The Power of Events with Avid S3L

By in Live Sound, Music Creation, Tech Talk

The following is the sixth of a seven-part blog series from Al McKinna, Principal Product Manager, Avid Live Systems & Consoles, that will provide a look inside the design of Avid S3L.

 

Oh, the tales I could tell you about the power of events. The things I have seen on my travels. The things they can do are mind-blowing, eye-widening, jaw-dropping, and other such hyphenated phrases.

Events can trigger pyros, stage lights, on-air lights, applause lights, and even console flight case bead lights. Events can fire in spot effects, cues, and playback music from a single button press. Events allow a tiny control surface to follow an engineer’s every move as he navigates through multiple monitor mixes while jumping in and out of flip to faders triggered only by an AFL switch. Events can change the patches of onstage keyboards and guitar effects pedals and trigger recording to high-channel multi-track recording systems simultaneously using only a snapshot recall.

I’ve seen an engineer target channels using only footswitches so he could keep his fingers on faders and knobs for the entire show. I’ve seen the curtains open and the entrance music triggered from a simple fader start. I’ve seen a single live sound console control a second live console as well as a lighting console at the same time. Hey, I’ve even seen a console hooked up to a coffee machine!

The possibilities blow my mind, and it’s all down to events.

Avid S3L is extremely compact but incredibly powerful. We knew when designing S3L that we would need to provide an incredibly rich Events system as it would become integral to the versatility and efficiency of the console.

Consider just a few of S3L’s applications:

  • High-demand concert sound and festival applications with quick turnarounds and many acts
  • House of worship applications with large quantities of performers and speakers
  • Theatre applications with multiple scenes, complex control surface workflows and integration with playback systems
  • Corporate AV applications with talking heads, presentation systems and video
  • Live broadcast and recording applications with a constant rotation of multiple acts when maintaining a deadline is paramount

With these scenarios in mind, the ability to link unrelated operations together via a detailed and user-friendly interface becomes tantamount to S3L’s effectiveness in these high-pressured environments. This is exactly what the Events system is designed for.

We knew when designing S3L that we would need to provide an incredibly rich Events system as it would become integral to the versatility and efficiency of the console.

So what actually is an event?

If I was to employ the skills of Nick Pellicciotto (Avid technical publications writer extraordinaire) and ask him how to define an event in the VENUE software, I am guessing he would say something along these lines…

“An event is a user-defined combination of one or more triggers to cause one or more actions. Each event serves as a type of software ‘macro’ in which you can establish a cause-and-effect relationship between a trigger and the resultant behavior of the S3L system, the action.”

In fact, Nick did say this exact thing because I plagiarized it right out of his S3L System Guide. What it means in real-world terms is that you can customize and enhance the behavior of your S3L system so it can perform multiple tasks simultaneously, using previously unrelated functions. This customization can relate directly to the way that the S3 Control Surface and VENUE software behave, and more excitingly, how S3L interacts with other devices in your live sound environment. All you need to do is access the OPTIONS > Events page in the VENUE software, create an event and define its trigger (the function that kicks off the event) and the action (the resultant behavior of S3L).

The list of triggers available in the Events page is extensive. Almost any button on the S3 Control Surface can be used as a trigger, including the 16 function switches and 4 touch strip zones, together with non-control surface items such as snapshot functions, footswitch activation, GPI inputs, and even toggling Show and Configuration modes.

The list of triggers (left) and actions (right) in the OPTIONS > Events page of the VENUE Software is extensive.

The list of actions available is extensive also. You can select any channel in the system, mute any channel, engage mute groups and mute stage outputs, change view modes in the VENUE software, trigger snapshots, and control the transport of the onboard 2-track record and playback system and even a connected Pro Tools system.

Events can be programmed offline in the VENUE standalone software, so to check out the full power of them, just download the software. It’s on us and available here.

 

Tips & Tricks

With all this functionality, where do we begin? Let’s give you a few starting points, a few simple tips and tricks for cool stuff we can do with events. These will do nicely for starters…

  1. Changing VENUE Software View Modes
  2. Triggering Mute Groups
  3. Setting the Tap Tempo
  4. Recalling Snapshots

Also remember to check out my previous blog on using S3L for monitoring mixing applications. I included some neat tricks to quickly navigate through mixes on the S3 Control Surface, optimized for the monitor guy.

