Last time, I told you about my problems with starting this week off with the mixer settings from last week. Aside encouraging lazy mixing, it leads to setting creep and inconsistent sound. As you might expect, I think there is a better way. Now, this process can really only happen with digital consoles. I suppose you could do it with an analog console, but it’s going to be tedious. If you have an analog desk, wait until you upgrade to digital before doing this.
What is the Baseline?
Depending on your console, the amount of time you have and how detailed, the baseline can be anything from a simple starting point to a comprehensive place to start that’s actually good enough to mix on if you had to. But I think there are a few common elements that should exist in any kind of baseline. They are (not necessarily in any order):
- All patching and routing
- Output processing
- Starting gain settings
- Starting EQ settings
- Channel names
- VCA assignments
Now, if you’re going all out, you could also consider the following:
- Starting compressor & gate settings
- Starting effects settings
- Group routing
- Parallel compression patching
- Standard snapshots
As you work your way through that list, you can get it pretty dialed. How you do it depends on your console.
The Scene Method
Many consoles offer scenes to work with. Yamaha is probably the best known example. While you can load an entire show in every week, I suspect the way most people are going to use those consoles is to have a starting scene. At the beginning of the weekend, you recall that scene, then build everything based on it. As you create—or overwrite—new scenes for this weekend, they are all based on the initial scene with changes that you’ve made.
This is not a bad way to go. It is simple to understand and easy for volunteers to implement. The one thing you’re going to have to be very aware of is the recall scope and recall safe. You want to be sure you are recalling the things you want to recall, and setting the things you don’t to safe. For the baseline scene to be truly effective, you should probably recall just about everything. Subsequent scenes may want to have a less recall. This is tricky, however.
The recall settings carry forward from scene to scene—so if your starting scene is all recall, the next scenes will be, too. The way around that is to create a baseline with all recall, recall it at the beginning of a weekend, then scroll down to a scene with more limited recall settings and immediately save over it. That puts the console into the state you want for the weekend, and the new scenes will have the limited recall of the second scene. Like I said, it’s a bit tricky, and it’s why I prefer another tack.
The Show File Method
The other way to go is to load a complete show file. Some consoles, Avid & Digico for example, are really geared for simply loading an entire show file on them. In the show file is every parameter of the console and every setting, all the way down to most user set up functions. It’s a great way to go as it completely resets the console every week. No matter what anyone did last week, the console is always back to the correct starting point each week.
This was my approach at Coast Hills. Each weekend, we loaded the latest baseline version (more on that in a moment) and immediately saved a new, weekend show.
This method has several advantages. First, it’s a complete reset of the console. So that’s good. Second, you can re-load an earlier weekend to see how you did something, for virtual soundcheck training or practice, or just to copy a cool effect. Third, it’s easy to make subtle changes to the baseline and version it like software. If you find a better setting for a vocal, or a musician buys a new guitar, you can load those settings into a new version of the baseline and start using that. If things start to go awry, you can go back to an earlier version.
I’ve written about my method for baseline show files before, so if you really want to geek out, check it out here and here. Hopefully this gives you some ideas on this and will improve your process week to week.