I’ve found myself repeating the phrase “mixing for the moment.” You and I are mixing for a moment that won’t come again. We can perform some dynamic mixing to maximize that moment.
But one thing we have to do BEFORE that moment is establish a vision for the songs of that moment. By working together with the worship leader, pulling in your own experience, and establishing a “sound vision” in your head, you’ll find that mixing is no longer about “does this sound good” but it’s about “I know how to make this sound good.”
Remember the three key steps to realizing your vision: evaluate the sound, compare it to your vision, and then make the required adjustment.
Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians. He can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Two New Dante-Enabled Yamaha CL Consoles At Gardner-Webb University Student Center
Two new consoles meet needs in non-traditional, flexible space
The new Tucker Student Center in Stewart Hall, on the campus of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, NC, has been outfitted with Yamaha CL5 and CL1 digital consoles, as well as two RIO3224 boxes.
The two consoles were supplied by Full Compass and installed by university staff, in cooperation with the ASE Group.
Stewart Hall is unique in that it can be separated into three separate spaces.
“The performance space is non-traditional and very flexible,” states Wayne E. Johnson, associate VP of operations at Gardner-Webb. “Stewart Hall works in either a coffee house/club setting by lowering electric disappearing Skyfold walls, or in an auditorium or banquet setting by raising the walls. When lowered, the center room has a balcony on three sides with bistro table seating.”
Johnson adds that the new system sounds great and has an excellent operational design. “We had previously been using an LS9 in older venues, but the CL Series offers much more flexibility. We also integrated with Symetrix for Dante distribution and are using MYMIX cards as well, so there are no traditional audio connections.
“The entire project (audio, video, monitor, lighting) is all running off Cat 5,” he continues. “Due to the flexibility of the space, we wanted to be able to re-patch anything from speakers to light fixtures over one single wiring network.”
Gardner-Webb has experienced remarkable growth since it started as a movement initiated by the Kings Mountain Baptist Association in 1905. The university began as Boiling Springs High School and later became a junior college in 1927, and was renamed Gardner-Webb College in 1948.
The institution officially became known as Gardner-Webb University in 1993, culminating years of preparation. Today, Gardner-Webb is flourishing with five professional schools, two academic schools, and 11 academic departments that offer just over 5,000 students, 60 undergraduate and graduate fields of study.
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
DiGiCo SD9 Rack Pack For All-Star Opening Of Mick Fleetwood’s Hawaiian Venue
An additional SD10 was brought in for the second and third nights to handle stage monitors
Studio and live sound engineer Lynn Peterson, owner of Maui Recording, helmed a newly purchased DiGiCo SD9 Rack Pack console for four shows celebrating the grand opening of Mick Fleetwood’s new restaurant and club in downtown Lahaina, Maui called “Fleetwood’s on Front Street.”
The four-night musical celebration boasted a star-studded roster of performers. Night one kicked off with the Grammy-nominated Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, featuring guitarist/singer Rick Vito, bassist Lenny Castellanos, and keyboardist/harmonica player Mark Johnstone, with blues phenom Jonny Lang sitting in.
The second night featured the Island Rumors Band (IRB) with Fleetwood, Vito, Castellanos, Johnstone, singer/guitarist Eric Gilliom and vocalist Gretchen Rhodes, with special guests Steven Tyler, Jonny Lang, Joe Caro, and Maui’s own Willie K.
Night three also featured the IRB, and included Hawaiian singer-songwriter-guitarists, Henry Kapono and Willie K… with Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom singing a tune as well.
On the final night, everything moved upstairs for the restaurant’s first rooftop show, with King Paris and his Hip-notic Guitar featuring Rick Vito and his band, the Hypnotics.
In addition to the new SD9 Rack Pack console, Peterson also had an additional SD10 brought in by Pat Ku of Rhema Services for the second and third nights to handle the on stage monitor needs. The club’s PA was comprised of L-Acoustics ARCS and SB28 subs, with EAW monitors and Crown amplifiers.
“The concerts went off without a hitch, and the walls are still shakin’,” laughs Peterson. “It’s always a blast to mix any version of the Fleetwood bands. It was my debut outing on a DiGiCo of any sort, and it all worked great.
“As we are in a restaurant and extremely tight on space, the SD9 served as both our FOH and monitor console. On the night of the Blues Band, I set up eight monitor mixes from the SD9 and Pat Ku from Rhema did monitors onstage using the laptop remote. It was a challenge to say the least as our monitor mixes changed a lot throughout the night.
“Handling monitors without a dedicated monitor console is certainly not for the faint of heart when you are working with this scale of artist, on what is technically a one-off.
“I also sent a Matrix feed to the video, so I could beef up the guitar levels for them,” he continues. “I started out with a second matrix for the speakers on the rooftop, where we had several video screens, more SB28 subs and some JBL VRXs. I decided to change and use an aux send instead, starting out with all the levels at unity, in post-fader.
