Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Registration Now Open For 136th AES International Convention In Berlin
Will provide more than 100 tutorials, workshops, engineering briefs and paper sessions covering a range of topics relevant to the pro audio industry
The Audio Engineering Society has opened registration for the 136th AES International Convention, to be held in Berlin, Germany, on April 26 – 29, 2014, at the Estrel Hotel and Convention Center.
Headed by the AES 136th Convention co-chairs Sascha Spors and Umberto Zanghieri, the convention is set to provide more than 100 tutorials, workshops, engineering briefs and paper sessions covering a wide range of topics relevant to the professional audio industry, with further detailed session and event information coming soon.
Attendees are encouraged to visit the AES136 Registration Page to pre-register for their free “Exhibits-Plus” badge or opt for the premium “All Access” badge, as well as find further details on hotels and special events.
Following the success of the recent Project Studio Expo (PSE) at previous conventions, the PSE will be making its European debut at AES 136, and a special technology showcase will also provide participating companies with a chance to interface directly with interested end users and customers at this year’s exhibition.
Additionally, the technical program for the 136th Berlin Convention is shaping up to be one of the most diverse to be presented by the Audio Engineering Society. Paper sessions will include diverse subjects such as acoustics, networked audio, multi-channel systems, mobile audio, and in-depth studies into aspects of microphone and loudspeaker design.
Other sessions will bring panels of experts together to discuss a range of practical application topics, such as Audio Forensics, Film Soundtrack Loudness, microphone technique and 3-D audio in automotive applications. The convention will also host a series of student-related events and opportunities, as well as a meeting of the AES Standards Committee, awards, special events, and offsite technical tours to audio facilities of interest in the area.
Additional information on the 136th AES International Convention in Berlin is now available here. Online registration is here.
Audio Engineering Society
Monday, March 03, 2014
Church Sound: Pitfalls & Traps To Avoid During Services
After seeing countless mistakes at every conceivable church (my own included), I think it's time to talk about what can be done to prevent such errors...
There are many things which shouldn’t happen during a worship service, yet still do. However, unless we’re cognizant of them sometimes it’s hard to prevent them.
So I decided to create a list of those things that just shouldn’t happen in a worship service. Some of these may seem so silly, so expected, so taken for granted that they’re almost not worth saying.
But you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen these mistakes made in other churches, and even by my own volunteers.
Don’t miss microphone cues. We can’t afford to not have a mic turned on when it needs to be on. But if you come to one of my workshops, you’ll hear me talk about keeping the number of open mics to a minimum.
That is to say, if the choir’s not singing, don’t have their mics open. If the pastor’s not talking, don’t have his mic on. And so on. But we also need to stay focused so that the pastor doesn’t have to say stuff to the congregation like “Is this thing on?” What an embarrassment.
Turn off the mics before they hit the stand. It’s purely unprofessional to let a singer put a mic in the clip on a stand without having first muted that channel. If you don’t, the congregation is going to hear a loud thump over the system, or at least over the monitors.
Hopefully the channel mutes on your console also mute the monitor mixes. That way all you have to do is mute each vocal mic channel, and they’ll be muted both in the house and in the monitors simultaneously.
Mute the guitar channels. Don’t you just hate the loud “buzzzzz-t” that goes with a guitar cable being plugged in or unplugged with the channel open!
If we can equate the word professional with excellence, then it’s unprofessional to not mute those channels in time to save the congregation from that moment. It’s a two-way street though. The sound guys aren’t mind readers, nor have they been assimilated to become one with the automation of the console.
With all that to say, the guitar and bass player in your worship team should give you a moment to mute their channels before unplugging. It’s just common courtesy, a recognition that we’re a team, that the tech support guys and the musicians arc equal members of the worship team.
If it needs a mic, then mic it. I once watched a sound guy at a church realize that he had forgotten to put a mic on an instrument on stage, and then decide that it was just too much trouble to bother going all the way back downstairs to add the mic. Hmm, not worth the bother?
Teach your backing vocalists where to stand and how to use a mic. Would someone please tell me why most backing vocalists stand so far away from their stage monitors? I don’t get it.
At one church I used to work at, our vocalists were very compliant and stood where we told them to stand—so they could sec down the throat of the HF horn in their stage monitor. Yet I’ve seen so many vocalists who run away from their monitor. You ask them if it’s too loud and they’ll say no. But they refuse to stand where it will do them the most good.
Those vocalists I used to work with were also careful not to hold their mic to their sides facing down between songs. They simply held it about at their waist, still pointed up.
Think about it. If your vocalists drop the mic to their sides between songs, the zero degrees on-axis point of the mic is going to be aimed at the monitor, which is likely going to make it feedback. There’s nothing worse than 2,000 pairs of eyes from the congregation looking at you when you did nothing to cause the problem.
Tighten up the fittings on boom stands. One day in college, I was helping set up for a jazz concert. I had been given the responsibility of setting the mic stand with a boom arm and a rather heavy mic on the end of it for a guest saxophone soloist.
At one point during the performance (of course, during a saxophone solo) that boom arm started to slowly drop lower and lower. Guess who was sent out to fix the problem! That’s another mistake I’ve not made since it happened. I’d encourage you to learn from my mistake. (Hey, get your own instead!)
Don’t stop mixing between songs. Remember the technique of bringing the worship leader’s fader up between songs so the congregation can hear what’s being said?
Well, if your pianist or keyboardist continues playing between songs, go ahead and pull their faders or submaster down about -20 dB or so. They don’t know how loud they are in the house mix. Even if they’re playing softer, it may not be soft enough. It’s your job to maintain a great musical mix, even between the songs.
Don’t forget to practice. It’s just amazing to me that musicians and vocalists - people who are used to practicing on their own - have to be reminded of the need to practice as a group. I’ve seen the same scenario repeated countless times around the world.
Don’t create a visual distraction during a worship service. Investing your time and God given talents in the tech support ministry is great. But remember that it’s an unseen activity that helps ministry.
Do your best to keep it that way. If you need to walk out into the auditorium during a worship service, plan your route to offer the least possible distraction to the congregation. If you need to talk on the intercom, do so quietly so that others around you won’t be distracted.
If you need to get a message to one of the musicians or singers on stage during a worship service, see if there’s a way to talk to them quietly over the monitors rather than sending someone on stage with a note. That’s another perfect reason for headphones instead of monitors.
Leave the sudden light changes to drama. Unless it’s for dramatic effect, the light changes both on stage and in the house should be slow. If possible, they should be so slow that the audience really isn’t aware that a change is being made.
Dim the house and stage lights for video presentations. If your church sometimes uses videotaped segments to underscore part of the pastor’s message, or for other things, you can really help the congregation see the screens better if you’ll dim the house lights a bit during that presentation, then bring them back up afterwards.
Stay plugged in! This is a given, but I’ve seen this happen to too many tech support volunteers - myself included, This constant commitment to pursue excellence requires vigilance on our part, but it cannot replace our relationship with God.
If we get lost in the fun of twiddling knobs and playing with the gear, and in so doing forget why we’re doing this in the first place, then God won’t honor our’ service. So, don’t work every service. You and your family need time to immerse yourselves in the worship services as well.
While this list is far from comprehensive, hopefully you have found it illustrative. What other things can you think of which shouldn’t happen during a worship service? Be sure to let me know in the comments below!
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.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Church Sound: The Intentional Tech
One of the most challenging aspects of doing production in a church setting is that church happens every week. During the week we have meetings, stuff to fix and install, TPS reports to file and a host of other things to get done.
It’s pretty easy to drop into mechanical way of doing things. Sometimes, we do things because we’ve always done them that way. Other times, we do whatever we inherited from the guy before us.
Lately, we’ve been having a lot of conversations about intentionality. That is, exploring the why behind the what we do. It can be a bit of a rabbit hole to go down sometimes, but I think we do need to figure out why we do what we do.
Intentionality Brings Life
I read a story one time about some of the experiments the Nazis did on people in concentration camps. One was to have the prisoners move a pile of rocks from one end of the compound to the other. After they finished, the soldiers ordered the prisoners move the rocks back. Once finished, you guessed it, they had to move the rocks back. Moving rocks back and forth with no clear purpose drove more than a few prisoners mad.
