31 Oct

Screwing on

This pretty much sums up my last few days. It’s never easy to rebuild something, integrate new technology in a way so older things and workflows remains the same as before.

Planning, screwing, moving up and down, checking the ventilation, re-examining patches, installing software and updating firmware.

Almost ready, but still has lot to do. Next week I’m going to have a busy week mixing, so only a few days left to finish everything. Exciting times.

While we build and test everything, I think I’ve found a bug in the Avid S6. This is our second S6 install, and the metering simply doesn’t work at all. It’s almost identical to the first install, the only difference is this is an HDX2, the other is HD Native. Otherwise both has the very same type of Mac, softwares, etc.

So far I’ve tried to:

  • Trash prefs & databases
  • Switch Eucon on & off
  • Quit and restart the WS control app
  • Restart both the Mac and the S6
  • Re-update the S6 modules
  • Changing the playback engine

If I’m going to have time, I might try to reinstall Pro Tools. Right now I don’t know what can cause this. All things are supported, only approved software has been installed.

rackroom

28 Oct

The first S6 live test

Just as I planned, this weekend was a big one in our studio. We have an ongoing acoustic concert show series which is always a bit complicated as we do the broadcast mix and the multitrack recording, while the National TV records the picture with 10–12 cameras. As every performer try to make something special, one thing is common in these nights, you’re going to encounter some strange instruments, and many times, many microphones in a small space. A bit like a strange mixture of MTV unplugged and MTV Icon.

Perfect opportunity

As these shows tend to be quite complex, I thought it’s a good idea to test the Avid S6 with Pro Tools HD on an occasion like this.

The system was:

  • 24-fader M10
  • Pro Tools HD Native with Madi I/O
  • RME Adi8qs (for conversion)
  • Avid Xmon
  • Apple MacPro
  • Lacie 2bigdisk thunderbolt 2 drive

At the end I didn’t have to use all 64 inputs, the whole show ended up being around 56 channels. This number includes all the instrument mics and the audience and atmo mics.

S6 close

Pro Tools session

So as brave as it sounds, it was all mixed and recorded into a single Pro Tools session. A separate JoeCo Madi recorder had been used for safety backup.

So, in the session I had:

  • 56 mono inputs
  • 1 stereo studio PGM
  • 4 effects (this time it was room, chamber, plate and hall all from Exponential audio reverbs)
  • 3 prefader stereo feeds (for stereo PGM rerecord, for backup, and for the TV)
  • The main paths for studio monitors and the solo bus through the Xmon
  • 9 VCAs for controlling the whole mix

All input channels had a trim plugin and an Avid Channel Strip inserted by default. Then all the channels and buses routed to a Master bus (stereo aux) which fed the different stereo feeds for the TV, backup and PGM rerecord (all must be r128 compliant).

prolimiter r128

On the Master bus I’ve used the following plugin chain:

  • Fabfilter ProQ2
  • Sonnox Oxford dynamics (compressor and warmth)
  • Avid ProMultiband (have been testing this for a while)
  • Avid ProLimiter
  • Izotope Insight (loudness metering)

Additionally to the recording I recorded the automation into the session. By default this option is switched off in the preferences, you have to enable it. It is very important to us to be able to record.

 


A word of caution: carefully choose your type of automation, otherwise you can run into trouble! For example, if you switch everything into latch mode, once you’ve touched a channel (hence initiating latch automation on it) you won’t be able to control that channel with its parent VCA.


 

So, as you can see, the session is very straightforward, I try to eschew any unnecessary over-complication as it can only make your day harder. This was the basic test session on which we plan to build a more sophisticated one, while still try to maintain the overall simplicity as much as possible.

avid promultiband

The show

The main thing is, the show went very well, both the S6 and Pro Tools HD performed flawlessly. This was the first time I’ve used the layout mode which I find very powerful. After a bit of planning I made some custom layouts which helped me to “escape” if necessary. With this I mean I had one layout with all the VCAs and all the announcers, had another with the main VCAs and the guest performers, had a third one which gave me the ALL VCA and the audience mics plus the announcers and made a few more just for fun. At the end I used my 3 main layouts more often than I though I would use. What I’ve found if you have a nice channel order and switch from that to layout mode and back, it’s very easy to navigate even much bigger sessions.

reverb

The other very positive thing is that you can assign any parameter to the process module’s touch knob, which made the soundcheck a fast and smooth experience. At first I had all channel gains up there, then hi-pass and low-pass filter frequency and after that I switched it back to pan control. The nice thing is, while you assign there something, you can still constantly have different parameters on the big knob module which really helps you fly through your session and soundcheck.

