Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: September 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

ProPresenter for Windows is Out

In case you hadn’t noticed, last week Renewed Vision announced that ProPresenter 4 is now available on the Windows platform. Development started was announced early this year with a target release date of summer (UPDATE: Apparently the project was actually started last year). Technically, the Autumnal Equinox was Sept. 22, so with a release date of Sept. 21, they made summer. In fairness, it was a total re-write of the code base to make it a Windows app, so I guess we can cut them some slack.

The first thing you’ll notice when downloading the Windows version is that it’s BIG. As in 7.3 times as big as the Mac version. The Mac version has been running around 17 megs, while the Windows install package weighs in at a whopping 123 megs. A big part of the reason for this bloat is that the installer comes with Bonjour Print Services for Windows, QuickTime for Windows and PowerPoint Viewer. ProPresenter relies on all these technologies and I think it was a good decision on their part to bundle all the necessary installs in one package. I’ve installed many Windows packages that require me to download several other components and install them separately; this is a pain. Renewed Vision’s approach is better. Give the user a single (albeit large) download and a single (though multi-faceted) install process, making sure they have all the components they need right away. Of course, like all good Windows installers, I had to click through a seemingly endless series of dialogs indicating that yes, I did in fact want to install the software I just said I wanted to install. Really. Yes. Next. Please let it be over…

Once the 17.6 million .dll files were installed, Pro4 booted right up. And remarkably, it looks a whole lot like the Mac version. In my opinion, the Windows version looks a little clunky, but that’s mostly due to the Windows interface conventions. Whereas everything in the Mac version is smooth and polished, the Win version looks a bit chunky and Fisher-Price. But that’s as much a typeface and icon shape choice any anything else. The reality is everything is there, in the same spot and works just like it does on the Mac side. So that’s a good thing.

I don’t like the typeface, or the chunky icons in the format bar, but it is ProPresenter 4.
Easier on the eyes, but otherwise identical to the Win version.I can’t fairly comment on performance because I was evaluating the software in Parallels on my MacBook Pro. It felt sluggish in there, but that’s to be expected when running a program like ProPresenter in emulation. I would expect it to be perfectly acceptable on an actual PC. One thing I did notice that I suspect will be true even on a real PC is that the cross fades between slides is very similar to what it was in version 3. That is, there is a slight dip in the luminance level that is particularly noticeable when you have two slides that are the same (a chorus repeat, for example). This was always an issue in 3, and existed in early beta versions of 4.0. By release date, 4.0 for the Mac had a completely seamless dissolve even for identical slides. I would expect the guys to have this corrected in a future update.

See what I mean about the icons? Still it’s fully functional.As I’m running in emulation, I didn’t do a complete feature for feature comparison. However, everything I did check appeared to be there. All in all, they’ve done a fine job taking the premier Mac-based presentation platform and moving it to another OS. The weirdest thing for me was getting used to holding down the Control key to do things that I would normally use Command for.

One of Pro4’s best features, the stage display is fully supported.If you have wanted to make the move to ProPresenter but haven’t because you can’t afford or justify the cost of a Mac to run it on, I see no reason not to switch. In my opinion, ProPresenter is so much better than the rest of the field, even if you have to run it in Windows, it’s worth the switch. Just make sure you check the tech specs for the minimum system requirements and to be sure the machine is up to snuff. It’s also worth noting that if you currently own a Mac version, your license extends to the Windows version. The reverse is also true. This is good news if you’d like to move to a Mac one day, but don’t want to re-buy your software. A site license also includes both platforms. Bravo Renewed Vision for being fair on this point. UPDATE: I was incorrect; a single-user license is only good for a single platform. A site licence includes both. End Update.

As always, you can download a trial version and play with it for as long as you like; there will be a watermark on the output, but otherwise the trial is fully functional. Overall, I’d say we have a winner here.

Vacation

You know how there are some things that we know we should be doing, but don’t actually do? For me, one of those things is taking time off. I talk a lot about balance and getting rest, taking time off, recharging, blah, blah, blah… But I don’t actually do it very well. The truth of this was driven home to me last week. I was filling out my PTO (Paid Time Off) form for my week off this week. I have a spreadsheet that tracks how much time I have left and how much I’ve used. In the last 12 months, I’ve taken 7 PTO days off. I get 24 a year and since I’m now starting year two, I currently have 41 PTO days in my bank.