Doing the same thing over and over again without any idea of why can feel a little like moving rocks back and forth. When we know why we are doing something, we are more engaged, more connected and energized by it. When we see a clear connection between production technology and the mission of the church, we don’t mind coming in early or staying late.
Intentionality Encourages Our Teams
Everyone on our teams needs to know how their service connects to the big picture. Even things that seem mundane can be energizing when we know the why. Why do we lay out cables the way we do? Why do we set lights and program them the way we do? Why do we choose the backgrounds we do for the songs? These tasks can either be empowering or demotivating depending on the why.
Do we make sure our teams know why we do what we do? It’s easy to train someone how to do a job, but harder—and more important—to train them why. But here’s the good part; once they get the why, they will do a better job, and they will see how their work connects with everything else.
Intentionality Builds Trust
When you have a solid rationale for what you’re doing, and can explain how it connects with the big picture, leadership knows you’re not just doing stuff because it’s cool. And if someone complains, it’s easy to diffuse because you know why you’re doing it and you can explain it.
For example, we had someone call to complain about the volume of our services (which aren’t that loud…) a while back. We called her and explained why we run the services at the volume we do. We believe in keeping energy up and our style of music works better at higher volumes. We told her we track levels each week and are in no danger of causing hearing damage. We even suggested a few spots she could sit where it was less loud.
What began as an adversarial conversation turned around as she began to understand the why. She came over to our side once she new we weren’t just rock ‘n roll junkies who liked things crankin’ loud.
The conversation would have gone quite different if all we could say was, “Well, uh, we just like it loud. Sorry…”
Think It Through
I had a professor in college who said that to us often, “Think it through.” I think in many ways that phrase has informed the way I approach production. As much as possible, I like to know why I’m doing what I’m doing, and I like to do it with intentionality.
Now, let’s look at applying this…
Based on some of the consoles I’ve seen, console layout is something that doesn’t seem get a lot of thought. Proper console layout makes mixing more fun, and can keep us from making big mistakes during a service.
In the early days of mixing, engineers noticed on larger consoles that channels farther from the master had more noise in them. So it made sense to put the money channels—usually the vocals—nearest to the master. As the master was on the right, that meant the left-most channels became home of the drums. After all, who would notice noise in the drum channels?
Somewhere along the line, a somewhat common layout emerged: drums, bass, guitars, keys, vocals. As consoles and input count continued to grow, the master section began land in the middle of the console instead of on the right. In that case, usually the band fell to the left while vocals and effects fell to the right.
Back then, you plugged a mic into a channel and that’s the fader it was on. Today, with digital consoles, it’s easy put any channel on any fader. But before we do any patching—digital or analog—spend some time thinking about why channels go where they do.
Why You Do Is More Important Than What You Do
I’ve seen all sorts of, um, interesting channel layouts on consoles. Drums spread all over the place, the lead guitar next to the pastor’s mic, vocal effects in the middle of the keyboards. It’s as if someone just patched inputs into the first open channel or floor pocket without any thought at all.
And while there are all sorts of ways you can lay out your console, the first consideration is to make sure you do it on purpose. Don’t just shove inputs into any old channel. Take some time to think about it and patch it in a way that makes sense.
Keep all the drum channels together, and then keep the band together. Having all the vocals next to each other makes it a lot easier to find them. Put the channels you adjust all the time closest to you, so you’re not reaching all the way to the end every time. Think about how you mix, then organize the channels in a way that supports what you do.
There is no “right” way to organize a console. But here are some ideas of how to do it. I like to start with drums (kick, snare, hat, toms, overheads), then bass, guitars, keys, vocals and finally effects. Other channels—speaking mics, music playback, video and other utility channels—are either to the right or left of effects.
I have my current console set up with my VCAs on the right, which puts my vocals right in the middle in front of me. My preference is to mix more on channel faders than VCAs, but I know others who prefer the opposite.
I also know guys who put the bass right next to the kick because they like to work those two together. I keep my bass in my guitars VCA; others put in with the drums or dedicate a VCA to just kick and bass.
I base my layout on my band, my preferences and my equipment. Change one of those elements and the layout is likely to change. But the intentionality that goes along with developing the layout won’t change. It’s all very much on purpose.
When I mix on analog consoles, I still follow the same basic layout. The advantage of a consistent layout is that I can mix almost any band on any console and without looking know where the faders are. In contrast, I’ve watched other guys mix and spend half their time searching the board for the guitar fader, only to miss the solo.
Regardless of how you choose to layout the console, once you come up with a plan, stick with it. Adapt and change as needed, but maintain as much consistency as you can.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about our board layout. Our current layout is the result of hundreds of hours of mixing, and careful consideration of what is going to be easiest for my other engineers. Think about your layout and adjust it until it makes sense and works for you.
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.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Church Sound: Audio Techs As Musicians?
"Do you realize that the sound board is an instrument?"
When I’m training technical teams at the churches I work with, one of the first questions I ask is, “Do any of you play a musical instrument?”
I usually get one or two people who say that they play some type of instrument.
But it’s a trick question, because the next question I ask usually results in silence while they take it in: “Do you realize that the sound board is every bit an instrument as any of the ones on the stage?”
No one ever thinks it does. And that’s a shame.
Every tech who runs the sound board is a musician, whether they realize it or not. Which is also why they are every bit a part of the worship team as any of the other musicians.
The difference between the musicians on stage and the tech folks are unique. Most of the musicians on stage will have played their instrument for a substantial number of years. They also have at least one of their preferred instruments at home.
Sound techs probably got recruited and have never worked on a mixer until they got to church. They also probably don’t have a mixer at home.
The other main difference is that while a musician on stage could probably flub a note or miss a cue and no one, unless it was really horrendous or there’s a musician in the audience, won’t really notice.
If the sound tech flubs something or misses a cue EVERYONE notices and invariably will do the mongoose thing and look directly at you from their seats.
So while the sound techs are every bit as important as the musicians on stage, their role, because they affect everything sound-related, is more critical to get it right.
So now that the sound techs have it in their noggin that they are actually musicians, they need to understand what that means. Musicians practice on their instrument until it becomes a part of them. Muscle memory builds with practice and after a while their instrument becomes an extension of themselves.
Sound techs need to do the same thing. The biggest problem for most techs is that their instrument is only at church. So how do you practice? If you can get into church you can always plug music into the system through a computer.
Yes, you’re only playing around with one or two channels, but you can still see how adjustments in EQ or FX make a difference in the way the songs sounds, and more importantly, in how it feels.
You can also download software such as Reaper, which is shareware that will allow you to bring in a multitrack recording and play back the different instruments one at a time or all at once so you can see how different instruments and vocals sound.
If you don’t have access to a multitrack recording see if a big church in your area will give you a copy of one of theirs. If they’ve got a digital board they’ll be able to do it.
The other things that the sound tech as a musician needs to do is to rehearse the music. If you don’t know the music, and know how the worship leader wants the dynamics of the song to go, you can’t do the song justice.
While you can leave the fader levels all at the same setting for every song and let the worship team handle the dynamics, part of your job is to enhance what the team on stage is doing with the song.
For every song that has quiet and loud parts, the sound-tech-as-musician can drastically enhance and fortify the dynamics, making the song that much more powerful for the congregation. Quieting the song during the quiet passages allows the intimacy of the song to come out and envelope the congregation. It also allows the congregation to hear themselves sing and draws them into the song.
Bringing the dynamics up during louder passages allows the celebration of the song to ring out and also gets the congregation to sing louder and feel less self-conscious.
Don’t believe me? Try it with Mercy Me’s Emmanuel (God With Us). Practice it with the recorded version. Leave the faders alone, close your eyes and listen to how the song makes you feel. Then do it again but this time bringing the faders down in the soft passages and bring them up in the louder passages. Now compare how that version made you feel.
Once you and the worship leaders build up the trust needed so that you become integral to the success of the worship team, you’ll be amazed and how well worship will sound.
