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Posts by mcolling
A guide to watching DVDs and referencing in the Reid Studio, in 5.1 or stereo.
The Reid studio has a HDD Dvd player resident at the bottom of the analog patchbay. This can be used for playing DVDs. The audio feeds to the desk via the patchbay, and the video feed to the center monitor above the desk. The HDD sends out audio in I.T.U standard format, but the desk uses Film standard (L – C – R – LS – LR – LFE, as stated on the SSL AWS monitoring panel). We’ve changed this via the patchbay, so the audio from the DVD is normalled to the way the desk wants to work and monitor, so Left will be Left etc. This means that as soon as you pop a DVD in to the player, and have selected the correct input source on the desk, you should get audio to the right places by default. If you want to change this and work in I.T.U format or any other, is it easy to re-patch the audio via the patchbay to which ever output you like.
Insert your DVD:
Wait a while…
Switch the screen to S-Video (at the moment you need to do this by hand, on the underside of the monitor, using the INPUT control). You should get your DVD menu:
If you want to listen in 5.1, go to the desk and select EXT A, and then DVD:
If you want to listen in Stereo only, go to EXT B, and select DVD
Earlier I mentioned that the audio from the DVD is routed via the patchbay. This option is also interesting when you use patchcables to break the connections of certain channels. By doing this, you can cause a channel of the 5.1 audio to ‘drop out’. Try this whilst watching a film in 5.1 to see how much work the sub or center channel is doing; for instance you can suddenly see how much work the center channel does in handling dialogue, and suddenly the rest of the mix becomes clearer, enabling you to hear the hard work of the sound designers/mixers!
You can re-patch via the patchbay section labelled ‘6 Track Reply ‘A’ ‘ – patch from the top layer of connections (the outputs) back to the inputs (labelled red – External A 6track 1’).
But inserting a patchcable, this breaks the connection, effectively ‘muting’ channel 2 in the picture above.
SSL desk is designed to act as a control surface for Pro tools, as well as analog mixing desk. Clever beast.
However, you can also use it to act as a controller for Logic and Ableton Live, courtesy of the Mackie Control Protocol.
You can switch between which DAW the desk interacts with via the Center LCD Screen.
Choose the SSL dialog (using the top right button of the first long panel of grey buttons)
Select DAW (one left from the button you just pressed)
Select DAW 2
Switch from desk to DAW mode
You should now see DAW channel names in the desk, the faders will control channels in your DAW, you can use the start and stop buttons and much more!!!!
NB Please see the SSL Manual section 5.1 for a full account of DAW control, including details of how to use it with Pro Tools.
To use the desk ‘as a normal desk’ again, hit the DAW mode button (green) again.
NB Please switch the desk back to DAW 1 at the end of your session.
This method of working uses the LynxTC Aggregate Device (which is a combination of two audio interfaces; the TC Konnekt 32 and the Lynx Interface). This is a 32 channel I/O device. Channels 1-16 are the TC, Channels 17-32 are the Lynx, but they function as one device.
This will not work in Pro Tools (for now), as of October 2012 Pro Tools 10 is not installed in the Reid and this setup will not work. It will work with other DAW’s, like Logic, Nuendo, and Ableton.
Follow these instructions and you will be able to get a full 24 channels from digital world into the SSL desk. Note that this does not restrict you to 24 tracks in your DAW. You can have as many tracks as you like here, then group them out of pairs of channels and send them out to the desk (e.g. 8 tracks of processed laptop sent out of 1\2, 4 tracks of guitars on 3\4 and 7 tracks of drums on 5\6).
1 – Turn on all the equipment in the digital bay (except the TC6000, which cannot be used in this setup)
2 – Load the TC Near Control Panel (from the dock)
3 – Ensure the TC Konnekt has 1-8 selected on its Firewire Matrix on the front of the device, and that the matrix is setup as follows:
4 – Patch via AES Top Blue Mytek Outputs 1\2 to TC Konnekt AES Inputs 1\2
5 – On the TC Near Control Panel, (the application on the Mac), select Sync Source as AES\SPIF\TOS 1+2, and set the sample rate to the sample rate on the Top Mytek, and ensure the device has an external lock. If it does, should look like this:
6 – The TC Konnekt should now be clocked to the Top Mytek (the studio’s master clock). Whenever you want to change the Sample Rate you are working at, change it first on the Top Mytek, then on the other two Myteks, and then check the TC Near Control Panel to ensure correct clocking to the LynxTC aggregate device. All the Myteks and the TC Konnekt should all be running at the same sample rate and be clocked.
