Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Innovason Out In Force At Les Vieilles Charrues Music Festival
Les Vieilles Charrues celebrated its 21st birthday in July this year. Founded in 1992 in Brittany with the aim of making the widest possible range of music genres accessible to everybody, Les Vieilles Charrues, often cited as a French Glastonbury, has rapidly become the biggest music festival in France. Console brand Innovason had a strong presence at the festival in conjunction with Sombrero & Co. who are specialists in live audio and video recording of major artists and events.
Les Vieilles Charrues celebrated its 21st birthday in July this year. Founded in 1992 in Brittany with the aim of making the widest possible range of music genres accessible to everybody, Les Vieilles Charrues, often cited as a French Glastonbury, has rapidly become the biggest music festival in France.
The 2012 edition offered headline acts including Bob Dylan, Sting, The Cure, Portishead, LMFAO, Kasabian as well as many huge French artists such as Thomas Dutronc, Zebda, Orelsan, Amadou et Mariam and many others.
Console brand Innovason also had a strong presence at the festival in conjunction with Sombrero & Co. who are specialists in live audio and video recording of major artists and events.
Sombrero & Co. were in action at Les Vieilles Charrues with no less than three Innovason consoles (one for each of the main stages) deployed to handle live audio recording, mix and streaming for both live TV and future documentaries and DVDs.
Each Eclipse was connected to a DioCore stagebox plus, in the case of the main stage and specifically for the performances of Sting and The Cure who required some 80 inputs each, a further Muxipaire stagebox which added another 24 microphone inputs to the 64 already provided by the DioCore.
The onboard M.A.R.S. recorder of each Eclipse handled the recording of up to 64 pre-amps from each stage, with post-fader input recording handled by three MT-128s from VB Audio – interestingly, the same recorder that is inside the Eclipse – in order to keep an exact copy of the live mix destined for the TV channels. The signal from the stage to the console was transmitted via OptoCore over fibre optic.
Each stage was equipped with up to eight Solution D digital microphones from Neumann acting as ambient microphones, all directly controlled by the Eclipse consoles. The reason for this was simple, if the scenario arose that Sombrero & Co. don’t have the recording rights for a particular group or artist therefore enabling them to take clean feeds off artists and musician microphones, the video trucks are supplied by a mix of feeds taken from the ambient microphones and the FoH consoles. It is therefore very important to have the highest possible sound quality from the ambient mics, making digital mics an excellent choice.
According to Sombrero & Co.’s Benoit Gilg who both engineered and headed up the sound recording team, the Eclipses performed impeccably.
“For me, the Eclipse is simply the most intuitive console available on the market today,” he stated. “For a start, you can configure it exactly as you want it, but even so, it works in exactly the same way as I think! For me, it’s completely instinctive, which I love.”
“The second big plus point is the quality of the preamps which are incredibly transparent and natural-sounding,” he continued. “Personally I prefer to work with the purest sound possible from the source.
“I don’t like it when equipment adds colour or tone that I then have to work hard to remove! I’d rather know that anything that has been added – or taken away – has come from me, and not the equipment I’m using. In this respect, I love the purity of the Innovason preamps. They give me the cleanest, highest possible quality sound with which to work from the outset.”
“Finally, and in my eyes, equally as important as any technical criteria, I can’t speak highly enough of the Innovason team, and in particular, product manager and father of Eclipse, Hervé de Caro.
“Products are born of people, and so the relationships that you have with those people are important. Hervé is someone that is totally committed to his ideas, and utterly dedicated when it comes to support for his products – we know that we can rely on him completely to find the best possible solution for any given scenario.”
With a brand new studio to outfit, the number of desks to choose from can be overwhelming. Plymouth-based sound engineer, teacher and now studio owner, Stu Welsh found this out while researching gear for his latest project, Beliefspace Studio, ultimately deciding upon the new ASP4816 analog console from Audient.
With a brand new studio to outfit, the number of desks to choose from can be overwhelming. Plymouth-based sound engineer, teacher and now studio owner, Stu Welsh found this out while researching gear for his latest project, Beliefspace Studio.
The launch of the Audient ASP4816 analog console came just at the right time for him; the moment he tried the desk at a workshop at local dBs Music recording school, he knew he’d found the center-piece for his studio.
“I knew Audient from their excellent reputation and the ASP4816 fitted my needs exactly,” says Welsh, Audio & Music Production course leader at dBs Music. “My aim from the outset was to build a digital studio with an analog heart. If I were to design a console, this is exactly how I would do it.”
Welsh linked the ASP4816 to a patchbay, where everything in his studio is routed first to give maximum flexibility.
“The routing is absolutely key for me,” he explains. “The console needed to be able to handle both a DAW signal path and a purely analogue signal path, which it does with ease. The I/O on the ASP4816 is phenomenal, especially for a console in this price bracket and, if the routing hadn’t swayed me, the fold back and monitoring sections would have.”
Loaded with the key features of a large format recording console, the compact, cost-effective ASP4816 features Audient’s intuitive design and legendary analogue circuitry.
“I prefer to work on the board, out of the computer,” Welsh continues. “Personally, I feel that the tactile nature of mixing on a console, using your ears more than your eyes (something that I am guilty of when mixing on computer) puts you more ‘in touch’ with the music.”
With Beliefspace Studio up and running later this month, Welsh is grateful to colleagues Ray Hendriksen and Leo Brown from dBs Music for encouragement, support and the generous donation of recording gear.
“We now have one the best microphone collections in the South West boasting over 40 microphones, new and vintage. We also have Ampex MM1200 24 track 2” machine,” he beams, clearly a man who loves his craft. “Every mix is a performance, it’s great to get the artist/s involved in muting channels, panning and pushing up faders on a mix down because they feel much more involved in the mixing process.
With the first session in scheduled for the end of the month, and Hendriksen (who has worked with Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Mick Ronson, John Entwistle and Greg Lake) joining Welsh on the project, the stakes are high. So who will be the first artist to record at Beliefspace Studio? “It’s my wife’s group, The Lena Smith band,” Welsh replies. “No pressure then!”
Line 6 StageScape M20d Visual Mixing System Debuts At Padre Serra Parish
Full-featured digital mixing system delivers professional results
Padre Serra Parish, a large Roman Catholic Church in Camarillo, CA recently implemented the new StageScape M20d visual mixing system from Line 6, a compact, touchscreen-driven live sound mixer designed to streamline and accelerate the process of getting a great mix.
With a team of volunteers experienced in working with a traditional analog mixer, moving to a brand new, high technology product might seem risky at first, but Director of Liturgy & Music Dominic MacAller explains, “The thing that’s really great about StageScape is that it’s very intuitive to use. We don’t have professional engineers on staff. Our volunteers are very good, but cover a wide range of technical ability and mixing experience.
“StageScape has a very well designed touchscreen interface that makes you want to play with it. It’s easy to create a really good mix, and there aren’t rows and rows of faders and knobs, which can be very intimidating.”
Despite its compact size and streamlined appearance, the StageScape M20d is a full-featured digital mixing system that delivers professional results. “It’s a big upgrade for us, both in terms of functionality and convenience,” say MacAller. “It has a full range of digital effects on board, including compressors, EQs, gates, delays, reverbs, and more, all of which you can adjust through the visual interface, or dig deeper and adjust the individual parameters. It’s so much more powerful than anything we could do before, and much easier to use than having a big rack of outboard devices.”
The StageScap M20d also interfaces with the free iPad app, StageScape Remote. When connected via an optional USB Wi-Fi adapter, the full functionality of the StageScape mixer can be accessed via one or more iPad devices, allowing mix and effects changes to be made from anywhere in the room, such as adjusting a musician’s monitor mix while standing on stage.
“The iPad app is a great example of what makes this system so smart and powerful,” said MacAller. “It looks and acts just like the StageScape user interface, and you can hear the changes instantly as you drag your finger across the screen. The first time we used it, the bass player wanted to adjust his sound, so my wife went up on stage with her iPad, showed him his channel, and he just dragged his finger around and customized his sound without any training at all. That was a great moment.”
MacAller, who acts as musical director and plays piano, was impressed. “I’m an iPad user, so the touchscreen interface feels very natural and intuitive to me. At one point, I was listening to the piano, soloed out to the headphones, and decided to tweak the sound a little bit. Normally, getting a good acoustic piano sound from scratch is pretty hard, but it was really easy to warm it up and sweeten the sound a little bit. That was really fun.”
After the first week of services using the StageScape M20d, everyone from the musicians and technical crew to the parishioners noted the change. “Even before we started applying effects and EQ, the whole system had improved clarity and definition,” says Dominic. “People commented that they could hear the individual instruments more clearly in the mix. It really sounded terrific. But what I really like about the StageScape is that it gives us really sophisticated technology, but makes everything easier instead of adding complexity. It’s a perfect fit for us.”
