“As the largest cultural and concert venue in Hungary, the Palace of Arts requires a massive technical infrastructure and smooth, efficient workflows. Inside the huge building we have four sound studios that all serve as multifunctional workspaces, from recording through editing to complete post mixing.
Variety is the key. We produce about 500 shows a year, including radio, TV, galas, live broadcasts and webcasts. As an audio engineer, in the morning you may record voice overs, then in the afternoon you might edit the audio for a TV or radio show, while in the evening you may record a huge symphonic orchestra or mix a live broadcast event. Being prepared, flexible and well organised is mandatory. This is why we need tools that can properly serve our needs against very demanding deadlines.
We needed a control surface that was modular, able to control multiple DAWs, and was future proof. After much research and careful consideration we narrowed down our list to one candidate and purchased two Avid Pro Tools | S6 control surfaces in M10 24-fader configuration.”
“For us, it offers the best range of capabilities. We don’t just use the S6 surfaces for post production, but also for live broadcast and webcast mixes. Carefully built template sessions give us all the flexibility we would get from a digital console, with many added benefits. First, we can use the very same spectacular sounding and familiar plugins we use in post production. At the end of the show, we already have a fully customised and set up session with all the routing, grouping and personal needs of the engineer. And, importantly, we have fader automation already recorded which means we don’t start the post mix from zero, but from a stellar sounding, automated session. This makes an enormous difference in speed and efficiency.
We’ve tried many different layouts with the S6 as it is really like Lego. Just dream up a different configuration, and within 10–20 minutes you’re ready to mix again. My first mixing session with the S6 went surprisingly well. As I had a tight deadline with a pretty huge mix, I thought this would be the ultimate test; I didn’t know the surface very well then, and discovered new and available functions as I did the mix. What I really loved is that, after a few hours in the mix, it already felt like a natural extension. I didn’t have to overthink the process technically, it just worked. I had all the PDFs on my iPad in case I needed to look something up, but to be honest I never had to search for anything in the user manual.
The second day of mixing was even more fun. It really felt like my dream surface – so much so that I started to experiment with different things during the mix, I felt so confident that the S6 would do it properly.”
“I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to mixing so I have many VCA masters in my sessions; often I even use nested VCAs for more control and to have more options. VCA spill is dead easy on the S6 and the ability to choose where to spill the tracks (to left or right of the VCA) is a very nice add-on.”
“While I only got my feet wet with layout mode, I found it immensely powerful for organising and navigating a big session. After selecting and building a few layouts, it becomes quite addictive. With just a touch I can recall any of my custom fader setups. At the pre-dub stage I have more tracks in my layouts, and as I approach the final mix I have more VCAs and fewer individual groups and tracks. It’s good to know, though, that any time I need to delve in and modify some small element, I still have my detailed pre-dub layouts, so just one touch and all the necessary things will be right there in front of me.
What really helps me in a live broadcast mix is the do to all command. For example, at the soundcheck stage I can assign the input gain to the knob module so I can gain just like on any usual console, and later I switch it back to panorama. The ability to execute commands that affect all the channels is not only a great time saver but really makes the whole workflow faster.”
“Another feature I love is the ability to insert my favourite EQ and Dynamics plugins with a push of a button. Generally I use many Avid Channel Strips in a live broadcast mix, but in every situation there are certain things that need a bit more treatment; for example I use Fabfilter’s ProQ2 and Sonnox Dynamics to give me even more options. Plugin manipulation is fast and easy. What really makes it fun is that the knobs are coloured according to the process, and they’re touch sensitive. They also act as push buttons and have acceleration, which is really helpful. If I need to adjust a tiny thing, turning it slowly gives me high resolution, but also it is possible to go fast from one value to another.
An immensely helpful feature of the S6 is the ability to check the contributing channels per VCA at any time. This might seem a very tiny thing, but in a complex, large mix it’s a great help. Just push bus on the VCA strip and it automatically shows which channels have been assigned to that particular VCA. And it not only shows the track’s names, but also their levels. Since we use the S6 in post and broadcast situations, this little feature really makes the sound mixer more comfortable with the surface. There are many other seemingly small features of the S6 that makes the mixer feel confident, but somehow the whole design enhances the Pro Tools experience – not only by making manipulation and mixing faster, but the level of information we receive from the LEDs and coloured buttons is truly a great help for our workflow.
The ability to record automation while recording live performances is huge for us. On a live show I have all my VCAs in latch automation mode, so at the end of the show I end up with a well automated show, enabling me to use my time more productively in post production. Then it’s down to me if I coalesce that volume automation to the tracks or just trim the VCAs even more. It’s great to have that level of control of my session. I use the mouse less and less as it feels much slower.
As we are a multi-studio and multi-DAW facility, having the ability to seamlessly switch from Pro Tools to Nuendo and back is fantastic. It seems that the S6 integrates brilliantly with our daily challenges, be it live or post work. I think S6 has the potential to become the cleverest, most versatile surface ever.”