 

1. Changing VENUE Software View Modes (via a Function switch)

Avid S3L provides a number of ways to navigate through the pages of the VENUE software. You can use the view buttons and navigation on the S3 Control Surface, the function keys on your QWERTY keyboard, or just use the mouse. However, if you need to access a particular page or screen quickly, the best action is an event (pun intended).

Here’s how you make Function switch 1 target the PLUG-INS page of the software:

  1. Navigate to the OPTIONS > Events page.
  2. Press Create to create a new Event.
  3. Double click the Event to rename it. Rename it “View Plug-Ins (F1)”.
  4. In the Triggers section press ADD.
  5. Select from the dropdown list Function Switch 1.
  6. In Actions section press ADD.
  7. Select from the dropdown list Change View Mode, Plug-Ins Page.

Changing view modes of the VENUE software using Function switches.

2. Triggering Mute Groups (via a Function switch)

Avid S3L gives you 8 mute groups. Channels are assigned to mute groups in the INPUTS page of the VENUE software. There are no dedicated mute group switches on the S3 Control Surface, so activating mute groups is done via the Events page, which gives us a wider range of choices for engaging them.

For simplicity, let’s say we have drums on channels 1-12 and we want to mute the entire kit as one entity from a single button press. We can assign a VCA to do this, but let’s use a mute group this time.

Here’s how you make Function switch 1 activate Mute Group 1:

First you need to assign your drum channels to a mute group:

  1. Navigate to the INPUTS page of the VENUE software.
  2. Press the Assign button in the Mute Groups section of the INPUTS page to enter Assign mode.
  3. Make sure the red button for Mute Group 1 is activated.
  4. On the S3 Control Surface or in the software, select the drum channels (channels 1-12).
  5. Press the Assign button once again to exit Assign mode. Mute Group 1 is ready.

Channels are assigned to Mute Groups in the INPUTS page of the VENUE software.

Now you can set up an Event to activate Mute Group 1 using Function switch 1:

  1. Navigate to the OPTIONS > Events page and create a new event.
  2. Rename the event “Mute Group 1 (F1)”.
  3. In the Triggers section press ADD and select Function Switch 1 from the dropdown list.
  4. In the Actions section press ADD and select Mute Group 1 from the dropdown list.

Activating Mute Groups via Function switches.

Remember that you can trigger mute groups using other triggers than just the Function switches. Mute groups can be triggered from snapshot recalls, the mute switches of any channel in the system, and any other previously unrelated function the Triggers list provides.

 

3. Setting Tap Tempo (via a Footswitch)

Avid S3L provides tap tempo for syncing the delay of your plug-ins with your performance material. It’s handy to have this Tap Tempo assigned to a footswitch, so here’s how to set it up:

  1. Connect a footswitch to Footswitch port on the rear panel of the S3 Control Surface.
  2. Navigate to the OPTIONS > Misc page of the VENUE software.
  3. In the Tap Tempo section, press the ON switch.
  4. Navigate to the OPTIONS > Events page and create a new event.
  5. Rename the event “Tap Tempo (Footswitch)”
  6. In the Triggers section press ADD and select Footswitch from the dropdown list.
  7. In Actions section press ADD and select Tap Tempo from the dropdown list.
  8. Step on your footswitch and set the tempo.

Setting Tap Tempo using a footswitch.

4. Recalling Snapshots (via a Function switch)

You can use Events to recall any snapshot available in your Snapshots list. A handy workflow is to use the Function switches on the S3 Control Surface to recall next and previous snapshots so your scene recalls are right under your fingertips.

To make Function switches 7 & 8 recall previous and next snapshots follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the OPTIONS > Events page and create a new event.
  2. Rename the event “Recall Previous Snapshot (F7)”
  3. In the Triggers section press ADD and select Function Switch 7.
  4. In the Actions section press ADD and select Recall Previous Snapshot.
  5. Create another new event. Rename this one “Recall Next Snapshot (F8)”
  6. In the Triggers section press ADD and select Function Switch 8.
  7. In the Actions section press ADD and select Recall Next Snapshot.

When you start integrating S3L’s Snapshots system with its Events system, the functionality can go pretty deep. Consider using a fader start to trigger the first snapshot in your show that subsequently triggers playback of the walk-in music on your 2-track USB drive or even the sound design from a connected Pro Tools system. One Snapshot recall can be set to trigger subsequent snapshot recalls, so a whole series of events can be set in motion with a single button press.