Michael Cohen Installs the First 8-Channel Rupert Neve Designs 5088 Console
Customized with two stereo inputs, six mono inputs, two stereo groups, a master section and ten 5051 Inductor EQ/Compressor modules
Engineer and musician Michael Cohen recently took delivery of the first 8-channel Rupert Neve Designs 5088 analog mixing console at his Sarasota, FL studio in July with help from veteran studio outfitters Sonic Circus.
Cohen selected the high-voltage, discrete 5088 system to provide fidelity for the jazz, acoustic and singer-songwriter recordings in which he specializes, after becoming frustrated with the performance of DAWs as well as other analog mixers.
The 5088 is customized with two stereo inputs, six mono inputs, two stereo groups, a master section and ten 5051 Inductor EQ/Compressor modules.
“It just sounds incredible,” he says. “It’s easily the best sounding desk I’ve heard. It can deliver the character of classic desks, especially with the inductor EQs, but it still has a very modern sound. It also has practically no noise, and the level of detail is astonishing.”
In Cohen’s first recordings with the 5088, the new 5051 modules have provided both versatility and tone, he reports. “I’ve been finding that I don’t need to use my outboard gear any more, as the EQ and compressors on the 5051’s are really outstanding. On my alto saxophone, using a Neumann M49, I’ve been adding a touch of EQ at 200 and 400 Hz with the HPF set to 60 Hz and a little bit of high shelf at 16 kHz.
“The EQ really focuses the sound of the sax, and adds a sense of life and dimension to the mix. To add a little dynamic control, I have the compressor set to feed-forward mode with a 2:1 ratio, and gain reduction peaking from about 1 to 3 dB. The compressor sounds incredibly natural, and my saxophone has never sounded better.”
The new 5051 Inductor EQ/Compressor module combines a classic style three-band EQ based on Rupert’s vintage designs with the power and flexibility of the Portico Series compressor.
With a fully class A signal path, dual line inputs and high performance transformers, the 5051 delivers exceptional tonal and dynamic control to each channel of a 5088 system.
In Cohen’s studio, the 5088 acts as the centerpiece for two tracking rooms featuring Avid Pro Tools, a Euphonix controller, two Bricasti reverbs, select outboard equipment and ATC 25a monitors. With a focus on sonic purity instead of elaborate, high track count productions, the small frame 5088 has taken the studio’s performance to another level.
“Everything I’ve been doing was instantly improved by the 5088. It’s been a complete delight so far, and I’m only just starting to realize what it can do,” says Cohen.
The 8-channel 5088 is a new frame option built around the same high-voltage, class A and discrete topologies for which the 5088 is renowned.
The new frame features eight mono or stereo input modules, two stereo group/aux master/FXreturn modules, and a standard 5088 master section. A penthouse frame can also be added to fit up to 16 half-rack RND modules, or an optional 4RU rack adapter.
Church Sound: Finding Technical Team Members While Learning & Growing
Choosing and training the church sound team
I am often ask variants on this single question. What characteristics do you look for in a potential member for your sound team?
Should you look for a frustrated musician? A rocket scientist? A computer geek? A telephone lineman?
Maybe, or maybe not. Attitude is usually more important that pre-existing aptitude.
In this article, we’ll first examine how to identify the proper individuals to serve in your technical support ministry. We’ll also show you how to train them to achieve technical excellence.
A Servant’s Heart
After serving on the production staff at churches for nearly ten years, I’m here to testify you that you never want to choose a person based solely on their technical knowledge.
Instead, look for someone with a willing heart first. Then ask about their technical knowledge.
Why not look for technical knowledge first? While both are important, technical stuff is easy to teach over time.
Finding someone with a servant’s heart can be more difficult. It’s part of their core personality.
It also illustrates their relationship with God and predicts their ultimate utility within your tech support staff.
Serving in a church ministry requires a boatload of grace and more patience than many people have left at the end of a busy week. In some churches, it means working with difficult people every weekend.
The worship team and tech support team depend on each other’s gifts to be at full muster at the downbeat of the service. The process is much like preparing a weekly meal for all your worshipers.
The worship team and tech support team need to be in unity before, during and after the service. Being on the same page, spiritually, is the key ingredient to this recipe.
One principle I’ve relied on over the years is that anyone involved in tech support ministry needs to be F.A.T.— faithful, available, and teachable, in that order. Once they’ve joined the tech support team, these people must also be faithful to be there when they’ve promised to be there.
Most of our lives are too busy. Many people over-schedule our arrivals and departures to the nanosecond. But as a wise friend of mine once suggested, the only way we can be somewhere on time is to arrive there early.
The volunteer should also make themselves as available as is practical. To say they’re committed to the success of the ministry, but then to only make themselves available for one monthly service doesn’t work well in most situations.
Only operating a console one time a month isn’t often enough to become proficient at it. Would you climb on that airplane next weekend if you knew that the pilot only flies once a month? Granted, I’ve never heard of anyone dying from a bad mix, but you get my point.
There is another side of this issue, however. I’ve seen some volunteers make themselves too available, to the point that their relationship with their family starts to suffer. If you get your priorities out of line, your work in that ministry will.
Profiles & Personalities
These days, it’s common to find people who work in, on, or around computers, volunteering to serve in the tech support ministry.
Musicians who love all things electronic are another fertile source of tech support volunteers.
My friend, Blair McNair, worked on missiles while he was in the Navy.
At some point he started volunteering in the sound team at his local church.
Years later he became the Technical Director for Benny Hinn at Orlando Christian Center, and today designs sound systems for a living.
Most volunteers do something else for living. Your church may be blessed with a seasoned audio pro as the volunteer head of the sound team, but that’s not the norm.
This is why any successful volunteers must be clearly, consistently teachable.
This means to say that in the likely event that a particular volunteer doesn’t make his/her living in pro audio, they need to make a committee effort to learn the craft so they can reliably deliver technical excellence in every worship service.
I’m unconvinced that there is any one type of personality to look for. That’s because I don’t think we need assume that every sound team volunteer must be able to drive the FOH mixing desk.
The individual who typically seeks involvement in a tech support ministry has a detail-oriented personality. These folks make lists for everything.
I have a detail-oriented personality. Knowing that the guitarist is going to take a solo on the third chorus isn’t enough. I want to know what kind of sound he’s going to use, and how loud he will play. I want to know if he’s going to start out soft and build to a loud ending.
I must know if he’s going to use his own effects, or if I should plan on adding some echo effects on my own. Notice that I’m the audio guy, so I really don’t care what he’s wearing that day that’s for the lighting guy or the programming director to think about.
This is one debate that has gone on for years and years. Should the person who will be driving the FOH mixing desk be a trained musician?
It’s easy for me to say yes, because I made my living as a player for twelve years, and I have a Bachelor of Music degree.
Clearly, someone who has experience as a player or a singer can be respected and accepted more readily by the players in the worship band simply because of the common bond and similar background.
But I do know of very capable mixers who have no formal music background, just a love of the music. I think this decision has to be a very individual one.
But I think we can agree that not everyone should be behind a console. Some can put together a great mix without even breaking a sweat. For others, it’s just not their gifting.
If the interest is there, however, the art of mixing can be learned. It’s not something they’ll grasp overnight, but time and practice and listening analytically are great teachers.
I’ve trained literally thousands of church music pastors, sound team volunteers and technical staff in my workshops. Of all of those people, I can only think of two individuals who just never seemed to get it.
Being a part of the church tech support team isn’t for everyone, but the majority of those who seem naturally drawn to the ministry seem capable of learning and managing the task.
Gifting & Getting The Job Done
Mixing sound is just one of the tasks that the sound ministry is charged with.
You could also find people who are thrilled to do a good job of running the tape duplicators after each service.
Others might enjoy fixing broken mic cables.
Still others might be happy setting up the stage every Saturday night.
Perhaps there’s a self-employed someone who could carve out some time to set the stage or run essential weekday errands.
Someone with a theatrical background might enjoy serving as a stage manager, a runner, or in some other role.
If your pastor has a daily or weekly radio program, someone must learn to use your nonlinear editing software to edit those programs.
If you identify all the tasks that need to be accomplished during a week, and then spread them out over a handful of people, you should find that the job can get done with excellence and without anyone getting overly stressed.
In a large church, you’ll find a trained individual at every post. The FOH desk, monitor desk, lighting desk, in the TV control room, at the video projection desk, all require trained technicians. Still, in the majority of churches, one person may serve all of those roles simultaneously.
The best idea is to cross-train everyone who becomes part of the tech support ministry. The lighting guy should at least be able to get sound out of the system, and the audio guy should at least be able to get the stage lights up and running if needed. (Editor’s note: Which one do you suspect will do a better job?)
People need a weekend off. People get sick. Cars break down in transit. Your staff needs to be prepared to help out as needed, in season and out of season.
Why Train The Team?
We must recognize that there’s a great disparity between the tech support team and the worship team in most churches.
