1

Mixing Duran Duran’s ‘Paper Gods’ Tour with VENUE | S6L

In four decades, Duran Duran has sold over 100 million albums worldwide and forever changed the way we “look” at music. But the group’s large and diverse catalog of hits—and changing set list—have made mixing the band on their Paper Gods Tour a challenge. How do you faithfully re-create the signature sounds of classic songs spanning decades?

As FOH engineer Snake Newton and monitor engineer Charlie Bradley will tell you, it’s easy with Avid VENUE | S6L. In this 3-part video series, veteran engineer and Avid senior live sound product specialist, Robb Allan, talks one-on-one with Newton and Bradley to discover…

  • Why each engineer chose Avid VENUE | S6L to mix this historic tour
  • Their approach to mixing, plus handling last-minute set list changes
  • How they individually manage their unique and complex workflows

Part 1: Robb Allan Talks with Duran Duran’s Snake Newton and Charlie Bradley

Part 2: Mixing FOH for Duran Duran with Snake Newton

Part 3: Mixing monitors for Duran Duran with Charlie Bradley

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Avid VENUE | S6L Helps Anastacia Hit the ‘Ultimate’ High Notes

Having sold over 52 million records and topping the charts in multiple countries across the world, pop superstar Anastacia is back on the road celebrating her catalogue of hits on the Ultimate Collection Tour. During the summer of 2016, the five-month European theatre and festival tour took in multiple stops in the UK, Germany, Italy and Eastern Europe.

After completing a host of world tours with multi-platinum artists, including Pink, Jessie J, Joe Cocker and Sade, front of house engineer Chris Madden supported the recent Anastacia tour with the powerful Avid VENUE | S6L. “VENUE is my favourite console hands down,” Chris said. “Everything I’ve done since 2005 has been on Avid, working on D-Show and Profile, and pretty much everything I’ve done this year has been on the VENUE | S6L.”

Chris initially tested the VENUE | S6L in his home studio and instantly knew he was in good hands with the live mixing console. “I was immediately aware that it made everything sound incredible. I ran some previous show files that were recorded on a Profile system at 48k, which I upsampled. Even though I hadn’t yet done a gig or recorded any material on it at 96k, the console sounded great!”

The first show that Chris mixed on the VENUE | S6L was in February 2016 with pop starlet Jessie J, for a performance on the Swiss TV event Art on Ice. “I’ve always completed great shows on Avid Profile desks and the VENUE | S6L is no different – Avid desks just sounds better than everything else, period! I plug it in and the clarity is instantly there. My workflow on VENUE | S6L is tremendous – the ease of the navigation is so smooth, and I’m never a button press or two away from where I want to be.”

Running the VENUE | S6L-32D, with the power of the VENUE | E6L 192 engine, Chris explains how much more time the console gives him back in the run up to a show. “VENUE | S6L is just so much quicker – everything is where I need it to be straight away. The Anastacia tour was a big 60 input production designed for theatres, and thanks to the advanced processing power and track counts available it was flawless in performance and recording every channel directly to Pro Tools every night. I currently only have one HDX card in my console with a possible max of four and I wasn’t pressurising the card with the amount of plug-ins I use at all.”

During the Prague stop-off of the Ultimate Collection Tour, there was an extra special treat for the audience as a full orchestra joined the production for one night only. The orchestra prepared their own arrangements of Anastacia’s hit-filled set list. Chris continues: “Because of time constraints, another mixer joined the fold in Prague and was backstage solely mixing the orchestra on another console. He sent me through 10 or 12 extra stereo input stems, which the S6L handled easily thanks to the high channel count. It was a really special show on the Ultimate Collection tour.”

Speaking of the next generation features of VENUE | S6L, Chris added: “Avid’s Virtual Soundcheck is a lifesaver. For Anastacia, we had a very short rehearsal period, so it helped me save hours of prep and pre-show across the tour. The fact that I’m able to switch out from live to Pro Tools playback so quickly and easily without going offline and restarting the console is just brilliant – the desk does all the hard work!”

Following the 2016 leg of Anastacia’s Ultimate Collection Tour, Chris is currently mixing a live album of material recorded from the tour, A-4-APP, which will include live versions of her hits as picked by her fans through her official app. “Once the discussion was had about making a live album, I recorded and archived every show for the rest of the tour and I set up various mics to capture audience ambience at 96k. That’s a lot of data and a lot of shows to record, but VENUE | S6L performed, no sweat. We’ve been through the desk mixes of each night of the tour and we’re almost there with the versions that will be used. Thanks to the S6L’s faultless integration with Pro Tools, the option to record every show wasn’t even questioned!”

Chris Madden

Anastacia has announced a further UK leg of the tour in 2017, following her appearance on the BBC One primetime show, Strictly Come Dancing. Chris will once again be joining her supported by the powerful VENUE | S6L. “I really am appreciative of Avid’s hard work that’s gone into the development of this console, getting it to such an incredible standard. I’m looking forward to future shows and tours as this incredible technology develops and advances.”

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Radiohead in Concert — a Much Awaited Visit

This story is by Nizarindani Sopeña Romero, Editor of sound:check magazine. This feature originally ran in Issue 220 (December 2016) of sound:check—you can read the story in Spanish here.

After more than three decades of creating exceptional music, Radiohead’s sound is not only contemporary, but also fresh and new, as demonstrated with their new album “A Moon Shaped Pool” which they recently presented at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City. Followers of the band in Mexico were very anxious to hear the new album live. Radiohead’s typical fan is not content to listen to the material they have performed for the past three decades—they want more, and that is precisely what they got.

Jim Warren mixing front of house at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City on an S6L system provided by Firehouse Productions

Up to date

Not only is the sound of the iconic British band cool, so is their equipment. For their latest tour, including the concerts in Mexico City, the band took out the new Avid VENUE | S6L mixing systems, operated by Jim Warren at FOH and Michael Prowda at monitors. “I’ve been working for Radiohead for 25 years,” says Warren, who has witnessed the evolution of their sound. “Their style has evolved over the years, but it’s impressive how they can keep the old songs fresh.”

Warren and Prowda are right at home with Avid consoles, as they have been mixing on various VENUE systems for approximately eleven years. “This console I really like in general terms, but one of the features I find most useful is the consistency with which I can handle many channels on the same surface with the Layouts function, which allows me immediate access to any Group or VCA without the need to navigate between layers of faders,” Warren continues.

Mike Prowda at monitors with S6L

For Warren, Palacio de los Deportes is an acoustic challenge at around 110 Hz: “It’s a frequency that this place really likes. When we launched a sine wave to see what happened, we noticed that it simply came and went, came and went. And when it came back, it did so with greater intensity. But I think sometimes a challenging place does not necessarily make our job complicated, and I think this was the case.” From monitor engineer’s point of view, the acoustic characteristics of the venue affect the mix to a lesser extent. “I think the first thing to do is not to panic. While it is true that we are using personal [in ear] systems, we also use floor monitors,” Prowda comments.

When approaching how to mix each song, Warren likes the idea of teamwork. For him, the group’s feedback is essential in shaping the final sound that comes through the speakers. “The point is that when they get involved in the mix, it allows you to get their perspective. Otherwise, you have more than a dozen songs that may be sonically similar. This is why I like to ask the band to submit suggestions during rehearsals—that has worked extraordinarily well.”

