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Charting An Evolution: The Development Of Performance Audio At A Dynamic Music Organization

An inside look at The Black Rose Acoustic Society (TBRAS) music venue and its evolving production systems.

Video Directions

A couple of years later, we decided to develop a YouTube channel to promote the music as well as our organization. I moved away from FOH to come up with a video system, starting with an inexpensive 1080p camcorder, a Mackie 4-channel mixer, and an ORTF (Side-Other-Side) stereo ambiance microphone. That rig, which captured a mix of ambiance and the mono house mix, served us well as a starting point.

About a year later it was time to take our video quality to the next level. I also wanted a more engaging stereo soundtrack for the videos, and that required a dedicated mixer sharing stage inputs with the house system. As a temporary step, I rigged up an old Mackie CFX mixer with a bank of analog mic splitters, and that worked well for some time.

This analog gear was eventually replaced with a Behringer X32 Compact/S16 digital snake combination, which was the very first TBRAS step into the world of digital audio. I currently record all our shows with a real-time, stereo mix from the X32 Compact directly into a 4K SLR camera, also capturing the multichannel stage inputs in Avid Pro Tools 12 on a laptop for post-production work.

Noted bluegrass performers Sweet Loam filling the house with a recent performance. (Credit: Todd Ryan Performance Photography)

Addressing The House

In 2016, donations enabled us to upgrade the Mackie analog house mixer, and I brought the idea of a digital board to the team. Given our video mixer, it’s probably no surprise that we landed on a full-sized Behringer X32, again supplied by our friends at Prosound.

Our master X32 scene is configured with 32 inputs, four monitor mixes, vocal and instrument subgroups, and graphic EQ and reverb in appropriate places. Documentation is important, so I created versioned cabling and configuration diagrams to give us current info to refer to when (not if!) problems occur.

Some cross-training brought the team up to speed on the new board, and we permanently installed Cat-6e to/from our stage as well. I’ve got to say that it was a big day when we closeted the old analog snake.

TBRAS X32 internal configuration diagram.

Since then we’ve been expanding use of the mixer’s capabilities, last year replacing the S16 digital snake with a Midas DL16 that gives us that tasty Midas preamp goodness, with the FOH and video systems both sharing that front end via AES50 over Ethernet.

I continue to work within our sound team to evolve and improve the gear, and I also serve as the team’s link with our board of directors. (Hint: It never hurts to have a sound team member sitting in with the source of funding!) I’ve also got a deep, personal mic locker that’s available when needed.

The Future

TBRAS has been running for 25 years now, and our membership and attendance show no signs of declining. Growth is great but we moderate it, so we don’t outgrow our primary venue. Its log construction provides the perfect vibe for the types of music we support, and the capacity of only 220 souls keeps our concerts relatively intimate. With a full house most of the time, there’s a palpable energy in the room that seems to keep drawing folks out of their La-Z-Boys and into our little concert hall on Friday nights.

Looking forward, we have plans to upgrade our mics to include more directional types, and we also want to experiment with different mains placements. We may also explore video streaming at some point. Everyone on the team understands that sound is truly our main product, and we’ll continue to evolve as needed to keep improving our “ear candy” as time moves on.

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