Brian Gowing has helped over 30 churches meet their technology requirements. Brian works towards shepherding the church, analyzing their technical requirements, sourcing the equipment, installing the equipment and training the volunteer personnel. As he likes to say, “equipping the saints with technology to help spread the Good News.” Contact Brian here.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Church Sound: Hire An Integrator Or DIY Install?
“Should we do this A/V/L install ourselves or hire a contractor?” is a question I’m asked all the time.
Too often, the question is decided based on dollars. On paper, it looks like hiring a contractor is a more expensive option, but this is rarely the case when all factors are considered.
The illusion of cost-savings comes from the fact that most churches (and many companies) don’t factor in the cost of labor for their staff. But there is always a cost, and a wise manager will take that into account.
This isn’t to say that doing a job in-house is always a bad idea; it’s simply a matter of weighing the options and determining the best approach for a particular project. Here are some guidelines that I use when trying to decide how to proceed.
Do The Job In-House When…
You have the skills in-house. Some churches have highly skilled tech staffs, and it makes total sense to use that skill set to do the work of an install. The team will be working with the equipment day in and day out anyway, so installing it makes sense. Having people on staff who can lay out cable runs, pull said cable, solder, interconnect and commission systems is a blessing to many larger churches. If you have the skills, by all means, proceed.
You have the manpower in-house. Sometimes a church has one or two highly skilled people on staff who could do the install, but is that enough? Depending on the size of the project, more hands may be required. Often, larger churches will have larger tech staffs who can put in significant time on an install, so again, this makes sense.
You have the time. Larger churches with sizable tech staffs have those large staffs because the church is very busy doing ministry. If the project is not extremely time-sensitive, it’s entirely possible that this team can get the job done. Deciding two weeks before Easter that you’d like a new video system may not allow the in-house team enough time to get the job done, however.
The budget is tight. Sometimes we have to do installs within a tight budget, and the easiest way to save money is to self-install. Even factoring in the costs that really do exists with self-install, it’s often easier to stomach that bill than paying a contractor. Sometimes it can even mean the difference between getting the job approved or not.
Note that the order of those criteria is intentional; budget is last in my decision-making process.
We ended up doing a self-install last year in our kids and students wing. We have the skills; since it was summer, many of my younger volunteers were out of school and could help pull cable; time was a little tight, but we made it work; and the budget was definitely tight. It took a few long days to get it all in, but everyone is very happy with the result.
Hire A Contractor When…
You’re hanging things overhead. Very few church tech staff are truly qualified to hang hundreds (or thousands) of pounds of speakers or other stuff over people’s heads. And even if you are, why would you want the liability?
Even for our kids remodel, I hired a contractor to fly the loudspeakers and hang the TVs. I could have done it, but I don’t want to take the risk that anything could go wrong.
Time is tight. Some projects have very tight timelines and the in-house staff doesn’t have the bandwidth to get it done. This is a perfect contractor job. They can bring in additional installers who do this every day, and will probably do better work in less time. This year for our remodel, I’m having an integrator do some of the work because we’ll be short-staffed, and I won’t have the time.
Manpower is limited. A solo technical director will probably have a tough time installing a complete A/V/L system by himself. Even if he can pull in some volunteers, it’s going to be a long, hard install. Churches that don’t have professionals on staff will almost always come out ahead when they hire a reputable contractor.
The church wants to protect it’s staff. Some churches are wise enough to know that pushing the staff to the limit all the time will not result in long-term employees who are committed to the organization. Sometimes it’s a smart call to let your highly-qualified, fully-capable tech staff leave at 5 while someone else does the install.
As a church leader, would you rather have energized, fully-engaged and excited or tired, disengaged and aggravated staff? You make the call.
Sometimes a hybrid approach is best; install what you can and bring in a contractor for the rest. I generally recommend hiring the rigging, because it’s just safer.
But pulling cables, installing amp racks, consoles, patch bays and the like can easily be handled in-house, especially if the install company has helped with the design, making sure things are well thought out.
This decision-making process is not hard, but it should not be taken lightly. It’s almost never as easy as “We’ll save so much money…” so be sure to think it through. You may find that at the end of the project, everyone will be better off if the install was handled by professionals. Or maybe not.
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.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Unique Situations: Console Applications For Monitors
Monitors for touring and at festivals present a unique set of conditions and challenges, with digital console technology helping engineers rise to the occasion. It’s also interesting to see the ways that networking is serving to more closely ally house and monitors.
Here’s a look at some recent applications.
Fitz and the Tantrums On Tour
Monitor engineer Aaron Glas has been mixing on a Soundcraft Vi1 during a recent U.S. concert tour by indie pop band Fitz and the Tantrums (pictured below).
“A few years ago, I was looking for a small-format digital console that could handle 24 outputs and there aren’t many,” he says. “The Vi1 looked perfect. I’ve toured with it for several years now and I’m thrilled to continue mixing on the Vi1.”
Yet while he has plenty of experience working with the Vi1 (and other Vi Series models), his work with Fitz and the Tantrums marks the first instance where he’s used the cue/snapshot feature, something he has found to be an advantage.
“Using the snapshots with the Vi1 has been a great learning experience,” Glas notes. “We’ll always have the full band at sound check and it’s nice that I can recall what we’ve done the previous night and tweak the mixes based on the band’s requests. With the snapshot feature, I’m able to fine-tune the sound more specifically with each successive performance.”
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In addition, the snapshot feature enables Glas to quickly and easily adjust to any changes the band makes from show to show.
“My cues can change with the set list and all the levels can be recalled nightly so it makes for a pretty consistent performance each time,” he says. “The band has a great comfort level knowing they can achieve the same quality audio night in and night out.”
CMA Music Festival
Morris Light & Sound (Nashville) handled audio production for the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage at this year’s CMA Music Festival in Nashville, including providing Yamaha CL5 digital consoles and Rio3224 input/output boxes all connected via Audinate Dante networking. The site was the event’s largest outdoor free stage, with numerous engineers on hand to supply mixes to more than 50 top artists.
For example, freelance engineer Russell Fischer, who among others has mixed Taylor Swift, The Mavericks and Toby Keith, handled monitors for several different bands. He enjoyed working with the CL5 in the large festival situation: “I like the flexibility and ease of use of the Custom Fader Banks; it made for very quick navigation of critical inputs during the festival at the monitor mix position. Also, I found the Premium Rack devices very useful.”
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Meanwhile, Eric Elwell (pictured here), who mixed front of house for Joe Nichols, also used the Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5043 compressor across the stereo bus just to add some final “glue” to the mix. Elwell adds that he used a CL5 console once before, subbing for a friend on a tour last fall.
“I was impressed then by the purity and clarity,” he states. “The mic pres are fantastic, and the plug-ins give you everything you need to add ‘a little something extra.’ The sounds of the plug-ins are just like the real hardware I’ve used in the studio…glorious.”
Frankie Beverly & Maze On Tour
Gemini Light Sound & Video (Dallas) recently added its first DiGiCo console, an SD8 accompanied by an SDRack.
Both were immediately pressed into service by monitor engineer Dustin Rains for R&B legend Frankie Beverly & Maze on a 6-week U.S. tour.
“We were in the middle of prepping the Frankie tour, and I was already committed to using another desk,” Rains says. “The first thing I liked about the SD8 was that the level of customization available was incredible. I could have anything where I wanted it and that was exactly what I was looking for.
“Some fader banks have input faders, output faders, and control groups—all on one fader bank—which has cut down on how many times I have to bump between layers and pages,” he continues. “I have a few fader banks set up for cue-intensive songs, which allow me to execute multiple cues quickly without leaving the fader bank, going to another layer, or switching screens.
“Also, I use most of the DiGiTuBe and dynamic EQs for added control of overly dynamic channels. In fact I use most everything onboard, and it’s a fairly straightforward approach.”
An all-d&b audiotechnik stage monitor set is deployed for Beverley’s 7-piece band, including 20 M4 wedges, three Q-subs in a cardioid pattern topped with two Q-7s for side fills, and two Q-Subs for drum fill. “In my opinion, DiGiCo and d&b make the job really easy,” Rains adds.
