Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How I Ditched My Console And Loved It

This last weekend was jam packed for me. I work at a good sized church and on a regular weekend that's two rehearsals and three services. I spend a good deal of time behind the desk and a good deal more time running around getting ready. Usually when it's all over I go home and collapse for the rest of the day. This week though I had to stick around for an additional rehearsal for an upcoming event and then stay after that to tech an outdoor baptism service.

Last year I did that service with just four QSC K-10s, a little Allen & Heath console and some outboard. I also brought along a laptop and interface to capture audio to pass along to the video guy. This year I decided to lighten the load even a little more and ditch the console and outboard.

I've got a  MOTU 896mk3 interface with eight analog ins and eight analog outs. That sounds like plenty enough I/O to run an event with so little going on. I tried using the included CueMix software from MOTU which I have used before on small corporate style events but when you start needing monitor mixes things get dicey. Since I was going to have Reaper open anyway I figured I'd give it a go as a live mixing tool.

I was not disappointed.

The input list was keys, acoustic guitar, two singers, a mic for testimony, a shotgun to point at the water and playback from a phone for walk in music. I needed two monitor mixes, a main PA mix and a delay fill because the seating area was narrow and over 300 feet deep. 

I set up tracks for my inputs, labeled them and set up a limiter on the pre-record insert chain just to be safe. That took care of everything on the recording side. Everything else is a separate process so I could throw EQ, compression and effects as well as mix levels without disturbing what was going to tape. (Please forgive my old terminology, it really was tape when I got started in this business and old habits die hard.) I did my EQ and compression right on the tracks while I set up separate buses for delay and reverb effects. Once that was all in place I set up one more bus to catch everything for the delay line and threw the appropriate milliseconds on there.

With everything in place it was just a matter of assigning hardware outputs to the appropriate auxes and buses. I tested it out in the shop the night before and felt pretty confident. Just to be safe though I stuck a little analog mixer in with the rig. There was no need for it though. I did a clean boot up and everything just worked. I got channel EQs and compression dialed in, adjusted the time on the delay fill, and everything worked like a charm.

EDIT: To deal with latency I just cranked up the sample rate. Running at 96 kHz instead of 44.1 cuts the length of each sample in half. Since latency is determined by how many samples are in the buffer at a given time, shorter samples means less latency. I also reduced my buffer size which helped even more. In the end I had a stable DAW with 2.8 milliseconds of latency which is undetectable under most if not all circumstances.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reflection Filters

In an effort to at least provide you with some interesting reading while we're on a partial Summer hiatus I've got a pretty cool link for you guys today. This one is for studio and live guys alike. It's a reflection filter you can fit around a mic to provide some pretty incredible room sound reduction. 

You can read all about them on the ProSoundWeb article that tipped me off in the first place, then check out the company website. There are budget options for those looking to test the waters starting at just over $100. Prices go up from there, and there's even a pretty good deal on a five piece kit.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

We Have Not Abandoned You

Fear not Brethren of the Knob and Fader. We have not abandoned you. It's just the busy season. As many of you are experiencing first hand, festival stages are raging and many of us are spending far fewer hours in front of our screens. Also... sometimes life happens. Such has been the case for a couple of podcasts lately. We're not a big organization. Sometimes It's eleven o'clock at night and we just look at each other, bag the podcast and go have a cigar.

So while the articles are still going to be a little few and far between, and we may yet miss another podcast or two, we will be getting back on track as the summer draws to a close. July is historically a slow month for blogs. So for those of you not gigging your backsides off just hold tight and we'll be back to full strength in a little.

Thanks for hanging with us.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Link: Dodgy Technicians

July continues to be what it typically is, busy. We're still trying to keep up some semblance of bringing you audio goodness to think about on a regular basis. Which for the next couple weeks at least means you get links when I find something interesting. So for those of you not out fighting heat stroke at festival stages and in fair tents, here's a little something to keep you going.

It's a Facebook page called "Dodgy Technicians" which chronicles any and all stupid rigging, mixing, electrical and any other safety botches that people have documented. At 35,000 members strong there's not shortage of snap shots coming in and it's a good education in what not to do. 
The comments under each photo are worth their weight in gold. If a picture is worth a thousand words then the words underneath each picture are worth at least a thousand bucks. Every post is a fountain of information on how each situation should have been done properly.  So check it out Brethren of the Knob and Fader. It's worth a look.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PSA: How To Speak At A Podium

Here's something else I'm sick of seeing. People crouching to speak into a podium mic. Now unless said mic is some bargain basement dynamic mic and the system is really substandard there's just no reason for this. More often than not you're looking at a pretty decent condenser gooseneck with a nice tight pattern. Even if it's a humble SM57 there's still nothing to worry about. You can put enough gain on in either situation to pic up a speaker from a good distance away.

