23 Apr

Avid S6 quick tip #1

I thought it might be useful to share some little tips to enhance your S6 experience, or simply just to get some ideas or minor workflow improvements. So here it is, the first little tip.

Often during a mix session the producer/director/composer/musician ask for some change and then they immediately stare at the screen or at the control surface searching for clues that they idea is happening right in front of them realtime. While this is nice and natural, I always try to gently force them to listen instead of looking for visual evidence.

For this very reason I always make a special, empty Layout on the S6. When they start to look for fader or encoder movement I simply recall my LISTEN!!! Layout. Sometimes they just ask what happened, but more often they appreciate it, and start to focus on the aural happenings.

layout knob

If you don’t have any Layout yet, then you don’t have to do anything, simply push the Layout knob on the master section. If you have some Layouts, then simply create a new one with nothing assigned to the faders and save it as LISTEN!!! (of course you can choose any other name). Whenever you need it, just recall it. It is not there to make fool of anyone, it is there to help you and the creative people around you to focus on the much more important thing, the mix itself. Enjoy!

03 Apr

A short note on cloud collaboration

I really don’t want to write about Pro Tools 12 for several reasons. I haven’t tried it yet, because right now I don’t have time to test anything. Frankly I don’t really understand the whole structure Avid introduced, but as an HD user I have ample time so I just wait until I can read all the FAQs and helpful blog posts and only decide what to do after I really know the details. My last reason is, I really don’t like the hysteria that surrounds this whole thing. That very few sane voice just got lost in the midst of ungrounded shouting. I don’t say that Avid is honest and communicative, frankly I hate how they treat things, but still, after I lived through many of their new releases, I’m tired of this pointless, childish internet noise around the release.

One little thing for some perspective. I know many video and film editors whose life and blood is MediaComposer. At first, when the subscription model had been introduced at their side, everyone hated it. They didn’t trust Avid (for a reason I must say),they didn’t want the whole system. But slowly, after a few months they saw that this time it might be a good thing. Today, when I ask them what they think about the new model, each and every one of them praises the new model, they simply love it. Why? Because they get bug fixes and new features much more rapidly and more often than before. I just hope that this is what going to happen to Pro Tools, because only then I’ll be a supporter of this new model.

About the cloud collaboration

After this long winded intro, a few words about this new cloud thingy, which is sadly not in Pro Tools 12 yet. Right now I’ve been working on another feature film, which require active collaboration between many partners. I’m in Hungary, some of the team located in western Europe, some located in the USA. With all the changes, additional material, so called locked picture changes, now we use a plethora of cloud based services to achieve our goal. Google drive for some file based exchange, Vimeo for video related things, Box for other file exchange and version tracking, Weetransfer for immediate huge file transfers, etc. The list is almost endless. And to be honest, I really don’t like this. Just to keep track of things, we created a Google sheet that contains all the things that is in the cloud. Where one can find the necessary material. It is not optimal to say the least.

Of course I don’t know if Avid get this right this time. But if one company have to understand post production, it’s them. If their cloud collaboration feature will be what we need in our daily job, and if it’s going to be priced wisely, I think they have a chance to finally have some positive feedback from users. Right now it’s only speculation and hope. Let’s hope that they get this right.

30 Mar

Final mix session – reality

I’m in the middle of a huge final mix session, again. Hence the lack of posts on the blog. I’ve made several emergency plans in the past so that I can write more, but apparently every plan failed. Or, to be honest I failed to keep my plans. Because the reality is, if you’re drowned in a huge job, simply, you don’t have the necessary extra energy. At least this is true about me. I put in as much energy as possible, and at the end of the day the only viable aim is to reach my bed to get some sleep.

Deadlines

Again, as this becomes more and more usual these days, our deadline is crazy, I mean it clearly seems impossible to finish everything properly. For a few days now we’re operating well behind the original schedule, because the scope of the material just gets bigger, while, obviously, our deadline stay the same.

Here’s some quick tips on how to treat situations like this. At least a few tips that seems to work for me, I hope it’ll work for you too.