Less is more

Using plug-ins with the S6L is also greatly simplified, eliminating the need to connect external equipment to the consoles. Warren shares, “Curiously, I’m presently not using too many plug-ins when mixing Radiohead. I find that the S6L system offers me much of what I need to do simply with its equalizers and dynamics. I prefer to use effects that are onboard the console, with the exception of third party saturation effects, which give a very nice tonal character. I have worked with analog systems in the past and I’ve had to connect a lot of equipment in order to achieve a certain effect. Today everything is done inside the console, and although you have access to more tools, I am convinced that less is more.”

Prowda has worked in live audio for about forty years, mixing such renowned artists as the Grateful Dead, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, Steve Wonder, Whitney Houston, Eagles and many others. Mixing for Radiohead he comments, “It has been fascinating to work with them. There is a lot of complexity in the music and they are very intelligent in what they do. I think all the time you’re putting your skills to the test when working with this band. Working as a monitor engineer for Radiohead has brought me immense satisfaction. When you’re a monitor engineer you become a part of the band, you’re like the fifth Beatle. There is a special connection that makes the work very special. When everything goes well there is nothing better; however, when things start to go wrong, there is nothing worse! What I want to say is that the link is so close to the artists, that you are both part of the same emotional journey.”

After many years of working in the field of ​​monitors, it is evident that Prowda has experienced momentous changes in technology: the change from analog to digital, from floor monitors to personal monitors, and others. “I simply embraced technology. I tried to evolve with it. A long time ago I realized how monitoring was going to progress and I evolved with the technology. It was about making a good sound and a good mix and giving the band something nice to listen to. I feel that the floor monitors were, and in fact still are, a kind of guessing game, because although sometimes it can go very well and I can do a good mix, there are other times in which I simply have no idea how it might sound for the musicians. It’s true that one can use aids to know the balance of each instrument in general, but when you are not in the middle of the stage, it’s impossible to know exactly how everything sounds.”

Most monitor engineers working at this level emphasize the importance of the relationship they build with musicians, precisely because of the closeness of their work to one another. Prowda comments, “The relationship we have established is really great. Off the stage we rarely talk about work, it’s more about joking and talking about other things, but I’m convinced that helps a lot with what we do concert after concert. If you are not able to establish that kind of relationship, your work will probably be affected.”
For Prowda, Avid is not new. In fact, like Jim, he has been working with Avid since 2005, but he confesses to being impressed by the performance of the S6L system. “The preamplifiers are really advanced, which makes it a pleasure to listen to. On the other hand, I agree with Jim about the plug-ins. In 2005 everything was plug-ins, now I think the trend has shifted more towards what the console itself has to offer. Of course I use them, but to a lesser extent.”

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Dual S6L’s Deliver Pristine Sound for Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall

Roy Thomson Hall is home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and hosts some of the world’s biggest acts and events throughout the year, including the Toronto International Film Festival. To handle its diverse performance requirements, the 2,630 seat hall recently upgraded it’s front of house and monitor positions with dual Avid VENUE | S6L systems installed by Solotech Toronto that share I/O over an Ethernet AVB network. I spoke with Doug McKendrick, production manager for Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall, about the recent upgrade.

Roy Thomson Hall by day...

and night (photo credits: Stephen Chung)

DH: What kind of programming do you have throughout the year that the new systems will be supporting?

DM: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is our primary tenant, and they occupy a large footprint of our year here. There are a number of annual events and series, including high profile speaker events and popular music, such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Pink Martini and Chris Botti for example. And of course Roy Thomson Hall is home of the Toronto International Film Festival Gala screenings every fall. We host a wide spectrum of public events and then we switch quite quickly between corporate events and Orchestra rehearsals throughout the day. Recently we were dealing with 90-100 channel counts for amplified orchestra events.

S6L at front of house

DH: What was your setup at the Roy Thomson Hall when you started looking into upgrading your system?

DM: We had a Yamaha PM1D at Roy Thomson Hall for about 14 years that served us very well, but it was time. The PM1D was fixed in the sound booth which is on the balcony level of the auditorium and is sometimes not a desirable mix position for guest engineers coming in with a tour. With a new console project on the horizon, we were looking at options that would provide flexibility. We wanted to have a console that could fit through the booth door and move down to the main floor easily when needed, as well as maintain access to the second floor booth as usual. We had to look at dimensions and weight because to get it to fit through the booth door we had to devise a custom cart that essentially tips the console on its end like it would be in a road case. So one of the big selling points, aside from all of the great functionality, was the dimensions and the weight. We were successfully able to do that and we also added the first ever monitor console here at the Hall as well.

S6L at monitors

DH: How were you dealing with monitors before?

DM: Before we were always renting consoles. We would typically bring in two consoles. We’d have to run a snake, and you know all that stuff. Those rental costs were a huge factor in looking at the value of adding the monitor board, and with S6L’s whole I/O sharing feature, we were able to do that without having to add additional copper infrastructure and split snakes and the like. It was also really important that we have patchable locations all over the building, so the ability to have three stage racks was really key, in the fact that we could put one in the booth, one stage left and one stage right and be able to utilize all of them and both consoles. 

Stage 64 I/O racks are positioned on either side of the stage

and feed both S6L consoles over the Ethernet AVB network

DH: Sounds like the S6L’s are a good fit in delivering what you needed them to do.

DM: Yeah, it’s been great. We’ve got a fully redundant fiber ring and we were able to devise a way with a fiber patch bay in the booth to just move a patch, and we can then either take the monitor console out of the ring or add it in and move the front of house console down to the main stage but leave the associated stage rack and engine in the booth. So the only thing we have to move down to the main floor is the surface.

 

DH: What console configurations do you have for the respective front of house and monitor positions?

DM: We have the 32 fader for front of house and we have the 24 fader with only one screen for monitors, which I know isn’t the most common one out there, but it’s been great. And you know, looking at other options in a similar budget range, we really weren’t going to have much more than one screen anyway, so it’s been a good fit there.

Roy Thomson lobby

DH: So aside from the needing to have something that had dimensions that would let you actually move the front of house console down to the main hall, how did you and your team approach the decision in choosing the new consoles?

DM: We looked at a lot of different consoles and it seemed like the S6L was very cutting edge. I know that we were somewhat of an early adopter here, but I’ve been an Avid user throughout my career, not just in management at Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, but as a touring engineer. A huge factor in deciding was that the fact that we are largely a road house and need the flexibility to accommodate a wide array of needs from touring productions. Having the backward file compatibility with the previous VENUE systems will really help our users and guest engineers feel comfortable, in that they can bring a file that they were used to using on to the new system without having to rebuild. That was a big selling point. I don’t think anyone else has really got that to the same degree. I’ve experienced it myself, bringing VENUE [show] files into the new system, and with the exception of effects return changes, it traveled perfectly. It was just like how I left it, except it just sounded way better!

Roy Thomson Hall grounds

DH: What about some of the newer features—do you use S6L’s custom fader layouts?

DM: You know, that was a really important one for our sound team here, specifically with having over 100 channels distributed throughout the building. You can park the house wireless mikes down at the end, but always have them on top easily.

 

DH: How are the systems sounding now that you have everything installed and dialed in?

DM: It’s exceptional. We have a Meyer PA with Galileo front end and Optocore transport, but previously we were feeding the system analog from the PM1D. So A, being able to switch to AES from console to speaker; and B, the increased sample rate and just the quality of the pre’s and converters—it’s far more open and clean and pristine. The audio is noticeably different, even just playing a CD.

In 2002 Roy Thomson Hall went under a substantial acoustic enhancement and we’ve been very particular about doing everything we can to enhance and improve both the audience and artist experience on an ongoing basis. Having the right system that supports the diversity of the venues programming is essential.