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Pictured left to right in the photo are audio crew members Trae Sales, Dustin Rains, Jason Delatorre, and Jimmy Butera.
Stanford Jazz Festival/Workshop
The Stanford Jazz Workshop has been nurturing talent for over 40 years, bringing in some of the world’s greatest artists to mingle with students of the Jazz Camp by day, followed by performances at the Stanford Jazz Festival by night.
Most of this year’s performances were held in Stanford’s Dinkelspiel Auditorium, with Bay Area live sound veteran Lee Brenkman, who’s been associated with the festival for more than a decade, again taking on sound reinforcement responsibilities.
Brenkman chose the new Avid S3L for this year’s festival, with the modular, networked system enabling a simplified setup while insuring sound quality. He strategically used the layers of the S3L’s compact surface to handle a variety of mixing tasks.
“I mix the for the house, I mix the monitors, and I’m doing a completely separate mix for the recording, because at Dinkelspiel [Auditorium], for example, the amount of trap drums I need on the recording is much more than what I need in the auditorium,” Brenkman explains. “So what I did is assign all the head amps to two layers. The top layer of 16 [channels] was for the PA, and then I could switch to [channels] 17–32, and those were my recording mix. On average, I was doing four monitor mixes, and in some cases, six. I did not feel at any time that the console was too complicated to grab at something fast.
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“All of the festival techs were really fascinated with the system, really liking the size, the Cat-5 snake—the things that make setting up and tearing down a system a drag,” he says. “We ran a couple of runs of Cat-5 and were able to keep the snake in place, just striking the stage boxes at the end of the night to get them out of the way of the classroom kids.
“Just changing out our usual console for this was an enormous improvement in sound quality—it was really audible. Everybody agreed that it just sounded noticeably better.”
Saxon On Tour
Mix engineer Ben Hammond is traveling with Allen & Heath GLD and iLive digital consoles for both monitors and front of house on the U.S./Canada tour by iconic English heavy metal band Saxon, with American band Fozzy also on the bill.
The iLive system at monitors includes an iLive-T112 surface and iDR-48 MixRack that routes its direct outs, via Audinate Dante networking, to the GLD channel inputs. Hammond is then sending talkback and a split of the iPod channels for the intro back down Dante to the iLive surface, which gets piped into the bands’ IEMs. Dante controller software is also routing the audio into Reaper for multitrack recording via the Dante virtual sound card.
“I’m currently running a 39-input ‘festival patch’ type channel list to fit both Saxon and Fozzy, and GLD has coped fantastically,” explains Hammond. “I’m using all eight on board FX engines, which sound stunning—the EMT250 and ADT presets are personal favorites of mine.
(click to enlarge)
“As well as the FX, so many great iLive features have been included in GLD, one of which that I find incredibly useful is the filter on the compressor section,” he adds. “I’m using it for Saxon’s frontman, Biff Byford, to hit his vocal pretty hard from 800 Hz to 4 kHz, which keeps his voice sounding thick and full right into the higher registers. I’m putting the vocals into a subgroup where I apply full band compression with the Manual Peak setting.
“The GLD Editor has been great on this tour especially for programming shows for the various press and TV appearances where we have taken the GLD, and run a much more cut down channel list, with me doing the IEMs also, and mixing L+R for the TV feed,” he concludes.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Bob Coffeen Receives NSCA Lifetime Achievement Award
Adds the Per Haugen Lifetime Achievement Award to a growing list of industry accomplishments
The National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) has announced Bob Coffeen as the association’s annual Per Haugen Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Coffeen will be recognized on Saturday, March 1, 2014, during NSCA’s 16th annual Business & Leadership Conference in Dallas.
“We’re honored to pay tribute to someone who continues to move the industry forward,” says NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson. “Bob has committed his professional life to combining architecture and audio technology. He serves as a great example to many new leaders within our industry. I had the great fortune of learning most of what I know about audio systems from him.”
Coffeen currently serves as a lecturer and adjunct associate professor of architecture at the University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design, and Planning.
Previously, he served as an engineering officer for the U.S. Army before going to work for Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City. From there, he founded an acoustics consulting firm in Kansas. He began teaching in 1992 after owning and operating the firm for more than 35 years.
Coffeen adds the Per Haugen Lifetime Achievement Award to a growing list of industry accomplishments. He has also received NSCA’s University Educator of the Year three times and the 2011 Acoustical Society of America’s Rossing Prize for Education in Acoustics.
His research has included significant topics such as the effect of fabric roofs on stadium acoustical systems as well as using small amounts of audio delay to reduce comb filtering between loudspeakers within the same room.
While serving as a mentor to several University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design, and Planning scholars, Coffeen has encouraged several students to pursue work in the acoustics and AV fields.
The Per Haugen Lifetime Achievement Award is based on an individual who exhibits:
• Dedication to philanthropy and social responsibility
• Business practices with high ethics, values, integrity, and honesty
• Active leadership in the financial well-being of his/her company and NSCA
• Strong values in every aspect of his/her life
Posted by Keith Clark on 02/11 at 03:10 PM
Friday, February 07, 2014
How Deep Is Your AV Company’s Farm System?
In the world of sports, great teams win championships.
Sure there can be the debate that teams like the New York Yankees or Miami Heat capture titles because they “buy” talent, but even those teams don’t win every time. That is because the team that best uses its talents from top to bottom is ultimately the one that wins.
The analogy doesn’t change much in business. Companies with great talent that works as a team tend to see drastically better results than organizations with lesser talent, shaky cultures, or a combination of the two.
While this seems obvious, I see so many organizations that miss it. They don’t make personnel a high enough portion of the strategy, and outcomes end up suffering.
One of the biggest areas I see minimized in an organization’s human resource plan is talent development—moreover the plan to develop talent from within rather than just hiring outside whenever a need arises. This is a mistake I’ve made and have seen happen time and time again.
As a sports fan, I call this a weak farm system. (For those who aren’t sports fans, every organization in major league baseball has a system of minor league teams focused on developing ball players.)
Likened to business, this is hiring an entry level person with the intention of them growing into an associate, management or even executive level position over time with the right nurturing, training and development. It’s an ideal approach, but one that most companies do not do well.
In most cases it’s because of time and money. (What else is new!) Developing talent through multiple ranks is time-consuming, and in some instances, is something the business leaders don’t know much about. Further, time is money. Finding someone with the resume intact is a shortcut to achieving great things.
However, consider this…
Those outside candidates will always be there, but wouldn’t it be ideal for your business if the talent waiting to be “called up?” Perhaps a strong sales person with good organization and leadership skills that can become a sales manager? Or a project manager with a track record for bringing in work on time and within budget to put into an operations management role?
Two ideal situations, but what about filling the roles of the newly escalated? That’s exactly the purpose of having a solid farm system in your organization. The only way to escalate talent is to have talent to back fill.
This type of internal development is great for building strong companies with high morale since employees have a chance to grow within the organization both in their skill set and their professional position/financial reward.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge building this type of system is difficult. It takes careful hiring and a commitment to developing your teams. However, for any organization that has had to hire in short order or consistently has run into a talent shortage, there is a cost to that as well.
Build your farm system strong so you can feature your stars and selectively hire talent from the outside. That is where champions are made, in sports and in business.
Daniel L. Newman currently serves as CEO of EOS, a new company focused on offering cloud-based management solutions for IT and A/V integrators. He has spent his entire career in various integration industry roles. Most recently, Newman was CEO of United Visual where he led all day to day operations for the 60-plus-year-old integrator.
Go to Commercial Integrator for more content on A/V, installed and commercial systems.
Posted by Keith Clark on 02/07 at 12:40 PM
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Stopping Hums, Buzzes and Shocks on Stage—Meters
In part 1, we covered what voltage is and a bit on how it’s measured. Here let’s look at how to use a basic digital voltmeter to measure any power outlet or extension cord for proper voltage.
The reason this procedure is so important is that sometimes venues do crazy things with power outlets. For instance. I was teaching a seminar last year in a “gymnatorium” and plugged in my little demo rack along with my RF headset receiver.