Think about it. Every worship team member, who sings or plays, has inevitably studied music at sometime in his or her life.
Even if they are self-taught, they’ve invested their time and managed to learn how to play.
North American culture has given us easy access to musical training.
Most public schools have some form of music program.
I began to play music when I was in elementary school, played in various music groups all the way through college, and made my living playing in bands until I was thirty years old.
It was only after I got my music degree that I quit playing music for a living.
Even if we didn’t pursue music as our lifelong ambition, our studies helped us in numerous ways.
In contrast, the tools or programs to learn how to run sound, or the stage lights, or work with video hasn’t had the same kind of easy access, at least not until very recently.
After all, in school, I played a saxophone. I didn’t need a sound system. Maybe you played in the brass section, and they really didn’t need a sound system either.
So, is it fair to compare the talents of a stage full of trained musicians and singers with that of a beginning audio student? No, this is an unfair comparison or expectation.
In real life however, that is what many churches do every week. Predictably and unfortunately, some get frustrated and lose their cool in the process.
Training your crew also helps to strengthen their bond as friends and teammates. It can even enhance their self-esteem as individuals, giving them more confidence.
Where To Find Training
Churches all across the world are crying out for trained sound technicians. Strangely, only a very small percentage of these churches are willing to pay for that training. That’s one very clear reason you rarely see such training opportunities.
If you’re a eager student of audio, reasonably certain that you have your facts straight, and you believe you are ready to start training others, then do what all the rest of us who have trained others in audio have done.
Put together an outline to clearly and logically organize the materials and dig into the resource materials to gather your supporting information. Then gather up your courage and go for it.
I choose to organize the material according to signal flow. That’s an intentional approach. Understanding signal flow logic is key.
When I’m teaching someone to connect an amplifier, for example, and I see them connect the speaker cable first to the speaker, and then to the amp, I have them disconnect both ends and do it over again.
Obviously, this makes no difference to the signal itself and, because it’s an AC signal, it constantly reverses directions. In general, as you already know, audio signal flows directionally from the amplifier to the speaker.
One day, years after they’ve stopped calling me nasty names, they’re going to run into an exciting moment when five minutes before the downbeat of their Christmas Cantata, with 2,000 people out in the audience, their sound system stops working.
Suddenly, the success of the event falls squarely on their shoulders and rests in any audio team’s to troubleshoot and resolve the problem in a timely manner.
If the concept of signal flow logic is firmly ingrained into their thinking, they’ll be able to rest in their knowledge and resolve the problem quickly and efficiently.
Once, I had the great pleasure of visiting with Bill Johnson, Chief Audio Engineer for Kenneth Copeland Ministries.
As we were touring the facilities at Eagle Mountain Church, he shared with me that they require their tech support volunteers to attend a training session once a month.
Through a simple test, the audio team is divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced groups.
The classes are taught by technical support staff. That is so cool.
Ultimately, it helps bring the entire crew onto the same page, and because it keeps everyone growing in their knowledge, so they can do an ever better job of supporting the technical needs of the worship services.
The Internet is overflowing with information about audio. Some of it is even correct. If you’ve been in audio for some time and you’re reasonably confident in your knowledge, then go ahead and explore.
Just be alert for the occasional piece of audio mythology. If you’re a beginning student, I encourage you to stick to the main information highway.
We strive to make our own ChurchSoundcheck.com a mythology free zone. Obviously, ProSoundWeb.com focuses on performance audio technology and works hard to ensure accuracy.
Believe it or not, you can trust comments that you may read posted on web sites by the major manufacturers. For example, you’ll find accurate, reliable information on sites by Rane, Crown, EAW, QSC, Allen & Heath, dbx, and others.
Wake Up & Smell The Silicone
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a wakeup call. Have you stopped growing in your technical knowledge? Have you stayed on top of the DSP revolution in regard to digital consoles, or are you letting digital know-how pass you by?
Even worse, are you a know-it-all? Are you the type of individual who figures that they know all there is to know about audio, or lighting, or video?
Let me suggest to you that one day, in the not too distant future, you’re going to find yourself left in the digital dust of some young kid who just figured out how cool audio is, who has never even touched an analog audio console and been raised on digital.
There’s so much new stuff in play these days. It is impossible to stay on top of every technological change, in every equipment category, but that’s no reason to roll over and ignore the digital revolution.
It’s cool to learn from the past, to apply micing techniques learned from the masters, for example. It’s not cool to have been mixing at your church for the past thirty years and to walk up to a new console one day only to discover that you can’t even locate the ON switch.
If you’re not achieving the level of technical excellence that you aspire to each week, maybe it’s not the gear. A simple lack of knowledge could be standing between your audio education goals and the reality you live with.
Fortunately,, technical stuff can be taught and technical savvy learned, but you must work at it. Likewise, your volunteers and tech support staff must work at it.
Stay on task. Read. Study, study, study. Attend trade shows, workshops and seminars. Subscribe to trade magazines. Buy technical books. Read and study some more. After that, go teach someone else.
Curt Taipale heads up Church Soundcheck, a thriving community dedicated to helping technical worship personnel, and he also provides expert systems design and consulting services with Taipale Media Systems.
One of the most difficult things to do is maintain energy in a recording session.
Often musicians find it difficult to play along to a metronome/click track without sacrificing some musicality.
Personally, I love playing to a click track, even live.
It just helps “lock” everyone into place musically.
I’m certainly not suggesting that you must use a click track on every recording session, but you may be wondering “Should I use a click track?”
What it a click track?
Very quickly, let’s define a click track.
It’s nothing more than a metronome, a steady “sound” that plays at an exact speed, measured in BPM (beats per minute).
Most DAWs have the ability to create a click track, which normally has a fairly boring “tick…tick…tick…” sound.
Whether you use the boring sound or a more complex drum loop, the part that matters is that the entire song/session is record at the same tempo.
Three Reasons to Use a Click Track
There are some songs/recordings where it makes sense to ditch the click track and let the tempo breathe a little bit.
However, for most of the recording work I do, I always try to use a click track. Here’s why:
1. Protection against recording at the wrong tempo
Does the artist ever play music live? I do regularly. It’s amazing to me how when I’m playing a song on stage, the tempo can feel absolutely perfect.
However, when I go back and listen to the recording, I realize that I was playing the song way too fast.
All the excitement of playing live tends to make me speed up and play too fast.
I would do the same thing in the studio, too. A click track lets me establish the correct tempo, and ensure that all the takes are recorded at that tempo, rather than too fast.
2. Copy, Paste, Loop
Do you (or the artist) intend to use all sorts of loops in the song?
Do you want to be able to copy and paste a performance from one section of the song to another?
For example, sometimes I’ll take a guitar part from the second chorus and move it over to the first chorus.
Without the click track, there’s no way the different sections of the song would be at the same tempo.
Using a click track essentially lets you record everything to a grid.
Once it’s recorded, it can be moved around without worrying about tempo changes.
This can open the door to all sorts of creative options.
3. Multiple Takes
When you have that very first tracking session for a song — whether it’s drums, guitars, piano, whatever — you typically want to record multiple takes of each part, right?
That’s what I do. I’ll record 3-5 full takes of the acoustic guitar, then I’ll go in and comp together the best parts of each take into one master comp track.
Now imagine that you didn’t record to a click track.
Suddenly multiple takes are out of the question. You can’t use the chorus from take 2 and the verse from take 3, because they will inevitably be at slightly different tempos.
If you’re multi-track recording a full band, it’s even more imperative to use a click track.
You could have the band record 5 full takes of the song, then you have the luxury of using the bass player’s 3rd take, the drummers 5th take, and the guitarist’s 2nd take in your final mix — all because they were all recorded at exactly the same tempo.
There are certainly no rules in recording, but I almost always use a click track, because of the flexibility it offers after-the-fact.
Joe Gilder is a Nashville based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.
New Mackie DL1608 Digital Mixer With iPad Control Now Shipping Worldwide
Also includes update of Master Fader control app for the DL1608
The new Mackie DL1608 16-channel digital live sound mixer with iPad control is now shipping worldwide.
In addition, Mackie has announced a major update to the Master Fader control app for the DL1608.
Upgrades include the ability to store and recall presets for all plug-ins, which allows the user to quickly dial in a channel, with factory and user-defined presets available.
Other upgrades include snapshot and show capabilities so users can store and instantly recall all aspects of any mix.
Yet another facet of the Master Fader update is the ability to configure up to 10 iPad devices for wireless operation.
The DL1608 incorporates 16 Onyx mic preamps and 24-bit Cirrus Logic AD/DA converters.
The package also includes plug-ins like EQ, dynamics, effects and more.