At first, that sounds great. But consider the fact that I’ve only taken 7 off in 12 months. At that rate, It would take almost 6 years to use the days I have if I didn’t get any more. And that’s kind of a problem.

I started off the previous 12 months pretty well. Then right after Christmas everything went haywire. By February, my staff went from 2 to 0. It took until mid-August to completely fix that. We started a massive 12-week lighting upgrade project. We swapped out almost all of audio. Several of my primary go-to contractors left. To a certain extent, it was a perfect storm. Add in VBS, a Night of Worship and a few other big events and you get what I got. No rest.

Now, it’s easy to look back and see the failings of the past 12 months. It’s harder to develop a plan to fix it. I’ve been reading a book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. One thing they advocate when trying to enact change is what they call “Shape the Path.” That is, leading people down a path that ends at the result you want. So, one of the things I’ll be doing this week is looking at my calendar and blocking out some weeks and weekends that I’m going to take off. Having them on a calendar makes them real for me, and I will do what needs to be done to make it happen. I don’t like to miss deadlines, so I have to make time off a deadline.

I also need to do the same thing with my new ATD. I need to make sure he doesn’t get to the end of his 12 months and find he’s only taken 7 days off. That won’t be good for either of us.

This week, I’m taking time to sleep, catch up on some reading, watching a few movies and concerts and more sleep. I may also do some writing as I find that life-giving. If you don’t see much from me on here this week, you’ll now know that sleep took over the week.

What about you? Do you take enough time off during the year? If not, why not? If so, how do you make it a priority?

And check out the book I mentioned, it’s really quite good.

M-48 FAQs

Since we’ve been using the M-48s for the last few weeks, I’ve gotten several questions about our set up, how we do things and how it works. In this post, I will attempt to answer those questions. Hopefully I’ll get them all, but if not, feel free to leave yours in the comments section and I’ll address them as they come up.

What is your system set up (or What is your signal flow)?

We are using a DIGiCo SD8 at front of house. We have a DigiRack on stage that is connected to MADI 1 of the SD8. The SD8 has a “Copy to MADI” feature. In our case, I’m copying MADI 1 to MADI 2. Both MADI ports have two sets of jacks; we take one output of MADI 2 and send it to an RME MADIFace for multitrack recording (and bring it back in on the input side of MADI 2), the other output feeds the S-MADI Bridge. Essentially, we’re taking the signal right after the mic pre and subsequent A/D conversion and sending it to the S-MADI Bridge. The S-MADI converts the first 40 channels of the MADI stream to REAC and sends it down a Cat5 to the S-4000D distro. The M-48’s connect to the distro on stage.

How do you handle local inputs (ie. iTunes or Video playback)?

We have two Aux mixes set up as fold-backs; one for RF-Mics (for teaching and announcements) and talkback, another for playback (iTunes, Video, CD, whatever). Rather than directing those Aux mixes to analog outputs, we send them directly to MADI 2 channels.This overwrites the copied MADI stream from MADI 1 (though we intentionally do not use those two inputs on the stage rack). In the M-48’s, we combine these two fold-backs into a single group and balance the levels of all sources at the SD8. If we needed to do any sub-mixing, this is also how I would handle it.

How do you handle inputs that need EQ, dynamics or effects?

Since the M-48’s have 3-band EQ on board, we do 99% of our EQ there. Reverb is also provided, so again, if any of the musicians want it, they can dial it up in their own mix. Compression is not currently offered in the M-48 however, so we play some tricks to make that work.

The challenge is that we record from MADI 2 as well, so we need a clean feed of any channel that may need to be compressed. In our case, our worship leader is very dynamic and requested that we come up with a way to compress his vocal to help him keep it in the mix. The direct outs are post-fade, so we can’t use them, and we still needed a way to record a clean signal (so we can apply dynamics & EQ later for training).

I figured out we can use the insert sends to solve this dilemma. I bring Mark’s vocal in on channel 25. I send it out of Insert A on MADI 2, channel 49 (I chose that because it’s one past our maximum input count right now). I record that channel in Reaper as our clean feed because Insert A is prior to EQ and Dynamics (it’s post-HPF and LPF, but I can live with that). I then send Insert B’s output to MADI 2:25. This re-writes Marks vocal, now compressed, into the MADI stream right where it should be. The trick to making this work is to not turn the inserts on, because the board then expects the signal to return.

