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Tag: workflow

3rd workflow

Last time as I introduced the second workflow, you might have thought that life is all sunshine and if you’re good enough, you’ll have a hard time spend the enormous amount of free time you have. Well, this is not the case.

Today, I introduce you one of the most used workflow which involves much more work than the previous one.

3rd workflow – real post production

In this case we still have our trusty big Studer Vista system for two reasons. One is to have enough preamps for all the things we need to record, and the second is to mix a well balanced usable audio guide master so the picture department will be able to start editing after the event. It doesn’t matter what type of act/show/concert, it is your job to make solid mix. Not only the picture guys need this, but all the parties involved in the production are going to use your mix to evaluate and make decisions. Decisions about additional recordings, possible retakes, if it’s a music project then the band is going to use this mix to decide if they need some corrections. While this might seem like a too big thing to ask, honestly I love this part for several reasons.

First, you’ll become familiar with the material, when you’re going to start the post process, you’ll already know the possible weak spots.

Second, after the event, because you spent long hours with the production, you’ll have the knowledge to make a really efficient master session.
Third, if you made notes during the event (or you have such a good memory that you can remember every tiny detail) you know what things you need to correct. For example who are the actors or interviewees who needs special treatment, etc.
Four, because you’ve been involved from the start, your mix sessions going to be really enjoyable as you know every detail, you’ve already went through the material multiple times so you have more time to experiment and be creative.

So, you’re ready with the recording part, have your raw tracks and your stellar guide mix.

Post production

The guide track is good for everyone involved in the production, and it can also serve you if something seems to be missing or in question. So for safety and reference you should keep that muted in your session, maybe hidden in the track list. The next thing is editing. To clean out the junk from the tracks, make the fades, etc. As you can see, from now on, it’s the usual post process:

  • editing
  • temp mix
  • final mix
  • approval

screenfull

So you literally recreate the show from scratch. The workflow can be modified if enough stem had been recorded, but most of the time, because of the complexity of the show that won’t help.

One tip. Always compare your finished final mix to your guide mix. You may be surprised! Believe it or not, it’s absolutely possible that your guide mix will blow the finished one out of the water. If that happen, you might want to work harder. The spontaneity and creativity of a live mix can be spectacular sometimes.

This is one of the most used workflow here, although we’re working on some change to make the whole thing more efficient.

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2nd workflow

Last time I wrote about the multiple workflows we must maintain in our studios. Today I introduce you the second workflow which require an even better mixer than the first one.

Second workflow – have to be lucky and nail the mix

This method still includes the big Studer Vista. The first part is the same as with the 1st workflow, the DAW gets each input unprocessed, additional groups and the main mix being recorded simultaneously with the channels.

StuderVista

Here comes the part which involves luck and a very good day so you really, I mean really nail the mix. This means:

  • You’ve got a stellar sounding mix from the first frame to the last
  • Haven’t missed anything, no accidentally left out instruments
  • The mix is almost completely r128 ready
  • No one needs serious tuning, replay, etc.

If all these things are true, and only then, you can choose this workflow. If this is the case, you’ll already have your mix in the DAW, so now the only thing left is some mastering.

I know in a perfect World a professional mastering engineer would treat your mix, but here we don’t have the luxury and time. So, the mixer is going to be the mastering guy as well. To be honest, the thing is, if you really have a almost perfect mix, the only thing you need to do is polish the already stellar stereo or surround mix and make it completely r128 compliant.

For this, it’s your choice if you would like to use some high-end analogue hardware or stay completely in-the-box. It’s completely your decision, but watch your back, the deadline is approaching.

This second workflow (obviously) only works with some classical concerts, small acoustic shows and easier galas and talk shows.

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4 workflows

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.

1st workflow

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.

StuderVista

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.

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Pro Tools tip #1

I plan to start this as a new mini series with small tips that may help you gain a better or faster workflow. Don’t expect huge essays here, only some practical advice for our daily work. Here’s the first one.

Elastic audio

Probably we all use it to some extent, whether in music or post production. Pitching, correcting, lengthen or squeeze something. Sometimes though, when we have to deal with a long clip it takes quite long to get the clip analysed so we can manipulate it. For these kind of things I always use work tracks. You don’t have to make them prior anything, it is sufficient to create them on the spot.

Let’s say we have a really long file (2hours long for example), but we only need some elastic manipulation on a 10 seconds long part. If we just simply activate elastic audio on the track, it would take quite long before we could actually do what we planned. Instead of this, there’s a faster method.


  • Duplicate the track (option+shift+d) and uncheck active playlist and alternate playlist in the box. This way, all your automation, sends, routing, etc. stays the same but you won’t have any clips on the new track.

duplicate track window

  • Select the area you want to manipulate with elastic audio and separate the clip there (hit b for separation). Then cmd+x to cut the selected part, hit semicolon to go down one track and cmd+v to paste the clip snippet. Now comes the important part, hit option+shift+3 for consolidate the clip. This is important because it creates a brand new file!
  • Now it’s time to switch on elastic audio on the new track so Pro Tools will only analyse that small clip instead of the 2hour long clip.

elastic window

  • Do whatever you wanted to do, done.

This might seem a bit complicated at first but in reality it takes only a few seconds. And as usual, there’s some added benefits:

  • the elastic audio analysation process going to be much faster
  • you’ve got a full untouched backup just a track above
  • whenever you change something in elastic audio, you’ll get the results much faster because Pro Tools will only work on that short clip instead of the original long one
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A little broadcast workflow

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.

The system

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.

Be failsafe

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:

mandoki broadcast workflow

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.

Results

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.

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