S6L at FOH with the hall's famous Gabriel Kney pipe organ in the background

DH: To what degree are you using sound reinforcement for the orchestra?

DM: There are certain times where we have a smaller PA system that serves as sort of like a public address, but you know, movies have become a major part of the orchestra season as well as Pops. For those events, we’re oftentimes micing the whole orchestra and integrating a band or movie dialogue or something like that into it.

 

DH: How does S6L’s Pro Tools integration apply to supporting your clients?

DM: There are many events here that are captured or streamed, whether it’s archival, commercial or for web. Having the ability to multi-track or play back from multi-track so easily was a huge selling point for sure, especially with it just being an Ethernet cable, rather than another rack. I think it’s so new to us that we haven’t even really fully realized what the potential is for it, because it’s not something that we’ve had. But there are certainly many recordings done at Roy Thomson Hall, and now we have an option to do it excessively at a higher sample rate than previously without bringing in all sorts of extra gear.

DH: As far as the I/O sharing goes, it sounds like you didn’t have much experience with that before. What has that been like for your team?

DM: We haven’t really found it to be any different than normal if you don’t go in with a preconceived notion that it’s going to be bad. Advancing certain events has been a struggle, because people have had bad experiences with it on other systems before. But if you don’t know that you are I/O sharing, I don’t think that you’d even notice the difference.

We don’t run into situations where the monitor person is trapped because the front of the house person hasn’t gotten to an input yet or vice versa. And because there’s no visual display of knobs moving when someone else touches it, I think it adds a comfort level that’s not really any different than just operating with a split. I think that makes a big difference in the perception of it. I think the [software] update for I/O sharing came out basically right as we were installing the consoles, so we were out of the gate with it, and we didn’t run into any problems at all.

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




S6L Gains Host of Eleven Rack FX Plug-ins

We are thrilled to share that Avid VENUE | S6L now includes even more tools with which to shape your mixes. All current and future S6L customers will now receive an additional 17 plug-ins from Avid’s award-winning Pro Tools | Eleven Rack guitar processor. Everything from stomp box emulations to studio effects and utilities—S6L now puts more creative choices at your fingertips than ever before.

We have already added the plug-ins to S6L customers’ accounts—just log in and you’ll find them in the plug-in installer folder—you do not need an iLok authorization to run these plug-ins.

 

What’s included?

BBD Delay

Create delay, chorus, and vibrato effects based on the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man.*

Black Op Distortion

Add rich distortion and overdrive based on the Pro Co Rat pedal.*

 

Black Shiny Wah

Based on the VOX V846* pedal, perfect for bending your sounds.

C1 Chorus

Get the unmistakable sounds of the Boss CE-1 Chorus* with this emulator.

DC Distortion

Dial up a range of overdriven tones with this Avid custom distortion effect.

EP Tape Echo

Emulated virtually every aspect of an original Echoplex EP-3.

Flanger

Create unique sounds with this homage to several vintage and modern flange pedals.

Graphic EQ

5-band EQ ideal for cutting out troublesome frequencies or dialing in just the right tone.

Gray Compressor

Add warmth to your tracks based on the gray-colored Ross compressor.*

Green JRC Overdrive

Get the coveted sounds of the Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer.*

Orange Phaser

Create interesting effects with this phase shifter based on the MXR Phase 90.*

Roto Speaker

Get the sounds of a Leslie rotary speaker cabinet* with this Avid custom effect.

Spring Reverb

Get the twang and space of the blackface-era Fender Spring Reverb units.*

Studio Reverb

High-fidelity reverb effect that lets you take complete control of the reverberant characteristics of your mix.

Tri Knob Fuzz

Get the Hendrix tone with this fuzz box based on the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi.*

Vibe Phaser

Add phase-shift and rotary speaker effects based on the Univox Uni-Vibe.*

White Boost

Boost gain without coloring tone with this homage to the Xotic RC Booster.*

We hope that you enjoy exploring the capabilities that these diverse new plug-ins offer, and find new and creative ways to use them with your clients!

* These plug-ins are not connected with, or approved or endorsed by, the owners of the Boss, Electro-Harmonix, Fender, Ibanez, Leslie, Maestro, MXR, Pro Co, Ross, Univox, or Xotic names. These names are used solely to identify the guitar effects emulated by these plug-ins.

Trade Up and Save on VENUE | S6L

Meet the demands of any live sound gig. For a limited time, save up to 20% off Avid VENUE | S6L with your trade-in.

LEARN MORE




Arturo Pellegrini on mixing the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2016 in Malta with S6L

The Junior Eurovision Song Content (JESC) has been providing a unique platform for young artists across Europe since 2003. Now in its 14th edition, the JESC was held in Malta for the second time and was once again organized by the European Broadcasting Union in conjunction with local production teams led by the national broadcaster and EBU member, Public Broadcasting Services.

Sound engineer Arturo Pellegrini was flown in from Italy to manage all audio production requirements with BESTEAM Audio, a Malta-based audio services company. Arturo and his local colleagues opted to use Avid’s VENUE | S6L System in a special configuration. This is not the first collaboration between these two respected teams. In July 2016, they successfully produced the Joseph Calleja Concert in Malta using Avid’s VENUE | S6L, S3L-X and Profile consoles. In this JESC there were two Avid VENUE | S6L consoles and Avid VENUE | Profile systems working seamlessly, ensuring exceptional sound quality as well as full redundancy.

Arturo Pellegrini with dual S6L's for mixing the music broadcast.

Arturo is no novice to the music industry, having already garnered considerable experience working with music for television, touring with big artists, and working with large orchestras and bands. We sat down for a quick chat with Arturo about his preparation for JESC 2016 and his experience of the Avid VENUE | S6L console.

The S6L consoles used at JESC 2016 in Malta were supplied by DAB Electronica, approved resellers and system integrators of Avid in Malta.

FOH and monitors were mixed with Profile systems

When did you first use Avid Live Systems?

I first came in contact with Avid Live Systems some years ago at the Arena di Verona where I used it for a large-scale concert. This was a particularly tricky production as it involved a high degree of specificity that resulted from the diversity of having a big symphony orchestra, a choir and light music arrangements. That time I worked with two Avid consoles that had a profile of 97 channels.

I clearly remember how I learnt to use the console in a span of a couple of hours. Someone came to explain the basics to me but the second that he had finished I had to immediately proceed on to the soundcheck! On the whole, I found Avid live systems to be quite efficient and user friendly, so it worked out extremely well

 

Why did you choose the Avid VENUE | S6L for JESC 2016?

Switching to the S6L was a completely natural step. After years of using several different digital consoles of considerable sizes, I knew what I wanted to obtain from the S6L the moment I saw it. In addition, the distributor for Avid was very helpful in teaching me how to employ the S6L, and I can even say that he made me fall in love with the product! Avid even sent over a specialist to help us out for the JESC 2016, and they followed our progress till the last minute, so I couldn’t be happier.

Can you describe the S6L system configuration used for JESC 2016?

We decided to take a different approach for this production. We created a hub beneath the main stage that received all the different signals from each piece of equipment. All the input and output signals from every single console passed through this hub, where someone was managing the patching process. Therefore, where one normally would expect the FOH to be the core of any live show, we have pivoted the core process onto this hub.

Two parallel Avid VENUE | S6L consoles, each connected to a Stage 64 I/O rack loaded with 64 input channels and a Waves SoundGrid server over MADI, were set up in an identical configuration and synced together via timecode because we wanted them to be completely identical to each other in order to facilitate immediate file transfer between the two S6L for instant backup.

