Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: March 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

SSL Live: Operational First Impressions


She sure is pretty...

She sure is pretty…

Over the last week, I’ve had some time to spend with the new SSL Live L500 mixing console. My friends at CCI Solutions dropped one off for me to work with for a while, and it’s been fun spending time with the new desk. Overall, I will say I like the desk. It’s pretty clear the software is still in its 1.x release (1.8 at the time of my testing), but I think they are on the right track. Going through the whole desk will take several posts; today we’ll just hit some of the highlights—sort of a hands-on first impressions bit.

A Big, Bright Screen

The centerpiece of the console is the giant 19” daylight visible touch screen. This is one of the biggest screens I’ve seen on a mixing console. While we didn’t take it outside to see how bright it is, I can tell you indoors with the brightness all the way up, you need sunglasses. The LED indicators get crazy-bright as well. The screen is a multi-touch display, so you can pinch, zoom and scroll, much like an iPad. Maybe I’m spoiled with so much time on my iPad Air, but the SSL screen feels a little sluggish. Touching is not quite as accurate, nor responsive as an iPad. Still, it’s not bad, and certainly as good as any from DiGiCo or Yamaha.

SSL says their, “[B]eautifully considered and organized graphical user interface provides comprehensive control of the entire console environment.” Comprehensive? Yes. Beautifully considered? Ok, it looks pretty nice. And I guess it’s pretty well organized. 

One has to remember that there is a lot going on with this console. It can handle 192 processing paths, and each of those paths have a lot of options. So coming up with a way to present all that information to the user had to be a challenge. 

It Is Unique

Sometimes I found myself searching for a way to do something, only to discover it was a screen away. It’s not a bad interface, but it is very unique. I have to keep reminding myself not to compare my speed on the Live to my normal speed on any DiGiCo console. I am so intimately familiar with DiGiCo that I can get to anything on any of their desks very, very quickly. The SSL is a whole different beast. This is not bad, it’s just different. 

Sometimes, the British conventions can be amusing as well. For example, to select a bank of fader in a tile (a tile is one of the three collections of 12 faders), you press the “Call” button next to the digital scribble strip. When routing an effect into an insert, you select the send route, then press “Make.” It’s not hard once you get used to it, but it’s a bit unintuitive. 


Most of the rotaries at the bottom of the screen do something, but it's not always clear what.

Most of the rotaries at the bottom of the screen do something, but it’s not always clear what.

Like most large format consoles, there are many ways to do anything. For example, to edit an EQ, you can double touch the EQ icon on the screen for the channel you wish to edit. That brings up the EQ menu on the big screen, and you can touch and drag the curve around to your heart’s content. Or you can press the select button above the fader and the channel appears in the Selected Channel fader strip. SSL has dedicated an entire second, smaller screen and 19 knobs to a complete channel strip. 


This is SSL's version of a "channel strip." 

This is SSL’s version of a “channel strip.” 

Working this way can be pretty quick, though with all those knobs, you spend some time figuring out which one is wired to which control. After some use, I’m sure this would become second nature. Or you just work on the big screen. The encoders above the faders also map to certain controls in certain modes, though it’s not always clear which ones. 

Like any new, complex console, this will take some time to really get used to. Coming soon is version 2.0 of the software, along with an off-line editor. Personally, I love having the off-line software for learning. I learned the DiGiCo and Avid that way, I’m sure I’ll spend some time with the Live software once it’s out. Most things are a touch or two away, so once you know where to look, functions come up pretty quickly. 

It Sounds Good. Really Good.

Of course, no one expected SSL to put out a console that doesn’t sound good. I was given a bunch of tracks to play with (I couldn’t use mine as they all have to be converted to 96 KHz first), and I chose the original studio tracks from Boston’s More Than A Feeling. Now, for a guy who grew up listening to Boston over and over and over, this was a treat. I know that song inside and out, and it sounded fantastic on this desk.

