Musician Ilkka Ruutu has toured the world for a decade with his band, Sunrise Avenue. Ruutu has also worked in sound production for 20 years, including ten years of experience in renting audio equipment with his company, R2 Entertainment. We went to Vantaa, Finland to talk with Ruutu about his experiences as a sound engineer, and how he uses Avid systems on his various productions.
Ruutu and Avid have a long history. He got his first Avid console about ten years ago, and has acquired a respectable collection of Avid products since then, including three Avid VENUE | S6L’s, two Avid VENUE | S3L’s and an Avid Pro Tools | S6 M40 control surface. Ruutu also relies on a Pro Tools | HDX2 system with Pro Tools | HD Omni, HD I/O 8x8x8, and MADI interfaces.
Ruutu’s time is mostly spent touring with his band, Sunrise Avenue, so he can only take on a handful of audio engineering projects each year. Despite this, he stresses their importance, as they help to keep his skills up to date. Over the past year, Ruutu has used S6L for the main event of the Tangomarkkinat festival, musicals at the Vaskivuori High School and several Vantaa Pops Orchestra concerts, to name a few. He chose S6L because he needed extreme processing power and reliability while touring internationally with his band. He explains, “The S6L live mixers have a great sound. The S3L also has a good sound, but the processing power was not enough for my needs, so I had to upgrade. But the S3L is a great, compact piece of equipment that is sufficient for many applications.”
Ruutu shares an experience when he used VENUE | S3L for a musical production at Vaskivuori High School a few years back.
“I did the musical with two S3L’s. One had three stage racks, the other had two. Vocals were routed to one console, and the other received the band and the sound effects. I synced the snapshots with MIDI and controlled them on the other console.”
Integration helps with the workflow
“Simple” and “user friendly” are how Ruutu describes Avid products, and are the primary reasons why he chose Avid in the first place, and he finds the complex-looking S6L console to be very logical and easy to use.
Ruuku states, “Avid consoles have labels next to the encoders that state what they do. Other consoles can have 30 encoders next to each other, and the user has no idea what they do. I also like the physical faders, because I’m not a fan of moving things around with a mouse. Some people prefer a touch screen, but this setup works best for me. Also, with Avid things just work well together. For example, the integration between the S6L’s and Pro Tools is great. The fact that snapshots automatically become markers in a Pro Tools session really helps my workflow”, he adds.
Ruutu also appreciates the reliability of Avid products. “With Avid, I’ve never had any reliability issues. For example, a day before Tangomarkkinat, a new [VENUE software] update came out supporting the splitting of stage racks between two mixers. We updated the system and tested that it worked, and everything went as planned in the concerts during the same week,” Ruutu shares. “And when any problems have arisen during these years, help has always been available. The Avid scene in Finland is tight-knit, so there’s always someone I can call and exchange ideas with,” Ruutu concludes.
Virtual Soundcheck creates time for rehearsals
Ruutu is pleased with the features of the Avid VENUE | S6L, especially for working with musicals. He is particularly enthusiastic about the Virtual Soundcheck function.
“In musicals, it’s common that one actor has a short line or singing part, after which the next actor comes up. When the actors are constantly changing, it calls for several snapshots per song, indicating which actor is in which VCA group. Virtual Soundcheck is an incredible feature, because it allows me to do a snapshot for every song and scene at my own pace, and the actors don’t have to spend extra time in rehearsals”, Ruutu explains.
Virtual Soundcheck has made touring with the band easier as well. “We rarely do sound checks with the band anymore. The technicians can do the work themselves, and that frees up time for other things.”
Bigger productions create bigger demands
Ilkka Ruutu rents his Avid systems to other professionals through his company, R2 Entertainment. The current catalogue of rentable equipment consists of three VENUE | S6L’s and two S3L’s. Production sizes keep increasing in Finland, which means that the demands on live mixers are also increased. HE explains, “The S6L basically works for anyone. It’s fast, easy to use, versatile and packs a lot power.”
Keeping up the studio skills
Although Ruutu works live 98 percent of the time, he also has a studio space. The studio is where Ruutu keeps his skills up to date and works on his mixing projects.
“I used to work with an Avid C|24 control surface, but I updated to a S6 surface a few years ago. It was a natural transition, as I like faders and encoders. I like the S6 control surface because it is simple and versatile. It meets my needs perfectly.”