• 16 Onyx mic preamps
• High-end Cirrus Logic converters
• Low-noise, high-headroom design
• 6 aux sends for monitor mixes
• Master L/R output for mains
• Powerful, touch-sensitive plug-ins
• 4-band EQ, gate and compression on inputs
• 31-band GEQ and comp/limiter on outputs
• Global reverb and delay
• Seamless wired to wireless mixing
• Tune the room from anywhere
• Get on stage to ring out monitors
• Personal monitor mixing
• Use up to 10 iPad devices simultaneously
Control From iPad
• Intuitive Master Fader app
• “Grow and Glow” visual feedback
• Preset and snapshot recall
• Record the mix to the iPad for instant sharing
• Integrate music from any app into the mix
• PadLock feature locks down iPad for permanent installs
• Kensington lock secures mixer
• Compact footprint—5.5-in x 11.5-in x 3.9-in, 6.9 pounds
He was telling me the other day how much the stuff I talk about on Home Studio Corner is so relatable to cooking food.
(Have you ever watched that show “Chopped”? Wow. Super addicting.)
When you’re starting a mix of a song, it can be difficult to know where to start, what to focus on. So you might randomly tweak the drums, then guitars, then bass, then vocals, then back to drums…entering a vicious cycle of tweaking and re-tweaking.
How about this instead?
Think of your mix as a nice dinner. There are tons of elements that go into cooking a nice dinner, but a good chef knows how to cook dishes that complement one another, how to combine ingredients in a way that enhances the overall flavor.
So, if you’re struggling to have focus in your mix. If it feels like you’re serving a beautiful steak topped with squeeze cheese, here are three different ways to focus your mix.
1. Hone In On The Lead Vocal
Sometimes a killer lead vocal sound is all you need to make your mix sound amazing. If the song is a very vocal-heavy tune, then perhaps you should start your mix by getting a great lead vocal sound, then build the rest of your mix around that.
This means muting all the other tracks and listening to JUST the lead vocal.
Pros—You don’t have to worry about making the vocal “sit’ in your mix. You’re making the rest of the instruments “sit” around your vocal track.
Cons— The mix will sound full while the vocalist is singing, but it might sound empty when he’s not singing.
2. Focus On The Main Rhythm Instrument
You might have a song with a great guitar tone, one that just needs to be heard. I’m not talking about a great guitar solo, I’m referring more to a killer rhythm guitar part. This could be one guitar or several.
In that case, start with the guitars and get ‘em sounding nice and big…and beefy. Treat them like royalty, and make every other track in the mix bow down to them.
This could work the same for a piano-driven song.
Pros—You get a big, non-compromising guitar tone.
Cons—You generally have a thinner vocal and a smaller bass guitar sound, since the rhythm guitars are so big.
3. Make Drums And Bass Awesome
If you’re keeping score, this is my favorite approach, and the one I probably use the most.
With this approach, your focus in on drums first, then bass. You get a huge drum kit sound, then you pull up the bass and make it sit nicely with the kick drum. (Granted, this is easier said than done.)
For many styles of music, if you knock the drums and bass out of the park, the rest of the tracks can be fairly thin and boring, and the mix will still kick people in the face (in a good way).
Pros—Huge drum and bass sound. The low end is so hard to get right in the mix, so by getting drums and bass working well at the beginning, you can roll off excess low end on the rest of your tracks and just let the drums and bass handle the deep stuff.
Cons—With a huge drum and bass sound, you’ve got to find ways to get the other tracks to fill out the mix, make it sound even bigger, without letting the drums and bass overpower the other tracks. Also, the lead vocal tends to be pretty thin, since it’s usually the last track I add to the mix. (Not necessarily a con…just something to keep in mind.)
How To Choose?
As you can tell, these three methods are wildly different and will yield very different mixes.
There’s no right or wrong answer. Listen to the song and let it tell you which direction to go.
The important thing here is that you identify which elements of the mix are the most important, and maintain that focus throughout the mix. This will keep you from backpedaling constantly and “undoing” all the hard work you put into the beginning of a mix.
This whole idea of focus is something I cover in depth in the Production Club.
If you want to look “over my shoulder” as a work on an entire mix from start to finish, explaining everything as I go along, then you should check it out here.
CSS Studios Outfits Soundelux Design Music Group With Argosy Workstations
Includes an Argosy Mirage model NC24 console for an Avid C|24 Pro Tools control surface together with a Mirage C240 Producer’s Desk
Hollywood, CA-based CSS Studios recently outfitted the voice-over recording studio at its new Soundelux Design Music Group (DMG) facility on L.A.’s Westside with technical furnishings from Argosy Console.
The new workstations, which include an Argosy Mirage model NC24 console for an Avid C|24 Pro Tools control surface together with a Mirage C240 Producer’s Desk, are the latest in a long line of Argosy installs by CSS Studios, who have previously custom-configured Mirage consoles at its Todd-AO studios in Burbank and Hollywood.
“The Mirage is our go-to workstation when it comes to any of the Avid controllers,” says Bill Johnston, senior vice president of engineering for CSS Studios. “We bought these particular desks’ stock as we needed them super-fast. They are a good price and a good value, easy to assemble – and they look great.”
CSS Studios provides creative post production sound services through its Todd-AO, Sound One, POP Sound, Modern Music, DMG and The Hollywood Edge facilities. DMG, which recently celebrated 20 years in business, creates sound for games, commercials and location-based entertainment.
“For many of our other facilities, we customize our technical furniture,” says Johnston. “We have Argosy consoles on three television stages that are configured for two Avid ICON D-Command surfaces, and we have two ADR stages that are configured for one D-Command, and every single one of those Argosy consoles is custom.”
“Working with Argosy on customizing them has been easy and they are great to work with,” he adds, “I send Argosy drawings, and they send me drawings back, and these guys always get it right the first time.”
Such custom work typically involves tailoring the overall ergonomics and equipment positioning to suit the changing daily roster of engineers working at the consoles.
“We’ve done things like change the width of the consoles and where the control surfaces are placed within them, and we have modified the height of the console to make it slightly lower to suit our needs,” Johnson explains. “With Pro Tools, when you’ve got a keyboard and trackball in front of you, it’s important to get them as low as possible because of where the faders sit and you need to be able to move over your keyboards to reach the controls.”
Argosy also offers an optional on-site visit to assist with assembly, particularly for custom consoles. “They installed the first one for us, but we actually found the desk is very easy to assemble,” he adds. “It’s literally no more difficult than an Ikea assembly, and their instructions are clear so we’ve had no problems—even with custom desks—putting them together.”
iZotope Introduces Alloy 2 Mixing Suite Configurable Plug-In
Combines six essential tools in one package
iZotope has released the next generation of Alloy, a forward-thinking mixing suite that combines six essential tools in one self-contained and completely configurable plug-in.
Alloy 2 takes the traditional channel strip and brings it into the future with powerful sound-shaping tools, exceptional sound quality, and a streamlined workflow.
“Whatever the track, Alloy 2 provides a wealth of tools that give you both corrective and expressive control over your audio while mixing,” says Brett Bunting, Alloy product manager. “We went out of our way to create a tool that not only raises the bar sonically, but also enables engineers to achieve a desired sound simply and efficiently with a more seamless workflow.
“Those who have never used Alloy before will be amazed by the number of mixing solutions contained within a single plug-in, while users of Alloy 1 will be struck by how much we’ve managed to add and enhance while still improving usability.”
—Six tools in one integrated plug-in: Equalizer, Dynamics, Exciter, De-Esser, Transient Shaper and Limiter
—Balances vintage emulation with digital precision
—Zero latency performance, whether tracking in real-time or in the midst of a mix session
—Rich meter displays to guide the way
—More than 250 presets and a “tweaker’s paradise” of advanced controls
Alloy 2 includes a redesigned Exciter module, a revamped multiband Transient Shaper, a host of new EQ filters, including Treble and Bass Baxandall filters, and more.
The user interface has been overhauled, enlarged to make more controls accessible, and a new Overview panel dynamically adjusts to show only the most relevant settings of the modules in play.
With low CPU usage and zero latency operation, Alloy 2 can be used again and again across a wide range of tracks and buses, making it a mixing complement to iZotope’s flagship mastering suites, Ozone 5 and Ozone 5 Advanced. To this end, Alloy 2 also offers an internal Meter Tap, which provides immediate visual feedback from Alloy 2’s tracks and buses in the Ozone5 Advanced Meter Bridge.
Alloy will be available for $149 until September 6, 2012, after which Alloy 2’s suggested retail price will be $199 /159 EUR. iZotope customers who purchased Alloy 1 on or after June 27, 2012 will receive a free upgrade to Alloy 2 upon release.
A special upgrade price of $79 will be available for all Alloy1 customers who purchased before June 27, 2012.
Think about it, the majority of songs performed during a church service are interpretations of the original.
They are new arrangements. They are played with more musicians, less musicians, different instruments, no instruments, or in different music keys.
It’s your job to take this new arrangement and make it sound great.
I hadn’t really thought about it as remixing until recently. A few days ago, I was thinking about a Hillsong song that I’d heard on CD and live at a couple of churches. They were all different but they sounded great.