The only downside to this is the aforementioned HPF filter and the fact that the EQ and dynamics on his vocal are the same for the house and the M-48’s. For us it’s not been a problem. We originally triple-patched his input into a house, M-48 and record channel strip and applied EQ and dynamics (or none) as appropriate for each output, but that became really cumbersome to manage. I’m trying to balance power & flexibility with ease of use and easy repeatability, and I like the current solution better.

How do you handle wireless IEMs?

We built this cool little rack that rolls out on stage. It contains the S-4000D, two wireless transmitters, a plug-in patch panel and power. A single Cat5 cable (Gepco Tactical grade w/ Ethercons) runs from our Cat5 patch panel on stage left to the rack to provide REAC. The M-48’s are cabled from the S-4000D. Since I have access to my own personal custom cable shop in the form of my fantastic ATD Isaiah, we (and by “we” I mean “he”) made up some cables with a right-angle 1/4” on one end and two XLRs on the other (we used 2-channel Mogami snake cable). The 1/4” plugs into the headphone jack on the M-48 while the XLRs go into the patch panel and thus into the transmitters.

That’s a PowerCon on the right to power the rack.We chose to use the headphone jacks to take advantage of the extra output features (master bass & treble, limiter, ambient mic) available only on the headphone jacks (as opposed to the line out jacks).

In the near future, we’ll be ordering up some braided poly loom to combine the Ethercon data cables and audio cables into one neat package to tidy up the wiring.

Do you save mixes each week?

We could, but we don’t. Our band is different enough each week that it doesn’t make sense to do that. Isaiah spent a fair amount of time setting up a library of standard configurations for each instrument. Each config puts that musician’s instruments and vocals in the first few groups of their mixer for easy access, while the rest of the band is spread out on the rest, combined as needed. These baseline mixes start with all groups off except for the fold-back (so they can hear talkback). I’ve found it’s actually easier to start from scratch each week than build from a mix that has no potential relation to the band on stage this week.

In this scenario, it takes him about 10 minutes to set up the system and load the proper presets into the M-48’s each week.

How does the Engineer Monitor function work?

The engineer monitor function allows us to designate one M-48 as an Engineer monitor (it can be anyone on the network). Once one is so designated, the engineer can select any other mixer on the network and it is mirrored to the engineer monitor. For example, we have an M-48 at FOH, and when this is the engineer monitor, I can plug my ears into it, and listen to any one of the band member’s mixes. If they are having a problem, I can hear it and fix it.

Here the FOH M-48 is the Engineer Monitor, and we’re mirrored to the Drum mixer.Some weeks, we’ll take a spare M-48, set it out on stage and designate it as the Engineer’s monitor. Isaiah can then plug into that and act as a virtual monitor engineer right on stage with the band during sound check and rehearsal. It makes a great troubleshooting tool (especially since we use VNC and remote access heavily). He can actually control the system from his laptop on stage.

Speaking of remote control, how does that work?

The software connects to the S-MADI via an RS-232 port. In our case, we have a Mac Mini that’s BootCamped running Win7 Pro at FOH. This “PC” runs the DIGiCo software for remote controlling the SD8, and the RSS control software for assigning and mixing the M-48’s. Soon we’ll have a second Mac Mini “PC” running just SD8 software so we don’t have dueling VNC sessions when we’re both on the floor, but that’s another post.

We found Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection to be too slow with screen refresh to be useful so we currently run RealVNC on the Win7 box and either Chicken of the VNC on the MacBook Pros or Desktop Connect on the iPad to remotely control the S-MADI.

Both solutions work well, though I think we’ve found the MBPs are better for controlling the M-48 software, while the iPad works great for the DIGiCo.

How does the band like it, and does it work well from a technical standpoint?

Great and Yes. The band has taken to the new system very well; in just 3 weeks of use, we now have sound check down to about 10 minutes (from a previous 30-40). The band is much happier with their mixes and really seem to enjoy playing with the new toys.