One of the S6L consoles was used to mix the music transmission being sent to the OB truck, which also managed the presenter radios, microphones and video inserts. The second S6L system provided full redundancy as well as the ability to switch snapshots, effects and other elements according to timecode position. The VENUE | Profile console was used as the FOH and monitor system within the event venue.

How did S6L impact mixing on the production?

The S6L console made my life easier mixing every performance. Firstly, the S6L console surface can be fully personalised, so I can literally have an eye on everything that I need and remove anything else that is not required at that time. This means that my workspace is customized and simplified. I also commend the S6L faders—they offer incredible precision. When you want to follow a particular voice in the mix, you need to make very precise movements, sometimes down to the finest millimetre, and with the S6L you get the feeling that you’re in total control.

For the JESC 2016, our pre-production consisted mainly of a collection of multitracked songs of each participating nation. Multitracks enable us to achieve more accurate control when compared to the general playback used in other live shows. This is especially significant in this production because of the very young age of the competing singers, where certain high notes might be weaker in relation to the instrumentals. The S6L gives us the necessary tools to work comfortably within these parameters.

Did you use Virtual Soundcheck for this production?

Virtual Soundcheck was one of the features that I loved in the Profile series and which was made even better in S6L. It has become even simpler! With the S6L there is no need to close the work you are doing in order to wait for the console to restart. This used to be mandatory with Profile, but all that you need to do now is push a button.

I can honestly say that S6L’s Virtual Soundcheck feature is more effective and faster because you can immediately work on it as soon as a song finishes, and then go on to the next one without stopping. It gives us full control of the rehearsal immediately after it is completed.

 

What is your impression about the S6L’s sound quality?

There is definitely a higher dynamic to it and there is also more space for stereo imaging. S6L allows me to fix any sound in the mix with extreme simplicity. Other consoles that have multiple instruments playing in the background do not allow this, as the mix then starts becoming a bit crowded. With S6L you always have enough space to fit everything you need.

How does S6L compares to other consoles on the market?

I think the S6L System is the most versatile console from a routing perspective and it is definitely the one that sounds infinitely better. You can very easily integrate it with other hardware. This is my opinion and a question of personal tastes and acoustics: we have achieved a high audio quality with the S6L that is certainly not comparable to other digital consoles.

Avid Live Systems are known for their great products and reliability. The market offers several other computer-based products that might have good sound features but are less dependable. The VENUE | Profile had managed to give everyone the feeling that the products are robust, with minimal software and hardware issues.

As such, I can only say that the S6L is the evolution, or next step, that follows the same Avid live systems philosophy. Although it has only been on the market for a limited time, my experience of it thus far is showing it to be very powerful and stable. Anyone looking for a great investment should definitely choose the S6L, as it offers a lot of forward-looking capabilities not found in other systems.

 

Finally, what is your single favourite feature of the S6L?

I insist that it is the audio quality of the S6L that makes it unique in the market. It is the single most important feature that struck me as soon as I laid hands on the system. The sound produced by the S6L is simply exceptional.

 

About DAB Electronica

DAB Electronica was incorporated in 1998 to serve as a one-stop shop for broadcasting and AV production equipment in the Mediterranean. Under the sole ownership of Mr. Joseph Vella since August 2006, DAB Electronica has continued to gain market share through representation and distributorship agreements for several global brands. DAB Electronica is the AVID approved reseller and system integrator in Malta.

 

About BESTeam Audio

BESTeam Audio is a privately held company providing high quality services to the broadcast and entertainment industry in Malta through the provision of exceptionally professional sound systems. Over the years, the BESTeam have serviced concert tour stops in Malta by many renowned international artists.

Trade Up and Save on VENUE | S6L

Meet the demands of any live sound gig. For a limited time, save up to 20% off Avid VENUE | S6L with your trade-in.

LEARN MORE




VENUE | S6L on Tour with Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello kicked off his 2016 acoustic solo tour in Santa Rosa, California on March 29th and has since taken the show around the world—adding his band, The Imposters, to the mix mid-Fall. Front of house engineer, Fern Alvarez, Jr. (Dixie Chicks), and monitor engineer, Steve McCale (Elton John, U2, Steve Miller Band), have been taking care of mixing duties on the tour. I spoke with them on a deserved day off during the East Coast tour leg to get their impressions of using VENUE | S6L to bring Costello’s evocative performances to his fans around the world.

Steve McCale at monitors (photo courtesy of Clive Young @ Pro Sound News)

DH: I know that you’ve been using S6L for monitors since the solo tour kicked off last Spring, but you only recently added a second S6L at front of house. When did that happen?

FA: I started October 1 with our first show this Fall for the solo run, and then we ran straight into the full band run mid-October. It’s the first time I’ve been on it, and I’m loving it. The flexibility, the workflow, is just incredible. I’m super happy with the end product.

 

DH: What was the move like after having worked on the older VENUE systems for so long?

FA: Oh, it was wonderful. I did find some time to work on one at Show Systems in Orlando, just to get an idea of what I was looking at, and fell in love with it within minutes. Just the fact that was able to take my files from my Profile from Elvis’ solo and Imposter shows, two different files—it was just beautiful the way the files came across. I was able to create my workflow, build some layouts. And when all was said and done, I was able to disengage some plug-ins, because the channel itself was creating the input that I was looking for from the get-go, whereas the Profile was needing some assistance from plug-ins. So the transition has been really, really nice.

Fern Alvarez, Jr. at front of house (photo courtesy of Clive Young @ Pro Sound News)

DH: It obviously helps that the software is the same—it’s primarily understanding how the surface is laid out.

SM: That’s the way I always approach it. “Look at the software. Look at this GUI. You recognize that?” And they all go, “Oh, yeah. That’s the same thing.” It’s the same thing, it’s just the surface that’s different. Here’s how that works. You show them a couple, three things, and they’re good. It’s that easy. It’s not like starting over back in the old days where nobody knew anything about the platform at all. I mean, all we’re doing in this case is introducing people to a new work surface and some architecture, if they care. The mixer types don’t give a damn, but the system engineer types care about the architecture and how many channels you can have and the AVB and all that stuff they’re interested in. But the mixer types, they just want to know what they can do with it and can they lay it out so they can mix.

S6L's familiar VENUE software and show file compatibility eased the transition from Profile

DH: What are some of the things that really struck you when you first started mixing on S6L?

SM: Well, the biggest, first, most important thing about the S6L is the sound quality—I’ve got to stress more than anything. With any console, the sound quality ultimately determines its usability. Obviously sometimes you suffer sound quality for functionality, but this one doesn’t make that compromise.

The sound quality’s great, which means my workflow is easier in a lot of ways, because the things that I turn on sound good, and I don’t have much feedback. Microphones get louder because they don’t have the phase problems that you do on stuff that doesn’t sound as good. So the whole workflow gets easier because of the sound quality.

Then the way that I’m able to function best with this act is to be able to isolate each musician on their own [fader] layout—keep that musician’s inputs that are all created by them on their own layout. I always keep about 12 channels in the middle that are always the same on all the layouts. That way no matter what layout I’m in I’ve got access to the lead vocal. But then all the other faders are changing depending which layer I’m on. So, I’m able to really zoom in and jump to the keyboard player, the drummer, background vocals. And then I’ve got the mix layer, which is the top one, which is controlled by what snapshot I’m on. This is how I access what I need on a regular basis, including those central 12, but also other VCA’s, other inputs that may or may not be needed for the mix. I’m able to quickly get into exactly the section that I need to very fast and pop right back with speed and accuracy.