Then, this morning, I was sitting in my den and glanced at a book on my desk. The book is ”The Remix Manual.” And that’s when it hit me.
What Is Remixing?
When it comes to remixes, most people hear these as alternate versions of songs on the radio. For example, there are a couple of popular country music songs in which the song has been remixed with a bass emphasis and where rap music is interspersed. I see this as a sign of the second coming.
Seriously, though, a remix is an alternative version of a song in which there can be changes in the tempo, mood, groove, and arrangement. In some cases, the remix sounds like a completely different song.
A remix is usually thought of as a version of a song in which a studio engineer has taken parts of a previously recorded song and changed, rearranged, and added new parts.
What Is Remixing For The Church Sound Tech?
As a musician, I wouldn’t say I was playing a remix of a popular worship song. I’d say I was playing a new arrangement.
As a sound guy, I find it helpful to think of it as a remix because I have final control over the sound of the arrangement of an existing song. Remixing for the church sound tech, therefore, should be thought of as the mixing of a song in a new way.
Simon Langford, in his studio engineer’s book “The Remix Manual,” expresses the idea of remixing in a perfect way that I believe equally applies to mixing new arrangements in the live environment. He says:
“Think of every song as a story, a collection of words that conveys an emotion, or a journey; something unique and something personal. That story has its own language. That “language” might be pop, it might be R&B, or it might be rock. Our job, as remixers, is essentially that of a translator. We have to take that story and translate it into a different language, our language [that meets the desires of the audience] while keeping at least the meaning of the story intact.”
Areas For Consideration
Simon points out several areas where one can remix a song. Consider some of these areas: —Rhythmic and percussive sounds. Anything related to the drum kit and added percussion. How does the worship team arrangement need these sounds? Where would they sound right in the mix? Upfront or tucked in the back? Bright and pronounced or subtle and subdued?
—Melodic sounds. Anything that plays a melodic line, from a bass to a lead guitar to even keyboard pads. Which instruments are playing the lead melodic lines and which need to be pronounced?
—Tempo. This is definitely controlled by the musicians but it is an area to consider as far as mixing. For example, how would you use reverb for an acoustic guitar for a fast song compared to a slow one? Do certain sounds blend better at slower tempos than at fast ones?
—Groove. Consider this the feel of the song. If you are going to move your body to the song, what instruments are driving that? What instruments on the worship team can be used to emphasize the feel of the song?
—Vocals. You do have limitations on your vocal mixing as the lead vocal always needs to be out front. But consider the different ways you could mix the backing singers.
You might give them a lot of reverb and a lot of depth so they sound far away in the mix or you could blend them with the lead vocals. And you can always change that up from song to song and within the song.
The idea of remixing is exciting to me. It gives a whole new outlook on how I mix well-known songs. It gives the freedom to be expressive and creative while still keeping my focus on serving the congregation.
The idea of remixing let’s you put your own personal stamp on a song. Yes, you are following the needs of the worship leader and their intended arrangement but it’s ultimately up to you as to how to best make it work.
The Take Away
The majority of songs played during a worship service are not songs written by the performing band.
Therefore, think of your worship bands performance as an interpretation of the original. The instruments could be different as could the tempo and even the mood of the song.
Considering all of these differences, you should think of your work as a remix of the original.
While a good part of the feel of the song is left to the worship leader through song arrangement, you still have a lot of room to mix the song. Keep in mind you are remixing a new version of the song.
You must decide how much the mix will resemble the original version and how much will be remixing into a new version. A simple mix change like pushing the drums to the back of the mix, toning down the kick drum, and pushing the keyboard to the front of the mix might be the perfect remix of a song for your congregation.
Take a few minutes for searching YouTube for a popular worship song. Listen to different versions. That, my friend, is how much a song can change from the original recording.
On a side note,if you are into home studio recording, consider picking up “The Remix Manual.“ Simon does a great job of exploring the topic of remixes while explaining technical terms and concepts at the same time. He has had his remixes make it into the U.S. Billboard Dance Chart and the UK National Top 20 Singles Chart.
While the book is on the topic of remixing, Simon also goes into deal on the heart and soul of a song.
NOTE: The book “The Remix Manual” was given to me by Focal Press for review purposes. This, in no way, affected my views and opinions of this book.
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.
Dual DiGiCo SD7s Drive Monitors On Springsteen World Tour
Monitor mixes for the 18-piece band are split in two between engineers Monty Carlo and Troy Milner
It’s been nearly 40 years since Bruce Springsteen’s debut Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, and judging from the 3-hour-plus shows, sold-out arenas, and glowing critical reviews, both rocker and band [minus the late, beloved saxophonist Clarence Clemons and keyboardist Danny Federici] are still regaling in their ‘Glory Days.’
With the Wrecking Ball Tour, in support of their 17th studio album, Springsteen & Co are heading into a two-month U.S. fall stadium tour following a massive world tour that started in March of 2012 taking them around the globe. Solotech US Corp. is the tour’s production provider.
Critical monitor mixes for the 18-piece band are split in two between engineers Monty Carlo and Troy Milner and for the first time ever they’re employing a pair of DiGiCo SD7s outfitted with the Waves SoundGrid bundle.
At stage left is Carlo, who’s been with Springsteen since ’92, handling a mix of wedges and in-ears for Bruce, guitarists Steven Van Zandt and Patti Scialfa, keyboardist Roy Bittan, background vocalists, and a five-piece horn section.
Milner, onboard since 2001, is at stage right taking care of drummer Max Weinberg, guitarist Nils Lofgren, bassist Garry Talent, keyboardist Charlie Giordano and multi-instrumentalist, Soozie Tyrell.
The engineers specifically chose the SD7 for its flexibility and ability to grow with the size of the production, including the massive amounts of I/O capabilities that it offered. Onboard features from snapshots to multiband compressors and the Waves pro plug-in bundle offered lots of extra functionality.
“From 2002-2009 we used Yamaha PM1D’s for monitors,” Carlo explains. “Since then, our band has grown from 9 musicians to 18 on this tour with the occasional guest on top of that. We needed something that could handle a large number of inputs, (over 100), and a massive amount of outputs, about 56 on each side of the stage.
“The DiGiCo SD7 was the only console I found that could accomplish what I was going to ask of it. Before this tour, I’d never actually mixed on a DiGiCo of any variety. I spent some time in the past year building the console with the Offline Editor and getting familiar with its layout and feature set.
“In November 2011, I got together with Troy in Nashville and we spent a couple of days with Matt Larson getting a hands-on training session with the desk. Following that, we spent the first 3 months of 2012 in rehearsals and doing some small promo events (Grammy’s, Jimmy Fallon and SXSW Festival). With the addition of a horn section and percussionist a lot of songs ended up with slightly different arrangements and we spent a fair amount if time working through the new album since not many of the band members had worked on it in its entirety.”
“We needed consoles that could handle a lot of inputs and outputs and be flexible,” adds Milner. “Before rehearsals began, we still didn’t have a concrete plan for what was going to be needed as far as band members and layouts. Things were constantly changing even into the first run of shows. I used the SD7 last year with Garth Brooks—and the D5 on numerous tours with Michael W. Smith, Mercy Me, and Amy Grant—and it performed perfectly.”
With approximately 96 inputs alone coming from the stage, plus effects and talkbacks, Carlo is managing about 112 inputs total from stage left. Being able to mix mono and stereo sources on the same fader bank as I want to see them on the desk is a huge deal for him.
“I love not losing two faders to a stereo input or output as used to happen on the 1D,” says Carlo. “The level you can customize the surface is so flexible and easy to change that as your input list and band grows you aren’t stuck simply adding channels at the end of the console. Being able to rebuild the desk in a way that better suits your workflow in mid-tour is a great luxury. Plus, the multiband compressors on each channel are a great tool that I’ve been using more than I thought I would.”
Carlo’s got his favorite Waves plug-ins. “On my in-ear mixes I use the C-6 compressor and Kramer PIE compressor across the mixes. I’m using the H-EQ as an insert on Bruce’s vocal channel to allow me to get a few additional bands of EQ that I can use for tight notches on troublesome frequencies. For effects I’m using H-Delay, TrueVerb and Renaissance Verb. I’m also using GTR Stomp and Amp plug-ins on Bruce’s guitar lines in case of a problem with his amps/cabinets on stage.”
Over at stage right, Milner mixes a staggering 140 inputs, comprised of a fair amount of effects for drums and guitars, in addition to a combo of wedges and in-ear systems, including Shure PSM1000s for ears and a mix of Audio Analysts wedges consisting of SLP115, SLP212, plus a couple of double Audio Analysts 18-inch sub cabinets for drum subs.