Though there was a learning curve (at only 2-3 weekends, it wasn’t bad), our workload has decreased dramatically. Once we get into sound check, we set gains and go. They musicians do 95% of the rest. Occasionally, we tweak relative levels in the groups, but it’s a lot less than I expected it to be. With greatly reduced stage volume, there is a great improvement to the clarity of the mix. And as an FOH engineer, I can focus more on getting the house sounding good. We mix 2-3 vocal wedges a week from FOH, which typically takes just a few minutes to get set up and we’re done.

That’s all I can think of for now. If you have more, leave them in the comments section.

UPDATE:

1/4″ Headphone jack to dual XLR Drawing

Below is the drawing. Chad asked about this, so here you go. We built these cables to go from a stereo headphone jack to the left and right inputs of our stereo IEM transmitters (Shure PSM900 and PSM600). We used 2 channel snake cable from Mogami for this application. Typically the 900 is out every week, and the 600 occasionally. Everyone else is wired.
click to enlarge

Personal Mixing 2.0

Look Ma. no wedges! OK, there are two for vocals, but that’s it!This past weekend marked our third with Roland’s M-48’s on stage, and our first with the entire band using them. Monitor world has been decommissioned and the only two wedges for vocals were mixed from FOH. I was pretty confident in my decision to go this route, but I’m excited to report that the response from the musicians has been better than expected, and the improvement to the mix in the house is also welcome.

To be sure, we had a few glitches as we rolled the system out. It took us a little bit to get used to the new workflow, and get all our settings correct. However, we had those worked out in two weekends–which isn’t bad. This past weekend (week three, remember) went very smoothly, despite the fact we had three musicians using them for the first time. We had sound check done in under 10 minutes, and the band had plenty of time to get their sounds right. The only request I had come up from stage was from our worship leader. He thought the kick drum sounded a bit too dull in their ears. I thought for a second, and responded with, “Well, you have EQ on your mixers…” He immediately said,“Right. Never mind.”

And that is one of the best features of the M-48 (and why I call it Personal Mixing 2.0). When Aviom came out, it was revolutionary. But that was 10 years ago, and the world moves on. It’s 2010 and to me, perfectly reasonable to expect we can send 40 channels of digital audio into a personal mixer, and have it custom mixed for that artist without affecting the others on stage. They should have control over EQ, reverb and panning. And we even have control over the relative balance of individual channels of group mixes if they need that. As I said, no change made for one mixer affects any other. But I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.

The best part is a feature I requested while at InfoComm (actually, it was me and another guy who brainstormed it together during the demo…never did get his name). Since we’re using the S-MADI Bridge to get audio from our DIGiCo system into the M-48 network, we have a REAC port at FOH. We set an M-48 up there for the engineer to listen to. In the latest version of the software, it’s now possible to drag that mixer into the “Engineer’s Monitor” slot. From that point on, when you select a mixer from the list, the Engineer’s monitor is a mirror of that artist’s mixer. That means I can plug my ears into my M-48 and instantly and exactly hear what my worship leader is hearing and tweak his mix for him if he needs it! Any change I make is made on his surface as well.

Now granted, this feature has been available on the Avid PQ system for some time. However, PQ is pretty limited when it comes to what you can send it; and it’s proprietary. With the S-MADI Bridge, the M-48 is open to just about everyone.

The entire system has been thought out very well, including a great library system that makes set up go very quickly each week. My ATD, Isaiah, has developed a standard set of presets for the various band positions each week. He spent several hours setting that up, but last Thursday, it took him 10 minutes to load the appropriate presets and get the system ready for the weekend. I like that.

Finally, musician acceptance has been great, even among those who were pretty opposed to personal mixing systems in general and Avioms in particular (we were originally slated to go Aviom until I saw the S-MADI in June). The doubters have come around, and while they still may prefer a monitor engineer, they’re perfectly happy with the new system. The guys who were neutral to enthusiastic about the change are really jazzed about it. This weekend they were sharing mixing tips with each other, and one even said, “It’s like Christmas with new toys!”

If you can’t guess by now, I strongly endorse the system. It sounds great, has been rock-solid reliable (even with a pre-production S-MADI Bridge and beta software), and it’s easy to use. It also makes for a cleaner stage (and the M-48 is a lot lighter than an SM-12!).

Next time, I’ll address some of the frequently asked questions I get about how we’re using everything.