In D-Show world, we used to have line up the inputs and drag and drop them all over the place. We’d line them up so that they would lay in the right banks in the right orders and on the right faders. And you would get it the way you wanted it eventually, and of course then you were stuck with that arrangement, because you couldn’t change it. I started out on the S6L, when we only had one layout and going through inputs, but now that we have multiple layouts with VENUE 5.3 [software update], my inputs layout is one-to-one with the snake, so that whatever’s on input number 27 is also the snake number and I don’t have any confusion. All of my reorganization of the inputs is done through layouts. So, if I got to Inputs, I’m in a troubleshooting mode only—troubleshooting one-to-one to the snake paths, which is a big help. Everything else is on layers, even the auxiliary stuff. I’ve got a layout that just brings up just the extra stuff, like the audience mics and the 1/8” computer input.

DH: What a great way to set up the individual musician mixes on custom layouts but keeping the VCA’s in the same spot.

SM: It’s kind of like bank safing. You could bank safe, but frankly, I’ve gotten away from bank safing on this one because it tends to mess with everything. The problem with bank safing for me, is if I do go into troubleshooting mode, now I’ve got to turn around and skip the strips that lay under the Channels I’ve bank safed. Anything laying under the “safed” strips get’s buried. You can step around it, you can scroll over left and right, there’s workarounds, but in the heat of the moment I don’t want to be scrolling, I just want to be able to punch down. And that’s the same thing for the Outputs layer, because once again, the only reason I go to outputs or VCA’s or anything now is in troubleshooting mode where I want to see them all lined up in a row. If I want to have access to them in any other part of the show, I’m just accessing them for solos and mutes, which I’m doing from the center touch screen. And if I want to go beyond that I place the appropriate output strip on one of the layouts.

DH: How are you using the layout scoped in the current snapshot?

SM: The top layout is the one that changes with the snapshot. It’s got the same 12 or whatever central faders that I’m using, but the other faders will change. In other words, if that’s the part of the show where the guests come up on stage, then all the guest inputs will show up up there.

If that’s the part of the show where the acoustic pianos comes in, then the acoustic piano inputs show up. I have focus on what’s needed for that snapshot, but then I’m always able to go into the other layers and just go, “Keyboard player,” okay, there’s all his crap. I can do the same thing by spilling the VCA—there’s so many ways to do it.

But the reality is, in just a matter of about four or five layouts I’ve got my whole world ultimately where I want it, and I can quickly dive into troubleshoot mode and go right down into one-to-one and fix anything I want and pop right back into mix mode, and I’m gliding along—it’s pretty freaking amazing!

DH: Fern, how about at FOH. Are you using S6L very much like a Profile, or are you using a lot of custom fader layouts? What’s changed for you?

FA: For fader layouts, I probably have ten of them so far that I created for this show. We have different positions that Elvis hits: at the piano or at the center position—which is about 80 percent of the time—or the two large diaphragm mics that are mobile. I created layouts for each of those in able to keep my workflow right in front of me, so I’m not having to go across the board for inputs. So everything that I want is basically there—it’s like an oversized VCA, if you will. That’s what I’m treating it as. I have drums and bass guitar on one and a piano and keyboards on another, and then I start getting into the Elvis information, and I keep myself in a VCA/microphone mode with my instruments to my left side.

Those workflows really have been handy. And it’s the first time I’ve ever needed it with this band, because we added about 25 inputs for this tour. I don’t know if I would have been able to do it with a Profile, as we jumped from about 42 inputs to about 64—we’ve easily tapped out a Stage 64 on this show already. That workflow afforded me to do whatever I wanted to do. And I’ve been super happy with that—the layout portion of the console has been a lifesaver.

 

DH: Do you use the Universe View on the master touchscreen much?

FA: Absolutely. For sound check, and if I’m needing to redo a layout. But I keep it on the channel preview to keep an eye on the compression on Elvis’ vocal to see what it’s doing. And then if I need to get to any frontend stuff for his vocal—I’m using some Brainworx and SPL plug-ins—I can get to that quickly. The SPL Dual De-Esser is amazing on his vocal. And I’m keeping the vocal pretty flat as far as EQs go. And then Steve also sent me over some stuff with Brainworx that I’m just now getting into.

McCale running Plugin Alliance's Brainworx bx_refinement plug-in at monitors

DH: How about for monitors—how does the Universe View factor into your workflow?

SM: Oh, yeah. I use that overview a lot, especially trying to see if anything’s open. When you’ve got a muted scene where there’s only supposed to be a couple of inputs open, you can punch into that Overview scene and see that, yes indeed everything’s muted—that you didn’t accidentally leave the talkback mic open or something got safed and didn’t get muted by the snapshot. There are a lot of uses for that Overview screen, I use it quite a bit.

 

DH: How have you approached using plug-ins on the new desk?

SM: I’ve always been a “less is more” guy, which is funny because some people who know me would laugh their ass off at that. But it is actually true. I always try to find the simplest, cleanest path to achieve that sound, and I’m all about choosing the right microphone. Going to a plug-in or even EQ that’s going to fix a tone problem is lower on my list than other things. But still, when I do a project like this, especially in the beginning, I just take it in and pass it through. I don’t start with anything by default.

I will maybe inject a very loosely gated noise gate on the skin drums, and that is about as far as I go. Everything else I add as needed, and I just have not found myself needing hardly anything on this desk, and considerably less than on the previous desk. And I’ve had the advantage of actually having to do the same exact show on an SD7, an SD10, and also on a Profile. In all cases there was an audible difference between what I could achieve with the same microphone, same singer, same wedges, just a different console. The performance I could achieve out of the S6L is superior to everything I’ve mixed on—even the great old Analog “Legends”. It’s exciting. And no plug-ins are required to “fix” the sound. I mean, it just opens up, it’s very nice that way, and that’s why the sound quality is so important to all aspects of it. The tonality of the mix is incredible.

Now, as far as going down and exploring more plug-ins, I started discovering a world of really unique processing on the harmonic level of things. Plugin Alliance, McDSP and Cranesong have really got my interest right now. These companies offer unique “problem solvers” that helping me correct issues like poor sound in the acoustic guitar or piano, beyond EQ or dynamic shape—There tools really allow me to take things to an even higher level. But that’s where my plug-ins are, I’m way more into more esoteric stuff trying to achieve noise cancellation and harmonic shaping than trying to find an EQ or something. I don’t have that problem, all the onboard stuff just sounds amazing—I just dial it in and go.

The central Universe View screen gives McCale and Alvarez a complete overview and immediate access to all inputs, outputs, auxes, and more

DH: What has been your experience with S6L’s I/O sharing?

SM: It wasn’t until S6L got to gain sharing and everything, which wasn’t ready at the start of this run. We didn’t have an opportunity to switch him to an S6L for awhile—we were mainly in Europe, then we were in Southeast Asia. What really made the switch look good to production was that we lost 400 pounds worth of electronics, and we lost a splitter, because we only had one stage rack. You didn’t have to rent a whole separate stage rack and the splitter and all that, so we gained a bunch of truck space.

I’d mixed shows using networked DiGiCo stuff, and it’s scary, it’s clunky. For as long as DiGiCo’s been doing I/O sharing, I know of very few touring clients that use it, because they just don’t trust the way it works. It’s clumsy and there’s potential for failure, and nobody wants to risk their job on somebody else’s finger. But the Avid system is seamless. The only way that Fern or I have any idea we’re sharing I/O is if we look at the devices page and see which one of us says “slave” and which one says “master”. And it just so happens that I maintain master, and I turn on first every day, so I maintain clock, and that’s it—seamless.