“I double assign the drum inputs so I can tailor them for the drummer independently from everyone else,” Milner explains. “Again, another great super easy feature on the SD7. One of the biggest challenges on this tour is just the large amount of inputs and outputs we have to deal with up onstage. We have settled in now but we still have plenty of options to easily add, change or move things around without reinventing the wheel. We also have a great Talk Back system for all the techs and backline guys that are in our ears at all times, so we can be attending to issues before anyone is even aware what is happening.”
Milner’s found a plethora of onboard features and functionality helpful in his day-to-day workflow. “Being able to assign the rotary knobs on each bank to a specific function is very handy. I’m using one row for Compressor Thresholds and on my drum input bank I use one row at my Gate Threshold. Max Weinberg is a very dynamic player and I’m constantly adjusting those gates for each song and throughout each song to keep things under control for him.
“Also, having the ability to move any fader to any place on the desk is so great. After mixing a few shows, I learned that just moving a few inputs to other banks and reordering my outputs could vastly improve my current layout. Such a great feature! I’m also finding all kinds of new things to use the Macro Keys for now.
“One is that between songs when the stage is dark, it can be a little hard to see the band onstage, so I have macro key that dims all the lights and monitors down so its easier to see what they might need. Also, using a Macro Key to switch the extra video monitor inputs. I’m getting a full production feed as well as other feeds and I can just use a macro to select the one I need for any given song.”
“For most of my reverbs I’m using the Renaissance Reverb and it sounds great in every application—from drums to background vocals to horns,: he adds. “I’m also using the SuperTap for some delay/slap effects on the drums and horns. The Waves C6 is one of my go-to plug-ins for just about anything, and I’m using it on the snare and toms to shape the sound in the ears and also on some vocals. The CLA-76 Bluey is another favorite, and the list goes on and on. It’s great to be able to easily try out all these fantastic plug-ins on inputs and or outputs to see what works for each application.”
One of the biggest challenges with the Springsteen show is the set list, which they receive literally five minutes prior to the start of the show. Not only does it change from night to night, but also during the show, Springsteeen can veer off the list at a moment’s notice. The snapshot feature has become invaluable for both engineers.
“With the PM1D, I had a sheet with all my scenes that I would have to jump around during the show,” Carlo recalls. “With the SD7’s snapshot panel, I can order the list as Bruce intends to do the show, but then when he decides to jump to something off the list, it’s as easy to get to as typing the first letter of the song until I get to the desired snapshot. Right now, I’m at around 130 snapshots.”
“We never know what Bruce will do next or what song he will pull out, so being able to load those snapshots quickly is a challenge,” adds Milner. “I use the keyboard and just type the first letter of the song and it will jump through all those snapshots starting with that letter. Then you can fire the snapshot with the space bar very quickly. This is usually not a problem on other tours but with over 150 snapshots it can take time to go through them all. I have an external monitor hooked on the ‘B’ engine so with everything mirrored to the ‘A’ engine I can make sure I’m running in complete redundancy at all times.”
For both engineers, the SD7 has proved to be a reliable and accommodating asset for this complex and unpredictable production.
Carlo says he’s found the SD7 to be one of the most flexible consoles out there. “I can configure it to look and operate exactly the way I need it to depending on what type of show/band I’m going to be mixing on it. It sounds great, it’s warm and full without any brittle or sterile characteristics that other consoles sometimes have. Looking ahead, and depending on the show, I might be inclined to try something a bit smaller than the SD7, however, the redundancy inherent in the SD7 with its dual engines and power supplies is a solid feature.”
Milner agrees. “Absolutely, I’ll be using DiGiCo again. They sound great and are so flexible to use especially with a large number of inputs and outputs and with all the different SD console options out now, it makes finding the right desk for each application simple. On this tour, the band seems to be really happy—and with 18 people on stage and all those open mics things can get messy really fast. We seem to have found a good balance for each band member and what works for them on any given song.
“The SD7 sounds great and is very neutral-sounding. It doesn’t seem to color the sound at all which is nice. You can start with the source and if that sounds good, then you know things will sound great with the console. I don’t know of any other desk out there right now that can do what we are asking of these consoles. With 140 inputs, 52 outputs and around 150 snapshots (and that number is always growing) we are making these desks earn their keep.”
From the archives of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine comes a wealth of knowledge on live-end/dead-end acoustics which first appeared in the June 1982 issue.
“The most important piece of equipment in a recording studio is the control room,” says Phil Greene, chief engineer and part-owner of Normandy Sound, located in Warren, Rhode Island.
It’s that kind of thinking that led Normandy, one of the first 24-track studios in the region, to become the first facility in the six states to feature a certified Live-End/Dead-End control room.
Since the new room opened last October, business has been good, but that’s not necessarily due to the new control room.
One of the more important clients has been Billy Cobham, who came to this mill town from his home in Switzerland, on a blind recommendation from his bassist Tim Landers, to record two albums that were quickly picked up by Elektra/Musician.
R-e/p spoke with Normandy’s chief engineer Phil Greene on two occasions: the first was in January, while tracks for the Cobham session were being laid; and the second was in March, right after Cobham’s tour with Bobby and the Midnites, during the grueling 12-day mixing session.
Greene wastes no time explaining what the LEDE concept means to him. “It’s as close as you can get in reality to an anechoic chamber at the front of the room,” he says.
“Obviously you have the window and the console, but there is an essentially uncolored signal path between the speakers and the ears, with no phase or frequency-response abnormalities — you hear the speakers, not the walls.
“Of course, if the whole room were an anechoic chamber, you’d go crazy, so the rear wall is diffuse reflective, more or less centered towards the mixing position.”
“Not only does it recreate some ambience, so that you don’t put huge amounts of reverb on the tape, it also improves the sense of where sounds are coming from in the stereo field.”
Arguments can be (and are) made that such a “clinical” environment bears no relation to the outside world, and that this concept is just another room that a producer has to get used to before his or her product will translate well to the street.
But Greene still feels it is useful. “Of course it’s unrealistic; every listening environment is. But what this concept does is eliminate one generation of listening error, which is the almost random effect that a room usually has.’‘
The Conversion Process
Normandy’s old room was well respected for its accuracy, and it wasn’t an easy decision to rip it out and start over again.
“I wasn’t unhappy with the old room, to be totally honest,” Greene admits.
“It was ‘splashy,’ so I tended to mix things dry. Sterling Sound, who does most of our disk mastering, commented at one point that our product was a little dry. The room also had a hyper-preciseness that was unnatural.”
“It would tend to dry up the bottom, so that those tracks were always too separate — it was hard to get them to blend. We thought we should be able to do a better job monitoring.”
“If you’re secure in knowing that what you’re hearing is what’s really there, then you can make a good record, no matter what your equipment is like.”
“We’ve stressed that attitude ever since we first opened as an 8-track. We were comfortable with the old room, so going with LEDE wasn’t a necessity for us, but it was a good choice.”
“When I was looking around for a design, everybody sent me to Don Davis. I had agreed with the theory for years — it’s pretty hard to shoot holes in — but it seemed that it might be so far ahead of the real world that it might turn out to be too exotic.”
“We talked to the folks who designed the [New York] Record Plant, which is a great room, but they seemed to play a lot of it by ear, and I wanted a design I knew would work right the first time. It was a little discouraging when I went to a few rooms in the area that were uncertified attempts at LEDE, and they were total failures.
Studio diagram. Click to enlarge.
“What finally clinched it for me, however, was an interim step we took when we removed the ceiling from the old room, and just left the insulation and the cloth covering hanging there — sort of a Dead Top. I loved the mixes I found myself doing, and I realized this was the way to go.”
Considering the amount of work that had to go into the new control room, it was done very fast — downtime was about a month. Dan Zellman of Howard Schwartz Studios, New York, an engineer certified in LEDE design and measurement, came up to the studio and did the blueprints in a few days.
Then, the existing room was torn down to the outside walls, an asymmetrical outer shell was put in, and the symmetrical room was built inside of that. The carpentry was handled by two local builders, Alan Souza and Gary Fenster.
“Alan’s an artistic type,” offers Greene. “Most carpenters in a studio situation get blown out by the number of intersecting odd angles they have to deal with.”
“This guy loved what he was doing, especially when things weren’t rectangular. The blueprints were very precise, so there wasn’t much margin for error.”
“We started out with soft fiberglass on the front walls, but it was a little too anechoic for our taste— it soaked up too much sound, and the whole room was a few dB short on level. We replaced it with harder stuff: a thin version of the material they use to insulate boilers.”
The frame itself was heavily overbuilt, with double studding and two layers of sheet rock. “It’s got to be solid,” Greene says. “If the walls move, it defeats the whole purpose.”
Meanwhile, Bob Windsor, one of Normandy’s engineers, was working on the new wiring harness (along with the control room, Normandy was putting in a new MCI JH-600 console and JH-24 multitrack).
It took about 36 hours to install completely the harness and recording equipment after the room was finished. The final step was certification.
The Acid Test
“I’m not sure certification is absolutely necessary,” says Greene, “but if you’re going to go to all that trouble to build it, you might as well go all the way.”