As I was getting ready to flip the switch on the Furman rack distro, I noticed the built-in voltmeter was pegged to the right of the 120 volt scale. Luckily, I didn’t go further and did not flip on the switch that powered the full rack.
But unluckily for my RF receiver, it was ahead of the Furman power switch so it was already “on” and burning quite brightly for a few seconds. A quick meter test on the power outlet confirmed it had been rigged for 240 volts, even though it was a standard NEMA-5 “Edison” outlet, which should always be wired for 120 volts.
The janitor told me that was his “special outlet” they had rewired for his 240-volt [floor] buffer. But it should have had a 240-volt plug and outlet, not an Edison outlet modified for 240 volts. My bad for not checking.
My RF receiver was toast. Live and learn….
Shake & Bake
Remember when you were a child and first started to help with cooking, and there were all sorts of measuring devices and abbreviations to take into consideration?
There was a tablespoon (Tbsp), teaspoon (tsp), ounce (oz.), with 8 oz. in a cup, and so on. And you better not get your tsp and Tbsp mixed up or bad things would happen to your cake.
The same types of rules apply when you’re measuring any electrical values. You just need to know how to use a few electrical measuring tools and then you’re ready to test your stage power.
At right we see a pretty typical voltmeter that can be purchased at Lowes, Home Depot or Amazon. You’ll notice a bunch of strange markings on the selection knob, only a few of which will work to measure AC voltage.
Don’t be tempted to just plug the meter leads into a wall outlet and spin the knob. That will guarantee a burned out meter (at the least). Note the markings on the control knob are divided up into four major groups.
AC V (AC voltage)
DC A (DC amperage)
OHM (electrical resistance)
DC V (DC voltage)
The only two groups you’ll be interested in for measuring voltage are AC V (for measuring the AC voltage in power outlets) and DC V (for measuring the DC voltage in your batteries).
For this article we’ll focus on the AC V group since we’re measuring the 120 or 240 volts AC in a wall outlet or stage power distro.
Also take a look at where the meter leads are plugged into the lower right-hand connections. The Black COM (common) input is always connected to your black meter lead, and the red V Ohm mA (milliamperes) input is always connected to your red meter lead.
Never put either meter lead into the 10A socket, which is designed specifically to check current flow. Doing so will blow the internal fuse in the meter, and possibly damage the meter itself.
All meters read the difference between the two lead connections, so if the black lead is touching 0 volts and the red lead is touching 120 volts, the meter will read 120 volts.
However, if both the red and black leads are touching 120 volts, the meter will indicate 0 volts, which is because 120 minus 120 equals 0.
See how it works?
That’s the key to using a meter. It must be connected between the two voltages you want to measure.
Now, let’s move back to the meter settings. In the AC V area you’ll see a 200 and a 750 setting. When set to 200 the meter will read up to 200 volts, when set to 750 the meter will read up to 750 volts.
Since we could be reading as much as 250 volts in a standard electrical outlet, we’ll always just set this to 750 and leave it alone during all testing. If you set it to 200 and connect it to a 240 outlet, the display will probably stick on 200 Volts and start blinking.
That doesn’t hurt anything in the meter, but it doesn’t tell you the actual voltage. Many meters of this type have a 400- or 600-volt setting, so setting for 400 or 600 volts is fine as well, just as long as it’s set for something more than 250 volts.
And if you have an auto-ranging meter, just set it to read AC volts and it will figure out the proper scale for you.
Let’s start on a common 120-volt, 20-amp outlet like you might find in your living room or on any American stage. At right is what one looks like, and the connections as standardized by the National Electrical Code (NEC).
You’ll see a little U-shaped hole: that is the ground; a taller slot on the left, which is the neutral; and a shorter slot on the right, which is the hot connection.
Don’t be confused if the receptacle is mounted upside down with the ground connection to the top. The taller slot is always the neutral, and the shorter slot is always the hot.
This is a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) receptacle so there are test and reset buttons. More on this later, but pushing the “test” button should cause the “reset” button to pop out and kill the power from the outlet. Pushing the “reset” button in until you feel a click will restore power to the outlet.
The job of the GFCI is to kill the power to the plug before it kills you, say from a hot chassis condition on your guitar amp.
Generator & Distro Power
If you’re working on a large stage with dedicated power or an outside venue fed by a generator, you’ll often bring along your own electrical distribution system know as the “power distro.”
And many times that power distro system will be fed by large twist-lock connectors generically know as cam locks. These are big brass connectors the size of a banana with rubberized insulating covers that keep you from getting shocked while touching the exterior.
They come in colors corresponding to their connection type, so a green cam lock is ground, white is neutral, and black, red, or blue are hot (at least in America). Sometimes the cam lock covers will all be black with a wrap of white, green, blue or red electrical-tape in the middle to define their usage and that’s legal as well.
Here (below right) is what a portable distro panel looks like with the green, white, black and red cam lock inputs across the bottom.
Cam locks are typically fed by a single, double or triple 100- to 200-amp circuit breaker at the generator or house panel, so you’ll need to provide your own 20-amp breakers downstream to feed your portable backline power outlets in order to prevent the wires from melting in the event of an overload.
You can see the circuit breakers across the top of the panel at the left. Also, you’ll occasionally find a 3-phase house system with green, white, red, black and blue cam locks which will meter as 120/208 volts, but we’ll discuss that topic towards the end of this series.
Also note the difference between the 20-amp and 15-amp versions of the stage outlets as shown a few illustrations back. A 20-amp outlet will have another sideways slot for the neutral connection, while a 15-amp outlet will only have a single vertical slot.
Since we’re going to be measuring live voltage, observe the safety rules from part I of this series:
Use only one hand to hold the plastic handles of the meter leads, put your other hand in your back pocket so you don’t lean it on anything conductive
Be sure you don’t touch the metal tip portion of either meter lead
Don’t stand or kneel on wet ground while testing voltages. For most situations, dry sneakers will insulate you from the earth sufficiently, and if you’re doing this test on a dry stage then the wooden floor or carpet will protect you if something goes wrong.
But if you’re going to measure voltage at a waterlogged festival generator I suggest standing on a dry rubber shower mat or dry plywood so your feet are insulated from the ground. It’s cheap insurance.
Hot to Neutral
With nothing plugged in to the wall outlet, switch on the 20-amp circuit breaker at the power panel, set your meter to the 200 or 750 V AC setting and using one hand insert your meter leads into the left and right neutral and hot slots.
Remember not to rest your opposite hand on the metal box, as that can cause a shock through your heart if something goes wrong. That’s why electricians traditionally stick their unused hand in a back pocket.
It really doesn’t matter which side of the outlet gets the red or black meter lead since it’s alternating current (AC).
Measuring hot to neutral.
Since the neutral connection is at 0 volts and the hot connection should be around 120 volts, you should read somewhere between 115 and 125 volts on the meter display. If not, then something’s wrong with the power hookup.
If you measure 0 volts, then maybe you need to reset the circuit breaker, or if you have an outlet with a GFCI, remember to push the little reset button on the outlet itself. If it still doesn’t measure 110 to 125 volts, immediately contact the stage manager.
If you measure 220-250 volts, then that power outlet has been rigged inside the circuit breaker box to produce higher voltage. This is illegal and highly dangerous as you’ll surely blow up every piece of electrical gear you plug into the outlet. So, if you read 240 volts on the 120-volt outlet do not plug in your amp, and, again, immediately contact the stage manager.
Hot to Ground
If hot-to-neutral checks out around 120 volts (110 to 125 volts), then it’s time to test the ground, so plug one meter lead into the hot (shorter slot) and the other into the ground (U-shaped hole) connections.
Measuring hot to ground.
Since you’re reading from the ground connection, which should be 0 volts (less than 2 volts), and the hot connection, which should be around 120 volts (110 to 125 volts), your meter should show about 120 volts.
If you read 0 or something strange such as 60 volts, then the ground wire might be floating, which could cause a hot-chassis condition that will shock you when touching the strings of your guitar and microphone.
