Mixing Class With Me at SALT

Normally, I don't like doing self-promotional posts. But my friend Luke pointed out we're going to a lot of trouble to arrange this class, and it might be good if people knew about it. So here we go.

Most of you know that I've been part of the SALT conference for the last few years. Last year, I had the privilege to organize the audio track. This year, SALT organizer (and good friend) Luke McElroy asked if I would do a pre-conference mixing class. Never one to back down from a challenge, and always wanting to be part of my favorite conference of the year, I said yes. 

Here's the deal: On Wednesday, Oct. 12, I'll be teaching a class called Becoming the Mix Master. I did not name the class. But it's kinda fun. Instead of teaching you how to drop beats and spin vinyl, I'll be teaching you the basics of mixing. 

Fundamentals Not Basic

Basic is probably the wrong word; perhaps fundamentals is better. I've only got 3.5 (maybe 4 if I push it) hours to work with, so I can't teach you everything that I've learned in 25 years of mixing. However, I will teach you the fundamentals of crafting a good mix. And don't worry; none of this will be gear or plugin dependent. Everything I teach will be things you can take back to your church the following Sunday and use—no matter what equipment you have or how big or small your church is. 

Break It Down

Playing up on the Sir Mix A Lot theme, I'm going to start off having you listen to a mix that I'll put together. Then we'll spend the next few hours breaking down how I got there. We'll talk about things like mic selection and placement; building proper gain structure; setting your console up for success; proper use of high pass filters and EQ; selective compression; and effects. If I have time, I'll show you my super-secret trick for helping the lead vocal stand out without being painful. OK, it's not super-secret—I've written about it here several times. 

Gear Independence

As I said, this will be a gear-independent class. My buddy Jake Cody from Yamaha has agreed to provide consoles for me to work on, which is super-cool. Most of you know I'm a Digico guy, but to prove the gear doesn't matter as much as the technique, I'll be doing this whole thing on the very capable CL. For fun, we may also demonstrate some of the techniques on a TF-5 as well, just to prove the point. My goal is to create a training session that you can use regardless of what you mix on. 

Details

As I said, this whole shindig will take place on the first day of the SALT conference, Wednesday, October 12. The cost for this littleconfab will be a whopping $79. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that Luke is generously sharing some of the funds with me, though I told him I'd do it for free. You can register for the class here: http://saltnashville.com/salt16-labs/. Space is limited, but I hear there some room left. 

And really, you should be coming to the SALT conference anyway—it's really one of the best conferences of the year. There are some exciting changes coming to this year's event, and this is the one that I look forward to. I know the team responsible for the event and I can tell you they have a huge heart to help the church and the church tech. 

So come on out and hang with me for a few hours this fall. I don't claim to be the best, but I've learned a few things over the years and look forward to sharing them. And if you listen to the podcast or read this website, please say hi before or after the class.  

Elite Core

The Importance of Process

Image courtesy of Oliver Tacke

Image courtesy of Oliver Tacke

I have a confession to make: I totally botched the opening of the 9:35 service this weekend. Looking back, I can see exactly where things went wrong, and it’s because I violated my process. Here’s what happened.

At 9:31, one of the camera ops asked if I could dump her coffee. I figured I had 4 minutes, so I’d run to the restroom and dump it there. Once in the restroom, I figured, why not, I have time. I got back to the booth at 9:34. I noticed Reaper hadn’t started recording, and it wasn’t responding. The broadcast guy came out with the removable drive and we got the recording going. When the cue was called, I hit Next and nothing happened. I hit it again. Nothing. I glanced at the monitor and found, to my horror, I was still on the Walk Out snapshot. So I quickly tabbed up and hit fire. Except I tabbed up to Walk In, not WL Welcome. I hit Next again, and again and finally, the service got under way with the first song. The welcome was lost in the shuffle. 

Now, that’s not the end of the world, and I shook it off and mixed a solid service. But as I sat there during the message thinking about the events that transpired, I was reminded again about why I have a process.

Be Ready Early

One big key to my process is to be in the booth at 5 minutes before service start. I don’t really like to be talking to people at that time, and I’m not on my phone. I check all the equipment I need for the service.

Recording? Ready; check.

Wireless Mics? On, batteries good; check

Walk In Snapshot? Yes; check.

Music Playback on top layer of Mac so I can stop it without clicking around? Yes; check.

One IEM in and Stage Announced on PFL? Yes; check.

Visualize Success

That entire process takes less than a minute. I spend the next few minutes thinking through the service. If you’ve ever watched a professional skier at the top of the hill before a run, you will have seen them bobbing left and right, up and down, mentally running the course in their minds, and to some extend with the rest of their bodies. They are preparing themselves for success. 

I like to do the same thing. What motions do I need to do right at the beginning of the service? Listen for the countdown, fire the first snapshot with right hand, pull out my IEM with right hand, check levels, fire the song snapshot with right hand, check the mix, stop music playback with left hand, mix the service. How do I work through transitions? I visualize it so when I get there it’s not a surprise. Sometimes I change things to make it easier to hit all the marks. 

It looks weird, but when I do it, I can nail the transitions. When I don’t, well, we have what we had this weekend. 

