Just as I planned, this weekend was a big one in our studio. We have an ongoing acoustic concert show series which is always a bit complicated as we do the broadcast mix and the multitrack recording, while the National TV records the picture with 10–12 cameras. As every performer try to make something special, one thing is common in these nights, you’re going to encounter some strange instruments, and many times, many microphones in a small space. A bit like a strange mixture of MTV unplugged and MTV Icon.
As these shows tend to be quite complex, I thought it’s a good idea to test the Avid S6 with Pro Tools HD on an occasion like this.
The system was:
- 24-fader M10
- Pro Tools HD Native with Madi I/O
- RME Adi8qs (for conversion)
- Avid Xmon
- Apple MacPro
- Lacie 2bigdisk thunderbolt 2 drive
At the end I didn’t have to use all 64 inputs, the whole show ended up being around 56 channels. This number includes all the instrument mics and the audience and atmo mics.
Pro Tools session
So as brave as it sounds, it was all mixed and recorded into a single Pro Tools session. A separate JoeCo Madi recorder had been used for safety backup.
So, in the session I had:
- 56 mono inputs
- 1 stereo studio PGM
- 4 effects (this time it was room, chamber, plate and hall all from Exponential audio reverbs)
- 3 prefader stereo feeds (for stereo PGM rerecord, for backup, and for the TV)
- The main paths for studio monitors and the solo bus through the Xmon
- 9 VCAs for controlling the whole mix
All input channels had a trim plugin and an Avid Channel Strip inserted by default. Then all the channels and buses routed to a Master bus (stereo aux) which fed the different stereo feeds for the TV, backup and PGM rerecord (all must be r128 compliant).
On the Master bus I’ve used the following plugin chain:
- Fabfilter ProQ2
- Sonnox Oxford dynamics (compressor and warmth)
- Avid ProMultiband (have been testing this for a while)
- Avid ProLimiter
- Izotope Insight (loudness metering)
Additionally to the recording I recorded the automation into the session. By default this option is switched off in the preferences, you have to enable it. It is very important to us to be able to record.
A word of caution: carefully choose your type of automation, otherwise you can run into trouble! For example, if you switch everything into latch mode, once you’ve touched a channel (hence initiating latch automation on it) you won’t be able to control that channel with its parent VCA.
So, as you can see, the session is very straightforward, I try to eschew any unnecessary over-complication as it can only make your day harder. This was the basic test session on which we plan to build a more sophisticated one, while still try to maintain the overall simplicity as much as possible.
The main thing is, the show went very well, both the S6 and Pro Tools HD performed flawlessly. This was the first time I’ve used the layout mode which I find very powerful. After a bit of planning I made some custom layouts which helped me to “escape” if necessary. With this I mean I had one layout with all the VCAs and all the announcers, had another with the main VCAs and the guest performers, had a third one which gave me the ALL VCA and the audience mics plus the announcers and made a few more just for fun. At the end I used my 3 main layouts more often than I though I would use. What I’ve found if you have a nice channel order and switch from that to layout mode and back, it’s very easy to navigate even much bigger sessions.
The other very positive thing is that you can assign any parameter to the process module’s touch knob, which made the soundcheck a fast and smooth experience. At first I had all channel gains up there, then hi-pass and low-pass filter frequency and after that I switched it back to pan control. The nice thing is, while you assign there something, you can still constantly have different parameters on the big knob module which really helps you fly through your session and soundcheck.
This was the very first more serious live test I’ve made. I plan to do a few more with fairly more complicated things and then I’ll write a follow up on my initial impressions on working on the Avid S6.