Neutral to Ground
Next, check from neutral to ground. That should read very close to 0 volts, but up to 2 volts is acceptable according to the electrical code.
If, however, you read around 120 volts from neutral to ground, then the polarity of the power outlet is reversed. Don’t plug in. Again, this can cause a dangerous hot-chassis condition depending on how your guitar or PA system is wired.
As a final check, a run-of-the-mill outlet tester from your local home center will confirm that the polarity of the outlet is correct.
Plug it into the power outlet on stage and you should see only the two yellow/amber lights light up. If you see any other combination, do not plug in your guitar amp. Once you’re familiar with the procedures, all this can be done in a minute or two.
It’s a very small inconvenience that will help ensure the safety of you and your band.
Measuring Neutral to Ground.
—Always set your meter to read AC volts using the 400-, 600- or 750-volt scale
—Hot (short slot) to neutral (tall slot) should read approx 120 volts (between 110 and 125 volts AC)
—Hot (short slot) to ground (U-shape) should read approx 120 volts (between 110 and 125 volts AC)
—Ground (U-shape) to neutral (tall slot) should read approx 0 volts (less than 2 volts AC)
Mike Sokol is the chief instructor for the HOW-TO Sound Workshops and the HOW-TO Church Sound Workshops. He is also an electrical and audio expert with 40 years in the industry. Visit the No Shock Zone Website for more electrical safety tips.
This article is provided as a helpful educational assist with sound system setup and musical performance, and is not intended to have you circumvent an electrician or qualified audio technician. The author and the HOW-TO Sound Workshops will not be held liable or responsible for any injury resulting from reader error or misuse of the information contained in these articles. If you feel you have a dangerous electrical condition in your PA system or instruments, contact a qualified, licensed electrician or audio installer.
Juilliard School Implements Clear-Com’s Tempest900 Wireless Intercom
The Intercom’s Unique Frequency Technology Allows Wireless Systems to Operate Simultaneously Without Interference
Clear-Com has revamped the wireless setup at New York City’s prestigious Juilliard School.
The school installed three Tempest900 digital wireless intercoms in its production department and one additional system in its recording department. The two-channel Tempest systems provide coverage within each of the facility’s three performances spaces, operating independently of one another without signal interference.
Previously, only one Julliard theater, the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, had a wireless communications system with wired Clear-Com being used in the other production venues. The wireless system also could not provide full coverage in every production area within the Sharp Theater. For wireless to work in the school’s Stephanie P. McClelland Drama Theater, it would require the installation of an expensive and complex antenna system with long coax cable runs to get sufficient coverage.
Clear-Com’s Tempest900, however, offers reliable coverage that is free of dropouts wherever the production team needs communications. One remote transceiver is connected over a common CAT5 cable to enable communication in the drama theater’s production space, allowing for a cost-effective setup. Additionally, each of the Tempest900 systems operates independently of one another without interference, even though all of them are located within the same facility.
“Julliard’s previous communications system placed a lot of restrictions on production staff members’ ability to perform at their best,” explains James Schaller, Clear-Com’s Regional Sales Manager for the Northeastern United States. “The Tempest900 system offers a wide range of reliable coverage, ensuring that personnel can remain in constant contact within each theater.
“Due to the system’s advanced RF technologies, it experiences no interference from wireless devices, cell phones, or in this case, other Tempest systems. It also easily integrates with the facility’s existing Clear-Com partyline systems utilized in the facility’s three theaters.”
As with all Tempest products, the Tempest900 features Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology to ensure interference-free communications despite other wireless devices operating in the vicinity. With FHSS, each Tempest900 BaseStation employs a different frequency while at the same time changing frequencies every five milliseconds. This prevents interference between the independent systems.
The easy-to-use Tempest900 wireless system helps crew members keep up with Juilliard’s hectic production schedule of roughly 800 productions a year. It can be up and running in a half hour or less so crew members can focus on the production at hand without worrying about equipment setup.
With Tempest’s T-Desk management software, the technical crew can also rapidly reprogram the system and customize communications for each production or project. The three theater systems typically use a setup that assigns one channel to stage management, sound, and carpentry on the scene. The second channel is given to the lighting board operator and Lighting Designer. Another of Julliard’s Tempest systems gets conveniently moved from venue to venue by the Recording Department for remote recordings.
Posted by Julie Clark on 02/05 at 01:45 PM
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
In The Studio: How To Increase Your Versatility
Becoming a producer is a very daunting task. A big part of the job is directing musicians and artists, steering them towards a desired sound and performance. You may even be directing yourself.
The more you know about the instruments in your chosen style, the more you gain better control of where to steer the project.
Carriage For Two
Let’s talk for a second about some of the differences between engineering and producing. They not only get mistaken for one another, but sometimes are considered the same thing.
The engineer is the person setting up mics, making sure all signals are clean and running the tape deck. They’re making sure the phase is correct on the drums and the session is backed up properly.
The producer is imagining the sounds that the engineer should be setting up for. They’re listening to the performance of the song and thinking about how the arrangement will work in mixing. Although producers often know a lot about engineering, their focus is on the actual song and sound. This is one of the reasons it’s a joy to have an engineer. It allows you to focus on the music.
I Can Only Imagine
When imagining the blend of sounds that make up recording, it’s helpful to have a good understanding of the elements you’re recording. That means not only having an idea of how a ribbon mic sounds different from a condenser mic, but also how different guitar amps and drum heads affect vibe.
The greatest producers I’ve worked with in my career have great general knowledge of every element involved in recording. And how those elements will all fit together in the end.
A good way to advance your understanding of different instruments is to take lessons. The goal here is not to be become a master virtuoso, but simply gain knowledge of the inner workings of each instrument.
Learn a little bit of the language and explore the vast variations of sound capable from the instrument relevant to the style you are working with. This will allow you to make better decisions while recording which, ultimately, makes mixing so much easier.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend years playing an instrument. A handful of lessons can help you to gain a wealth of information.
It’s good to know how guitar picks affect the tonality of a guitar as opposed to finger-style or thumb-picking. Ask your teacher to demonstrate different guitars and amp combinations and to explain signal flow from pedals to an amp.
If you’ve spent time on your own with the guitar and you are not getting the performance you want out of the musician or artist, you can sift through your memories of lessons and see if you can isolate the problem or search for a solution with ideas.
Occasionally, guitarists come into the studio with giant pedal boards. When they plug into the amp, everything sounds lifeless. Because of my knowledge and experience, I knew that they were plugged into too many pedals. I suggested they disconnect all the pedals they weren’t using.
Don’t forget to take good notes. It will be hard for everything to stick in such short time. You’re going to want to have reference for the future.
At first, I strongly suggest gearing yourself toward styles of music you’re into. It’s a big sea out there. Although learning things about jazz tone is great, it’s not an immediate necessity if you play straight-up rock. This means you have to find the right teacher. Make sure the teacher is a specialist in the style you’re researching.
Think about the bands you like. Inquire of your teacher some of the basic ingredients that music requires. Again, it’s not about you becoming an amazing musician. You’re not going to perform.
Drums have so many variations in sound, way more than most people are aware of. They are very sensitive to the area in which you hit them. In the center? Off to the left a little? Off center a lot? Velocity also greatly varies the sound of the drum.
You should also learn some basics about drum tuning. The days of big budgets where a drum tech would be hired for a session are long gone. You’re on your own now. If something isn’t sounding good, you need to be the one to fix it. Drums too ringy? There are ways to dampen them. Sitting down with a drum instructor can give you a lot of the insight you will need.
Whether you “butt” the hi hats or “tip” them makes a huge difference in vibe. For instance, you’re not going to get that amazing Al Jackson Jr. tone butting the hats and hitting hard in the center of the drum.
See how this knowledge can help you to direct musicians in a session? You’re basically giving the co-ordinates on a map. They can follow the guidelines to the destination. You’re just telling them where the landmarks are.
What kind of strings you use is a common discussion for bass. Bassists who like a more modern sound use roundwounds. People who like old Motown, New Orleans funk and the Beatles love flatwounds. There is a huge difference in tone.
