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Tag: broadcast

Marathon

This weekend we’re going to have a Brahms marathon. From about 10 at the morning till 10 at night we’ll have 11 concerts. From piano pieces through clarinet quintet to the great symphonies. This definitely sounds interesting, but not only because we love Brahms, but it is also exciting technically.

Preproduction

We have to consider all the various needs of the different crews. We have the three separate crews from the National Radio, three video crews and our main crew. Why so many? Because the whole act will be broadcasted live through the Radio and online. All the concerts. Besides that we record everything (obviously).

The National Radio uses a Studer Vista 8 console and another very old vintage Studer for the interviews. All the video crews will receive sound from us as we mix live from two studios. As we already did it like this last year, the two main rigs will be a Pro Tools HD 12.6.1 and a Steinberg Nuendo 7. Control surface will be the Avid S6.

As you can guess at this scale we need serious backups. Two Joeco MADI recorders and one Pro Tools and one Nuendo will serve as safety backups so both stages has its own main rig and double-backup just in case.

All the complicated routing is going through the DoTec MADI router which has its own backup. I think we don’t use any equipment without a proper backup that day.

Templates

As we receive all the technical details a few days before the live broadcast we make master templates in every workstation. This way no matter who’s going to mix a particular concert, everyone knows where to find things. At this scale you simply cannot let chaos prevail.

This year I thought we might have the chance to do a very interesting experiment. In Pro Tools all the channel strips will be the Brainworx bx console which is a fantastic Neve emulation. Basically I built a “Neve console” inside Pro Tools. First I modified the default preset. No gate, compressor is active but start to work from -10 dBFS with a 2:1 ratio, eq is engaged but flat, lo-pass off, high-pass engaged at its lowest setting, noise off.

I took the time and set up the whole session like if it was a real console, all channels have different channel numbers in the Neve emulation. If you are even remotely familiar with this old console, it’s a pretty clean console with gorgeous filters. I already tried it on a few different sources, but now I think the time has come to really experience what this channel strip emulation can offer when we really use it as it is intended to be used. Let’s hear if the new Tolerance Modelling Technology has that intangible plus sonically.

All the input channels goes through at least one audio subgroup, then from that particular group all the audio groups routed to a sum bus. All instrument mics goes through at least one audio subgroup and the sum group except the audience and announcer mics, those directly goes to the final mix group. With this I can separately adjust the balance between the orchestra, the audience and the announcer. Although everything is planned properly usually life always entertain us with some unexpected surprises. That’s why I planned separate groups for everything.

The audio subgroups has the very same processing:

After those there is a final master processing chain:

The Active-fixed EQ is our housekeeper, removing any nasty frequency build-up or resonance, maybe subtly adding a tiny amount where needed. The TLA is really there for very soft massage, just kissing the needle or as we say “slowly nodding a bit” and even that is with 50-50 dry-wet ratio. The Brainworx is doing some M/S magic and a little mono-maker helps too. The Vertigo is optional, sometimes it’s the real magic dust, sometimes it just stays there in bypass. The Maag EQ is one of our favourite tone shaper while the API 2500 is my first choice for 2bus compression. The ProLimiter is there as a true peak limiter and has a fantastic metering so no other 3rd party meter is needed during the mix.

It might seem too much but keep in mind that these plugins are are doing very little things. But I decided I rather put them into the template than try to improvise during the rehearsals or the live broadcast. With this there’s no situation you cannot solve easily.

The effect chain has been selected to serve every possible need. Those are tried and tested. The room is the Eventide 2016 Stereo room, the plate, the chamber and one hall is made from Exponential Audio’s Nimbus, and the last hall is Exponential Audio’s R2 reverb.

Here’s the simplified structure of the session:

session structure

This is the first time I try to mix with a console emulation live so now I check and practice the Eucon mapping daily to get accustomed to it. The beauty of a proper control surface is that you become much faster because of muscle memory. There are still some black spots but it seems that the Bx console is nicely mapped. One tricky spot is its dynamics section as you have to learn and feel the threshold, but once you get familiar with it, it’s great.

Of course, all the mixes must adhere to the latest EBU standard with a target loudness of -23LUFS, while the online broadcast is going to be at -18LUFS.

I hope everything is going to be flawless with this much preparation. Wish me luck.

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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.

 

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How a birthday party looks like

At least here, in the Palace of Arts Budapest. Well, it looks like chaos from the outside. Lots of things to see and hear, so many concerts and cultural activities that you can hardly select your favourites. Behind the scenes though, all the studios are on full throttle. It’s like a huge festival on steroids. We record almost everything (multitrack) while mixing for live web-stream and internet radio and serving the OB van outside the building. Yes, although we have the largest in-built studio department in the country, during the next two days we’re going to have so many things to record-mix-stream that we need additional OB van to take care some of the occasions.

I thought it would be interesting to know what arsenal we use for this huge marathon. So, in a nutshell, here’s the equipment list:

2 Nuendo with RME audio cards with Artist series controllers
1 Pro Tools HD native with S6 controller
1 Pro Tools HDX2 with S6 controller
2 JoeCo MADI recorders for safety backups
1 Studer Vista 8 console with a Lexicon 960 and a TC system 6000
1 DoTech MADI router for main distribution

This arsenal only for the broadcast-recording part of the equation, have a few other things in the OB van, some more at the video side. Looks like chaos, but we have a strict plan, which seems to be working. As I’m writing this, we’ve done 7 broadcasts, went without a hiccup. So far so good.