7 – Patch TC Konnekt AES Outputs 1 – 8 to Top Blue Mytek Inputs 1 – 8 on the digital bay, using Green AES cables:
These will be your FIRST 8 Channels OUT from your DAW (Logic, Nuendo, Ableton)
8 – Patch Lynx ‘A’ AES Outputs 1 – 8 to Middle Blue Mytek Inputs 1 – 8 and Lynx ‘B’ Outputs 1 – 8 to Bottom Grey Mytek Inputs 1 – 8:
NB – PLEASE NOTE – These next 16 outputs will be outputs 17 – 32 from your DAW. This is because the LynxTC is a 32 Channel device, made of two 16 channel devices. However, channels 9 -16 cannot be used via AES, so you’ll need to skip these channels in your DAW, as you won’t be able to hear the output!!! Use 17 -32 instead of 9-16!
9 – Patch Grey Mytek Analog Outputs 1 – 8 on the Analog Patchbay (on the left of the desk) to Desk Line Inputs 17 -24.
Now everything should be connected.
10 – Load your DAW of choice (Logic, Nuendo or Ableton).
11 – Select LynxTC as your input/audio device
12 – Setup your DAW’s Outputs:
Set Channels 1 – 8 to output as normal, out of channels 1 – 8
Set Channels 9 – 16 to output from Channels 17 – 24 (this will come in on Channels 9 -16 on the desk)
Set Channels 17 – 24 to output from Channels 25 -32 (this will come in on Channels 17 – 24 on the desk)
Although you will need to do a bit of adventuring in setting up the outputs from the DAW, when you have done this your audio will come into the desk on channels 1 – 24, and should work fully and easily.
You are ready to go, have fun!!!!!
Between 28th May and 2nd April I spent all day everyday mixing a project I’ve been working on for around 5 years. It goes under the name ‘Splintered Instruments’ and is a 7 track record, recorded mostly at Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik (http://greenhouse.is/), partly at home, partly in various places where kind people had interesting instruments (including Cimbaloms, theremins and dulcitones), in Studio 1 (where Pete Furniss added Clarinet and Bass Clarinet) and also the Reid Hall itself (double bass and piano was overdubbed during these sessions).
It was a beast. It had gone on for years, and frankly was getting out of control. It began with Ben Frost (http://benfrost.bandcamp.com/) at the production helm, but due to his increasingly busy schedule the final mixes fell to myself and Dan Rejmer, an extremely talented engineer and friend. Dan taught me a lot about mixing during this project, (my favourite quote from Dan being: ‘Wrestling with too much distortion…try adding MORE distortion!’). Which sounds like madness but can really be made to work.
This was a big project. One track a day was tackled. Most tracks were made up of usually between 40 – 100 tracks which were run out of Ableton Live and through the desk. To my knowledge, this had not been attempted in the Reid, neither had a large scale mix been done in Ableton live in the studio. Much to some people’s dismay, I continue to use this piece of software for almost everything I do. It’s design allows you to be extremely creative very quickly and with a flexibility which is frankly unparalleled with other DAWs, in my opinion. Technically, it can be fiddly, and is not specifically designed for doing a lot of large mix projects. It can be unwieldy, but it’s what I’m used to, and personally, speed of work is paramount for best results, so I wanted to mix everything in Live. Since the whole record had been built up within it, it also enabled us to go back to certain stems and approaches if need be, and it helped expand my working practices in an environment i’m comfortable in.
To interface with the desk Kev and I did some monkeying around. Usually you can only get a maximum of 16 channels out of Live into the desk. Although since this session Michael has told me that an aggregate device he created would have done this, Kev and I made another one to achieve the full 24 tracks on the desk. We created an aggregate device using the 2 Myteks and an external soundcard; in this case my MOTU traveler mk3. The MOTU was synced via word clock and everything was linked via AES. I should be able to include more detail on this in the near future (as i’m not in the Reid as I write this…).
We also brought in a load of outboard gear to supplement the Reid’s arsenal. Different compressors were used for different tasks during the session, including the Drawmer Mercenary, a stereo Drawmer Compressor/Gate (supplied by Sean Williams) and an RNC Compressor (supplied by Owen Green). I had also hoped to use the SPL Vitalizer which had until this point lived in the Russolo Room (which I highly recommend using in mix situations), but it has since disappeared…This gear can be seen below (pictures were taken of all the external gear per track for future reference, these are the pics from the ‘Paris is Burning’ mix). The external gear was routed into the patch bay and then assigned as need be an inserts on individual channels.
Soon we had the full 24 channels plus a load of additional compressors running seamlessly out of Live.