I love to test out compressors in a new console by really digging into them with vocals to see how they react. I hit Tom Scholz’ vocal with a good 18 dB of gain reduction and it just sounded better. Plugins like the Listen Mic Compressor worked wonders on the drums, and I like the tube emulation they have available. 

The EQ responded pretty much like I wanted it to, and there are plenty of options for curve styles. 144 of the channels have the very cool All Pass filter available, which allows you to do a phase shift at a given frequency without any amplitude change. I’m still playing with that to get my head around what it’s doing. I hear v 2.0 of the software will have some tools for helping with that. 

There is so much more to say about the SSL Live, but we’ll wait until next time. Of course, there will be the inevitable comparison between the Live and the DiGiCo SD5. As I spend more time on it, you’ll hear more. Stay tuned!

Roland

Today’s post is brought to you by DiGiCo. DiGiCo audio mixing consoles deliver solutions that provide extreme flexibility, are easy to use and have an expandable infrastructure, while still providing the best possible audio quality. Visit their website to learn more.

March Retro: The Downside of Making It Look Easy


This is another post from March 2007, the first month this blog was on the web. I’ve tweaked it a little bit, but the concepts are still sound. Some things just don’t change…

Really good tech people have one thing in common: we love a challenge. Tell us something can’t be done and we’ll figure out a way to prove you wrong. Need another monitor mix when all the Aux sends are full? No problem, we can swipe an unused group out, or maybe a matrix out. Need to run 40 channels into your 32 channel board? No problem, grab the board from the children’s room and sub it in. Next challenge…

I’ve discovered that all this resourcefulness has a downside. It can lead worship leaders—especially less technically minded ones—to think that we can do anything, and that it will be easy. And fast. I have a saying I use over and over, “Planning will set you free.” When it comes to live production, I plan as many details as I possibly can. The way I see it, the better an event is planned, the more I can enjoy the actual event. And I will have more bandwidth to respond to last minute changes. While I can figure out problems on the fly, I would much rather know what will be expected this weekend, plan for it, configure the system, then be able to worship while I mix.

Planning allows me to serve the band better. This in turn allows them to lead the congregation into a deeper experience of worship. But some worship leaders seem to follow the, “Whatever the Spirit leads!” model of “planning.” Now if the band is simple and everyone knows the words, that can work. But when the band grows larger and the poor ProPresenter operator is just trying to survive following a worship leader that sings the song differently every time, the stress level goes up exponentially for everyone.

Sometimes, technical leaders get no respect. I would never presume to jump up on stage during a rehearsal and say to the guitar player, “Why can’t you just play the right chords, they’re on the page right in front of you!” That’s because I have respect for what they do, and playing a guitar is not as easy as it looks. Why then would a musician come back to the sound booth and say, “I need another mic, it’s easy, just plug it in!” I invite every musician and pastor to shadow a tech guy some week to see what we actually do. Few ever do it, but those that do come away with an education.

If you’re a technician, take pride in what you do and know that your job is every bit as complicated and difficult as any on stage. If you are musician or worship leader, take some time to educate yourself about the technical complexities of a modern sound, video and lighting system. And better yet, plan ahead. Everyone will have a more enjoyable, worshipful experience. Believe me when I tell you, planning will set you free!

Gear Techs

SSL Live Console First Thoughts



Last year at NAB, SSL was doing private, super-secret showings of their new Live console. OK, it wasn’t that super-secret, but it wasn’t on the show floor. We saw it at Gurus a few months later, but the software clearly wasn’t ready. Almost a year later, I finally have some time to get hands-on with the desk, thanks to my friends at CCI Solutions. Today’s post will serve as an introduction to the console, later this week, I’ll post some of my thoughts after spending time on it.

Massive I/O

SSL is clearly loaded for bear with this console, as the specs are most impressive. You can chose from 976 (yes 976, that is not a typo) possible input and output paths (that’s 1,952 total!). Mixing takes place with 192 processing paths (144 with full processing, 48 dry). Any of these paths can be channel inputs, stem groups, auxes or masters. A 32×36 matrix handles output routing. The matrix can also be split up into 4 separate mixers, each with up to 32 inputs. Dry paths have no EQ, dynamics or time, but do have 2 insert points and can be routed to any bus type.