This was the very first more serious live test I’ve made. I plan to do a few more with fairly more complicated things and then I’ll write a follow up on my initial impressions on working on the Avid S6.

sonnoxwarmth

17 Oct

Appreciate Thunderbolt connectivity

For me so far, this daisy-chain was only a possibility, a nice thing to know. But today, I need to copy, move and reorganise data across multiple disks and the only thing that keeps me away from the tedious computer tech work is Thunderbolt. Multiple drives chained through each other, and all the drives are there on my desktop.

When I’m ready I can simply eject that particular drive and put it back to its workstation. If I need just another one at the end of the chain, no problem, the system can handle this.

I know there are other solutions to this problem, but as we need many mobile solution with multiple workstations and studios while still maintaining the transfer speed, Thunderbolt seems to be a very elegant solution.

thunderboltlogo

As I’m writing this short post, at least 20 Terabytes of storage is chained together via a single small thing with lightning sign on it. In the next few minutes, besides the data transfer it’s going to spit out HD video.

I know it’s not cheap, I know many don’t really like it, but for me, it’s great.
Today is my Thunderbolt appreciation day.

14 Oct

4 workflows

I thought it would be interesting to you to know that we still have four different workflows here in the Palace of Arts. Some based on more old-school methods, some feels more future-proof. The thing is, we still need to use all, so while we’re constantly try to develop all our systems, we must integrate the new technology in a way that no workflow is being hurt.

1st workflow

This is the old-school type, which still works very well in the right circumstances, so after some discussion we decided to keep it alive. The whole thing originates from the good old analogue world, although now it features a huge Studer Vista digital desk with 52 motorised faders.

StuderVista

The first step is to record everything. Usually everything is patched through the Studer, a separate Madi output feeds the DAW. The DAW feed is a split from the input, so no channel processing being recorded on a channel basis. However, at the end of the input list, we’ll make a few stereo ins to record the Studer mix and if the mixer feels the need for it, he/she can record stems too.

When it comes to post production, the editing or rather cleaning part takes place in the DAW. That means you edit out the junk, remove or RX the noisy parts, so prepare the material for mixing. After the editing process, we switch back to inline mode, which only means that now the DAW feeds the Studer input, and the Studer’s main out is being re-recorded to the DAW.

So the mixing process might seem rudimentary compared to today’s automated in-the-box world, but with a good mixer, it can work. Although the Studer has it’s own automation system, it’s not that convenient compared to any DAW today, but still, if you need it, you can use it.

I think you already guessed the mix part of it, go through the show, and mix as you go while you’re recording it realtime into the DAW.

This method only works if you managed to do a very stellar live mix which needs only minor updates or corrections. As soon as you have to go down the rabbit hole and have to use every audio wizardry to make it happen, you won’t be able to use this old-school workflow.

The main candidates for this mixing method are classical concerts and very small acoustic shows. With bigger acts, tv shows and more complicated events you must consider the more up-to-date workflows.
With all that said, it’s a very good practice to anyone. If you hone your on-air live mixing chops, you’ll become a better “offline” post mixer too. This is the real get your act together method in my opinion. As you can only do so much with 10 fingers, you have to be very diligent and clever when it comes to VCA and grouping. A stellar school in this DAW world as it makes you think and work harder. Sometimes constraints makes you more creative.

07 Oct

Avid S6 the newcomer

Now it’s official. The Palace of Arts Budapest purchased two Avid S6 24 fader M10 controllers into two of its studios.

s6

The controllers going to serve as the main post production helpers as well as in-the-box live broadcast controllers in the near future. This workflow is still being developed, but our plan is to rely more and more on the capabilities of Pro Tools HD and the S6. With Pro Tools 11 we can record the automation along with the audio which would result in a very efficient and fast workflow post production wise.

The planned live broadcast production would use a pretested master template which would include every channel strip, additional eq and compressor plugins as well as different sends and busses and reverbs. So basically, just as one would work with a digital console the Pro Tools session’s going to include every necessary thing for mixing duties.

s6wheel

Future plans

Now we are in the testing phase of the new S6 but things looks very promising. If they will perform as we except, the plan is to buy more modules and even change the M10 brains to M40s. It would be premature to say anything serious about the controller, let’s say that we are all pretty impressed with it.

To this date there are certain functions missing, but I hope that Avid is working hard to make this gear as clever as it can get. I just can’t help but compare it to the Icon controllers that still has very clever and useful features that the S6 lacks. I’m not a programmer so I don’t know what Eucon is capable of, but I’m sure we’re going to see some very interesting software upgrades for the S6 very soon.