29 Aug

Fabfilter ProQ 2 THE UPDATE

Yes, I mean it, with all capital letters. Honestly I’m very seldom get excited by any software update. When I saw Fabfilter’s sneak peak video about the new ProQ2 EQ, I thought that it’s very nice, I have to try it in the minute they’re going to release it.

The original ProQ has been my go to eq for some months now, no matter what production I’m in. It served amazingly well in music productions, sound design, dialogue mixing, during full re-recording sessions, so literally in every possible scenario.

Now here comes ProQ2, which is considered as a new product, but Fabfilter customers get a very fair discount upgrade price.

ffpq2 q

The update is not a cosmetic thing at Fabfilter, here’s the list of the new things:

  • Different interface sizes and additional Full Screen modeNEW
  • Operates in zero latency mode, linear phase mode with adjustable latency or the unique Natural Phase modeNEW
  • Spectrum Grab: just grab and adjust a peak in the real-time spectrum analyser right away!NEW
  • Filter shapes: Bell, Notch, High/Low Shelf, High/Low Cut, Band Pass, Tilt ShelfNEW
  • Universal filter slope support for all filter types, up to 96 dB/octNEW
  • EQ Match feature to automatically match the spectrum of another track via the side-chain inputNEW
  • Phase Invert option to change polarityNEW
  • Highly improved CPU optimisation: Pro-Q 2 uses less memory and is more than twice as efficient as its predecessor!NEW
  • Optional Gain-Q interactionNEW
  • Auto Gain and Gain ScaleNEW
  • Built-in spectrum analyser with Pre-EQ, Post-EQ and SC modes, adjustable range, speed, resolution, tilt and freezeNEW
  • Optional piano roll display to quantize EQ frequencies to musical notesNEW
  • Large output level meter with peak level readoutNEW

What really should be normal daily operation in the software world, but we all know it’s not, every new function works flawlessly, just as they promised. No weird things, no unkept promises, it’s just works.

ffpq2spectrumgrab

You really have to try it to believe. It’s not only a spectacular sounding eq plugin, but this one also has all the features we wished in post production. So, if you want a trusty eq which is not only good sounding but also “clever”, then try ProQ2.

I truly wish that more developers would go on this route like Fabfilter and Exponential Audio, that we, users really get value for our money.

Just for you to know, this is not a sponsored post, I’m a genuine Fabfilter customer, get the same prices and discounts as any other customer.

26 Aug

On the road with a Macbook Pro #7

Although the festival season is over, I still have many gigs until I’m going back to the studio full time, without travelling hundreds of kilometres almost daily. Therefore I still need my trusty laptop to run Pro Tools without a hiccup, and of course, I need shortcuts to make my life easier.

Today’s shortcut is a really simple one (actually two) but well worth the tiny effort to learn it, as these ones are very helpful no matter if you’re on the road or in the studio.

During editing and mixing if you need to solo or mute the selected track:


shift+s for solo
shift+m for mute


When you’re concentrating on something, don’t bother reaching for the mouse or trackpad, these shortcuts will help you isolate or kill a track.

20 Aug

A nice story about mono

Just a few days ago I had a interesting thing happened which proved to me – again – that mono compatibility is still very important, yet most of the time it’s overlooked or simply ignored. Many even make jokes like “mono is dead”, etc. but here I would like to remind everyone that mono is still here and going to be here no matter if we consider stereo or multichannel immersive formats.

Little change, big problem

The first day on the main stage we just started the soundcheck with the band, when the lead singer told us that something is weird in his in-ears. It is like the backing vocal track, which comes from a multitrack machine would be off. Only a tiny bit, but it’s large enough to hear. The guitar player also noticed the strangeness, but he thought he might just drank too much last night. No one really knew what was that, so the soundcheck just finished, everyone was happy.

The show went really well, except, in a few songs the lead guy seemed really confused, even off the beat sometimes. This was really strange as in his case this almost never happen. After the show he told us he felt that in certain songs the multitrack backing vocals were off. Obviously it can be quite disturbing while you sing.