Church Tech Weekly Episode 14: We Haven’t Said A Thing…

Van and Mike discuss Mike’s crazy lighting install, personal mixing, a new Soundcraft Si Compact and electrical apps. It makes more sense when you listen to it. And yes, I know there is some weird cylon sound on Van’s voice at some parts, working on fix

Guests: 

Van Metschke

Blogs: 

Van

 

Picks:

Parallel Compression: Pitfalls & Possibilities

In posts one & two, we talked about the history of parallel compression, a few different ways to achieve it and how I’ve been using it. This post will close up the series with a few cautions and options for using it. It was pointed out in the comments of the first post that this is also called “upward compression” because it has the effect of bringing the softer sounds up, while keeping louder sounds under control. I call it “Z-Axis” control because just like in 3-D modeling, raising or lowering the parallel comp channel can bring a sound closer or put it back in the mix where it was. It’s a great tool to keep your worship leader’s vocal is right out in front and center and not buried somewhere behind the guitar.

Potential Problem

As Dave mentioned in his comments on the first post, one of the biggest issues faced when using parallel compression most digital boards is the latency issue. When you start bussing the same signal around a digital board through different paths, the variations of that signal will arrive at the L&R bus at a slightly different time. It might only be a few samples, but that can be enough to start causing phase issues. While researching this article, I found a YouTube video that demonstrated the technique. About a second into hearing the effect, I said to myself, “Hey, he’s got phase issues with those drums, they sound terrible.” Near the end of the video was a disclaimer slide saying he didn’t time align his tracks to account for the phase issue. Depending on your source, the effect of said time difference can range from almost inaudible to atrocious.

Avid is really the only digital console manufacturer to address this issue with delay compensation. Basically, delay compensation automatically makes sure all the output busses arrive at the main L&R bus at the same time regardless of the plug-in chain. With other digital consoles you have to line it up manually or make sure the processing path is the same (even if that means inserting comps that do nothing into your “normal” channels). Let’s take a look at a real-world example.

I mix on the DIGiCo SD8, which does not currently offer delay compensation. When I set up my parallel comps for drums, you’ll notice I have them sent to two groups, “normal” and “spanked.” The reason for that is latency. If I simply sent the drum mics to the L&R group and to the spank group (which would then go to the L&R group) that extra hop the spank group has to take causes the compressed group to arrive just a little later than the uncompressed ones. It may only be a matter of samples, but it’s very audible (and none too pleasant). When I tried it that way, snare immediately thinned out, and the cymbals became very harsh. Once I routed the drum channels to the normal group, and then to the L&R group, everything came right back. I’ve not had time to measure the timing to see if I need to add a dummy comp on the normal group, but by ear, it sounds good. At some point I’ll send a quick impulse down both groups (with one panned hard right and the other hard left), record the output and see where we are.

Whatever digital console you’re mixing on, chances are you’ll be needing to something similar to keep things in time. My hope is that one day all console manufacturers will be offering automatic delay compensation (it’s a simple matter of programming, after all), and that will open up all kinds of cool possibilities for processing our signals. Until then, plan on spending some time with it to make sure it sounds good.

The M7 Challenge

Since Yamaha M7 seems to be one of the more popular church audio desks, I decided to poke around and see if I could set up parallel compression on that one. It’s tricky because the M7 doesn’t offer groups. That means using mixes—and there are only 16, so they’ll go quick. If you want to do “group” parallel compression on the M7, say for the drum kit, what’d you’d do would be to route all your drum mics to two mixes (or 4 if you want to do stereo and have the mixes to spare); mix 1 will be our “normal” mix, mix 2 is our compressed mix. Make sure to un-assign all those drum channels from the main L&R bus; then assign mixes 1 & 2 to the L&R bus. Now you can use the comp that lives in the mix to create your smash, or insert one of the rack effect comps (like a 276). I haven’t actually tried it, but I’m betting if you do use a rack comp, you’d need to also patch one into the normal mix to keep things in time.

There are several disadvantages to this, not the least of which is that you’d have to run the mixes in post-fader mode in order to have any kind of mix control on the faders. That can set up some serious gain structure issues that you’ll have to manage. It also ties up 2-4 (of 16) mixes and 1-2 of your 4 rack effects. In a lot of ways, this falls into the, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” realm. It wouldn’t be a tough thing to use two input channels to create a vocal smash effect, however. Personally, that’s where I’d draw the line with that console.