Designer Dan Zellman spent a good day checking out the room, and gave it excellent marks. “He checks the sound coming from the speakers, the acoustical coupling with the room, the anechoic ‘hole’ following the initial blast, then the first reflection and the diffusion.”
“Obviously you can’t get rid of all of the uncontrolled sound, but the concept is valid as long as it’s within certain specs, which are pretty stringent,” says Greene.
In spite of the good evaluation, Greene noticed there were problems with the finished room. “It was a little short on the low-end. The kick drum wasn’t reaching out well.”
“On a hunch, I removed the drivers from the UREI 813A’s we had put in, and replaced them with our old Altec 604-8G’s. Even though they were out of time-sync, it cleared up the problem immediately.
“I was actually pretty upset. I had ordered 813’s, which use essentially the same drivers as our old Altecs, but by the time we took delivery, UREI had stopped shipping them and sent us 813A’s instead. The difference is that the new speakers use ceramic magnets.”
“They’re always talking about how great they are, but the real reason is that AlNiCo, which they used to use, got too expensive.”
“But the ceramic magnets have poor low-end response, and they sound harsh and strident. The speakers measure out the same, but they sound totally different.”
“I had to take the horns off the Altecs and put the little blue UREI horns on them, and I had to buy different crossovers, because the ceramic magnets are shorter, and therefore use a shorter delay. Now they sound great. They’re about 2 dB less efficient, but I can deal with that.*”
As one might expect, Greene is very happy with his new room, and knows why. “It doesn’t wear me out nearly as much — I can work for a long time now,” he offers.
“Since the speakers and the room are all phase coherent, I don’t have to listen to phase distortion, which is very fatiguing. I’m also working 7 or 8 dB softer. I can hear things more clearly at lower levels, which also helps to make it sound better on the street.
“I realized that the other room tended to ‘smear’ the image, which had to do with reflections off the ceiling. It was tough to hear small panpot adjustments.”
“Also, now that I have the new speakers, the room sounds pretty much the same over a wide range of seating positions. Of course, you’re limited by the on-axis response of the tweeters, but I think the room even compensates for that a little.”
“I always tend to listen on headphones before 1 let anything out, and LEDE and cans aren’t really too far away from each other. You can’t really get a good idea of bass on phones, however, and there’s no ambience. So this is the best of headphone-type listening, yet without the drawbacks.”
The new room has changed some of Greene’s work habits. “Things that sound really bad will drive you out of your mind, he concedes. “For example, piano miking that used to sound fine now sounds as if the piano is inside out. You become hyper-aware of phase anomalies.”
“I find that I’m using a lot more coincident-mike placements, and paying a lot more attention to phase coherency. I’m also taking more care with mid-range EC). I can hear the subtleties better; of course, that has a lot to do with the speakers as well as the room. I’m mixing wetter, and I’m using the wall monitors a little more than I used to.”
“The room makes very little difference when you’re near-field monitoring — the primary reflection there is still off the console itself — but I never liked small console speakers anyway. They’re only really effective in the mid- range, and I have three different sets that sound completely different.”
The new room has also necessitated changes in monitor amplification. Because of the reduced efficiency, the old Spectro Acoustics 125 watt per channel power amps were replaced with a Mcintosh Model 2500. An intermediate setup used UREI power amps, but Greene found them short on headroom, and the damping factor to be too high for his speakers.
“The Altec-type woofers are made to move around, and the UREI held the cones too tightly,” he says. “The Mac is transformer-coupled, and although it has a high damping factor for that type of amp, it’s a lot lower than a direct- coupled amp. It’s much nicer to listen to.”
Reaction from Clients
Of course, the most important thing in any studio improvement is how it affects business, which is largely determined by artists’ and producers’ reaction to the change.
“Billy Cobham’s not the kind of guy who gets impressed with engineering concepts like LEDE, but if he takes the tape home and likes the way it sounds, that’s cool,” says Greene.
“If he doesn’t like it, it’s not cool. All the rest of the hype doesn’t matter to him. But most of our clients are long-term, and they’re saying that our mixes are much better. The new clients all like it too, even though they don’t have our old room to compare it to. But they do compare it, very favorably, to other rooms they’ve been in.
“The LEDE concept is so new that even a lot of people in the engineering end of the business aren’t that aware of it, so you can’t expect the creative people to concern themselves with it for some time yet. I think though, that artists and producers will care more in the future, and it will become a major issue.”
And at the bottom line, business for Normandy is up. It will be a while before the magic of a Billy Cobham record or two will draw clients to the studio, and a lot of the increased business was booked before the control-room conversion. But, as Greene says, “they won’t hurt.”
Greene figures that things will get even better, and puts it in this perspective: “With the current economic climate, people want state-of-the-art equipment with good personnel and service that will cost them in the $100 to $125 an hour range, which is where we are.
Fancy rooms will only be for established superstars with huge recording budgets. Otherwise, the record companies don’t want to hear about paying $165 to $200 an hour.
“Our equipment is not vast and awe- inspiring, but it all works, and you can make records in the place. I think that is what’s going to make us successful.”
*Garry Margolis, Sales Director of UREI, comments as follows:
“We noted Mr. Green’s comments on old versus new 813’s with interest. There are a number of objective and subjective differences between the old and new coaxial drivers. The older AlNiCo magnet was subject to partial demagnetization when hit by very heavy transients reproduced by a large power amplifier.”
“This demagnetization lowers the mid-range response of the driver, and, therefore, apparently increases the bass response. The newer ceramic magnet will not be demagnetized in heavy use, and will retain its sound character.”
“The new drivers have a crisper, tighter low-end, which may seem light to someone accustomed to a demagnetized AlNiCo driver. The mid- range response of the new driver has been considerably smoothed, and dis-persion broadened, when compared to the original system.”
“The new horn design uses slots to minimize the shad-owing of mid-band response from the cone, and utilizes a new diffraction buffer and padding in the horn to reduce reflections, improve dispersion, impedance matching, and smooth the out-of- band response.”
“We are soliciting user opinions regarding further improvements to our monitors, and we appreciate Mr. Green’s comments.”
Editor’s Note: This is a series of articles from Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, which began publishing in 1970 under the direction of Publisher/Editor Martin Gallay. After a great run, RE/P ceased publishing in the early 1990s, yet its content is still much revered in the professional audio community. RE/P also published the first issues of Live Sound International magazine as a quarterly supplement, beginning in the late 1980s, and LSI has grown to a monthly publication that continues to thrive to this day.
Our sincere thanks to Mark Gander of JBL Professional for his considerable support on this archive project.
For our kids and students wing renovation, I’m building three new tech booths.
Having worked in a few dozen tech booths in the past, I’ve been collecting a list of things I like and don’t like about those other ones.
I’ve seen a few major issues with tech booths in students rooms; namely, when built out of studs and drywall, the drywall always gets torn up, and the walls tend to get a bit loose.
I’ve also seen more than one countertop start to sag because they’re using standard kitchen countertops that are designed to be supported along their entire length.
Also, most of the time, the top ledge becomes a perfect resting place for all manner of detritus—including drinks—that eventually get spilled into the console.
Finally, the cable situation tends to become a mess pretty quickly.
We’re going to try to remedy those issues with our booths. First, while they will be built out of standard lumber, I’m skinning them in 1/2-inch AC plywood instead of drywall. This will both increase the ruggedness of the surface, and lend considerable strength to the structure. It will also make it easier to attach things inside the booth.
A line drawing showing some of the detail of one of the new booths. (click to enlarge)
For countertops, we’re going to Sweden. Well, sort of. Ikea sells a 1 1/8-inch thick solid beech countertop for $60 for an 8-foot length. It can be stained, painted or just sealed (which is what we’ll do). We’ll support it with heavy-duty shelf supports lag-bolted to the studs. We also hold the counter off the back wall by 1 1/2-inch, giving us a continuous run to bring cables up and down.
Part of the design that will be tricky to build but will pay huge dividends over time is the sloped top. I call if the “beverage resistant cap.” The tops of all the walls will be sloped outward at 22.5 degrees to keep anyone from putting anything on them. Figuring out the compound miters is tricky but worth it.
To keep cable management clean, we’ll be using slotted wire duct that we bought from CableOrganizer.com. This duct will run from the wall (where our conduits open to an access panel) to the back wall of the booth for easy access to the gear.
By keeping all the cable in the duct, we eliminate those awkward, “I just unplugged a cable with my foot” moments all too common in small tech booths.
This image shows a lof of dimensions; I actually hide some of them for various angles to make it easier to read. (click to enlarge)
The floor of the booth will be raised; it’s a simple frame of 2x8’s with 3/4-inch plywood glued and screwed down.
The glue part is important—how many booths have you been in where the floor squeaks every time you move? Too many is the answer. For a few dollars in construction adhesive, we will eliminate that.
