Mixing Christmas Eve Pt. 2

Last time, we started talking about my workflow for mixing a big event like Christmas Eve. After looking at the process for developing snapshots, let’s consider what we recall, and how to lay out the board.

What Do I Recall?

When it comes to recall, I have the option to recall every single parameter on the console on every snapshot. However, I typically don’t recall anything but fader moves. The console saves everything on each snapshot, but I only selectively recall what I need (in this case, fader moves). 

On a complex service like this Christmas Eve, I recalled EQ and dynamics sometimes (we had multiple readers sharing the same body pack), head amp settings (we had multiple video tracks that varied a lot in level), as well as VCA and Group assignments (we had different people changing from a BGV to a lead vocal). 

In the first snapshot of the song (and the group), I recall a few more parameters; notably, send levels, panner and group membership. The two checkboxes at the bottom also indicate that I'm recalling VCA assignments and fader bank selections.

This is the second snapshot of the song (and group) so here I'm only recalling fader moves. Later on I think I also recalled some FX parameters, but those aren't shown.

I also went one step further and recalled layer selections based on snapshots. For example, on my left bank of faders, I located drums, perc and tracks. However, we had tracks coming from Logic on the drum riser, and tracks coming from ProPresenter in the booth. I didn’t have enough faders to put both video and drum tracks on the layer. So I built one layer with drums, perc and drums tracks, and another with drums, perc and video tracks. When I fired a snapshot for a video tracks song, the desk switched to the second layer. Since the fader was in the same place for tracks, I didn’t have to mentally think about where I needed to go to adjust the tracks. It was always fader 11, but the console managed the bank selection for me through snapshots. 

We also had some of our BGVs singing lead for various songs, so I did the same thing on the right fader bank. For one song, the first two faders of that bank were Gina and Dana. For another song, it was Michael and Angela. Faders 3-12 were the same on both layers, so it was easy to manage. 

Switching Banks

Another cool trick I can play with the SD8 is to mix and match inputs, outputs, groups and VCAs on a layer. On my center bank, in layer two, I placed all my BGVs (7 this year). I also put an Aux there that is labeled, Lead Vox. The output of that aux goes to a channel on the M-48s and makes it very easy for me to pluck a vocalist out of the BGV group and into a lead level for the musicians. With sends on fader, it takes just a second to bring people in and out of that aux send. 

I did the same thing for click. We had a metronome, a click on the drums tracks, and a click on the video tracks. Rather than burn 3 channels on the M-48s for click, I mixed them down to an aux, and routed that to a single channel on the M-48. Because it’s an aux, it’s easy to level-balance the three clicks for a consistent experience for the musicians. 

Building Groups

One more trick; I had three reader mics—kids and adults who read portion of the Christmas story. Actually, we had six readers, that shared three packs (each had their own DPA d:fine headset). Because it was a mix of old and young, loud and soft, confident and slightly nervous readers and because they were located right under a speaker cluster, I wanted to use our Portico 5045 “Magic Box” on those mics to keep feedback at bay. But I only have two channels of 5045, not three. So I created a group. I strapped a channel of the 5045 across an insert on the group, then fed my reader mics into that group. Now all three mics get processed, and I can use the other channel on the cello. I build a fader layer with the three reader mic inputs and the group on it and had the snapshot switch to that layer when it was time for readers. 

Caution...

Even with all this automation, the workload was still pretty high (at least during the building stage). And I caution people to become really comfortable with your snapshot or scene system before trying to undertake something this complex. In fact, I highly recommend that you don’t recall anything but fader moves for a while if you’re just getting used to automation—especially with a highly granular system like Digico or Avid. If you’re not careful, you can really bury yourself and really mess things up. Start slow, and work your way up as you become comfortable. Even though I really know my console well, I still had to debug a few snapshots because I forgot to uncheck something. 

But the beauty is once you get it dialed in, you can really use the computer to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you while you focus on the fun part; mixing. I found that once I got to the actual day, mixing was much more enjoyable and fun, and from all accounts, it sounded great. Because so much was in snapshots, my job was infinitely easier and I was able to relax and enjoy the service—all four times. 

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