It’s a rainy weekend here, but don’t be soaked with the grey and unfriendly weather, rather listen to one of our industry heroes Allen Sides. Vintage King made this 42 minutes long interview with him. He shares stories, techniques and experiences, well worth your time:
I thought it would be interesting to you to know that we still have four different workflows here in the Palace of Arts. Some based on more old-school methods, some feels more future-proof. The thing is, we still need to use all, so while we’re constantly try to develop all our systems, we must integrate the new technology in a way that no workflow is being hurt.
This is the old-school type, which still works very well in the right circumstances, so after some discussion we decided to keep it alive. The whole thing originates from the good old analogue world, although now it features a huge Studer Vista digital desk with 52 motorised faders.
The first step is to record everything. Usually everything is patched through the Studer, a separate Madi output feeds the DAW. The DAW feed is a split from the input, so no channel processing being recorded on a channel basis. However, at the end of the input list, we’ll make a few stereo ins to record the Studer mix and if the mixer feels the need for it, he/she can record stems too.
When it comes to post production, the editing or rather cleaning part takes place in the DAW. That means you edit out the junk, remove or RX the noisy parts, so prepare the material for mixing. After the editing process, we switch back to inline mode, which only means that now the DAW feeds the Studer input, and the Studer’s main out is being re-recorded to the DAW.
So the mixing process might seem rudimentary compared to today’s automated in-the-box world, but with a good mixer, it can work. Although the Studer has it’s own automation system, it’s not that convenient compared to any DAW today, but still, if you need it, you can use it.
I think you already guessed the mix part of it, go through the show, and mix as you go while you’re recording it realtime into the DAW.
This method only works if you managed to do a very stellar live mix which needs only minor updates or corrections. As soon as you have to go down the rabbit hole and have to use every audio wizardry to make it happen, you won’t be able to use this old-school workflow.
The main candidates for this mixing method are classical concerts and very small acoustic shows. With bigger acts, tv shows and more complicated events you must consider the more up-to-date workflows.
With all that said, it’s a very good practice to anyone. If you hone your on-air live mixing chops, you’ll become a better “offline” post mixer too. This is the real get your act together method in my opinion. As you can only do so much with 10 fingers, you have to be very diligent and clever when it comes to VCA and grouping. A stellar school in this DAW world as it makes you think and work harder. Sometimes constraints makes you more creative.
Last weekend we had a pretty big concert here, which was not the usual “another average day in the office” type, we needed to record 96 channels to multiple rigs, making backups and mixing stereo live broadcast sound as well as feed what we call “narrow pgm” for the cameramen and for the projectionist.
Why is it a big deal?
Well, it’s not such a big deal, but when your gig is full of stars, you need to record and mix for broadcast and dvd, there are many things that can go wrong so meticulous planning is necessary.
The concert was a big “birthday celebration” of Leslie Mandoki who left Hungary about 37 years ago, and this was the first time he came back to give a huge concert. The night was packed with stars who were guests: Bobby Kimbal (Toto), Jack Bruce, Chris Thompson, Nick Van Eede, Greg Lake, John Helliwell (Supertramp), Al Di Meola, Chaka Khan, Bill Evans, Randy Brecker and Peter Maffay.
The band: drum kit, 2 percussion sets, 4 strings, 4 brass, 6 keyboards, 2 guitars, 1 bass, 4 vocalists. Because of the many in-ear monitors (22 stereo) we planted many ambience mics so the performers could hear what’s going on in the hall, and obviously it was necessary because of the recording too.
When you have TV, recording, live mix, broadcast mix, different additional feeds, the system needs to be failsafe. So, we planned this system for the day.
FOH position, one Avid Venue console connected to a Pro Tools HD system recording 96 tracks at 24 bit 48kHz, split from stage using an analogue snake. In the broadcast studio we receive 2 madi opticals from the monitor position, that two madi were split at the studio so the Studer Vista 8 has all 96 inputs and a Nuendo records 96 tracks, and a Pyramix DAW records the 96 tracks running as a backup.
Fortunately we had a few days rehearsal so we could test parts of the system. We had no chance to test the whole planned rig, but it was sufficient for us. During this test process it came to light that the very expensive Digico SD7 monitor console is completely unable to accept any external clock which is a surprise for me and frankly at this price point this is quite unacceptable, but 2 days before the show we could not “throw out” the console. Instead, we reversed the clock order as the Digico became the clock master. At this point everyone was concerned about the Digico’s ability to keep up with being the clock master so we tested a few clocking device and found that the Studer’s own device is quite stable even if it’s receiving a somewhat wobbly clock.
The idea was that if everything fails do to some severe clocking issue or because of anything else, the Pro Tools will still record everything as it is fed from analogue lines. Our plan included other redundancy too. As I mentioned earlier we split the madi signal from the monitor, so we had separate madi for our Steadier and separate for our Pyramix. So if the Pyramix fails, everything goes on we only loose one backup. If the Steadier fails (highly unlikely but who knows) we still have the Pyramix running and after a restart the Nuendo and the Steadier can join anytime. If Pro Tools fails, then we have the Nuendo and the Pyramix running. I made a little picture to make this clear:
We even tested different “worst case scenario” situations where we deliberately removed the sync, then reconnected it, removed one madi stream, etc. In most cases we lost a few seconds of audio on one recorder, but because of the independent feeds we always had some perfect lines.
But, you can never have enough, so and additional Pro Tools HD was recording our PGM (mixed stereo programme output) separately just in case.
Fortunately each and every recorder was rock solid during the show, so now we have many hundreds of gigabytes backup, which we are obviously happily store as long as we need to.
I know that we could have a much simpler system to record the show, but the multiple independent backup solution seems to be the most failsafe solution for this kind of bigger events. My dream would be to use multiple Pro Tools rigs so even the session files would be compatible with each other, but as now we have a bunch of broadcast wave files, this is not a serious problem, but only a personal wish.