Anyone who follows my Twitter feed no doubt knows we had an SD5 in-house for Easter weekend. For 51 weekends a year, we don’t need a monitor console, but for Good Friday, we typically need 16-18 stereo monitor mixes, and that’s more than I like to run from FOH (even with the M-48s). So we bring in a second board.
Thankfully, every year, Digico has been releasing a new console, which gives me an excuse to bring one in for review. A full review will appear in Church Production Magazine in a month or two, but I thought I’d share some hands-on experience I gleaned from mixing on the desk for a solid week. This is the stuff I wouldn’t put in a review, so it won’t be redundant.
A New Layout for Me
The SD5 is really designed to be set up with a center master layout. This will be familiar for large format analog guys, but it’s a bit of a shift from the way I normally use our SD8. Certainly one could set the SD8 up as a center master, but I don’t do it that way. So it took a little bit of getting used to. But once I adapted to the workflow, I really like it.
With three big touch screens, interacting with FX, snapshots and individual channels is very fast. The left and right banks both have complete sets of controls for EQ, dynamics and inserts, as well as two rows of encoders that are assignable. The center screen can display the channel information for whatever is assigned there, or the master screen.
I found this layout especially handy when I needed to update a bunch of snapshots with new FX settings and channel insert edits. Having the FX rack and snapshot windows up on the center screen and the channels on the right, it was very quick to work between them.
This console is also perfect for having two engineers work on it at the same time. Both the left and right sections can access up to 10 banks of 12 faders without interfering with the other, so it would be really easy to have someone working on monitors while another dialed up FOH.
I’m a Macro Junkie
Digico consoles all come with a powerful macro language that allows you to set up, control or access just a about every parameter of the console with a button press. They can also be multi-step, so you can do a lot of things very quickly. The SD5 comes with 10 big buttons with 2-line LCD screens (and fully assignable colors) that can be accessed from four banks; this means you could have up to 40 macro buttons at your finger tips.
I started building banks right away. Utilizing the new Spill Sets feature, I built a spill set for my vocals and FX, which made it easy to pull all of them up on the right screen with a single button. I also built macros for changing the assignments of my vocalists in and out of lead vocal role (which changes their effects sends, group assignments, and moves them in and out of a lead vocal send to the monitors).
For rehearsal, I built a record macro that would move Reaper to the end of the project, drop a marker and start recording. The button turned red when I pressed it. When I stopped, it went back to blue, stopped recording and saved all the tracks. Later when mixing with virtual soundcheck, macros for start/stop, previous and next marker made it very fast to get around the project while I built snapshots.
And of course, there was the big “Save” button that I hit often while building the show. I have a feeling that if this console were to live at FOH for a little longer, I’d have macros set up for all kinds of things. We can do this on the SD8 as well, but we only have 8 silver buttons; the 4 banks of 10 LCD buttons make it much more powerful.
I’ll wrap it up here for today. Next time, we’ll hit a few more of my favorite features and cover the most important topic—how it sounds!