Where you strike the bass string is also (you guessed it) — IMPORTANT! I can write a book on all these variations, but the point is not to know everything. Just have enough direction to help get you to your destination. Think of it as having just enough bus fare to get you to there.
Some bassists place foam beneath the strings to deaden the sound a bit. How much and where do you place it? Ask your doctor, er… teacher. In your next session, you’ll not only be able to diagnose bright bass syndrome, but write a prescription for the cure.
Knowing these subtleties will save you time down the line. You will need less plug-ins and not feel the need to fiddle as much. It’s near impossible to get those sounds back once you’ve recorded them.
Are you going to be recording a lot of strings? Study with a violinist or cellist.
One thing it’s good to know when working with string players is that they play sharps and flats a little bit differently. Since it’s not a fretted instrument, the mind takes over intonation. Sharp is usually a little higher then a flat (hence the rem sharp).
For instance, C# and Db are not the same note. This is important in a session when you are either making a chart or communicating out loud.
Taking lessons can be a quick or cheap investment, but it’s one that can really help you in the future. Reading about the differences are just not enough. Seeing it an hearing it in front of you are more valuable then I could ever explain.
Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC.
Be sure to visit The Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article, go here.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Any Of This Sound Familiar? It’s Still About The Music
A pro audio veteran in love with technology has a rather startling realization...
Most of us think we have it together, at least most of the time. We try to have a balance on all things “life” – work, family, time management, enjoying the “little” moments, and so on.
It’s all the stuff that you can read about in some magazine found in the check-out line at the grocery store—“How To Get Your Life Together,” or something like that. Then again, if we take a closer look (some of us don’t even have to look too close), we see just how off-center, how out of kilter we really can be.
Ever feel that way? Even more than a little bit? Maybe it’s more severe than just a slight loss of perspective. Maybe it begins with a little compulsive behavior here or there.
Working too many hours…
Spending too much time with the new computer…
Hanging out at the gig or job site too long…
After all, we have to earn a living – can’t be irresponsible! Does any of this sound familiar?
Step 1: Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. But who wants to recover?
Well, it just so happens that I’m one of “those people” who actually enjoys my job in professional audio, getting to earn a living at doing something I might pursue as a hobby anyway. But depending on your point of view, that may be where the good stuff ends and it turns into something else.
Sure it’s fun, but what happens when the compulsive behavior takes over and common sense is lost? What about that new piece of hardware that just came out? Gotta have it?
And what about that accessory that you ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE or you won’t be efficient in your work? (Or should we just be honest and talk about the new stuff that would be just plain way-cool to have, regardless of any real need?)
I don’t consider myself bright enough to be considered a nerd (though it’s one of my lofty goals in life), but I have to confess that I’m a gear junkie. All of the cool new software, computer gear, audio equipment, test and measurement stuff – you name it, I’m enthralled with it.
But does it make me better at earning a living? Does it really? Of course!
What, you don’t believe me?
Step 2: So I get to play with the toys – mine and yours too!
I not only have my cool toys (that we’ve established I REALLY need), but I get to design and work on sound systems with their own cool toys. Cooler still? Someone else pays for it. (Apologies to my system design brethren, but “they” were bound to figure out what we actually do sooner or later.)
Imagine, actually being paid to design dynamic sound systems that rock (or groove or insert your favorite term here), set them up with nifty test equipment and then play favorite CDs at “sweet-spot” (some might prefer the term “loud”) levels. It’s a wannabe-musician-turned-gear-junkie’s dream!
The situation doesn’t take too much effort to rationalize; I do provide a valuable professional service to those who hire me. And I’m not the only one who derives some fun from the system once it’s done. When I’m long gone, the customer plays with the toys, and everyone listening to the system joins in the fun.
Hey, you – the one with the home studio equipped with all of the latest recording gear: How many people get to play with your toys? Didn’t your mom teach you about sharing?
Or you, venue manager – I’ve seen what you do when nobody else is around, playing that loud rock ‘n’ roll music solely for your own enjoyment. Shame on you! At least I’m doing, ahem, “system testing” when I blast my tunes.
Truth is, we’re all a little guilty.
Step 3: Reality intrudes, and I’m not really as cool as I think. But I know who is…
So there I was, doing what I do. At a venue, following one of my system designs to completion. Supervising and supporting the installation team as they put together a system that included a computer with lots of loudspeakers, amplifiers, DSP, inputs, outputs, knobs, buttons, cables—the usual complement.
One of the production guys comes into the office and tells us about an ongoing recording session at a local studio, where the tracking of music to be used with this new system is underway. Off we go to hear the creative side of things.
While hanging out I notice “these people” getting “these things” out of cases. These people are musicians, and these things are instruments. For some reason I was expecting a computer driving some synths while a couple folks hung out and drank coffee.
Nope, this was a full, genuine orchestra. Shortly after they commence playing, they began to look at each other… And we began to look at each other… Wow, it’s real, live music!
Then the ideas start flying around about the neat techno- things we can do with this great music, like imaging and panning effects around the show space, tracked to match the venue’s new sound system.
Later, we finished optimizing the system. The geek stuff - some cool computer control system programming, and system configuration, and mixing in the space. Talk about fun!
But suddenly, it hit me: People aren’t going to come to this place to hear the sound system. In fact, most people won’t even notice. They’ll be too busy looking at the video, the lights, the lasers, the fountains – the whole show.
The music and sound will be experienced, by and large, as an accompaniment to all of this. It will evoke feelings and emotions, creating more of a binding tie to the production. Going beyond what can be seen to what can be felt. Our job as sound people is to facilitate the artist’s expression of the desired experience.
At that moment, I realized that it’s not about me or my system or my programming or design work – it’s about connecting the artist directly to the audience with the least amount of intrusion.
Sure, the sound team can facilitate some of the creative experience with our technical stuff, but the music presentation must speak directly to the soul. This, indeed, this is the ultimate point.
I’m fortunate to work in a field where I can contribute to great projects, to be part of a complete design team that uses the available technology to present and enhance the creative process.
To help tell the story is truly an honor. Without creative vision, all of our work is wasted.
This project was a healthy reminder for me. While I like to think the work I do is useful, the fact is that it adds up to little without the artistry.
Regardless of the technology – and the toys – it still comes back to the music.
Vance Breshears has worked for decades as a system designer and consultant in the professional AV industry, including with Acoustic Dimensions and heads up that operation’s California offices.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Biamp Systems & InfoComm Partnering To Train On AV Networking In Mexico
Three-day training sessions scheduled for each quarter of the coming year
Biamp Systems and InfoComm International have announced a partnership to provide networked AV systems training to industry professionals in Mexico.
As host of four quarterly sessions of InfoComm’s “Networking Technology” course in Mexico City, Biamp is extending a discount to its local systems integrators.
The three-day sessions are scheduled for:
• Feb. 27-March 1
• May 29-31
• Aug. 18-20 (during TecnoMultimedia InfoComm Mexico 2014)
• Nov. 27-29
“Biamp is committed to supporting education and training programs that can help increase the number of trained AV professionals in Latin America,” said Ernesto Montañez, area manager, Central America, Biamp Systems. “InfoComm’s foundational ‘Networking Technology’ class is ideal for current integrators who carry Biamp products as well as those who have completed, or are currently completing, our certification program.
“Based on the results of a similar course held by InfoComm in December of last year, which was fully booked, we expect demand to be high for the 2014 series of courses.”
“The AV world has changed and if you’re not up to speed on IT networks, you are at risk of being left behind,” said David Labuskes, CTS, RCDD, Executive Director and CEO, InfoComm International. “InfoComm thanks Biamp Systems for helping to develop the industry globally, and Latin America in particular.”
In “Networking Technology,” students will learn to understand and troubleshoot IT networks that support AV systems. Held at the Mexico City office of Biamp Systems’ Mexican distribution partner, Representaciones de Audio, each session will be limited to 10 attendees and will be presented in Spanish. As the program’s sponsor, Biamp is offering its channel partners and Mexican integrators a 50-percent discount on registration.