  • While you’re in, be there. Don’t second-guess yourself, don’t overthink what has to be done, don’t think about the deadline. Just be there and do your job calmly. I know it’s sounds like some Zen teaching, but believe me, you’re going to have many egos on the dub-stage, you have to be the one who constantly make things happen, and don’t engage in personal fights.
  • If you see some opportunities, do more than you’re required. During the mix, you’ll need that extra and everyone will appreciate the fact that you’ve been so thoughtful that you did more than the original idea.
  • Another Zen sounding advise: learn to let things go. During a good mix session in a creative environment ideas come and go, you have to experiment while still mustn’t loose track of the whole mix. Everyone’s going to have good and maybe not so good ideas. Try to treat them equally while keep some perspective. It’s not necessarily you who has the best ideas. Live with it. Do what the mix need.
  • Learn to listen. Not technically. Many times, composers and directors don’t really know how to tell you what they really want to hear. When they talk about ideas, feelings, emotions, pay attention, that is your key to understand what they want to hear. It is simply impossible to have every person in the room talk to you in proper technical terms. Decipher the real meaning from their stories, and more importantly, make it happen sonically.

I know these may sound rather obvious to you, but too many people try to only focus on the technical side of things, while that is not the most important bit in the equation. I don’t say it’s not important, but far from being the most important. Now, back to mixing…

24 Mar

Small Pro Tools tip #2

Just a little workflow tip that helps you identify clipped tracks during a multi-track recording without having to constantly scroll up and down on your timeline.

The key is to leave the track list open in the edit window.

First, it gives you a very good overview, can show you track numbers and names, you can easily select one or more tracks, and also, make tracks active or inactive, show and hide them. For these things it’s already a great habit to have it open during recording, but the main thing is, this is the best place to see if some tracks have clipped, as the overloaded tracks are shown in red.

track list window

As the track list window is very “succinct”, you can see much more tracks comfortably than in the edit window itself.

And while we’re here, sometimes you need to clear clip (clearing the red signs). To do this, hit:

ALT+C

After this command, you’re going to start with a clean track list again, so if anything goes into red after this, you’ll see it.

14 Mar

How a birthday party looks like #2

Thought to share some technical details, hope you find it interesting. Won’t go into deep technical explanations, rather just give some general idea how we use some of our gear during these two days.

Studer, Lexicon, TC and Pro Tools

The Studer Vista8 serve as a live broadcast and remote gain console. On the first two layers we mix the current show with 82 inputs from the big hall. If necessary, we can remote control the Studer from the other studio, but honestly you need to constantly check if the remote is working fine, because it’s not the most stable software…
The Lexicon 960 serve as a four engine reverb, while the TC system 6000 serve as a two engine reverb, a multi-band mid/side compressor and a limiter on engine four. All the channels goes into a Pro Tools HDX2 system which also records two complete broadcast mix, one is processed (quasi-mastered on-air) the other is unprocessed.
If it is necessary, the Pro Tools system can also serve as a main mix system with a S6 surface, recording the multitrack, the mixed on-air outputs while recording the mix automation during the performances. We have a few detailed template session for this.

Where it all comes together

The centre of the whole multi-room system is the Direct out technologies m1k2, which is a very clever routing matrix for 1024×1024 audio channels. Although the whole building operates at 24 bit 48kHz, if we happen to have any additional equipment which operates at any other sampling rate, this system is able to handle that with its poly-sync feature.

We have 3 studios operating at full throttle during these two days, serving the web-radio, the live broadcast, the OB van, and of course the HD video studio. All the recordings are being stored not only on the local recording drives, but right after each show, a safety backup is created onto a huge RAID storage. Because we record enormous amount of data daily, after double-checking the backup, we have to clean the record drives to have ample space for the next day.

So far, we have very minor issues, nothing showstopper, but experienced strange drop-outs on two Nuendo workstations. Fortunately the errors only occurred during rehearsals but the on-air shows went without issues. At the end of the day we’re going to do some tests to make sure that the two problematic workstations don’t have any hidden errors which could ruin tomorrow’s recordings.