“That way, I could raise the aux send levels of guitars, and things that were really loud off the stage on the main floor, (and not balanced in the mix going upstairs), while still having everything follow my fader moves. With a little compression on the whole mix to the roof, it worked pretty well. There were a couple hundred more people up there, and I heard there were about 2,000 down in the street! So we wanted to make it nice for all of them as well.”
For the second and third shows, Peterson brought in the SD10 and a splitter for monitors. “We had decided during sound check for the first show, that our needs for the lineup on the next two nights, were going to be a little too demanding to use just the remote laptop.
“However, by the end of the Blues Band’s show that night, we had gotten by amazingly well. The console was flown in from Oahu the next morning and was set up in a VIP booth, and Pat Ku did a wonderful job of getting it in sync with the SD9, and ready to rock just in time for sound check.”
The shows were recorded to multitrack using Nuendo on a MacBook Pro with an RME MADIface. “We were able to simply copy the MADI feeds from the racks to the RME MADIface for a seamless recording,” Peterson says. “I’m putting them into Pro Tools over at my studio, where I will mix the stuff and sync it to the four-camera HD shoot we did. As for what they’ll be used for, you just never know. Stay tuned.”
Management and audience members alike, commented on how good the shows sounded. “Great tools certainly help me get there faster,” Peterson says. “As I mentioned, on the first night I used three matrixes, eight monitor mixes, (for the butt thumper, video feeds, and rooftop speakers), four effects, and 56 channels of multitrack recording all happening simultaneously from one SD9, and it all worked great.”
Waves Audio Helps Dallas-Area Gateway Church Find The Right Mix
Variety of plug-ins enhance audio for live congregation and broadcast at Texas megachurch
Waves Audio plugins are key tools for Jason Aulds, the associate director/front-of-house engineer at the Dallas, TX-area Gateway Church.
The church, a large worship community spanning four campuses, is led by Pastor Robert Morris.
The church’s sound systems include three DiGiCo SD7 consoles at the main campus; four DiGiCo SD8 consoles across the other campuses; and an AVID Venue D-Show console set up for travel.
The SD8’s are paired with the Waves SoundGrid Essentials bundle, and the D-Show is complemented by the Waves Live Bundle.
Aulds, who spends most of his time with the SD7 on the main campus, points out some of the unique challenges of mixing for large-format worship: “I need to bring the highest level of service that I can in order to engage the congregation without being distracting. That’s both for music and speech.
“Some of the challenges include helping the worship team create dynamics without becoming too loud; getting an isolated drum kit to sound natural, big and lively; and bridging the gap between the volume of music down to a lapel or headset without it sounding small,” he continues. “I’m always making sure I have great clarity and headroom, and that my effects are proper for the type of song.”
Aulds singles out a few plug-ins as particular favorites: “C6 and C4 compressors, and the entire Renaissance Maxx bundle,” he enthuses. For vocals, he uses the Renaissance Vox, Renaissance DeEsser, CLA-2A Compressor/Limiter, C6 and occasionally the Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter plugin.
In addition, on drums he uses Q10, CLA-76, SSL G-Channel, and the wide-band component of Trans-X for kick; SSL Channel for snare; Q10 and the four-band Trans-X Multi for toms; and API 2500 for the group mics. He usually uses CLA-76 on bass, but occasionally he’ll use C4, API 560 or MaxxBass.
And for guitars, the choice is the SSL Channel and sometimes the OneKnob Series Phatter, Driver and Brighter plugins. He also uses the CLA-2A for keyboards. On the main mix bus, he rounds things out with the MaxxVolume, C6 and PAZ Analyzer.
“Waves plugins feature simple, straightforward controls, offer great visual feedback from meters and displays, have awesome presets, and most importantly, deliver great audio quality,” Aulds says.
Robert Habersaat Rejoins Studer As Vice President Of Sales
Takes over the Studer brand sales job following Adrian Curtis's new appointment
“A return to the family” is how Robert Habersaat describes his new appointment as vice president of sales for Harman’s Studer team as he rejoins Studer after seven years working as head of broadcast sales for Dr.W.A.Günther in Switzerland.
Habersaat takes over the Studer brand sales job following Adrian Curtis’s new appointment running Harman Professional’s EMEA Regional Sales Office which created two vacancies, this one for Studer, the other for Soundcraft.
Habersaat originally joined Studer in 1996 managing sales for Switzerland and distribution in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and the Nordic region. In 2001 he headed up the Studer sales team before joining Dr.W.A.Günther, the Harman Pro distribution partner for Switzerland.