Mr. Bonzai Hosting Bold “Producers” Panel At Upcoming 2014 NAMM Show
Some of today's most creative producer/engineers will they reveal the inside story of their success
Award-winning photographer/music journalist Mr. Bonzai hosts the slashing-edge panel “Producers” in the Winter NAMM H.O.T Zone (Hands On Training) on Friday, January 24 at this year’s show in Anaheim.
Some of today’s most creative producer/engineers will they reveal the inside story of their success and the pitfalls they have encountered. Mr. Bonzai moderates, with Michael Bradford, Billy Bush and Ken Jordan.
Day: Friday, January 24, 2014
Start Time: 01:30 pm
Duration: 1 hour 30 min
Room: The Forum (203 A-B)
Presenter: Mr. Bonzai
Michael Bradford lives in L.A., but his heart and soul were made in Detroit, where he was born, and where he first learned to play music. One of the most versatile musicians and producers in music, Bradford has worked with a stunning variety of top artists. He has written, produced and engineered records for Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker, Stevie Nicks, Anita Baker, New Radicals and Beth Hart, in addition to creating dozens of orchestral arrangements for records, film and TV.
Bradford has worked extensively in film and TV, notably with composer Paul Buckmaster (Murder In Mind, The Maker) Terence Trent D’arby (The Fan), Uncle Kracker (Osmosis Jones, American Pie 2), and Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana). Bradford is the co-writer and producer of Uncle Kracker’s #1 smash “Follow Me,” and the producer of his #1 cover of Dobie Grey’s classic “Drift Away.” He has also coproduced Kid Rock’s triple-platinum LP, “The History of Rock,” and engineered the New Radicals classic “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too.”
Bradford has recently produced and written songs for Jem, John Mellencamp, Deep Purple and Travis Tritt. He has performed live as the music director for artists Dave Stewart, Kid Rock and Ringo Starr. Another recent highlight for Bradford was Stevie Nicks’ new album “In Your Dreams”, where he played bass on various tracks, and co-produced the song “Cheaper Than Free”. Bradford’s latest work can be heard in the Film “About Time”, where he co-produced a new recording of Ben Folds’ song “The Luckiest”, featuring Folds and a full orchestra. Bradford has also recently produced music for the film “The Getaway”, as well as the upcoming film “Life Of Crime”, based on a novel by the legendary Elmore Leonard. “The Long Night” is the first full-length album, coming soon from Michael Bradford, writer, producer and musician. A mix of rock and ambient, with some trip-hop influences, it is perhaps the missing link between Massive Attack and Pink Floyd.
Record producer, engineer and mixer Billy Bush is well known for his extensive work with multi-platinum rock band Garbage. In addition to producing, engineering and mixing records for Garbage, Bush joins the band on tour to help reconcile their technological needs with their live performance. The result has pushed the boundaries of and blurred the lines between live performance and recorded music. As a mixer, Bush’s credits include The Naked & Famous’s Passive Me, Aggressive You (Fiction), Snow Patrol’s single “In The End” from Fallen Empires (Polydor), and Neon Trees’ Picture Show, including the single “Everybody Talks” which reached #6 on the Billboard 200.
Also an accomplished producer, Bush produced, engineered, and mixed Fink’s Perfect Darkness (Ninja Tune), as well as French band Superbus’s Sunset (Polydor France) and The Boxer Rebellion’s Promises (Absentee). Recently, Bush engineered and mixed The Naked and Famous’s song “Following Morning,” which will appear on the Dallas Buyers Club soundtrack. He also recently completed mixing Los Angeles band NO’s forthcoming album, as well as English singer and songwriter Jake Bugg’s forthcoming Shangri La (Mercury), produced by Rick Rubin. He is currently mixing the forthcoming album from Eastern Conference Champions, and is set to produce the follow up to Fink’s critically acclaimed Perfect Darkness.
Celebrated producer and songwriter Ken Jordan is one of the founding members of the Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling electronic music duo The Crystal Method. Originally formed in 1993 in Las Vegas, NV, The Crystal Method has been heralded by the Village Voice as “one of the best live dance acts on Earth.” Together with production partner Scott Kirkland, The Crystal Method have been known for over a decade for their enduring dance floor anthems (“Now Is The Time,” “Keep Hope Alive”), airwave smashes (“Trip Like I Do”) and a willingness to collaborate with an array of talent-including rock’s elite like Scott Weiland, Matisyahu, New Order’s Peter Hook, Emily Haines of Metric and Filter’s Richard Patrick.
TCM has dominated the remix, film soundtrack, television, gaming and advertising worlds, most recently helping Victoria’s Secret drop jaws with music for a TV commercial campaign and collaborating with soundtrack heavyweight Danny Elfman for several contributions to Hollywood blockbuster Real Steel. Their platinum-status debut album Vegas (released in 1997) is one of the biggest-selling electronic albums of all time, landing them in the top five of best-selling electronic acts in America. TCM scored the film London, as well as the themes for TV shows “Bones” and “Third Watch,” and were the first act to work with Nike for their running soundtrack series.
In his spare time, Jordan serves as a board member of the Electronic Music Alliance (EMA)-a public charity, non-profit organization and global membership alliance uniting the electronic music industry and community to be the “Sound of Change,” cultivating, collaborating and celebrating social responsibility, environmental stewardship, community building and volunteerism-an avid hockey player, environmentalist and electric car driver.
Award-winning photographer, filmmaker and music journalist Mr. Bonzai has written over 1,000 articles for magazines in the U.S., Europe and Asia. His photos and stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Mix, EQ, Pro Sound News, Keyboard, Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. He has authored seven books, including “Faces of Music” (Cengage, 2006) “Music Smarts” (Berklee Press, 2009) and “John Lennon’s Tooth” (BookBaby 2012).
Go here for more information.
Monday, January 20, 2014
ANSI Approves InfoComm International AV Systems Performance Verification Standard
Provides a comprehensive, systematic, and practical approach to verifying performance of AV systems
InfoComm International’s latest standard, ANSI/INFOCOMM 10-2013, Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification, has been approved by ANSI, a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment systems.
ANSI/INFOCOMM 10-2013, Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification provides a comprehensive, systematic, and practical approach to verifying performance of AV systems.
This standard will provide practitioners the ability to produce a verifiable evaluation of the audiovisual system based on quality assurance, testing, and acceptance, and will ensure the system conforms to the owners’ operational needs, as established in the system/project documentation. A one-page overview can be found at infocomm.org/standards.
“Through the development of this standard, InfoComm has achieved its goal of establishing verification guidelines to promote effective communication between industry professionals and their clients on issues relating to system performance,” states David Labuskes, CTS, RCDD, executive director and CEO, InfoComm International. “However, in order for this standard to be a true success it must become integrated into the way the AV industry does business. I urge manufacturers to encourage their partners to use this standard, integrators and design consultants to implement the standard and technology managers to ask commercial service providers about it.”
InfoComm thanks the following subject matter experts for their leadership in developing this standard:
Matthew Silverman, CTS, PMP, George Mason University, Moderator
John Bailey, CTS-D, CTS-I, Whitlock
Jason Brameld, BSc (Hons) ARCS, MInstSCE, PTS Consulting
Greg Bronson, CTS-D, Cornell University
Paul Depperschmidt, CTS, Cisco
Richard Derbyshire, CTS, Shen Milsom & Wilke
Dan Doolen, MS, ISF-C, CQT, University of Illinois
Tristan Gfrerer, Google, CTS, BEng (Hons)
Mike Izatt, CTS-D, Spectrum Engineers
Thomas Kopin, CTS, ISF-C, Kramer Electronics USA
Richard Morrison, CTS, Prince2, CPEng, BE (Computer Systems), Norman Disney & Young
Mike Quinn, BEng, CEng, MIET, CTS-D
The standard is available at the IHS standards store at global.ihs.com or from ANSI at webstore.ansi.org. InfoComm members can download a free copy of the standard.
InfoComm will also be offering an education session, Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification: Deliver What you Promise, on February 5, at Integrated Systems Europe. Visit infocomm.org/ISE for more information.