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The usual way vs. the old way

Recently we had a 3-day long live broadcast, and instead of doing it our way with Pro Tools and the S6, for various reasons we had to mix the 3 days through with a Studer Vista console and some outboard gear. Namely with a TC System 6000, a Lexicon 960 and a Tube-tech multi-band compressor. I know now some of you might be surprised that I call this the old way, but for me, for the last 1-2 years it is. Let me explain.

The new way for me

You might know that I mix many broadcast events with the help of Avid’s S6 and Pro Tools HD. I’ve got carefully crafted template so I can do whatever the production need, well-thought-out routing with multiple paths, audio buses, VCAs, effects, a stellar master chain at the end. I really invested serious time and tests to fine-tune the template so much so in the last year there wasn’t any occasion that I couldn’t solve something within a few seconds. In my opinion, working with the S6 gives you so many benefits, flexibility, speed and efficiency that once you really get familiar and comfortable with this way of working, you’ll never look back.

Some of the benefits of working completely in the box:

  • one complete system, you don’t have to set up many different equipment to be able to work
  • total recall in a second
  • one save saves all your data including presets
  • at the end of the day you’ve got detailed automation data recorded right into your session, meaning you’ll start the post production with a pretty good mix
  • changing, re-doing anything is fast and easy

Well, I admit that I’m biased, but keep in mind that my bias is based on real world experience, which I think is crucial in this industry.

Lexicon

The old way of doing things

So, the old way, which I treat with kind of a nostalgia. I still love it, but definitely think that it has its drawbacks. I’d never say it’s a bad way of working, I mixed more than a thousand shows this way. I still dearly love it, though really prefer the new way if I had to choose.

The equipment used to mix this broadcast is some of the best available. I won’t argue over gear preferences and fetishes here, I think anyone can agree on that the Studer console, the TC and Lexicon effects and the Tube-tech is world class, if anyone can’t mix on these, he won’t be able to mix with anything else either.

The first thing I had to re-realise is that you need much more time to set everything up properly. While it’s easy to instantiate a plugin in Pro Tools, if you insert something on a real console, you need to check the routing and if the inserted equipment working properly. Then, obviously you need to set up the gear you just inserted into the chain. This might seem too obvious, but think about it for a second. This means you leave a certain type of system, do your thing on a maybe very different one, then come back to continue your work on the console. This essentially means that you have to operate possibly widely different menu structures with different methods, workflows, not to mention you have to save your presets on many different locations. This is not dreadful of course, but definitely makes your day go slower. And this is even more true if you want to change something.

TC system 6000

So, in my opinion, these are the drawback of this method:

  • longer setup times
  • harder, or longer change if something needs to be changed
  • much longer recall time
  • the necessity to save at different stages on different equipments
  • the lack of unified backup
  • the lack of recorded automation
  • the lack of flexibility
  • number limitation (you can’t have 12 Tube-tech or 20 mastering grade compressors for example)

The experience

With all that said, I thoroughly enjoyed mixing and doing things the “old” way. As I said earlier maybe it’s part of a strange nostalgia, and the always exciting outboard patching and tweaking. From time to time it’s great to work like this, but as I wrote this I realised that I couldn’t really go back and work like that all the time. I prefer the speed and flexibility that technology gave us.

Both methods has advantages and disadvantages and I’m not here to decide which is the absolute best because I think there’s no such thing exist. Both methods can lead to excellent result. For me, I choose the new way.