That's why it drives me nuts on everything from the Grammys to a small high school graduation to see people turn their head sideways and crouch down to kiss a mic that was set up to pick them up from a foot or two away (and stay out of the camera shot). Even if the announcers are properly trained you'll see winner after winner come up to do an acceptance speech and holler right into the wind screen. I can understand rockers not being able to help themselves, it's what they're used to. But actors do it, politicians do it, the music teacher does it at the recital in the church basement.

That's all I got for ya today. End rant.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

SNR Podcast #54 - 7/14/2013 - EAW Anya, Rigging

This week hosts Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki go over some details they overheard about the new EAW Anya line array system. Then talk turned to rigging, a little bit about what to do and a whole log about what not to do. Things are still a little busy at SNR headquarters this week so the YouTube version had to take a back seat again. If there's enough clamor we'll get after it. Until such time feel free to use the MP3 link to stream or save for later. Also, take our survey about whether the YouTube version should stick around or not.

SNR Podcast Survey

Hi all. Sorry the podcast is a little late this week. It's done, we've just got our hands a little full. While I was at it though I wanted to ask a question of our listeners. Publishing the podcast twice is a bit of a pain and we've been thinking of loosing the YouTube version and just providing better support for the MP3 version. RSS in particular.

Here's a quick survey via Google Docs. No private information need be shared and your answers will directly help us serve your needs.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

If You're Not A Rigger... DON'T RIG!

I was up in the rigging at work a good bit last week, rigging a new projection screen at the back of the stage. The process was great. The piece came with all the hardware I needed and gave spec for the type and size of chain I was to use. The right size crew was gathered and with a minimum of effort and maximum of safety the new screen was rigged and will now hang securely for years to come.

This post isn't about that though. It's about everything else I found when I was up there. We don't have a fly space, just a hard grid with a few battens hung from it. If lights need to be focused, you get out the lift and take a ride up there. In the past though I've only gone far enough up to get to the back light cans and stopped there. Going up a couple feet more to get to the grid (and not having PAR cans shining in my eyes) revealed a world of rigging horrors.

I found a dozen lighting safetys holding up short chunks of pipe or just dangling with hooks added to them that had apparently been used to support set pieces in years gone by. I was glad to have those back and also glad that nothing happened while they were in service incorrectly. Those safeties are strong little suckers, they're designed to take a pretty good shock load if a light falls. They're probably plenty strong enough to hold up whatever else they were holding but the problem is using them for something other than their intended purpose.
I also found long stretches of half inch electrical conduit hanging from tie line, paracord, and in one spot, a shoelace. (shudder) All of that got chopped out with a quickness, never to return... at least not on my watch.

And last but not least I found all kinds of cheap tie down rope and little plastic pulleys that had apparently also been used to fly set pieces in and out. While I can only hope that they were just chunks of cardboard or styrofoam, more than likely they were big beefy flats because that's the way they used to do things around here. Gone. Gone. Gone.

Brethren, it's one thing to use a little chunk of rope from the hardware store to hang something up in the back yard. It's another thing entirely to rig something over the heads of performers and audience members. Every time I see someone doing something that's not specifically in the instructions or laid out in industry standards I get on them. My line is, "OK, so when something happens you can be the one to contact the surviving relatives and ask them what they want to name the venue they just became owners of."

I'm not going to lay out any of those standards and practices because I don't want the liability. When I rig something I follow the instructions to the tee. Or if I'm flying by the seat of my pants I'm looking very carefully at loads, documented strength ratings and doing some serious calculations to make sure everything is over rigged to the nines. If you rig something, whether it's hanging a PAR can or flying an eighty foot wide truss assembly, you better be damn sure it's done properly. If the slightest thing goes wrong the lawyers will be looking for you and you had better have your ducks in a row or you're going to be in a world of hurt.

The take away here Brethren of the Knob and Fader is quite simply the title of the post. If you're not a rigger... DON'T RIG!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Humor: Festivals

Having taken care of a few festival stages in the last couple weeks it makes me realize how lucky I am to work on an permanent system with people that I'm used to. Some of the comments I've heard (and made) in the last few days really bring that to light.

"My band needs five mics across the front" (unsaid: two of which will never be used and the third will only be used by the bass player to tell jokes nobody will get)

"OK, I got the equipment all working for my stage. Now all I have to do is try to care."

 "Huh, I've been on stage for five seconds and nobody has miced up my amp... better CRANK THAT PUPPY UP or no one will hear me."