Local I/O on the console consists of 16 mic/line inputs, 2 talkback inputs, 16 outputs, and 8 AES inputs and outputs. Optional are another 16 analog ins and outs, plus 4 more AES pairs. Standard equipment also includes 2 redundant MADI pairs on coax that can be split into 4 if redundancy isn’t required. You also get two redundant optical MADI pairs, and a dedicated optical MADI “FX Loop.” But wait, there’s more! If you need more than that, you can also add another 2 pairs of MADI coax bringing the total MADI I/O to 12. 

But there’s still more! SSL’s Blacklight optical connection (optional) will carry up to 256 channels of MADI at 96KHz over a single fiber. The Blacklight connects the console to an SSL MADI Concentrator which breaks out to 8 redundant pairs of MADI. Of course, the stage boxes and MADI concentrator also have more MADI outputs for sharing with other SSL Live desks. 

Tons of Processing

The new SSL-designed Tempest processing engine operates at 64 bits delivering 24 bit/96KHz audio that is flat from 20-20KHz with a THD of 0.005%. The internal architecture is extremely flexible allowing you to assign processing paths as needed for the event. You can arrange any of the standard channel processing blocks in any order you like. This would make it easy to put the compressor ahead of the EQ or even high- and low-pass filters, for example. In fact, you can even put the fader before the compressor if you want to. The entire channel signal chain is easily rearranged. 

Customizable Surface

That much I/O and processing power is certainly impressive, but it’s worthless if you can get to it all quickly and easily. SSL chose to outfit the Live with 36 faders in three 12-fader “Tiles.” Each tile has 5 scrollable layers with 5 vertical banks each. Thus, each tile could have 25 possible fader layouts. The faders are assignable via drag and drop and can be color-coded. For even easier visual identification, SSL included their Eyeconix visual labeling system. Each of the touch-sensitive, motorized faders has its own 14-segment input level meter, plus dedicated gate and compression meters.

The centerpiece of the console is a large 19” multi-touch display, which SSL claims to be daylight viewable. After a few minutes on the desk, I can tell you that it’s bright. In fact, if the stage lights go out, you could turn the desk around and use the desk. Of course, it’s dimmable. In use, the screen acts much like a large iPad, making quick work of setting up the console, interacting with EQ, FX and other channel processing, and quickly seeing what you’re working on.

If you prefer a more hardware-based approach, a focus fader located in the master tile follows the currently selected channel. This channel gives you complete processing adjustment control via a 7.5” touch screen and over a dozen dedicated knobs and buttons. In fact, there are a lot of dedicated buttons on the surface; above each fader are solo, mute, select and query buttons. The last button in that list quickly shows what is routed to or from that fader. In addition to all those features, SSL included 3 solo paths and 2 dedicated talkback paths.

Full SSL Effects

Of course you would expect to have access to the signature effects and dynamics capabilities SSL is famous for, and you won’t be disappointed. EQ, dynamics and even a “noise and warmth” section help give you that distinctive SSL sound. Also included is a full suite of reverb, delay, and modulation effects. They even threw in an audio toolbox for signal generation, precise SPL metering and a built-in FFT analyzer. 

Even with all the hardware controls, the surface doesn’t look cluttered, and the software is beautifully designed. SSL designed the console to be customized for each user and event, with no single way of working. Reconfiguring faders is as simple as dragging and dropping on the touch screen. You can mix and match inputs, outputs and VCAs in any order you wish. 

The SSL Live appears to a console that will handle just about anything you throw at it, and do it with ease. I spent a few hours on it last week and came away impressed. Next time, we’ll talk about actual impressions.