Habersaat comments, “Studer has been the continuous thread running through my entire career; as a customer, distribution partner and as a staff member of the team. I am very proud to return and contribute to one of the best companies in the professional audio industry.”
Studer general manager Bruno Hochstrasser adds, “To have Robert return to the Studer family gives me a great deal of satisfaction. He is a wonderful individual with a lot of professional expertise in the broadcast business and most of all Robert is a loyal and very hard working team player always putting the business and our clients’ interests first. I am looking forward to working with Robert again and a bright Studer future.”
HARMAN (http://www.harman.com) designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of audio and infotainment solutions for the automotive, consumer and professional markets — supported by 15 leading brands, including AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon® and Mark Levinson®. The Company is admired by audiophiles across multiple generations and supports leading professional entertainers and the venues where they perform. More than 25 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and infotainment systems. HARMAN has a workforce of about 13,900 people across the Americas, Europe and Asia, and reported net sales of $4.4 billion for year ended June 30, 2012.
Posted by Keith Clark on 11/07 at 02:01 PM
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Fielder Road Baptist Creates Portable Church Ministry With Allen & Heath GLD Mixer
GLD's built-in "dSnake" digital snake was a major factor in the church's decision
Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, TX has a main auditorium that seats approximately 3,800 and includes high-tech audio and video systems to support a modern worship experience.
As part of its outreach ministries, Fielder Road Baptist also holds two worship services each Sunday in the auditorium of a middle school in an area of Arlington with a large Hispanic population. One service is in English, the other in Spanish.
Because the school uses the auditorium during the week, Fielder Road Baptist operates this outreach ministry as a “portable church” using sound and video equipment that must be set up and removed each weekend.
Don Erdmann, Fielder Road Baptist’s main audio video engineer, wanted the benefits of a digital mixer for the portable church ministry.
However, the digital mixer for this new ministry needed to be compact, reliable and easy to learn and operate It needed to store all settings from week to week to enable fast setup and consistent sound at each service.
In addition, Erdmann wanted the mixer to maintain the church’s high technical standards for operation and sound quality.
Erdmann contacted Baxter Lawson with Sound Productions, an Allen & Heath dealer in Dallas who had worked with church in the past.
Lawson recommended the Allen and Heath GLD Series and set up a demo with the local Allen and Heath rep firm, Aldridge Marketing. Erdman says he was impressed that a church volunteer who attended the demo was able to use the GLD mixer in about 20 minutes.
“The GLD has an analog feel with pots and dials,” he says, “but it’s also got a large touch screen for the digital users.”
Erdmann sets up a GLD “layer” (scene) for each user. This becomes the user profile and makes it possible to customize the GLD for each service and volunteer. “That way,” he says, “the experienced users have lots of power but we can also make it easy for the new people.”
The GLD’s built-in “dSnake” digital snake was a major factor in Fielder Baptist’s decision. “We really needed a digital snake for quick setup and the other digital mixers we looked at didn’t have this feature,” says Erdmann. He also uses the GLD’s Aviom interface for on-stage monitoring.
“Everyone who has used our GLD has fallen in love with it,” Erdmann concludes. “It’s everything we need for our outreach ministry and, if we had a problem with the mixer in our main auditorium, I wouldn’t hesitate to unpack the GLD.”
Allen & Heath
American Music And Sound
Horne Audio Deploys Soundcraft Si Compact 16 Digital Console For “The Music Experience”
Console helps live performances be heard throughout the boat that hosted the event
With music in the air and hundreds of revelers dressed in “steampunk”-themed costumes, Horne Audio recently provided a Soundcraft Si Compact 16 digital mixing console for a unique event dubbed “The Music Experience” in Portland, OR.
Intel and MTV Iggy hosted the event, which took place on the Sternwheeler steamboat and featured performances by bands The Jezabels and Y La Bamba as the vessel cruised the Willamette River.
Horne Audio set up the Si Compact 16 on the second of the Sternwheeler’s three decks, as the performances alternated between two levels.
Audio engineer Jim Schamberg of Horne Audio ran 16 inputs with one feed coming from the system on the boat’s upper deck and one feed running from the Si Compact 16 to the upper deck, so the live performances could be heard throughout the boat.
“The Si Compact has been a terrific board for us,” Schamberg says. “The effects are great and it’s compact but versatile. Fourteen buses for this size board is also a tremendous advantage. We’re able to easily transport the console for a range of different events.”
Based in Portland, Horne Audio specializes in live sound reinforcement for a diverse variety of events ranging from intimate audiences to large-scale productions at major venues throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Founded in 1999, the company has developed a strong reputation for quality service, maintaining a state-of-the-art equipment inventory and employing dedicated experienced professionals.
“The console worked great tonight, it’s really perfect for this size of an event,” Schamberg notes. “We have more than enough channels and the sound is excellent.”