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Preparing a live broadcast and record day 3

And here we are, this is probably the most important day as this concert will serve as the master version of the concert. In case we need to change or correct something, we have all the previous rehearsals recorded. In Pro Tools we not only record the multi-track but also the processed stereo mix. This comes handy if we need to change some small thing later.

Final session

As I mixed both rehearsals I made some notes on how to refine this mix session in order to really fit my needs. In some parts it become more complicated, but if we look at the whole big session, it become somewhat more simple.
For example I considerably reduced the number of layouts I use. I made twelve when I set up the session and I felt that I need all of it to reach everything easily, but later on I felt that this time it’s too much. The layouts combined with the VCA spill is powerful enough so I don’t need that many in this session. After two days I ended up using only four layouts, one being an “escape” that brings all the VCAs right in front of me. I’ve got two ways to do this, this is one way. The other way is to bank to the right-most part of the session. I always order my tracks so I have all the VCAs at the right side of my tracks. It doesn’t really matter if they’re at the left or ride side of the session, the point is they need to be all left or right, so you can reach them with one button push. With this, anytime I want instant total control, I recall my VCA layout, or bank there from the surface.

Only one major thing has changed, I removed the chamber fx and made another hall but this time I chose a more natural, real life like hall from Phoenix verb. So now I use a combination of three verbs:

  • early reverb (Phoenix verb)
  • real hall (Phoenix verb)
  • big hall (R2)

The right combination of these can add real depth, without sacrificing detail. Although now I mix this in stereo, it still need to sound good in mono. Don’t overthink this, sometimes push the mono button and listen to the detail and balance, if it’s right, then it’s good, that’s it.

The other very useful thing I use is to lock parameter to certain buttons next to the touchscreen. Right now, on the left side I have the ProLimiter parameters locked, on the right side I have the Sonnox Dynamics controls locked. Call me a control freak, but I love to have these important parameters almost always within reach.
One more thing which comes very handy during a live mix like this is to check VCA assignments. It’s very handy that with only one button (bus) you can see all the contributing channels above the VCA. In short, you see the channel name and the fader position in dB, if you like it is possible to make minor adjustments from there with the pots.

mastersection

So this is the final broadcast/record session which will become the mix session eventually.
The whole show went really well, in my opinion this all in-the-box method is definitely the future. If not now, then in a few years. Do something big live, and when you start to mix, you already have a very good starting point, your session, with a good mix, automated VCAs or tracks, routing, markers.

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Preparing a live broadcast and record day 2

Yesterday’s rehearsal went really well. It couldn’t be better than this, as what I call a rehearsal was an actual live concert, it was a rehearsal only for us, the record/broadcast team. As the piece is quite complicated, it’s nice to have the opportunity to test things, find the problem spots and correct them before the real broadcast happens.

Although it’s not a requirement, I record every rehearsal, so now I have a full live concert fine-tune my processing chain and to correct some problem spots. As I quickly go through the multitrack, I already found some minor issues which can be solved with minor microphone adjustment.

Using the controller

To be honest the more I use the S6 the more I love. There are some functions I’m aware of but haven’t used yet, but there are some features that makes my life very, very much easier.
I know it’s a simple one, but believe me, VCA spill is huge. But here on the S6 you’re not only able to spill the controlled tracks, but with a push of a button you can decide to spill it to the left of the fader or to the right. Why is it matter? Because if I spill for example my solo VCA to the left of the fader, I still see all my other VCAs. And if I spill my mains VCA to the right, then I’ll have all the main mics in front of me, while still have access to the solo, strings and woods VCAs. While it might seems like a very small thing, it is immensely useful, probably even a bit more in a live broadcast situation.

vca spill
Plugin manipulation from the surface is quite good, although I don’t agree with some mapping, for example the EQ should be reversed in my opinion so that the highs should be on the right side and lows on the left. All in all there’s some minor issue with this, but I’m sure they’re going to solve these small things with an update soon.
All in all the surface has plenty of information during mixing which is very helpful, and now I’m quite familiar with the little buttons and LEDs so without thinking and searching for information I see what I need to see, which proves that it’s a good design.
Since we use Pro Tools 11 HD, I always record some automation, this time, all the VCAs are in latch mode. With this I can still freely adjust any particular channel, but still have the ability to have all the VCA automation recorded, and that can be coalesced after the recording to the channels.

Geeky note

The whole live mix/record runs mixed on Pro Tools HD 11.2.2 with running on a 6 core new (trashcan) MacPro, this time with HD native, controlled with an S6 surface. All the recordings goes to a multiple RAID backup system for safety. Monitoring is JBL LSR6328P, this time in stereo. The record drive is a 6TB dual bay Lacie big disk.

Plan for the day

As the camera team’s going to be here soon, we’ll have to check through every camera position and adjust some microphone position if necessary. It’s always this type of collaboration, it has to sound good but also has to look good on camera.
After that we’re going to have another very short rehearsal with the orchestra, this time with the whole picture team present, and at the evening we do another rehearsal pass which is also our main rehearsal for tomorrow.

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