Roland

Today’s post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

Book Review: Overwhelmed

A few months ago, I heard Perry Noble, pastor of Newspring Church in Anderson, SC, was coming out with a new book. I’ve followed Perry for many years and have found his teaching to be very good. I also appreciate his down home manner and humor. His church is growing like mad, so he must be at the top of his game. Clearly, he has his act together. 

Turns out appearances can be deceiving. In his soon-to-be-released book, Overwhelmed, he talks about his struggle with depression and feeling, well, overwhelmed. Someone I know was struggling with depression at the time, so I thought I’d sign up to get a pre-release copy for review (having a blog can be handy at times…). 

While there are 40 chapters in the book, they are all fairly short, so it makes for a quick read. I like the fact that he broke things down into bite-sized chunks. This makes it easy to read a bit, reflect, then go back for more. 

Perry talks about this story, shares his struggles with depression and how God brought him through it. He gives us some reminders about God’s love for us; reminders that we see every day. He goes on to share things we tend to struggle with and how we can turn those struggles into a deeper walk with the Lord. Finally he acknowledges that life is indeed hard, that we will face pain and struggle, and that God is still faithful.

Honestly, it’s a pretty encouraging book. As I read it, I kept thinking that this was as much for me as it was my friend with depression. The more I read the more I felt like this is something most tech directors should read. 

I Think We All Get Overwhelmed

By nature, we tech leaders see problems and want to fix them. The problem is, we tend to see a lot of problems. By being so aware of so many problems, it’s easy to get into a mode where we think we need to solve all those issues, right now! It doesn’t take too long before we find ourselves working all the time, spending no time with our families and no time resting. 

Perry dealt with this, too. As a young pastor of a rapidly growing church, he found himself working all the time. One line in the book really stood out to me (actually many did, but this illustrates this point well). He writes,

“I remember telling my friend, ‘The devil never takes a day off!’ ‘Perry,’ he replied, ‘I’m not sure the devil is supposed to be your example.’”

I’ve heard several people on church staffs use that excuse for working all the time. And yes, it’s an excuse. We are not called to work all the time. We are called to work for six days and rest. And those shouldn’t be six 12-hour days, either. That pace is not sustainable. And yet, there we go, working like mad, figuring if we don’t get that projection thing figured out today people will surely end up going to hell and it will be our fault. That can be a bit overwhelming. 

But we’re not called to that. We’re not God, and we don’t have to own that. In fact, the bible has something to say about working hard and resting. Perry says, 

“The Bible calls those who will not work lazy, but it calls those who will not rest disobedient.” 

Stop and let that sink in for a minute. 

We Have to Trust God

I think a lot of the issues we have with working too hard, becoming overwhelmed and ultimately finding ourselves discouraged and depressed stem from a lack of trust in God. This paragraph gave me something to think about for well over a week:

“We trust Him with things like eternity. We trust Him to make sure the earth keeps spinning around at the right pace every day. We trust Him with the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. But when it comes to trusting Him with every issue in our lives, we have a more difficult time.”

After reading this book, and spending a lot of time thinking about it, I’ve found myself a lot less stressed out at work. Sure, I still desire to do a great job. I still take my job seriously. And I still want to be part of growing the Kingdom. But I don’t feel like it’s my responsibility to do it all myself. 

As tech leaders, we’re an unusually responsible lot. We own our jobs, and usually several other people’s as well. But that’s not what God calls us to. He calls us to rest in Him, and to do the job He’s called us to do. 

I found myself convicted and encouraged by this book, often at the same time. If you ever struggle with being discouraged, feeling like you’re not measuring up or have way too much on your plate, give this book a read. It comes out on April 1 (which is a bit ironic), though you can pre-order it now. If I were developing a curriculum for tech directors school, this would be required reading.

Gear Techs

Today’s post is brought to you by DPA Microphones. DPA’s range of microphones have earned their reputation  for exceptional clarity,  high resolution, above all, pure, uncolored accurate sound. Whether recording or sound reinforcement, theatrical or broadcast, DPA’s miking solutions have become the choice of professionals with uncompromising demands for sonic excellence.