Remember that MIDI messages can be transmitted via snapshot recalls, as can GPI outputs via an event, so S3L can interact with the lighting guys, the pyrotechnics, video dudes or even trigger other audio consoles in the auditorium… Phew!

I’ll let you ponder the possibilities.

 

Integrating Events with the MEDIA page

This little blog entry would not be complete if I didn’t mention the MEDIA page. The MEDIA page is the central point of control in the VENUE software for S3L’s onboard 2-track USB record and playback system. Plug a USB flash drive into any available USB port on the E3 engine and the MEDIA page allows you to manage the stereo recording to the drive and the playback of stereo files from the drive through the Patchbay integration, simple folder navigation windows, transport controls and playlist, all fully integrated into your Show file. However, the system truly comes into its own when used in conjunction with Snapshots and Events.

The MEDIA page is the central point of control in the VENUE software for S3L’s onboard 2-track USB record and playback system.

Let’s start with playback. Any WAV or MP3 file that you want to play back must first be added to the Playlist in the MEDIA > Playback page. Once it’s in there, you can trigger the playback via an event or a snapshot. As all the MEDIA transport functions appear in the Actions list in the Events page, any button on the S3 Control Surface can be used to trigger the playback — just like a sampler. This is great for triggering spot effects or cues on the fly during a theatre show or sports event.

If you are using snapshots, the playback of any file in your playlist can be triggered directly from the snapshot recall, either as a single or repeated play of a track or to begin continuous play of the entire playlist. This couldn’t be easier to set up. A new MEDIA tab within the SNAPSHOTS page of the software allows you to select a file from the playlist and add it and assign it for playback when the snapshot is recalled.

The MEDIA pane in the SNAPSHOTS page allows 2-track USB record and playback to be triggered using snapshot recalls.

When it comes to recording, S3L gets even more interesting. Just like the playback functionality, recording can be triggered via an Event, so again surface controls can start the 2-track recording to the USB drive. Recording can also be triggered via a snapshot recall. But here’s where it gets even more clever…

Let’s say you have built your show using snapshots. You are running a show with a snapshot for each song in the set. Before the show, the lead vocalist asks you for a simple board mix of tonight’s performance. You oblige.

You plug in your USB flash drive. You go to the SNAPSHOTS page, you select the first snapshot in the list, and in the MEDIA tab you click Record > Use Snapshot Name. You repeat this process for every snapshot in the list.

2-track USB record and playback can be triggered using snapshot recalls.

The powerful Events system provided by the VENUE software streamlines your workflow through a user-defined system of advanced control functionality, enhanced beyond the capabilities of any other live mixing desk.

It’s show time. The band comes on stage. You are recalling snapshots for each song in the set. Every snapshot recall triggers a recording to the USB drive. Now, because S3L has a record divide function, every time you trigger a snapshot recall the USB recorder finalizes the current recording and instantly starts a new recording, each time taking the name of your snapshot as the name of the file being recorded. At the end of your show you have a USB drive containing audio files for each song in the set, already cut into discrete files and labeled to match the set.

The artist thinks you’re a genius and that’s fair enough, you are.

So in closing what can I say? Only this—you are in control.

The powerful Events system provided by the VENUE software streamlines your workflow through a user-defined system of advanced control functionality, enhanced beyond the capabilities of any other live mixing desk. It takes S3L into a new realm of live production control beyond that of mixing the audio. The Events system is powerful and wholly user-defined, so that power is all yours.

But don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself. Avid S3L is now shipping and available worldwide. Call your Avid dealer and organize a demo, and as always, let us know what you think.

In my final blog entry for our Designing Avid S3L series, we are going deep. We are drawing together everything we have talked about over the entire blog series, adding a little sprinkling of Pro Tools and a few snapshots, and discussing how Avid S3L is much more than just a digital mixing console.

With a fully networked system of distributed I/O, onboard plug-ins, integrated Pro Tools control, record and playback, built-in media system, and powerful system of snapshots and events, Avid S3L is not just a great sounding mixing desk. Avid S3L is a live production system, and the central point of control of your live sound environment—in my next blog entry, you’ll find out why.

As Principal Product Manager for Live Systems and Consoles at Avid, I am one of the luckiest guys I know. Every day I wake up, go to work and design live sound consoles for the most talented, creative and driven people in the world.