And by the way, I’m one of the guys who used to fly the flag of never, ever sharing I/O, okay. And I’ll be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t be doing it right now if didn’t see firsthand how easy and smooth and reliable it was. When I did, I was like, “Okay. This is cool. I can do this.” And it is cool and it’s working just fabulously.

We’re now sharing preamps. All of our outputs and inputs go straight from one 12 space rack for the whole show, and we’ve got it filled up with 64 inputs, and it’s working pretty dang spotlessly—fantastic!

DH: Fern, was this your first experience working on networked systems sharing I/O?

FA: I’ve worked on a few things. On fly dates that we’ve done, like in China, I’ve had to work on some DiGiCo stuff. And they’re like, “Well, he’s the master. Now you’re now digital gain.” And I’m not the biggest fan of that because you do hear it. I was like, “Okay, this is a little weird.” I’m hearing the latency and the gain used because I’m on the digital side and he’s on the analog side. With S6L that’s not an issue. And I just love that. So whatever Steve’s doing on stage, I would never know, and whatever I’m doing out front he would never know. [Laughs]

We went in and we tried it. He would take his input, since he is the “master”, and he would take his input, run it like plus 30, I would be at minus 6. He would disengage a pad on the input, and I would not hear one thing happening on my end, with no latency whatsoever. It was just amazing. We were side by side. It wasn’t like we were 150 apart. We were prepping the gear at VER in New Jersey, and to see and listen to how quick and transparent the switch was and front of house not hearing anything that was going on as far as gain control, unpadding input, so on and so forth. It was really cool seeing that happen for the first time.

DH: How about Virtual Soundcheck, how are you guys using that?

SM: I use it every day—always have ever since it was first available over 10 years ago. Fern has just now got into the world of being able to use it because he previously wasn’t carrying an external [Pro Tools] HD rig to run with his Profile. But with S6L, it’s just a laptop, so uses his in the afternoon when he checks his setup, and I use mine religiously.

Also, and I know it’s not a typical workflow, but I’ve been making demo recordings for the opening act, Larkin Poe. We’re making demo material for their next record, and it was a great experience doing it and the results were really pretty freaking good. They would do drum tracks in GarageBand and send them to me, and I’d put them in, play them back and they’d play against them. We’d overdub vocals and lead guitar parts. All that stuff right on stage with my S6L. I was quite happy with the way it came out, and so were they.

I also take recordings and mix out tracks. Elvis is writing for a musical, and I’ll mix out tracks to send to his producers to listen. And he wants them not to be just board mixes. He wants them to be like basically mastered, decent mixes that can be put into an iTunes playlist with a bunch of other music and sounds okay. It doesn’t just all of a sudden drop 10 dB in level and get real airy. It takes a little bit of work to get those live recordings to do that, but I’ve been doing that for a few decades now.

McCale's Pro Tools rig at monitors: a Cat5e cable and MacBook Pro

DH: If you know your way around Pro Tools there’s a lot more you can bring to the table.

SM: Absolutely. And that’s what I try to do from my personal business point of view is just to bring a lot more to the table than just the monitor mixer or front of house mixer. I can help you create the content. I sit there behind this incredibly powerful tool that can do massive things, and there’s the part of me that wants to always get it to do everything it can, you know what I mean? I’ve ran multi-track recording studios. S6L is a multi-track studio, perfectly adapted for it, so why not use it? You’ve got a freaking band up there with killer musicians, and I’m sitting here with a multi-track recording studio. Duh! You’ve got mics in front of you, I’m recording all the time, “Dude, let’s do something. This studio time would cost you a fortune.” And up until now that wasn’t possible. I mean, you could record stuff in Pro Tools, but you could not play it back and overdub it and punch in without rebooting the system. S6L’s channel by channel instant changeover really has changed the game.

Once clients start realizing that it’s possible, they’re going to want it. And if they’re up there playing, they’re going to want to be able to go, “Hey, we wrote this song in the bus last night. Let’s go record it.” Once they start realizing that this is available, it’s going to be something they’re all going to want to do. They just don’t know it, yet. And this is an opportunity for somebody to go, “Look, this isn’t just mixing, now we’re doing this and this and this, and that’s worth an extra grand a week.” Or whatever. And then, maybe the industry can join the 21st century when it comes to pay scale. If you bring a little something extra to the table, Management can justify giving you a little something extra in your paycheck. This mixing system is definitely allowing me to explore workflows and be able to offer services to my clients that were never possible before. When you talk about Virtual Soundcheck and the interface with Pro Tools, the sky is just the limit.

Trade Up and Save on VENUE | S6L

Meet the demands of any live sound gig. For a limited time, save up to 20% off Avid VENUE | S6L with your trade-in.

LEARN MORE




S6L Helps Gareth Owen Bring ‘A Bronx Tale’ to Broadway

A Bronx Tale, directed by two-time Academy Award® winner Robert De Niro and four-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Zaks, just opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theater. I recently spoke with the production’s sound designer, Gareth Owen, about bringing A Bronx Tale to the Broadway stage. Owen, an Olivier Award winner and multi-Tony Award nominee, discussed the switch to the new Avid VENUE | S6L live system and described how he and his team are using the console’s expanded capabilities in support of this powerful production.

Sound designer Gareth Owen (all S6L photos shot by Kal Dolgin of Eyesounds Photography)

DH: You kicked this production off early in the year at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. How has the production changed as you move it onto Broadway?

GO: The reason for doing an out of town tryout is to experiment, find out what works, find out what doesn’t – there have been lots of little changes to the show as a whole since Paper Mill. Most of those have been nips and tucks to the script, improvements to songs, some new casting, – all add up to a much leaner, more exciting show.

DH: How has that changed your side of the production?

GO: One of the more substantial changes we’ve made is we actually ended up cutting the surround sound. I’m a very big believer that we shouldn’t spend our clients’ money on things we don’t need. So for the original production out at Paper Mill, I made sure I had a full surround sound system in order to cover any possibilities that might come up. But the reality of it is that we used the surround system so little out at the Paper Mill, that when we came to Broadway, we just redid the few moments where we were using surround so that they didn’t need the surround system anymore. That’s been the big change, apart from that we changed the mixing desk from the Profile to the S6L.

My intention was to use the S6L for Paper Mill initially, but when it actually came down to the wire, we realized that the desk just wasn’t quite ready to be able to deal with a show as complicated as A Bronx Tale, so made the decision to go with Profile. The two big factors that stopped us from using S6L in the original production was support for three Stage 64 racks—the initial software when the desk first came out only supported two stage racks. The other reason was that there were parameters that couldn’t be controlled remotely by VNC software, and I spoke to Avid about this and they since fixed it. But when it then came to using the S6L on Broadway, we were just able to open up the VENUE show file [from Profile] and just transfer it straight onto the new desk with very minimal problems, which as you can imagine, was hugely beneficial.

DH: Do you know roughly how many snapshots you’re using for this production?

GO: I think it’s about 380 snapshots. A lot has to do with the theater method of programming, where you constantly have to reprogram the VCA’s to deal with the 38 cast radio mikes and the fact that the microphones are only on when somebody is actually speaking. That requires a huge amount of programming and operating from the sound operator point of view.

 

DH: So how many channels does this production require and what is the I/O configuration?