The Soundbooth: The Four Elements Of Church Sound Redux – Part 4

At most churches each musician brings their instrument of choice and the sound person is expected to mix and equalize all and any instruments into a glorious blend of celestial music. It is a true fact that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. In a later article I will address the need for the Music Pastor/Worship Leader to set and keep a standard for musical instruments that are onstage. As your congregation grows it is likely you will want the church to own the majority of key instruments you use on a regular basis such as drums and keyboards.

More…

March Retro: Being Excellent with Less


I really need to set up a calendar event for this. I had planned on doing something for this website’s 7th birthday, and here, I blew right past it. The first post appeared on churchtecharts.wordpress.com on March 6, 2007. That seems like an eternity ago now. Still, when I went back and re-read this post, it’s as true today as it was when I wrote it. So I figured I’d re-post it here since I’m pretty sure we have a lot more readers today than we did in 2007. 

Also, for good fun, in case you weren’t reading back then, here is a list of the posts from March, 2007. It will sort descending, so, you’ll want to scroll down and hit next to get to the actual beginning. Then you can read through in proper order. Enjoy!

Have you heard the expression, “Stuff expands to fill the space available?” It was true in my life. When we lived in our first, tiny little house, we didn’t have that much stuff. In fact, it all fit in a single moving van when we bought our next, larger house. After 10 years there however, we had a lot of stuff. In fact, the once empty basement was full. It took an interstate move to a smaller house to clear out the clutter.

I think the same concept applies in the technical and worship arts. We are always striving to make things a little bigger, a little better. And therein lies the challenge. Not with getting bigger necessarily, but in outgrowing our capacity. Let me explain.

We began a new ministry in our church recently. The program included weekly meetings that would have a worship component. As a general rule, we do worship really well, and it’s very much in the contemporary style —full band, great vocals, lighting – the complete package. It also takes a small army of volunteers to make it happen. In fact, there are upwards of 70 people participating in worship in any given month.

For this new ministry, it was supposed to be simple—pre-packaged PowerPoint slide shows, split-track CD for music and a few vocalists. They would use the youth room, which has a capable but simple lighting rig (30 or so fixtures). At least that was the plan.

The first week there were 5 vocalists on stage, 2 guitars and keys. They wanted lights, 4 monitor mixes and big sound. To support this “simple” set-up there was one guy who is one of our best lighting guys, but new to Media Shout & sound, and one tech who was completely green. The next week, they added drums and some more vocals. Oh, and that week there was only one tech.

Now, I’m all about doing things right, even big. “Go big or go home,” I often say. Yet in this case, it’s a clear mistake. Without sufficient technical support, the music team must scale back. If it doesn’t, both the techs and the musicians will be frustrated, the techs will burn out and the whole thing will collapse. This is a classic case of being only as strong as the weakest link. In this case the weak link is the tech team (a lack of trained multi-disciplinary techs), and thus that becomes the limiting factor of the program. And understand it’s not for lack of trying; the techs we have in our church are the best I’ve ever worked with. But not every one is trained yet in all disciplines, and it takes a lot of years of experience to cover 2 or 3 roles in a tech booth at once.

I would like to propose a radical concept – simplify down to the level of excellence. What does that mean? Look at it this way; design your program (worship, new ministries, that big Easter musical, whatever) around whatever the weakest link is, and do what you can do with excellence up to that point. If you don’t have enough musicians to pull together four different full on bands for a month of worship services, make one a simple acoustic set. If you can’t staff the tech teams to do a wild musical production, simplify it. Once you simplify to the weakest link, you now have the ability to be excellent.

Too many ministries think that bigger is better. It’s not. Better is better. Excellence should be the goal, not getting bigger. Putting more bodies on the battlefield before they’re ready simply results in more casualties. Do what you can do really, really well. Then stop. Raise the bar when all the elements are in place to do so. Want to do a huge musical production that requires 20 actors on stage with wireless mics? You’d better own (or be able to rent) high quality mics that are frequency coordinated, a soundboard with automation capability, and have a couple of high quality sound guys. Miss any of those elements and you’re asking for trouble. You will not have an excellent production. If you can’t accommodate it, scale back until you can do what you do really well. Stretch the crew, yes. But if you push too hard, things break. Don’t do it.