This was very strange. Half the band is on in-ears, half of them use wedge monitors. Only the in-ear guys had this unpleasant experience.

The next soundcheck we decided to investigate this issue a bit, so after we had everything set up, we double checked everything, checked the multitrack but found no problem at all. Then during the soundcheck, the musicians with in-ears told us that they have the very same problem, the multitrack is offbeat in certain songs. Now comes the really weird part. We stopped the soundcheck in order to find the root of the problem. Checked that few songs, and through the wedges, everything seemed to be fine. No offbeat or delayed things, everything is fine. While the musicians on stage with in-ears still hear a somewhat delayed backing track.

Started with the laptop, we checked every possible thing from the DAW through the soundcard’s output patch to the multicore. Even double checked each other, but nothing.

Borrowed one of the in-ears I just went through the songs again, and my jaw dropped. Certain songs had offbeat backing track. Re-checked it, but in the wedges it was all good. Spooky!

And then the penny dropped

A quick check on the monitor board revealed the only difference between the wedge and in-ear mixes. First of all, the wedges had very little backing track, and even if they had, only one side of the stereo signal had been used for monitoring, while in the in-ears, the monitor engineer used both sides. Apparently, all the in-ears are in mono though!

stereofield

That was the point where I was sure it is the good old thing. They made a so artificially wide stereo backing track that it collapse in mono, and the only thing you can here in mono is some weird delayed phasing thing, which seems out of time of course, as you cannot really here the fundamentals, only the effect part.

As soon as I removed one channel from their in-ears the problem disappeared! It was all good again.

Obviously this is not a mysterious thing happened without human interaction. A small chat with the band leader revealed the root of the problem. He changed a few arrangement on the multitrack, deliberately made them “unbelievably wide stereo” and it sounded awesome on stereo headphones.

Well, it might have sounded great on isolated headphones, but as soon as the material played back in other format (mono), a huge part of the original sound disappeared.

So what’s the conclusion?

If nothing more, than that we still have to consider the good old mono. With clever arrangement, widening and stereo tricks we can maintain very wide stereo effects which still lives happily in mono. You might loose a tiny bit of that extreme wide effect, but it is still better to loose a tiny part than have a train wreck.

Consider mono, check it, and work on your material to be compatible with every possible scenario. A bit harder to achieve, but sonically it’s rewarding.

So, problem solved, the band is happy, their stereo effects still sound extremely wide but now, it’s working in mono too.

09 Aug

The rest of the summer

Not much left, but still have many things to do. First, Sziget is approaching. This is one of the biggest festivals in Europe. This year, again, I’m going to be the chief FOH engineer at the main stage. As you might know, this is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I have the chance to meet very talented mixers and see/hear many great shows. On the other hand a festival this big requires a lot of preparation and tedious paperwork, huge amount of Excel sheets, emails, meetings, etc. I’m a more simple guy who truly enjoy mixing and helping fellow engineers, but I’m not the big organiser guy who just effortlessly ploughing through hundreds of emails while conducting prep meetings.

This year we’re going to have a few big acts, you might recognise a few:

  • Queens of the Stone Age
  • Blink 182
  • The Prodigy
  • Placebo
  • Outkast
  • Calvin Harris
  • Korn
  • Skrillex
  • Lily Allen
  • Manic Street Preachers
  • Madness
  • The Kooks
  • and a few more…

szigetendshow13

After the usual rider checking, we ended up with almost the same console setup as before: Yamaha PM5D in monitors and Avid Profile in FOH. These are the most requested consoles in riders. Even if someone would prefer something other, these are accepted as well.

My biggest headache is still compatibility, or to be more precise, the lack of it. In my experience the Avid live system is still the only one which is able to effortlessly convert and use session files made on different surface with some other software version.

To be fair, they probably borrowed this knowledge from their Pro Tools experience. We had serious problems with DiGiCos and Midas digital consoles. Many times the FOH guy had to rebuild the show from scratch because his/her file was incompatible with the consoles firmware or software version. While digital offers so much flexibility on paper, it seems to me that in a live environment this is still in its infancy.

