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Tag: Vertigo

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 perils of testing

I knew this was coming. As soon as I received the emails about some new plugins, a few grabbed my attention and I knew I had to test them. As usual though I’m really snowed under at the moment so I thought I’m not in danger. However, jumping from one final mix to another, spiced up with many live broadcasts gave me the possibility to test some new, or new for me plugins.

Plugin Alliance as the prime suspect

I already own and use some their plugins but as an ongoing mission to find my ultimate bus compressor I was intrigued by their Vertigo VSC-2 for some time. Always tried to find different reasons not to try it like it’s expensive, I don’t need another compressor, I’m sure it’s fine but nothing spectacular, etc… And then the day has come. I had a few projects where I was in need of a truly great bus compressor so I thought a little test cannot hurt. As usual, they give a generous 14 day trial which is ample time to really thoroughly test it. The night before my test run started I read a bit about it, watched a few videos online then had a good night sleep.

The next morning I authorised my demo license and started to experiment with it. To be honest within a few minutes I knew I’m in trouble.

It handled the bus duties exceptionally well, without the need to tweak the parameters forever. After some more electronic-rock based stuff I thought it’s time to make it sweat. Opened some really delicate symphonic mix which usually easily make a compressor show it’s weaknesses, instantiated the Vertigo right at the end of the chain and started to tweak a little… and frankly I was floored almost immediately. I could go from really subtle to more aggressive without ruining anything in the mix. The most amazing thing was how subtly it could enhance inner details without exhibiting any damage on the mix itself. The real glue we always looking for, or the real detail enhancer, or the solid guard that gently keep things in shape. It can really be any of these depending on the settings. Further tweaking, obviously, you can achieve extreme result if that’s what you want. It’s splendid how this one plugin can be your subtle bus compressor and one audio-bus down the line another instant can be the really coloured pumping processor.

Vertigo compressor

After I really tried everything on some test mixes, I decided to be brave and use it during a live symphonic-pop show mix to see how fast and effortless to achieve the results I’m after. This is a serious point for me.

If you can make it sound stellar, but it’d need deep, long adjustments, then it’s not a good choice for a broadcast situation. But the Vertigo passed this test too. It really simply just works, on every type of material.

Thanks to the pre-BlackFridays at Plugin Alliance I got the VSC-2 with huge discount. My only problem is, I fell in love with the other Vertigo processor, the VSM-3. And frankly I’m not dare to try their new Neve channelstrip yet…

Besides my new favourites, I’d like to emphasise that I think Plugin Alliance is one of the most future proof, wise investment in the plugin world. Not only they really strive to innovate and come up with new things that sounds fabulous while eating very little CPU power, they’re committed to every serious platform, including AAX DSP, and also never forget the guys with control surfaces. I think this becomes more and more important in the future.

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