Another trick we used extensively was the re-micing of the Reid Hall. Certain instruments had been recorded in different spaces and very dry, and we felt that an additional layer of 3-dimensionality would be added to tracks by using the Hall upstairs as a natural reverb unit. Hardly a new idea but something I highly recommend. No reverb plugin in the world ever sounds like a real space. (Discuss). If you want real instruments to sound real, re-mic them in a real space, if they’ve been recorded dry. This enabled various takes and parts from different places (and periods of time) to be mixed together and recorded as a seamless ensemble (see ‘Routine’ example, which features Cimbalom, Midi Harp, Theremin, Strings, Piano and more to be treated as one ensemble). This is no substitute for the real thing, but I believe it sounds far better than a plugin. The process of doing so is also slower and makes you really think about why you are considering using reverb in the first place (it is in my opinion the no.1 overused effect in contemporary music and a very cheap way at trying to add ‘atmosphere’ to something…). A pair of PMC’s were taken up into the Reid Hall (after it had been booked through the appropriate sources…) and sent up as a send from the desk downstairs. Two omni Schoeps mic’s were placed around 3 metres away and used to record whatever we chose to play.
Example 1: Section from ‘Routine’ using Re-Micing in the Reid Hall (unmastered mp3):
The EMT reverb was also used on most tracks. Usually only for a subtle depth to vocals or aspects of a track, but it is highlighted particularly on this part of ‘Paris is Burning’. The little staccato piano hit benefited greatly from that lush, slightly metallic tone of the EMT (@ 2:14, 2:21 etc):
Section from ‘Paris is Buring’ (unmastered mp3):
Groups of tracks were set up and run from the software to the desk. Individual tracks could be tweaked from within the digital environment, eq’ing etc. a little, and then each group was eq’ed at the desk. Much of the music relied on the interaction of multiple layers of the same take, often re-recorded through various other means (prepared amplifiers, megaphones, plugins, different speakers), so this gives you options at a number of levels. This made it clear that, in my opinion, the studio could do with a few more higher class digital plugins to shape things a little when doing large sessions in this way. This would enable you to be surgical in the DAW, and general at the desk. Also the studio lacks options for distortion in the digital realm – installing the newly purchased Soundtoys bundle would help this significantly (as the Decimator plugin is excellent for a variety of usages). The Voxengo tape saturator is a good starting point however but doesn’t offer a variety of options. The addition of Max for Live would also enable Live users to use Max patches to DSP too (which usually need a bit of tweaking to work with Live but is well worth it!)
The Manley EQ and Vertigo Compressor were run as mix-inserts (Manley first, then into Vertigo) to shape the entire mix subtly and add…well that irreplaceable thing that this equipment adds to mixes. I would recommend just trying this – setting up the Manley and Vertigo as a mix insert and A/B’ing it. You will notice that even though the Vertigo in particular may not be compressing anything (or just the incoming level tickling the needle a little), it will add a richness to the sound. NO DOUBT. I also find this to be true with the SSL Bus compressor; even if it’s barely doing anything, it adds something sonically. Running this as a final gain stage is also useful at times, as you can give yourself tons of headroom and make up the final level by using the gain on the compressor. I know many people will shudder when I say that, but I feel it works, and it’s one way of doing things.
Another approach used was testing the mixes on different monitors. We brought in Dan’s pair of YAMAHA NS-10 M’s (industry standard for such purposes) and set them up so that we could easily switch between them and the PMC’s through the desk. Much of the mix work was actually done through these rather than the PMC’s. This highlighted, to my ears at least, the need to have an alternative set of monitors in the Reid. As good as the PMC’s are, I feel that after working in the Reid a lot, much of my music doesn’t translate well on them. Loud, nasty, distorted guitars for instance, they don’t do well. And it is an important point that so much music is listened to on terrible laptop speakers and awful headphones, that is a sad reality of much music these days. Being able to hear your mixes on something which sounds awful is pretty important, in my opinion. If it sounds great on speakers which sound awful, it can only sound better on the PMC’s. The mixes were also tested again with a pair of SONY consumer headphones (which again, sound awful), a pair of earbuds (which sound even worse) and everyone’s favourite Beyer DT 770 pros. This helped a lot for ensuring the mixes transferring well to different media.
I’ve ended up writing this fairly quickly and expressing lots of personal opinions as well as technical documentation. One thing I think I would like to get across is that the Reid Studio can be used in many different and flexible ways. In my opinion there are a few additions which would make it more flexible, which would help get even greater results. Personally I would press for an alternative set of monitors in the Reid, plus a few more plugins (in particular distortion options).
