Adding a Master Screen to the SD8

I have been mixing on a DiGiCo SD8 for a little over 3 years now, and I really like it. It sounds great, I like the workflow, and I’m addicted to the flexible architecture. The touch screen makes it easy to get to most channel job functions, and the snapshot system can’t be beaten. For us, it’s a great everyday console. Even when I had an SD10 in here a few years ago, I was happy to get back to my SD8. But then the SD5 showed up.

We Always Want More

It’s natural, right? The iPhone 4S was a great phone. Until the 5S came out. I really liked my SD8 until I got to mix on an SD5. After I sadly packed up the SD5 to ship back (and after I considered putting my SD8 in the case—maybe they wouldn’t notice…), I sat down and thought about what it was that I really liked about the SD5, and what the SD8 was missing. Aside from the wonderful SD-Rack preamps (which would be an expensive upgrade), it really came down to two things: The dedicated center master screen and the extra macro keys. 

Of course, there is more; more channels, more busses, more effects, etc., but I don’t really need that stuff for normal weekends. But the master screen and more macro keys, yeah, those I could use. So I stared at our current set up for a while, and then it hit me. I could make it happen.

More Mileage From The Remote

We’ve been using a remote computer for the SD8 for some time now, mainly as an interface for iPad mixing. The remote software can completely control the audio engine of the desk, and I can VNC in to the computer and control it. Works great. 

But then it occurred to me that the Mac Mini we use (Bootcamped to Win7) has dual monitor outs. The main output has a 23” Cinema display on it. But there is a spare output. Hmmmm…What would happen if we hooked up another 19” display to that output, put the remote Master screen window on that and mounted it in front of the console? Boom! Instant Master Screen.

I bought a single monitor VESA mount for the screen to place it just beyond the right side of the surface. I normally park my snapshot window and FX rack on the screen, and we can get to all the system level controls right from there. It works surprisingly well, and we now leave the channel strip on the screen on the surface. I also picked up a Logitech trackball to control the remote computer.

But I Need More Macros!

The SD5 has this great bank of 10 buttons—each with LCD displays and assignable colors—with four banks to select from. The SD8 has a mere 8 non-labeled buttons. My friend Rick Russell told me about X-Keys control surfaces. After checking them out, I bought a 16-key X-Keys controller. Because I can assign macros to either the 8 buttons on the surface or F1-8, I programmed the X-Keys to act as F1-8. Suddenly, I have another set of 8 buttons ready for macros! 

The X-Keys is connected to the remote computer, and at some point, I’m going to figure out how to use the other 8 keys for something other than function controls. They give you a really nice macro editor; I just need to dig into it.

Better Labels

The SD8 has an area below the macro buttons for board tape. In fact, they even silk screened a piece of tape on there. We did that for a while, but after some time, the sharpie wears off, and it looks lame. While making up some acetate labels for our Crossover Solo, the idea hit me to use that as a label. I carefully put down a strip of board tape, and laid out my labels in Numbers. I printed them out on the transparency sheets, cut it up and taped it down with more board tape. They look great, and hold up well.

Wireless Control

In the picture, you see an Apple Wireless Keyboard. That’s connected to the remote computer, and used for text entry on the Master screen. The Magic Trackpad next to it actually controls the second Mac Mini we have a FOH. That Mac runs LAMA for RTA, SPL and Spectral History; Mixxx for audio playback; Workbench 6 for wireless monitoring; and the Roland RCS software for the M-48s. Using the trackpad, we can manage basic tasks without getting up from the console. 

So that’s my low-cost way to get a little more functionality out of an already great console.

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