So what’s the solution for our new ministry? It’s easy—simplify. Go back to a split track CD for music with one or two vocalists. Stick with simple PowerPoint presentations. Continue to recruit and train tech volunteers. Once they are ready, we can add musicians. It will happen, but it needs time. Failure to pull back will ultimately result in failure of the ministry. That benefits no one.

Those that come into our ministries deserve excellence. God wants our best, not our biggest. We can get bigger as we get better, as we add volunteers and the equipment to support them. But we should never get bigger before we get better.

Roland

Church Tech Weekly Episode 189: No More Morning Dave


We recap the Seeds conference (including the very cool opening Kabuki drop), and talk about how to succeed as a TD. If you’re wondering what separates top pros from the rest of the pack, here’s your chance to learn.

More…

Today’s post is brought to you by Pivitec.Pivitec redefines the Personal Monitor Mixing System by offering components that are Flexible, Precise and Expandable. Ideal for any application from Touring and Live Production to fixed installation in theaters and Houses of Worship.

The Broadcast Mix, Pt. 4


This is one of the things I'm still tweaking. This little dynamic EQ keeps the vocals from getting harsh as they get louder.

This is one of the things I’m still tweaking. This little dynamic EQ keeps the vocals from getting harsh as they get louder.

Today we’ll wrap up our series on the broadcast mix. At least for now. We’ve talked about the approaches to creating a broadcast mix, the hybrid group-based approach I’m using and some of the secret sauce to take it to the next level. Today, we’ll look at what’s next.

Continuous Improvement

Toyota is famously known for their continual improvement philosophy. I’m all over that. I never stop thinking of ways to make what we do better. I listen to the mix every week, make notes and tweak. So even though we’re at a place that I’m pretty happy with, it’s not done. 

If you email me in a few months and ask me what I’m doing, some of this will probably change. Plus I’m putting in a new PA and moving the tech booth, so that will by necessity shift parts of my process. As our worship style evolves, and we start adding new elements to the service, my broadcast mix will have to adapt. 

But there are a few things I know I want to do as soon as we have the proper logistics in place.

Add Two House Mics

This is another Andrew Stone tip. He has a pair of AKG C414s at the front corners of the tech booth to capture the “room sound.” These are in addition to the audience mic’s that are aimed to capture the audience. The goal of the house mic’s is to help recreate that feeling of “liveness,” of being in the room. I hear some broadcast mixes that are very sterile and studio-like. I suppose that’s one way to go, but I’d rather have a more live vibe. 

Since these mic’s will most likely live in the booth (or the front corners of it, anyway), we’ll need to time everything back to them. That will start another whole process of time alignment. Continuous improvement…it’s never done.

Refine and Tweak Comps and EQ

I feel like we’re close on our processing, but we’re not there yet. The hold up for me right now is one of real estate. My video position is very crowded, and we don’t have decent audio monitors there. So making EQ and compression decisions is hard. On one hand, listening through the cheap computer speakers we have is good, as that is what many people will be using at home. But it’s hard to make proper decisions based on limited information. 

When the rest of tech moves to the floor this spring, I’ll be spreading video out and deploying a set of Equator Audio D5 monitors. In the meantime, I listen to the mix every week in my office (on decent monitors) and at home, then translate my impressions into minor tweaks. 

For me, this is a process that will never likely be completely “done.” Music styles change, tastes change, people come and go, and we have to adapt. I believe I can get the mix to a point where we don’t touch it much week to week, but I will revisit it every few months to see if we’re drifting. 