Most other digital consoles offer groups, which make it a little easier to set up the effect. Just be aware of the latency issue.

Like all advanced techniques, this one will take some experimentation to get right. You also have to be aware that you can do more damage to your mix than good if you over-use or mis-use the technique. Remember that no one comes to church to hear the cool parallel compression on the vocals or drums. Like sugar (or cayenne pepper) a little goes a long way. Don’t go crazy and try to parallel compress everything. On the other hand, when employed properly it can really add some extra sparkle to the mix.

Parallel Compression Pt. 2

Picking up from where we left off last time, we’ll dig a little deeper into the subject of parallel compression. This is one of those more advanced tools in your toolbox that you don’t want to over use. But when employed properly, can really increase the overall quality of your mix. So here w go; let’s start back up with output bus compression.

Output Parallel Compression

The previously mentioned technique works pretty well when you only have one or two inputs you want to work with. However, what if you have a bunch of them, say a drum kit? Doubling all your inputs eats up channels (not to mention comps if you’re in the analog world), and clutters up your surface. A better option in that case is to use bus compression. In this case, you would assign all your drums to two groups. If your board doesn’t have groups, you may be able to get it to work using a couple of matrix mixes or auxes, but that can create a challenge getting those back to the L&R mix. But I digress…

The first group gets no processing (unless you want to do a little bit). The second would have a compressor inserted into it with a fair amount of gain reduction. How much you use will again depend on the effect you’re after. If you are in the analog world you could save the unprocessed group because latency won’t be much of an issue; at that point, just assign your drums to the L&R mix and your smash or spank group. If you’re using a Venue with delay compensation on, it’s also not required to burn two groups for this technique. On most digital boards, however, you really want to keep the processing path the same to avoid phase issues cause by minor time delays. If you turn up the smash group and your drums suddenly get thin, adjust your bussing to get them lined back up.

In Use

I’ve been using group-based parallel compression for the most part, but this week I’m adding the input channel method as well. Here’s how we do it. For our worship leader I’ve double patched his input to two channels. You’ll see on his “normal” channel I have some EQ (one band of which is dynamic) and a multi-band comp. I use the multi-band to keep some of the low-mid stuff under control when he gets into his lower range. On the “smash” channel, I have a single band comp set to be pretty aggressive with gain reduction. I’ll typically have that set for 6-9 dB of reduction (I’m only hitting the “normal” multi-band with 2-4 dB of reduction). Depending on the song, I’ll bring up his smash channel to bring his vocal forward or down toset it back in the mix. It’s almost like having a Z-Axis control (if you’re familiar with 3-D rendering); he doesn’t so much get louder as more present. If you look closely, you’ll see a slight bump in the EQ of the smash track to put back some of the clarity lost in the comp process. I’ve also set my processing chain up so that EQ comes after the dynamics (because I can). If my EQ had to stay ahead of the dynamics, I would probably add more HF boost.

These are my starting points. Your mileage may vary.I also use group-based compression on my drum kit. Some of our drummers are pretty loud so I don’t use this every week, but we have a few who are pretty sensitive and benefit from the extra boost of parallel compression. In this case, I simply route all my drum mics to two groups; Drums and Dmz Spank. Both of those groups then route to the main L&R group. Drums gets no processing at all, it’s there just to keep everything in time. Dmz Spank gets a multi-band comp applied to it. Multi-band comps divide the signal up into multiple bands (hence the name) based on frequency. Once you have these bands (typically 3-4 of them), you can apply different compression settings to each band. This works great on drums because you have multiple bands of frequencies represented. I have my comp set up to split into basically kick & floor tom, snare and rack toms and cymbals bands. I’m then free to tweak my settings for each group of drums. This way I can dial in just the effect I want.

My starting point. I’m still tweaking this one, so it will probably change…Again, when using this group, it brings presence to the mix without getting a lot louder. Sometimes a song will break down into guitars and kick and it’s nice to really push the kick out there; slide up the Dmz Smash. Other times, the cymbals need some help; slide up Dmz Smash.