GO: I believe that we have about 15 spare channels, so of the 192, I guess we’re using about 180. And with the new MADI card, we can now do all of our show control playback with tracks and sound effects directly via the MADI input cards. We have three fully loaded stage racks, with 64 inputs in each, plus a full complement of AES output cards in racks one and two, and rack three has analog output cards.

Front of house sound engineer Dave Horowitz

DH: You’ve had a lot of experience with VENUE and other consoles over the years—what advantages is S6L offering you?

GO: The combination of the way you can map everything to the surface and the surface is so flexible—it can become whatever you need it to be. It’s quite revolutionary the way you can just bring anything up you want onto the encoders and custom fader banks, including plug-ins. Nobody else is doing that as impressively or as effectively. And it’s not just Avid plug-ins that map seamlessly to the surface either, it’s all the third party plug-ins as well, because of the fundamental architecture that you have to build into an AAX DSP plug-in in order to get it to work with standard Pro Tools and peripherals. I’m making big use of McDSP and Sonnox plug-ins, and I can have all my reverb parameters immediately placed on the encoders in front of me. It’s really powerful, and once you get the hang of using it—it’s so quick and easy to make changes on the fly.

With S6L we can use the “Layouts” function to lay the faders out on the surface in such a way that it makes sense from a surface point of view. The inputs are laid out so that it makes sense on the screen, and then we use layouts to lay the faders out on the desk in a way that makes sense on the desk. So we kind of get the best of both worlds, which is a huge step forward from the old console. With the old console, you either had to lay it out as it makes on the screen, or lay it out so that it makes sense on the surface— or come up with some sort of compromise. And the ability to drop groups and auxiliary sends and stuff like that onto the same layout as inputs is really powerful, because we can do things like have all of our boy vocals on a layer, the boy vocal group on the same layer, and we can have the reverb sends for boys on that layer, make adjustments to group EQ’s, and check who’s in reverb and everything all from one place. It’s really very powerful.

DH: Tell me a bit more about that. You have all these snapshots that are doing the assignments to the VCA’s—are you using the custom fader layouts exclusively from snapshots, or do you actually have layouts that you’ve created on the desk that are not directly applied to snapshots?

GO: We’ve taken advantage of the functionality and the fact that only layout one is recorded by the snapshots. So we’ve used layouts 2 to 24 as ways of putting all of the right things in the right place in the desk. So we’ll have a layout that says “drums”, or “percussion”, “reverb”, or “brass”, and we can put all of the relevant bits for those instruments or people on the same layout.

So not only do we put the guitars on a layer, but we can also put the guitar reverb returns and the guitar groups and anything else that’s associated with the guitars, all in one place. And then we use layout one, which is programmable snapshot by snapshot, as a place to drop useful things for the operator when they get to that particular cue in the show. So for example, if there’s a particular song where there are two saxophones playing alternate lines, and sort of battling it out if you will, we just drop the two saxophones onto the mix layout so that the operator can quickly have those things that they need at that moment in the show close to hand. If there’s a song that requires a really heavy guitar push in the middle of it, we have the lead electric guitar just drop up onto that layout so that we can quickly just grab that guitar and give it a push.

DH: How about the system’s power? It’s obviously a significant step up from Profile—what does that enable you to do?

GO: I love the fact that there’s now enough processing on board to be able to explore ideas that traditionally I haven’t been able to do in the past because of hardware or software limitations. So in the past I’ve gone, “It would be really nice to have a different sort of drum room for the percussion player, rather than having the same drum room engine for drums and percussion,” but because of limitations with the output bussing, not enough auxiliaries and not enough outputs, I’ve always struggled to be able to do things like that. I’ve always had to make compromises. With the new output structure, I’ve got more auxiliaries than I know what to do with. I’ve got spare inputs to indulge and say, “I wonder, what happens if we put an extra mic on this? Just try doing it like this.” I feel like I now have the resources to explore my creative ideas more.

From the production point of view, they absolutely love it, because S6L is a really small mixing desk. When you look at the power of it, our mix position is one of the smallest on Broadway for a full-blown musical the size of A Bronx Tale. We take up eight seats, and that includes the sound operator and the rest of the equipment. Eight seats in a Broadway theater—production absolutely loves that!

DH: What has been your impression of the sound quality that S6L bring to the production?

GO: I think the best example that I can give is that the show starts with a big orchestral moment, and the very first time we had an audience in, the sound operator got the green light from the stage manager and pushed the VCA up to like, +3, +4, and we both looked at each other in a state of panic and kinda went, “The PA’s still muted!” I leaped over to the system control and was like, “The PA’s not muted,” and then this orchestral hit came blitzing out of the system. With +3 or +4 on what is a huge d&b PA system, you’re so used to hearing background noise, sort of a general hiss and assorted other stuff.

We just didn’t get anything, and it panicked both of us that we didn’t hear any background noise—it’s so clear that it just wasn’t there. And there’s something else that’s interesting. I found is that microphone choices that I’ve made over the years, “Oh, this is my favorite microphone for that. This is my favorite microphone for this.” Suddenly some of these microphone choices that have been my favorite mics for trumpets or a trombone for years, I found myself going, “That mic’s not as clean and clear as I thought.” Now I can quite seriously hear the difference between this mic and that mic. I’m beginning to find that the signal passes so much cleaner and so much clearer that I’m beginning to notice all the flaws within my signal path that I’d never noticed before, so it sort of sent me on a voyage of investigation to discover other things in my signal path that that weren’t as clean and clear as I thought they were, because the S6L is so transparent and so clean that it’s exposing things that in the past I’ve never noticed.

The team (L to R): Scott Kuker (deck sound engineer), Chazz Palminteri (author of 'A Bronx Tale'), Gareth Owen (sound designer), Dave Horowitz (front of house sound engineer), Josh Liebert (associate sound designer), Mike Terpstra (deck sound engineer) - not pictured, Wallace Flores (production sound)

DH: What other productions are out right now with S6L that you’re involved with?

GO: We have Wind in the Willows, which is a very large, new musical on tour in the United Kingdom, and will actually be opening at the London Palladium in May next year. We also have Come From Away, which we’ve transferred onto an S6L. It just opened in Toronto and will open on Broadway in February of next year.

We also have two other shows opening in London in the first half of next year, both of which will be on S6L’s. One of them is the new Meatloaf musical, Bat Out of Hell, which is being produced by Michael Cohl, the promoter of the Rolling Stones. It’s a very, very serious, big show. And then we’ll also be using an S6L for 42nd Street, which is a huge production with 80 radio mics on it. So come June next year, three of the larger theaters in London’s West End will be our shows—Bat out of Hell in the London Coliseum, Wind in the Willows in the London Palladium, and 42nd Street in Drury Lane—all on Avid S6L’s!

Trade Up and Save on VENUE | S6L

Meet the demands of any live sound gig. For a limited time, save up to 20% off Avid VENUE | S6L with your trade-in.

LEARN MORE




S6L Helps Transmix Deliver Top Sound for Finland’s Biggest TV Productions

Established in 1995, broadcast sound company Transmix Ltd works on the biggest music and TV productions in Finland. We recently toured the company’s recording van and met with sound designer Timo Virtanen, who told us about the van’s equipment and about how they use the VENUE | S6L live mixing system when working on large TV productions.

Sound designer Timo Virtanen

Timo Virtanen has vast experience in the field of sound. He came to work at Transmix in 1999, and he tells that he and the founder of the company, Jukka Nykänen, both have a background in live mixing, which enabled a smooth transition to working in broadcasting.