More documentation of further projects I conducted in the Reid to follow…
Over the weekend of the 28th-30th of November I recorded two large orchestral ensembles in the hall. I write this post to document the mic set ups with the mix sessions following soon in a comment/other post (I say soon, this may be hopeful…).
The first night was the Edinburgh University Music Society’s Sinfonia. A large(ish) orchestra containing (as far as I could tell) pretty much anyone that wanted to play. A great initiative for players with the potential downsides not something I feel I should really comment on here… Anyway, these recordings are for my final year mustech project which will contain various mic set ups orchestra recording, hoping to draw useful comparisons and discover interesting perspectives from non-trained listeners through listening experiments which will be undertaken next semester.
As such, I chose to start off with the basic, tried and trusted method for orchestral recordings. The decca tree. Using the Schoeps omnis in a ratio of two across and one forward, making a t-shape approximately a meter and a half out from the front row of the orchestra and two meters up. I added a bit of a twist here in the form a mid-side pair (cardiod pointing forward, figure 8 pointing to the sides) positioned as close to the forward omni of the tree as possible. By doing this, I can compare the sound of the mid-side with the decca tree and also experiment with replacing the forward omni in the decca tree with the mid-side. Analysis of this to follow in the mix blog post.
One of the pieces had an extended brass section (3 tubas, hooray) and after sitting in on a rehearsal it became clear the winds would need some extra attention given their immediate proximity to these brassy beasts. The formation was horns and tubas stage right and trumpets and trombones stage left with the (doubled) wind section sitting right in front. The trumpets and trombones didn’t seem to be causing too much of a problem so I put up a KM140 cardiod facing as far away from them as possible whilst still pointing at the wind (so positioned just in front of the wind section pointing across and down. At the other side, the story was different. I decided to try out something I’d not done before in that I used a figure 8 schoeps pointed at the stage right winds and up into the ceiling. The reasoning behind this was to cancel the barrage coming from directly behind the winds in the figure 8’s null area. Of course there was some spill but in the end this seemed to work quite well with the winds clearly audible in the rough mix.
Lastly, there was a horn concerto so I thought I might as well try a close mic on the horn to mix in. Erring on the side of caution I went with the EV RE-20. Unfortunately, this mic had to be brought on and placed without much idea of where exactly the soloist would be standing (it was during concert so the soloist had to come on and play immediately, rather than wait for a mic to be placed). I would have just put this mic up for the whole concert but there was shuffling of chairs and such needed so it would have been in the way.
Given that this was my first big sessioin in the Reid, I was pretty overwhelmed with how amazing everything sounded straight off the bat (except the horn soloist spot… that may be end up in the track graveyard).
The second session was with the University of Edinburgh Chamber Orchestra performing a couple orchestral pieces and a piano concerto. Providing me with lots of joy and placement woes.
I used the same basic tree set up as last time with an ORTF pair replacing the mid-side pair. All in more or less the same positioning. Soon after, it transpired that the grand piano for the concerto would be placed almost directly beneath the tree which makes visual concert sense but did provide some interesting difficulties. As described by an undisclosed party, the lid of the piano was raised in a distinctly Nazi-esque fashion (all the way open). As such, the tree was bombarded with piano and while this wasn’t a great problem for the big orchestral sections, some of the more subtle accompaniment passages were being lost. Inspired by the results of my figure 8 wind spot two days previous, I put a couple of U89s up just beyond the piano towards the orchestra, spaced very widely (between 2nd and 3rd rows of violins). One end of each figure 8 pointed across the orchestra and the other into the wall/audience (not a major issue in theory though some coughs and sneezes came through, nice clear “whoops” during the applause too). The result of this wasn’t completely how I’d expected. They did the basic job, giving more orchestra when both piano and the rest were playing together but actually proved much more useful. I noticed that when the tree was A/B’d with and without the extra U89s, when they were in, they lifted the sound greatly, adding more clarity, brightness and widening of the stereo image. I imagine in much a similar fashion to a pair of wide spaced omnis. Either way, with all mics in and the orchestra playing superbly well, the mix sounded incredible.
Next stop is another orchestral recording this week for which I’ll be experimenting more with wide spaced mic positioning.
Oh, I should also mention that I went from the stage box clean through the desk and into the myteks. Recording in protools with digital outputs 1&2 patched to desk channels 17&18. The mic inputs were put on the record bus with protools coming out the mix bus so I could monitor what was happening coming in and what was being recorded.
More to come from further recording/mix sessions.