Getting this set up can take a fair amount of time and experimentation, something that virtual soundcheck comes in really handy for. I’ve been known to grab a section of a song and set the DAW to loop through a drum fill while I tweak on the settings. You can surely do it live, though it will likely take a few weekends worth of playing with it to get it sounding right. Be patient with yourself and make small adjustments to get it dialed in.

Parallel Compression Pt. 1

I’ve been posting on Twitter the last few weekends about my use of parallel compression and that’s generated quite a few inquiries asking to explain it. Having messed around with the process for the last 6-8 months, and really getting into it since we got the SD8, I’m seeing some real advantages to it. This turned out to be a really long post so I’m breaking it up into two parts. First, let me give you a little history and explain some terms. Later this week, I’ll show you what I’m doing. I’ll be the first to say I’m not yet an expert on this subject, but it’s been a lot of fun learning the technique and playing with variations of it.

A Brief History of Comps

There is some debate over where this technique originated. It’s often known as “New York Compression” as it was used heavily in the NY mixing scene during the ’70s and ’80s. Others say the ttechnique is over 40 years old, having been employed in Motown to help vocals stand out over the much more complex musical background of that style of music. If you listen to earlier samples of music (think Frank Sinatra), you’ll hear the vocals way out in front and a sparse musical landscape way in the back. When the much busier style of Motown music came along, it was hard to get the vocals to sit out front; they were getting lost in the mix. Parallel compression was employed to fix that. That’s basically how I use it today. You can read more about the Motown history of parallel compression in this great article (props to Jeremy Carter for digging this article up). Either way, it’s a greatly useful technique for enhancing your mix.

Defining Terms

We throw around a bunch of terms when we’re talking about parallel compression—double patching, double bussing, smashing, spanking, bus with a comp—so let me see if I can clear some of those up.

This is a greatly simplified version of double patching.Double Patching is how we achieve parallel compression. Basically, we patch the same mic into two channels and process them differently. On an analog board, this can be done with a simple Y-cable. On a digital board, you just patch the same input into two channels. In either case, one channel gets a heavier comp, the other is processed normally.

Again, a greatly simplified version of double bussing.Double Bussing is used if you’re working with multiple inputs that you want to parallel compress, you bus them the two separate groups; again, one is normal, one gets the comp treatment. I’ll talk about why you might want to do either method in a moment.

Smashing is a colloquial term for parallel compression. When someone has a vocal smash channel, it’s typically created with parallel compression. Because we typically employ pretty significant amounts of gain reduction to the channel (10-15 dB of gain reduction), it is said to be “smashed.”

Spanking I consider spanked a milder form of smashing. On some level, I’m making up definitions of terms here, and others may define them differently. But for our purposes, spanking is like a smash, only with less gain reduction, perhaps 6-9 dB.

Bus with a Comp I learned of this variation from my friend Dave Stagl. In this variant, a group of channels is sent to one bus with little or no processing, and another one with a comp inserted. This is perhaps the most mild form of parallel compression, as when Dave says “a bus with a comp” he’s only doing 4-6 dB of gain reduction (maybe less). It’s a pretty subtle effect at that point. Thus, it’s not really a smash, it’s a bus with a comp.

All clear now? OK, let’s move on to one variation of the technique.

Input Parallel Compression

If you only have one channel that you want to enhance with this technique, and you have an extra channel to use, this is a great way to get it done. As mentioned earlier, you simply double patch your mic (let’s say the worship leader’s vocal) into two channels, say 25 & 26. Channel 25 is your “normal” channel. You may have a comp on it, and you may be doing some mild compression there. You also probably have EQ and other stuff going on; it’s what you normally use. On Channel 26, you insert a compressor and dial it down so you’re achieving a pretty significant level of gain reduction. How much will depend on the effect you are going for. I’ve played with settings ranging from 4-6 dB of reduction to 12-15 dB. I’ve been using less lately, and been happier with the results.

Next time, I’ll talk about Output Parallel Compression and show you some examples of how I’m using it in our setting.

Church Tech Weekly Episode 13: Remote Control Mania

Mike and Van are joined by Duke Dejong. It’s a big week for tech announcements what with PLASA happening across the pond and all. The three talk about some of the more interesting announcements and discuss the future of remote control.

Guests: 

Van Metschke

Duke Dejong

Blogs: 

Van

Duke

 

Picks:

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