Digital on the Road

Jan 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly

TOP ENGINEERS DISCUSS CONSOLE TECHNIQUES

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JOHN SWORD, CARA DILLON FRONT-OF-HOUSE ENGINEER
This tour has 30 inputs from stage, which means on a Soundcraft VI6 I can run it all and effects on one surface. I will link stereo stuff together using the second layer for the right-side channel. If am using a VI1, I would also link stereo, but side-by-side only. I can hit the box I want quickly and efficiently without having to revert to a center section of controls to change what I want.

As far as the onboard plug-ins, the standard gate, compressor (with de-ess functions and limiting) are good for me. I always like to drive compressors hard but with very low ratios. I really like the Hall reverb on the VI. I will use a dark, long hall around 2 seconds and 100ms pre-delay for general drum reverb; it sits so well behind Paul’s heavy pounding beats. I also have an extra huge 10-second (no pre-delay) hall on hand for one-spot explosion. Vocal reverb will generally use the plate, dark so as not to accentuate a sizzle vocal. These ’verbs can vary from 1.5 to 1.7 seconds, with around 70 to 100ms pre-delay.

I have one tasty tip that I’m sure is not my own but it serves me perfectly. Nearly all artists I mix have a need to fly in effects at certain moments of the music, especially delay. So I have found it very useful to make, for example, two lead vocal channels soft-patched the same. Send whatever effect you want via the applicable aux, take the fader out of left/right so it won’t go through the system. Make sure the aux is post-fade. Then fire in the effect when you need it by riding the fader—effectively an effects send. I used to mix a lot of dub reggae so it’s essential to have your delays on tap for many instruments.

Jason Decter

Jason Decter

JASON DECTER, BLINK-182 FRONT-OF-HOUSE ENGINEER
I set up the Midas Pro 9 digital mixing system like I would on a regular analog desk: All my inputs I assign to subgroups, which then get assigned to feed left and right. I have dynamics and EQ privileges on all input channels on the subgroups, plus on left and right. I break down all drum and percussion elements, bass, guitar, keys, vocals, FX returns and matrix outputs. I put a stereo bus compressor on my left and right and use some output gain to make up the difference. The Crane Song HEDD 192HD is what I insert on my left and right. It’s not only a word clock that clocks my desk, but it also gives you tape saturation and second- and third-order harmonics to help shape the mix.

Robert Bull

Robert Bull

ROBERT BULL, MARTINA MCBRIDE MONITOR ENGINEER
I’ve mixed on all different types of consoles—both analog and digital, though I am a diehard analog guy—but there are times when analog is just not feasible. When I use a digital console, I prefer a Yamaha PM5D,

Recently, Martina McBride traveled on a chartered Amtrak train from Los Angeles to New York to promote her new album, Eleven, and paired with the Pink Together to raise awareness for breast cancer. We stopped 11 times along the way, performing at the train stations—some indoor, some outdoor. Within 15 minutes of walking off the train, we would have to set up instruments and be show-ready! In these situations, setting up a digital console is key. I would set up my wedge mixes on the Yamaha PM5D on the first five outputs, which are at the top of the output section. Then I set my IEMs on outputs 17 through 24, which is located on the bottom of the output section. This helped me to be quick and accurate. I had graphics set up for my wedge mixes that were assigned to the user-defined keys, 1 through 5, corresponding with wedge outputs. My reverbs were assigned to outputs 23 and 24.

If I am doing fly dates, TV shows or even train stations, the PM5D’s built-in effects and flexibility allow me to assign items where I need them via the user-definable keys. This enables me to walk right up to the console and start mixing. The 5D provides confidence that when a scene is recalled, it is right where I left it. If I am mixing wedges, having my graphic EQs set up on the user-defined keys allows me to get to them very quickly in any situation. When I am using both a PM5D and a DSP5D, the ability to switch between engines is invaluable to have at your fingertips. It helps an old analog brain get the job done.






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