Clear Your Head

It can be hard when people come into the booth and want to chat—and by the way, stopping by the tech booth 3 minutes before service starts is really hard on the tech team—but I like to clear my head and focus on the task at hand. Forget about the Facebook argument. Forget about dinner plans. Forget worrying about whether the dog peed on the carpet while we were at church. Think about what I’m going to do next. What’s the mood of the service? How full is the room? Do I need to bump the master up or down? Zone in on the task at hand, and stay focused. 

That’s really hard to do as people are dropping by to say hi. But you have to discipline yourself to smile, nod your head and get back to focus. 

Do What Works For You

You probably don’t need to do my process. But you should have a process you go through before the start of the service. Figure out what steps you need to take, and what you need to do and how long it will take and make sure you follow the process. It’s easy, especially by the time you get to the last service, to slack off the process and assume everything will just work. Don’t do it! Stick with the process. And if someone asks you to dump their coffee at 4 min to service start, set the cup down safely away from any expensive electronics and get back to process. You can thank me later. Have a great weekend!

Elite Core

InfoComm 2016 Coverage: Martin Audio, L'Acoustics & Bose

Alright—we’re in the home stretch! This is our last installment of our InfoComm 2016 coverage. As we wrap up in the land of audio, we’ll listen to some new speakers that were rolled out. I got to hear each one of these, and so these are first hand (or first ear…) reports.

Martin CDD Live

CDD Live 8

CDD Live 8

We started taking a serious look at CDD last year at InfoComm. I wasn’t expecting to be impressed; more low-cost boxes for small to mid-size rooms. Whatever. Or that’s what I thought until I heard them. Honestly, I was blown away at the price/performance ratio. A few months later, we set them up with some of our other favorite boxes for a shootout. Again, we were very pleased with the CDD series. I’ve since installed two systems and have been extremely happy with the way the systems turn out. 

Now many people think Martin Audio and think MLA, a big, expensive, powered, very impressive line array with tons of DSP. They took their experience with MLA and applied it to CDD, adding bi-amplified power to the speakers and tweaking the enclosures a bit. They also threw in some DSP for good measure. They also added Dante connectivity. 

Like last year, I knew about them going in, so I wasn’t prepared to be surprised. But when they fired up the new Live boxes, again, we were surprised at how good they sounded. The CDD Live 8 particularly blew us away, especially in light of how small it is. The subs also sound fantastic—loud, low and tight. Like the CDD line, the CDD Live line is very cost-effective, and with the build-in DSP, you could even eliminate an outboard DSP for basic systems. You know we’ll be installing a bunch of these guys.

L’Acoustics Kiva II

I’ve become a big fan of L’Acoustics over the last few years as I’ve heard more of their systems and installed a couple of them. They’re easy to tune, are voiced very consistently throughout the entire line and sound great even with stock presets. The Kiva line array is a very solid, small- to mid-sized system. It’s built on dual 6.5” LF drivers and a 1.5” compression HF driver and VDOSC waveguide. It’s a great sounding box for smaller rooms, or as delays for larger spaces. 

Again, when a company rolls out a II of anything, I tend to think, “Whatever.” Then they played the Kiva II. Wow! The Kiva sounds great, but when they switched over to the II, it was like a blanket came off the speaker. While it looks the same physically (and all the hardware still works), they completely redesigned the guts. There is a ton more articulation in the upper-midrange, and they even squeezed 6 dB more output out of it! That may not sound like much, but that’s a double-double of amplifier power. And as a 16 Ohm box, you can hang a bunch of them off the new LA12x amplifier—13,600 watts at 2.7 Ohms! According to the marketing folks, LA12x sounds cooler than LA13.6x. So there you go. Great stuff from L’Acoustics. I can’t wait to set one of these up!

Bose ShowMatch

Speaking of mid-size line array systems, we finally got to see the production prototypes of the new system from Bose, dubbed ShowMatch. Though, calling it a line array is technically incorrect. It looks like a line array, but it’s really a progressive directivity array, which they have now dubbed DeltaQ™. It’s based on the same concept as RoomMatch, with multiple vertical coverage options, and different horizontal waveguides. The difference is, in ShowMatch, the waveguides are field swappable. The rigging system is very cool, and will allow for fast, flexible setups for tours. 

For installs, it’s a smaller footprint than RoomMatch, but has similar voicing and output. I heard a early pre-production prototype a while back, and they sounded extremely good. Having done a few RoomMatch systems now, I’m always amazed at the accuracy of the coverage and the even intelligibility throughout the seating areas. ShowMatch will be one more arrow in our quiver full of great PAs to work with. 

They also announced new PowerShare amps, which are going to be a boon to anyone who does 70V systems. Unlike most amps that have a fixes, maximum output on any given channel, PowerShare allocates power to each output based on the load. This means the entire output of the amp could be available to one channel if needed. They’re 1 RU high, so they don’t take up much rack space and are priced well. They also created a few new wall controls for remote volume. 

All in all, InfoComm 2016 was a good show. Our industry has matured to the point where we’re not seeing groundbreaking new products each year, but there is a lot of good iteration happening, as well as convergence. Next time, we’ll be back to our regular scheduled programming.

Elite Core