We’re also putting a half-door in each booth. I’m taking some construction details from deck building and anchoring my uprights for the door jamb all the way down to the bottom edge of my joists to be sure that doesn’t move. The door won’t provide any real security, but will keep curious younger kids out of there.
Finally, to make construction as simple as possible, I’ve sized everything consistently. We will be able to batch-cut all the parts, distribute them to the rooms and screw everything together very quickly.
The designs are such that there is only one piece that will be difficult to fabricate (the 1x6 top cap), so it can all be done quickly and with not highly skilled labor. I also spent a lot of time developing a complete set of working drawings for each booth to make it easy to build.
In a few weeks, you’ll be seeing pictures of the real thing, and we’ll talk about some of our cable building techniques.
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.
Church Sound: Understanding Mixing Console VCAs And VCA Groups
VCA control is most definitely beneficial
Some of the most common questions from those researching mid- to large-format live sound consoles for their churches involve VCA groups.
What are they? How are they used? What are the benefits?
A VCA, or Voltage Controlled Amplifier, is an electronic device in the form of an integrated circuit, or chip, that sits in the audio circuit of each input channel in a mixing console.
The audio signal through each input channel passes via the VCA, which controls the level of that signal based on a DC voltage applied to it from an external controller such as a fader.
Unlike a conventional console, the channel fader in a VCA console does not pass audio, instead controlling the VCA in the input channel circuit. This offers several advantages, one of which is that it drastically cuts down on the wear and tear normally associated with standard analog faders.
A conventional fader is essentially a resistive circuit, like a rotary level control stretched out into a straight line, or a lighting rheostat. Constant use of a conventional fader, which passes the actual channel signal, leads to a deterioration of the fader’s resistive surface, requiring it to be carefully maintained and eventually, more than likely, replaced.
In a VCA console, noise filtering may be applied to a VCA fader circuit to reduce the audible effects of fader wear.
VCAs are by no means new. They are also used in outboard signal processing devices such as compressors, limiters, and noise gates, where circuitry acts on VCAs to produce the desired effect.
And they are not new to consoles, either, having originally been fitted into high-end recording studio consoles, where mix automation systems recorded and played back the voltage changes at each input channel VCA using a computer synchronized to timecode on the multitrack tape.
Except for elaborate Broadway-style shows, live sound consoles generally do not benefit from timecode-based automation. But VCA control is most definitely beneficial.
Since each input channel VCA responds to an external DC voltage the signal level can be controlled not only by its respective channel fader but by other faders as well. That has allowed the development of VCA group faders, dedicated faders in the center section to which input channels may be assigned, in much the same way as conventional audio subgroups.
Compared to recording consoles, VCA technology has only relatively recently been applied to live sound consoles, especially large desks suitable for major touring applications, where the ability to create VCA subgroups, plus the associated muting functionality, is extraordinarily useful.
As the technology has matured it has trickled down to become more commonplace in live consoles that are within the budget of many churches.
So how do VCA groups differ from audio subgroups?
Assigning an input channel to an audio subgroup sends the signal through a bus to the group channel with its associated gain stage, subgroup fader, and output connector, plus, on some consoles, effects insert connectors.
Since no audio passes through a VCA fader, a VCA group fader simply acts as a control device for the channels assigned to it.
An audio subgroup is absolutely essential in certain circumstances.
For example, groups of inputs can be grouped, submixed, and sent to a recording device in situations where there are insufficient tracks available to record each channel from the respective direct outputs.
In distributed loudspeaker systems, the audio groups can be mixed into the matrix output system to feed separate loudspeaker clusters or locations.
Most importantly, where circumstances do not allow individual signal processing channels to be used on each input channel, outboard devices can be inserted into groups of inputs.
Thus a single compressor can be applied to multiple choir vocal microphones, or to an entire drumkit.
But audio subgroups also have disadvantages when compared to VCA groups.
Whereas it would require two audio subgroup channels to control input channels with stereo panning (one subgroup panned to the left, the other to the right), or three for LCR panning, a single VCA group fader can control such inputs.
That’s because, in a VCA console, the VCA is located in the channel circuit before the panpot. Panning, routing, and pre-fade auxiliary sends are therefore unaffected by the VCA.
Controlling stereo or LCR groups using VCA group faders has the additional benefit of freeing-up audio subgroup faders.
There are a number of mixing consoles available that allow the audio group faders to be used to control auxiliary send levels and create stage monitor mixes with fader control and insert capabilities. The more audio group faders available, the more monitor sends that can be set up on a front of house console doing double-duty as a monitor desk.
VCA groups can also be overlapping, with inputs assigned to more than one group. This allows sophisticated control of instruments and voices.
For example, a VCA group could be created for all of the choir microphones, with a second VCA group controlling only those mics used by the soloists, allowing the overall vocal level to be controlled with one fader and the balance of the solo voices against that group with another.
In the same way, instruments can be grouped. The drums and percussion might be on one VCA group fader while the entire rhythm section—drums, percussion, bass, and piano—is on a separate fader.
For further sophistication, if different groups of instruments and voices must be made more or less prominent in different pieces of music, they can be grouped accordingly and controlled on separate VCA faders.
To offer a simple example, a solo vocal mic, piano, bass, and drums may be in one VCA group, with a different solo vocal mic, guitar, bass, and drums on another VCA group fader.
Audio and VCA groups are not exclusive, either.
Where processing is to be inserted an audio group is essential.
But that exact same group of inputs can also be assigned to a VCA fader to provide overall level control.
VCA grouping also allows the balance between input sources and effects returns to be maintained more easily.
A reverb, for example, inserted via an audio group and applied to several input sources, will maintain its return level even though that audio group fader is pulled down.
But a VCA group can also include the channel into which the reverb is returned, maintaining the balance between effected input sources and effect return.
If a single effects device is shared by two groups, VCA control allows the post-fade aux sends for the individual groups of inputs to also be attenuated. When the first group fader level is reduced, the balance between source and effect for that particular group is again maintained, while the second group’s effect return level is unaffected.
The benefits of VCA group faders also apply to muting. VCA group faders have associated mute switches, thereby acting as an additional layer of mute groups. How they are implemented may differ; on some consoles it is a master on/off switch while on others the VCA group mute switch turns any assigned input channel mute on/off.
Using “soft"switching for VCA group and mute assignments also opens up the possibility for console manufacturers to incorporate those settings into ‘snapshot’ memory automation using MIDI, onboard memory, or RS232 to an outboard controller.
In practical use, and leading on from the discussion on console gain structure in the previous issue of this publication, each input channel VCA fader should be set at the ‘0’ position. That represents 0V, in other words, no change to the audio level through the VCA.
Console manufacturers design VCA consoles such that 0 dB unity gain is passed through at 0V. That allows multiple input channels at 0V to be summed to a VCA group without producing a gain change.
The 0 dB/0V position is usually marked clearly on the channel fader and VCA group fader faceplate. On some consoles there are even LED indicators that show that the fader is at or close to 0.
Lowering the VCA group fader by 10 dB lowers each input level while retaining the relative balance. An input set at 0 dB now becomes -10 dB, an input at -10 dB goes to -20 dB, and a channel set at -20 dB now produces -30 dB.
The flip side of this is that where a single channel is assigned to multiple VCA groups the output level is the sum of the VCA group levels. With the input channel set at -5dB, group 1 at -10 dB, group 2 at +5 dB, and group 3 at 0 dB, the resulting output is -10 dB.
One “gotcha” for those new to the concept: Be aware that if any one VCA group fader to which an input channel is assigned is all the way down at infinity then that input channel will not be audible.
As mentioned previously, pre-fade aux sends are unaffected by changes at the channel VCA. Monitor feeds from a front of house console generated on aux sends will not therefore alter level in response to input channel VCA level changes.
A single VCA fader could be set up to control all of the choir and instrument inputs, allowing the operator to reduce the level or mute all of the performers while a single pulpit microphone is open. Such a fader, controlling all or a majority of the inputs, is referred to as a “grand master.”
If the monitor feeds are set to pre-fader, then there is the possibility of noise—a cough from one of the choir members, for example—being heard through the onstage speakers.
Setting the monitor sends to post-fade will prevent this from happening, as it will not only eliminate input channel feeds to the main loudspeakers, but also to the monitor system when the grand master VCA fader is pulled down.
This is especially useful if wireless microphone systems are in use, so as to avoid unwanted “backstage” or handling noise to enter the monitor system.
This page has been viewed 0 times
Page rendered in 2.2416 seconds
Total Entries: 16602
Total Comments: 2200
Total Trackbacks: 0
Most Recent Entry: 03/27/2015 03:17 pm
Most Recent Comment on: 01/19/2012 08:30 am
Total Members: 4923
Total Logged in members: 0
Total guests: 2
Total anonymous users: 0
Most Recent Visitor on: 02/10/2012 11:04 am
The most visitors ever was 774 on 02/08/2012 02:19 pm