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Holding Out For A Zero: The Incremental Quest Towards A Perfect Zero Scene

Managing the flexibility of digital consoles effectively requires an efficient setup process to achieve a show-ready state.

By Michael Lawrence and Samantha Potter February 13, 2019

An overview of the author’s Midas Pro1 console showing channel order and colors.

Console Specific

Behringer X32/Midas M32 desks are common enough these days that my zero scene has saved me a lot of time. I find the X/M32’s assignable control section effective for controlling effects returns without having to bank away from my input layers. The effects returns are assigned to Set C, with fader level on the encoders and mute switches below, plus a flashing tap tempo for the delay.

The fourth encoder and switch are reserved for riding and muting ambient mics when there are artists on in-ear monitors, and these are labeled with spike tape in addition to the scribble strips (Figure 1). Set B of the assignable controls has shortcuts to start and stop the onboard USB recorder (along with level controls for fading down house music at the start of the show), and Set A has compressor ratio and attack controls.

Figure 1: The fourth encoder and switch, clearly labeled, in the Behringer X32’s assignable control section are reserved for riding and muting ambient mics.

The biggest quirk with my X32 “zero” scene is that it loads up with all 32 of the input scribble strips blacked out. Since it’s so easy to access the scribble strip config (channel select + Utility), a flick of the wrist lets me set the strip to my desired color, so I just bring the backlights on as I go through, adding only a second or two per channel. This keeps the visual focus only on the inputs in use and is part of my approach to maximizing visual SNR.

Moving on to the Midas Pro Series, one thing I really like about the (admittedly unique) workflow is how the console can be set up to quickly display the channels and parameters that are relevant to whatever I’m working on. The VCA and POP group unfolding means that I’m never hunting around the desk for the channel I need, while the touch-sensitive controls display the detail views and numerical values for the parameter being adjusted. Less banking and selecting on my part means more time focused on the artist on stage.

The VCA/POP concept really shines during on-the-fly moments like an acoustic set or a special guest, allowing me to effectively create and deploy a “custom fader layer” in a matter of seconds that lets me focus on only the active inputs. I have one default POP group named UTIL, which brings my 2TR house music channels (inputs 39/40) to the surface, and I’ll add talkbacks, comms, and oscillators to this group as necessary.

I also have VCA 8 (red, FX) configured by default to spill my three FX returns, my usual Vintage Room, Hall, and single tap delay. FX slot 4 is dynamic EQ, configured as 2 bands per channel, with the filters preset to 300 Hz and 1 kHz, close to where they often end up on unruly vocals.

Below that is the Midas spectrum analyzer, because when the FFT engine is running in the rack, the console overlays the FFT in the EQ detail area of the channel strip, which is a nice added convenience. All input channels are switched into the three effects buses and set to -inf so reverb sends can quickly be established.

All the other buses on the desk, however, have all channels switched off to start because of Midas’s “collapsed flip” mode, which greatly simplifies monitor mixing by only showing the assigned channels while in ‘sends on fader’ mode. For me, the convenience of this feature is worth the extra second or two it takes to enable a channel’s send as needed. Most recently, I increased the default width on all the channel inputs’ parametric bands, because I noticed that I was consistently setting the filters wider as I was mixing.

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About Michael Lawrence and Samantha Potter

Michael Lawrence and Samantha Potter
Michael Lawrence and Samantha Potter

Michael Lawrence is an independent front of house engineer and system tech. He is also the technical editor of various pro audio publications. Send him your thoughts at [email protected] Samantha Potter is an IT media supervisor and system design consultant in the house of worship sector. She is also production manager for Funk Syndicate in Kansas City. Get in touch at [email protected]

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