A usual day at a festival

Few of you asked about an average day at a festival like this. Well, it can be very gruelling to be honest. Obviously the more problem you have at a given day, the more worn out you’re going to be at the end of the day.

8:00am Load-ins starting
Usually the headliner or the co-headliner start first. All their equipment need to be set up, preferably at the proper place (should be left there all day). The most important needs at this time:

  • power (how much, 32,64, 3phase, etc.)
  • place of their consoles and misc. equipment
  • forklifts (to bring the heavy cases and consoles)
  • set up (check everything working fine, compatibility checks, feeds to system, multicores)

A simple console check procedure:

Check if the incoming power is fine. You don’t want to blow any power supplies! If it’s good, then you need to connect the console to the power source. Our tested and proved preference is to have to lines from the source power. One goes through a UPS so in the case of a power failure we still have time to save and shut down the consoles properly to avoid any data or equipment damage. The other is the direct, without any further protection. These days, every console has redundant power supplies so you can always use this safety system.

After you connected all the necessary cables, switch on the console. At this point I like to do a quick fader/button/led test if possible to make sure that everything is fine. These live consoles are being used in very demanding circumstances, therefore they need to be checked regularly. It’s much better to identify a problem now instead of trying to find it later, during the soundcheck. If the test is ok, then load the session.

Check if the session is fine. Most of the times they are fine, however a quick check wouldn’t hurt, you might spot some errors, and again, if there is some, this is the right time to solve it. If the session is ok, we’re almost ready.

Check and if necessary modify the output patch. Everyone has his own preference, the usual options are:

  • L and R only
  • L-R plus Sub (mono or stereo)
  • L-R plus Sub and separate fills
  • L-R plus Sub and separate fills, separate delays

If possible, we always prefer to have AES, but we’re prepared for analogue feeds as well.

At this point the system tech would ask the guest engineer to send noise (pink noise) to him in order to check the patch. When everything seems fine, the guest console is ready for the sound check.

Before and during the sound check

During the soundcheck you want to solve any upcoming problems. At this point you still have a little time to investigate things. It is mandatory to understand and able to operate, know the whole system to the tiniest bits. Anything, really, anything happens you’ll be the one who has to correct it, within a very short time frame. Even if it’s not your job at the first place, as the FOH guy, you’ll be alone with the guest engineers at the time of the sound checks, and remember, they are guests, you are the guy who must provide the solution to their problems.

Between the sound checks we can have lunch, preferably at table, but as schedules are very tight, usually we just have lunch in the FOH position during a soundcheck. After all the line and sound checks, little time left for a coffee before the first band start its show.

During the shows it’s mandatory to have at least one person at the FOH position. One who can solve problems, can alert the rest of the team, so who can really help the guests. Never, never ever leave the guest alone! This is very important. Anything can happen and you’re the one who should provide help.

End of the day

After all the shows are over, there’s some tasks left before we can go to bed. Main stage usually stops at 11p.m. or 1a.m. here. After the last show we need to cover everything in order to protect the equipment against the weather. One friendly advice: never trust the weather forecast. They might say that there’s absolutely zero chance for rain, but it is your responsibility to protect the equipment. Obviously consoles don’t like water, so don’t forget to securely cover them, unplug the power, switch off the breakers, and re-check everything. One sudden storm can ruin any very expensive equipment.

And that’s it, depending on the running order (whether you finished at 11 or 1) you can go to bed around 1–3 a.m. Have a good night sleep because the next day starts just in a few hours, around 8 a.m. with the load-ins again. Good night.

04 Aug

On the road with a MacBookPro #6

This time it’s a really tiny tip, which otherwise can drive you mad. Usually I use my trusty Sounddevices usb pre2, but there are times when I have to use the built-in sound card with headphones. But as I change the volume, the dreaded click sound in OSX just drives me crazy.

volumemac

It’s annoying, usually it’s louder than anything else in your session. Back then it was a great discovery for me that we can easily avoid that sound.


To avoid the sound hold down shift while raising or lowering the volume.


I know for first look it might look not that important, but after a few hours, I think you’ll appreciate this little tip.