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Tag: post sound

Why we need broadcast consoles

Or even a more broad question, why do we need different consoles for any kind of post production? I received a very interesting email, where the writer suggested that the current live sound digital consoles should eliminate the need for the broadcast and post production consoles.

As this topic comes up from time to time I decided to answer it here, so anyone can read about the real reasons why we in the post industry need so different consoles.

Digital live consoles

As I’m in the live industry also, I have a quite good, up-to-date experience about the current state of the top of the line live sound consoles, including Avid, Yamaha, DigiCo and Soundcraft consoles. These are very fine equipments with tons of clever and useful features, well thought out architecture and most of the time they are very reliable even under tough circumstances like excess heat, dirt, etc.

But still, they are lacking in many areas. I won’t say that it is a fault, because live sound and post sound most of the time need different things. This is why these consoles cannot be really used in a serious post production situation.

In live sound and specifically in these top consoles there are many restrictions. Channel count, DSP power, number of busses and auxes or VCAs and the lack of ample amount of outputs and flexibility. I know now it may sound strange as really top notch guys touring with these boards, but believe me, these live oriented boards will fail miserably in the post world.

Post production needs

To make a clear and understandable point, here I mean post production as a big container which comprise everything from broadcast to film sound. I know it’s quite broad, but in this way it is more easy to understand the main differences and needs.

In a typical post situation we need insane amount of outputs compared to live sound. For example let’s see a live concert show with guests and different performers.
The input count can easily reach 96 inputs if not more. But, here comes the grip. We need to record this, so we have to route the 96 inputs to different locations as we usually record at multiple sources either because of simple safety backup purposes or because you have to give streams to different TV stations and one or two local recorders and also have to feed some line to the Radio. If we add all this up:

  • we need minimally 4 Madi outs (more would be more convenient)
  • high bus count as we provide feeds for everyone, including the director, the TV, the Radio

The other important point is buses and their capability. In the live consoles there are simply not enough bus and the other restriction usually is that you cannot route a bus into another bus. For various mix reasons this is essential in post production. Without this, we couldn’t conveniently do a live mix while we feed different mixes to different places and recording pre-specified stems.

If we delve even deeper into the film world then automation will be the second huge deal breaker where live sound seriously lacks. This is not a real fault though. Think about it, in a live situation you might need some automation on a few occasions, but still it is nothing compared what we need in post. Just take a look at Pro Tools as that is the “industry standard” DAW in post. What we daily use is write, read, touch, latch, touch/latch, preview, write to current, write to end, punch, etc. and these are only the main properties of the automation, we haven’t even seen the myriad of parameters that needs to be reliably automated.

Even a simple TV show, or a short film’s mix can get so complicated that the biggest live console could not handle it. It wouldn’t have the channel count, the bus count, the DSP power, the routing flexibility, and the automation power to do these mixes.

Right now I’m working on a huge live show where we have 17 bands, each play one or two songs many times each song goes with different members and instruments, and the whole show comprise of 42 songs. As I’m responsible for the FOH consoles, the snapshots I have first hand experience what each live console is capable of when it comes to automation and snapshots. And I can see that how a big (and sadly very expensive) “post console” could help me out easily, where right now we meticulously work our way through the insane amount of changes.

Which is better?

There is no such thing as better. While live and post are adjacent industries, have very different needs. So this question is simply invalid. It’s like comparing huge trucks to sport cars. Both have engine, wheels, etc. but serve very different purposes. So it’s not about simple tech specs. Every job has its own perils and we have to choose the right tool for the job. I hope this makes a bit clearer.

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Ruler-flat faders

Time to time this question/observation comes up on different audio forums, or someone ask another guy about this, or sometimes I get emails about this. Is it good or bad practice? What’s the idea behind it? Is it just a game? Or some weird habit? Questions like these emerge. I saw guys who swears that it is the only method, heard others who ridicule it.

As it seems to be, this is one of the dark spots of mixing, I’ll try to shed some light on it. But first things first, let’s see what it is. After the soundcheck, raw mix, pre-mix, pre-dub, etc. you see this on the console or control surface.

rulerflat faders

Everything at unity, not even a millimetre below or above. How does it make sense? Well, there are multiple answers for this. If you see this for example in a live sound environment and then see the guy mixing with the gains to adjust his/her mix, than it’s simply a bad habit, or if you like twitter, it’s a #mixfail. Faders are there for us to help adjust, massage the levels inside the mix and as we have more than one fingers we can adjust multiple channels/groups at once. I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why it is good.

On the other hand, there’s logical explanation for the “ruler-flat faders”. When you begin a mix, be it live or post mix, music or for picture it is definitely a good idea to adjust everything so if your faders are at unity (ruler-flat) then you have a good starting point. This is the point of this whole thing. With all faders at unity, you have a good raw mix, pre-dub, etc.

  • If you have to send the session into any other place in the World, they open it, and can start to do their mixing job right away. With faders at unity, they don’t have to do anything, able to start automation, trimming, anything, but first of all, listening to the mix, they have a good starting point.
  • In live sound, after the often frantic sound check, you have ample room to go below or above unity, but at the ruler-flat state you should have a pretty good mix already

I don’t say that this is the only method to follow or even the right one, but still, I hope with this in mind it at least makes sense why so many people doing this way.

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