Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: June 2015 (Page 2 of 2)

Better than Starting From Last Week–Baseline Show Files

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.

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Starting From Last Week

Image courtesy of  Mike

Image courtesy of Mike

A while back, I had an opportunity to mix at a church I had not mixed before. As per my custom, I asked a ton of questions and was prepared to do a lot of work to make sure everything was set up and ready. What I found when I got there however, was that they were planning on just picking up from last week’s settings. What I found odd about this was that they had a digital console. In my opinion, there is a better way. But first, here’s what I don’t like about starting from last week:

Lazy Mixing

Some might argue that once the mixer is set up and sounding good that we should leave it alone. This case gets made a lot in churches with less experienced sound guys. While I appreciate this concept, I think there is a better way to do it. First, training needs to happen so that those running the board actually know what they’re doing. Second, and we’ll get to this next time, I would suggest a baseline show file is better than simply “leaving it alone.” 

I’ve seen pictures of mixers with big “DON’T TOUCH KNOBS” signs all over them. Again, I understand the premise, I just think it’s wrong. If you don’t have people who know what they are dong behind the board, train them so they do. The reality is, there is no one perfect EQ that will work all the time. You can get close, but most of the time, in order to really get things sounding good, you’re going to need to tweak. 

Setting Creep

One of the things I see over and over as I go into churches to help out is settings start to creep. And by that I mean that at one point an extra 2 dB of 4kHz was needed, but after starting with last week for a few months, it ends up as 10 dB. Monitor mixes that were once dialed in very well end up with all channels sending +12, with nowhere to go.

One church hired me to help with their system and when I got there every single EQ knob was turned fully counter-clockwise. There’s not much you can do with that—except flatten it all and start over again. When you start with last week, you’re starting with whatever worked then and making changes for this week. Over time, those changes become cumulative and it’s rarely good. 

Inconsistent Sound

Of course, one of the natural consequences of setting creep is inconsistent sound. As the settings start to creep over time, the sound will change. The problem is, no one knows what the starting settings should be anymore, so it’s hard to get back. All those little changes become big changes over time and things start sounding bad. 

And if anyone decides to take it back, there is going to be a big swing the week it all goes back to where it should go. I’m convinced that one of the things that triggers those awkward conversations about the sound is inconsistency. Why did it sound so different this week? It seemed louder. It seemed softer. I couldn’t hear the vocals. 

If that sounds familiar, maybe you need to consider how you’re running your console. Again, some might argue for the “set it and don’t touch it” approach. I think there is a better way. And next time, we’ll talk about baseline show files


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Leaving Los Angeles

That's the last view I had of my former state of residence.

That’s the last view I had of my former state of residence.

Well, technically, Southern California. I never actually lived in LA, though many people thought we were close enough. As you probably know by now, we have loaded up the truck and moved away from Beverly and all the way to Nashville, TN. This is an exciting new adventure for us and while I don’t often share too many personal stories and posts, I thought I would let you into our decision making process for this one. 

For Everything a Season

About 3 1/2 years ago, I started getting an inkling that my season at Coast Hills would be wrapping up around the spring of 2014. I didn’t know how I knew that, or what the next thing would look like. I just knew that at some point around that timeframe, I would again be in transition. 

As we processed that, I started sensing a call to go to Nashville. Again, it’s hard to describe how I knew that’s where I was supposed to be, or why, but I felt pretty strongly about it. Of course, I had no job lined up, and no real idea what I would be doing. As my wife and I talked about it, we began to make tentative plans to move to Nashville in the summer of 2014. This was late 2013, but we really sensed this was what we were supposed to do. At that time, our oldest would be in here senior year of college and our youngest would be starting college. So it seemed logical.

Logic Doesn’t Always Prevail

It all seemed like a good plan, but then a few things happened. We had a bit if a family crisis that caused us to re-think our timing. The more we looked at it, the more it seemed like we should delay by a year. I prayed a lot about it, and remember telling God that if He wanted me to stay at Coast for another year, I would happily do that. 

Then the offer to go work for Flexstage came about. Turns out, my season at Coast Hills wrapped up pretty much when I thought it would. God still called that one spot on. We decided to stay in SoCal for another year. This was to help my youngest daughter through some things and allowed my oldest to stay with us for her senior year. 

It all worked quite well. I spent a great year at Flexstage, and it wasn’t until late winter that we started talking about me joining the staff at CCI Solutions. My daughter finished college, and my younger one struck out on her own adventure. But the times they are a changing.

Change Quotient Off The Charts!

In the last two months, I’ve changed jobs, my daughter graduated college and turned 22, my wife finished up her job, we bought a house, moved my oldest out to her new place and moved my wife and I across the country to Nashville. When it comes to the life change score, I think we’re pretty high up there right now!

Thankfully, it’s all good change. We’re very excited to be here in Nashville, and to be in our own house. God provided us an amazing house which will be just perfect for us. We already have a great group of friends here in town, and we’re excited to see what He will do with us here. I’m settling into my new role at CCI and am loving the support and team setting. We will miss our girls, who for now anyway, have elected to stay in California. But, with all the traveling I’m doing, I should have enough miles to fly them out this way every so often. 

Father Knows Best

As Van and I were driving the Palatial Jetta out of California last week, and I took one last glance at my former home in the mirror, I thought about all the things that happened in those six years. So much was good, some was hard and it all worked to shape me into a better person. God provided so many stretching and growing experiences it’s hard to even summarize them. I met and became great friends with so many people, I grew personally and professionally, and my girls grew into women. 

Sometimes, we go through seasons in life and find ourselves really glad when one ends. In this case, I am excited about what is to come, and I look back on the last season with a grateful heart. Like I said, it wasn’t all good, but it all worked together to set me up for what is to come. Sounds vaguely like a Scripture verse I memorized years ago…

So there you go. That’s a glimpse into my life right now. If you’ve noticed that I’ve been a little less regular with the posts and the podcasts, now you know why. But we’re getting things back under control and our regularly scheduled programming should resume soon. And, Van & I recorded five episodes of CTW: Ask Me Anything on the road last week, so look for that this month. 

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to continuing this journey together.


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