"Whoa! Turn that monitor down I can hear myself (shudder)."

"I see these girls every year at this stage. Last year I told one of em to get a pickup for her guitar and she showed up with one this year. Then I told her not to be afraid of the mic and get right up on it and whaddaya know... SHE DID! I guess I'm making a difference in the world after all!"

"Whelp... all the GFCIs are tripped so we can't actually do anything on this stage... but at least we're all safe. Dang humidity!"

"I mix my own set with my computer and this little mixer because I don't trust sound guys. I'll just give you a feed." (Constant feedback and vocals drowned out by music.)

"Hey man, the police are here looking for your guitar player"

"I gotta go shower before the gig." (What? Shower? Before you get all sweaty and nasty under the lights?)

Add your best to the comments Brethren of the Knob and Fader.

Monday, July 8, 2013

UPDATED: Traktor for iOS is Free Today Only

A couple of companies are jumping the gun on celebrating the five year anniversary of the iTunes app store. Native Instruments is one of them and you can get Traktor for iOS free today only.

UPDATE: My mistake. Traktor is free for the duration of the promotion. They just got in on it a day or so before some of the other apps. Download away while it lasts!

Speaker Directivity

July is typically a slow month for online endeavors. All the college kids are out doing their summer jobs and us working schlubs are off running festival stages. But for those still tuning in somewhat regularly I've at least got a few links.

ProSoundWeb had a decent article this week about the directivity of speaker arrays. It covers both line arrays and sub woofer arrays and talks about the different effects of physical aiming and aiming with delay have. It's by no means exhaustive but it's a good primer for those who have no idea on the topic and might even clear a few things up for people who already have some understanding.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

SNR Podcast #53 - 7/7/2013 - Festival Season

OK, we're back after a short hiatus. Jon and Anth are pretty cooked from all the outdoor stages and the humidity in general. Sorry for missing last week's podcast. We're back with a vengeance and the topic is festival season. Unfortunately there's no YouTube version at present so for now just check out the MP3 version which you can stream right here or save for later. Thanks for tuning in.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Console Tracking? There's An App For That

I realize things are getting a little sparse here. What can I say. It's the festival season. I did run across one little thing that I thought might interest some people so at least you get a link to check out today.

As you can see from this screen shot this app gives you a pretty accurate representation of a console right on your iOS device. For those of us who are out there working on a different console night after night and often sharing channels with other acts, saving settings has always been kind of a pain. If you're tracking a theatrical run for safety, it's worth printing out cut sheets. If you're running club to club though, it's hard to know what you'll be mixing on and carrying around a book full of blank sheets is a little inconvenient.

Lots of guys just use a sheet of paper and create a quick spreadsheet. Lots of guys just snap some pics with their phones. For many that's fine, but this app is for all those that wish they could really get a lock on their settings and have easy recall with less chance of getting lost. The benefit of the app is that you're not scrolling across a zoomed in picture, you're locked into a channel at a time and you can just scroll down.

Sure setting up a virtual console to match what you just did at sound check will take a minute. But anyone who has hastily scribbled settings on the back of a flyer or snapped a pic knows that it's not too hard to wind up on the wrong channel and dial the overhead settings into the bass channel or some such thing.

So for five bucks you can have an actual representation of the desk you're working on in the palm of your hand (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad) and have those settings locked in for sure. At the moment there are about fifteen consoles in the app, from Midas, Soundcraft and Yamaha. More are promised (A&H) comes to mind as being a pretty important one to include. It sounds like they're starting to work on outboard gear as well.

Until the whole world is digital something like this is still going to come in pretty handy. When console recall is in your job description for the night, you've got another tool in your arsenal to help things go right. Here's a link to the app so you can check it out yourself.

SNR has received no compensation for writing about this product. We just thought it was cool and might be useful to some of our readers.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Behringer Is Knocking Off Focusrite Now

I was doing a little late night browsing and came across a press release over on PSW:

It looks eerily like a Focusrite Scarlett box with its red face and half rack space form factor. Let me back up a little from calling it a knock off though. It seems like it sits sort of between a couple models. It has six ins and ten outs.

It'll do 24/96, MIDI and works over USB or Firewire. For $200 if it's got any mojo at all it looks like it's probably a decent entry level product. With everybody and their uncle getting into the interface market these days it's actually surprising that Uli hasn't gotten one on the market sooner than this.

It won't be long before they're out and about and you can be sure there'll be some buzz in the forums about them. Behringer is quickly shedding their rep for turning out defective gear. With the X32 getting rave reviews and the one lowest defect percentages in the industry it's getting so the B-word isn't something to be ashamed of having in your rack.

Time will tell.