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.