I should point out that one reason we’re able to do what we do is because of our baseline show file system. We start with the same master show file each week, and that master is versioned like software. We’re at 10.2 right now, and the minor tweaks I’ve talked about are incorporated into that starting point. This system ensures all our engineers are starting from the same point each week. And if we have one week that is significantly different, requiring some modification of the broadcast mix, we go back to our normal setup next week. 

Well, that’s it on the broadcast mix. For now… Any questions?

Gear Techs

Today’s post is brought to you by Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast and recording.

The Broadcast Mix, Pt. 3


I do part of my leveling here in the matrix; the input gain on the band and vocal groups is also about -14 dB below the others.

Today we continue on in our series on creating a great broadcast mix. We’ve already looked at a few ways to get there, and considered my current group-based mixing approach. Today, we’ll get into the little things that move the needle from good to great. 

Audience Mic’s

As mentioned in earlier posts, one thing that is missing from a lot of broadest mixes is the sense of ambience of the room. Being able to hear the congregation singing goes a long way toward helping a viewer feel like they are part of the experience.

We’ve had a pair of DPA 4098HB’s hanging in our room for a few years, and we’ve used them as audience mic’s for the IEMs. I now mix them in with the rest of the groups to give that room sound. One of the tricky things about audience mic’s is that you can get too much room sound, especially if your room is live (and most of your speakers are pointed at walls…sigh…). When I have the mic’s set right for a congregational sing moment, they feel too loud and washy for a big song. So, I fixed it.

I put a side-chained compressor on the audience mic’s, and use the LR mix to key it. So when the band is rocking, the comp drops the level of the mic’s by 3-4 dB. When the band settles down and the congregation sings out, the comp releases and you can hear them. I’m still working on the settings for this, but we’re getting close. I may also experiment with the ducker we have on board as well. The ducker gives me a few more options and may sound better. Time will tell.

Get Things In Time

This is a trick I learned from Andrew Stone at Church on the Move. He has timed all his mix groups (though he takes a different approach than I do) back to the audience mic’s. The sound cleaned up considerably when I did that. I popped some balloons on stage in front of a mic while recording the groups and audience mic’s. A little math showed me how much I needed to delay the groups, and then I tweaked it from there by ear. 

It’s an important point that the “correct” delay might not sound “right.” When I lined things up so that it was all “correct” the audience mic’s sounded unnatural. So I adjusted the delay until it sounded right. Now it’s a bit like natural reverb, and it sounds pretty good. Again, we’re still working on this, and I will likely be making some significant changes when the new PA goes in after Easter.

Mild Compression is Better Than Heavy Compression

One of the things I like about this approach is that I’m able to do small bits of compression along the way. This brings the dynamics down a little bit at a time. I picked this up from Dave Stagl a few years ago. He found, and I agree, that taking 1-2 dB off three times sounds a lot more natural than taking 3-6 dB off all at once.

So I have a comp on my speaking mic’s group that shaves off just a few dB. The speaker mic’s are already compressed in the main mix, so there is no need to get crazy. This just cleans it up for smaller speakers a little bit more. 

I also use multi-band compression on the final matrix mix output. I tend to hit the low end a little harder so the bass doesn’t overwhelm smaller speakers, and I shave a bit off the high end so it doesn’t get harsh. Your mileage may vary, but that’s our current approach. 

Once we get through these steps, I send the mix out to a KT 9648 processor for routing. I was doing some limiting in the DSP, but I’ve turned it all off now that I have my mix sounding good. When we upgrade the tech booth this spring, the DSP will go away and I’ll be doing some different routing. Stay tuned for how that changes.

Again, I find the need to remind you that this is descriptive of what I’m doing, not prescriptive. The settings I use, the process I’ve developed and the way we route signal is all very specific to our situation. I think there are a lot of transferrable principles, but don’t get locked in trying to exactly duplicate what I  (or anyone else) does. Especially since I’ll probably change it in a few months. 

Speaking of which, next time we’ll wrap this series up with some thoughts on what is next for the broadcast mix. It’s not done yet, and I have some ideas of where I want to go.

Roland

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