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.

27 Sep

Lost in chaos

I’ve been through some pretty hectic days, and it’s not over yet. Planned to post some short tips and some “in progress” work tips, but as usual I miserably failed to make time for it.

Now I’m in the middle of a final mix session, a full 68 minutes of music for a 100 year-old silent film. Obviously the schedule just turned into a turmoil, so long hours and unexpected tasks just turned up in every minute. But enough complaining…

Interesting posts are on the way. As soon as I’ll have some time and energy I’m going to finish a few blog posts about:

  • feature film score recording
  • feature film score mixing
  • installing Pro Tools HD and controllers into our refurbished studio
  • some Mac related Pro Tools tests (hopefully including new laptops…)
  • our different workflows at the studio
  • why we chose to purchase controllers with real knobs and faders instead of a touch surface
  • additional Pro Tools tips

All these articles are whether prepared or planned so stay tuned, I think you’ll find it very interesting and informative.

On a closing note I would like to thank the huge amount of emails, I try to answer all of it, and of course, will write about the suggested things. But for today, I’m going to finish the final mix!

15 Sep

Continuing the Nuendo saga

After the first screaming loudly for help post last week I really tried to dig every possible source on the internet to find out what may cause our problems with Nuendo.

In case you missed the first post, basically we cannot record multitrack audio reliably with Nuendo 5 or 6. The issue is quite nasty as the DAW is “pretending” to be recording, but after a while it stops drawing the waveform, then drops the waveformless part of the recording completely.

Issues, bugs and possibilities

Since the first post I’ve been contacted by many active and former Nuendo users who know something about these bugs. Although I won’t mention everyone by name, but a huge THANK YOU for all of you for trying to help us out, give us valuable suggestions.

  1. Draw waveform during recording option. A very good idea is to turn off this option. Makes sense as we all know that drawing waveform during recording requires computing power and RAM. The only problem is after these recording failures we insisted on the visual feedback. Only had time for very short tests with this option turned off, everything seemed to be ok. Though I found users who turned it off and still had the problem.
  2. Switch off Multiprocessing. Nuendo has a long history of inefficient multithread usage. We’re still investigating the possibility, although it would require us to completely abandon some of our well working methods. Still, I won’t rule out the possibility that this may cause our issues, so I marked this as a necessary thing to check and test.
  3. RAM issues. I don’t mean the hardware. But as my research got deeper, I’ve found many users suffered from a insane RAM thirstiness from Nuendo version 4.

Investigating the RAM issue

I’ve found multiple tests and research at different forums (some archived) about the RAM usage of Nuendo from version 3 to 6. It seems certain that Nuendo 3 used much less RAM for the very same tasks. It seems quite obvious as from Nuendo 4, Steinberg improved the waveform resolution and started to make nicer GUIs. Though the test results made me wonder if this increase might have serious effect on our systems.
Some deep testing by long time users revealed that Nuendo 5 uses 400% more RAM than version 3. Yes, it’s not a typo, 400%!!!

For example, the peak file size in Nuendo 3 is 1/4 the size of Nuendo 5 peak files. Just to feel how serious this can be, it mean that if I record something with N3 and it would have a peak file size 25MB, then the same peak file would be a 100MB in Nuendo 5 or 6. It might seem small enough for a workstation to handle, but keep in mind that we try to use Nuendo to record 128 tracks simultaneously. Add up the numbers and you’ll see that there’s not enough RAM in the World.

Sadly the official response is more than embarrassing to put it at its mildest. Denial, banned users from their forums and not accepting that there is some problem.

What’s next

The plan is to schedule some more tests at our facility and to contact Steinberg about our findings. The problem is though we have a very packed schedule so somehow we must find time to make these tests happen. Honestly I don’t know if we would be able to sort this out, or at least to find some leads, but I’m seriously think that the software developer should take these issues much more seriously.

Before anyone ask: I won’t post any names involved in these older or recent tests. Anyone with research can find the forums and archives on the web. Frankly I don’t know if I’m allowed to cite forum users freely, so I rather just don’t do this.

On a positive note, I’m back to my lovely Pro Tools world (I know we our problems too…) as I have many things to do there including blog posts. Stay tuned!