Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Double Patching

I'm pretty lucky at work. I'm responsible for the front of house mix in a 1400 cap venue, getting a decent recording of the music and the speaking during services, and sending out fourteen monitor mixes. I'm in pretty good shape because the house console is a Midas Legend 3000. It's pretty unique in that it's a true dual purpose console. Because it's got a second mini fader on every channel that's a monitor send master it's like having a complete monitor desk right inside my FOH desk. Somewhat different from just having monitor sends. There's even a separate mute button for the monitor sends.

That's the sort of functionality that makes a guy think twice before he jumps into the digital realm. It makes it super easy for me to quickly push a backup singer into everyone's ears for one song and then take it back out. It also lets me leave the IEMs open even while everything is muted out in the house. But alas, fourteen monitor mixes is four more than the old girl can do so I've got 38 inputs boiled down to 16 and slammed into a small side car mixer to do mixes for the back up vocalists. We really need the additional capacity (not to mention the processing power) that a digi desk can provide.

So how do I maintain that sort of functionality without going nuts with scene snapshots? We try to have everything pretty buttoned down by Sunday morning but sometimes things fall off the rails or we decide to shoot from the hip. I want to be able to go with the flow and not have to worry if I can jump to a scene that has everything I need.

The simple answer is to make a digi behave just like my Midas L3K. With the internal patch bay I can have all the channels I need show up on the first two layers of faders and then double them all up exactly on the second two layers. That maintains another key element of functionality, keeping FOH EQ out of the monitors and being able to do separate dynamic processing. All the muting and level setting can be separate too of course.

I'll feel a lot more comfortable knowing I can program all the scenes I want for FOH and they won't do a thing to monitor world and vice versa. I'll also be able to custom tailor the IEM mixes a lot better if I don't have to worry about compromising between what sounds good out in the house and what sounds good injected directly into the ear canal of a musician.

It's not a super deep concept Brethren of the Knob and fader but one that I thought worth writing about. Got any ideas about methods for effectively using the seemingly endless capacity of digital mixers? Hit us up in the comments section or find us on Facebook or Twitter.


4 comments:

  1. Ok, I hope I understood the article right. Having monitor faders for all the channels is very neat. So is the separate Layer for sending differently EQd channels to the monitors.

    The way I have my cheapo digital desk set up right now, I have to press a button to activate "sends on fader" which does something similar: the channel faders turn to monitor send faders.

    Double patching is not really necessary, because you can specify from where channels are sent to the monitors, I sent mine PreEQ/Prefader. I then EQ the different monitors / iems/ wedges, which is usually good enough.

    I do some heavy double patching for one band I work with a lot. They only have about 16 inputs, so what I do is, I mirror CH1-16 on CH17-32 by softpatching the inputs. That way I basically have duplicates of every channel on Layer 2. Which I usually use to create as many squash channels as I like. If the kick is on 1, I do some basic processing there, mild compression, EQ, whatever, the same kick goes to channel 17 which I compress to smithereens. Mix it in to taste. The same goes for snares, vocals, bass, guitars and so on. Works great. If you assign different DCAs to cover all faders of Layer 1 and all the faders of Layer 2 you can even go for some Dave-Rat-Type dynamic mixing stuff. Back up on Layer 2 for more dynamics, pull up Layer 2 for a denser or louder mix. :)

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    1. Right. It goes a step beyond "sends on faders" by creating a complete duplicate of the inputs to act as a functionally separate monitor console within the FOH console. That way I can EQ for monitor sends separately as well as have different compression/gating, even effects. It also allows muting of signal to FOH without touching the wedges/IEMs. Very similar to what you're doing for your smash channels but dedicated to monitors.

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    2. Last year I mixed a band at an open air event where the system tech had set up the console in a similar way to your approach. I found it mildly confusing, but that's always the case if I encounter something new :) If you wanna do really elaborate and nice sounding monitor mixes, this is probably the way to go. I guess I could set my board up similarly, I just never saw the necessity. Maybe I should ask my bands if they wanna see their monitor mixes improve :)

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    3. I've done it on an analog console before. The lead singer needed some heavy cutting to keep from sounding muddy in the house. But he felt like it sounded thin on stage, so I took a direct out from his channel into another channel line in and EQ'd it separately for him.

      At work I've got up to 15 musicians on stage plus a choir so we really could use a separate monitor engineer. Having to do it solo I'll take all the help I can get from my gear.

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