Virtanen says that the work requires not only technical skills, but also sharp ears and especially good nerves. Live broadcasts are seen by hundreds of thousands—even millions—of people, and mistakes cannot be undone.

“This work demands swiftness, and there’s barely any time to rehearse. In live concerts they maybe go through a song once in rehearsals. After that there is the dress rehearsal where the whole show is gone through. Then, if you’re lucky, there’s maybe an hour to listen to the soundcheck and check what you’ve done. After that is the live show. You have to grasp the whole thing in very little time”, Virtanen says.

“We usually do everything in one day. We arrive in the morning, build, do the sound check, do the broadcast and go home. The workdays are long and you have to be on top of everything the whole time”, he adds.

Transmix Ltd is currently working on TV shows including Voice of Finland, SuomiLOVE and Tähdet Tähdet. According to Virtanen, big productions, especially live ones, call for equipment and software that works fast and without problems.

The Mercedes Benz Atego has been completely renovated by Transmix—the interior is rebuilt, exterior painted and the electricity and the AC have been replaced

VENUE | S6L speeds up the workflow

By the end of 2015, Transmix Ltd fitted their recording van with a VENUE | S6L. Virtanen says that the transition was natural due to the fact that it replaced a VENUE | Profile system.

He calls the move from Profile to S6L a clear jump forward, and praises the console’s sound and modularity.

“The software is basically very similar, but the interface on the mixer is completely different. The Avid VENUE | S6L is perfect for us. Now we have more I/O and processing power at our disposal. We also appreciate the introduced modularity of the E6L [engine] with the MADI and Dante-cards”, Virtanen says.

He explains that the S6L has made his work easier, that the touch screen is easy to control, and the customizability of the control knob assignments speeds up the workflow.

“S6L lets you organize the encoders the way you want them. Workflow is sped up when the interface can be built according to your needs”, he adds. “In this work you have to be fast. Unlike in the studio, we don’t have the time to tweak things forever.”

Virtanen also praises S6L’s programmable user layouts. “We can load every fader strip with whatever inputs, outputs, auxes or VCA’s we choose. That is really important. After the latest update, I started working with various different layout layers. On one layout I have one band, on another layout I have another one, and snapshots to go along with them. I can easily control two stages on the S6L by choosing either the stage A or stage B layout. Pro Tools works great with this as well”, Virtanen describes.

S6L has already seen heavy action with Transmix. It has been used in Hartwall Arena shows of Elastinen and Antti Tuisku, on the TV programs The Voice of Finland, Tähdet, tähdet and SuomiLOVE and also on the 40th anniversary show of Eppu Normaali, Radio Aalto’s Helsinki Day shows and the Roosa nauha concert.

Virtanen says that both the Transmix staff and the music producers in the field have been very satisfied S6L’s sound qualify, and that the difference compared to previous sytems is significant—the sound is rounder and warmer.

The sound is right in Finland’s biggest recording truck

The Transmix recording van is reportedly the biggest remote truck used for audio production in Finland. The Mercedes Benz Atego 1228 is Transmix’s third large remote truck.

“The size of the truck has a positive effect on the sound. This one is 40 centimeters wider and 20 centimeters taller than the previous one. The truck is properly acoustically treated and the listening space is set up right. Depth has been increased in order to allow more air between the monitors and the mixing space”, Virtanen explains. “The truck also has good sound isolation. At outdoor concerts there is hardly any extra sound coming in. A bitumen roof has also been added to block the sound of rainfall”, he continues.

Virtanen describes working in the van is easy. “It’s easier to work in a familiar space, with familiar equipment, and most of all, with a familiar listening environment”, he summarizes.

The Transmix recording truck is also equipped with a VENUE | S3L-X system

According to Virtanen the space inside the recording van is kept as simple as possible. The truck was designed to hold only the essentials. The usage of external hardware has decreased significantly due to plug-ins. Transmix has two Avid Pro Tools systems fitted in the van, which can currently take in 128 inputs, which is important when working with large productions. According to Virtanen, it is now common for big productions to exceed 100 inputs. “The other Pro Tools rig is for the backup copies. We also have a JoeCo Blackbox MADI recorder if needed.”

Transmix’s monitor controller of choice is the Grace Design m905. “We are usually parked next to the van where the video is worked on, and we route the audio there from our van. With the monitor controller we can choose to listen to the return, mixer or something else.” Virtanen elaborates.

The truck also has a production space equipped with a VENUE | S3L-X live system. This enables the routing of all necessary audio from the recording van to the video van. This way both music and speech can be mixed in Transmix’s recording van if necessary. Or if the amount of inputs gets too big, the S3L-X can be used to sum a choir or a string section while other sounds are mixed with the S6L.

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE




Montréal’s Métropolis Upgrades with Dual VENUE | S6Ls

The iconic Métropolis, located in the central part of Montréal’s downtown core, has hosted an array of memorable concerts by artists including David Bowie, Beck, Les Rita Mitsouko, Green Day, the White Stripes, Björk, and more. The club recently upgraded its live sound system with dual networked 24-fader VENUE | S6L consoles. I spoke with Reno Richard, head of sound for the 2,300 capacity venue, about the install and his experience in using the new systems.

HL: What is your experience with VENUE systems?

RR: I have been an occasional user of VENUE systems. At first I liked how you could easily tweak parameters with the mouse on the external screen, but I ironically started disliking that very feature because I always had my hand on the mouse and eyes on the screen. Now with the new surface all focus has come back to the desk. With 32 encoders with LED displays per knob module, I can basically mix a whole show without even glancing over to the external screen, except for plug-in and configuration purposes. Although the familiar ”mouse operator” feature is still there for those who prefer it.

Reno Richard mixing FOH for the ADISQ Awards (Québec Association for the Recording, Concert and Video Industries)

HL: What triggered your decision and recommendation to upgrade the Métropolis mixing consoles with dual VENUE | S6L systems?

RR: We definitely needed a new up-to-date system and obviously needed to stay in the digital realm. Avid established its reliability and durability in the past with their previous systems, and their global popularity facilitates welcoming guest engineers. A huge feature is the file compatibility with previous VENUE software. Loading a file from an SC48 or Profile will translate to the S6L. This was definitely key to our decision, as most engineers will have a file of their show from when they mixed on VENUE console. It was also crucial for us to be able to rely on solid tech support while integrating a new system.

HL: What were your initial impressions of the system’s sound quality?

RR: As soon as I plugged in a microphone the major upgrade in the preamp quality was obvious. There is a warmth and crisp presence that simply wasn’t there with the older versions—it’s the first and most important step of a great sounding system. Excellent signal-to-noise ratio, extremely powerful processing with no compounded background noise syndrome. The EQ’s fine point accuracy as well as the dynamic aspects are also very sharp and efficient. I am extremely delighted that Avid focused on the audio quality of the internal processing itself, whereas the plug-ins are enhancements, not necessities.

HL: What are your biggest challenges as the head of sound at Métropolis?

RR: Front-of-house mixing challenges vary with the acts on stage. When a band sounds great from the source, it makes our job more enjoyable, but the challenge remains to transparently stay as true as possible to their sound while pushing a powerful mix adapted for a crowd in a big room. On the flipside, it gets a little tougher mixing bands with less experience, where it requires a bit more carving to grind out the rough edges. Obviously the biggest piece of the show puzzle is the artist and their performance. Although a great mix can sometimes help to uplift an unstable backbone, a bad mix can also hurt a solid performance.

Nevertheless, I’d have to say that the most important part of the job is making sure the touring parties and guest engineers feel as ready and confident as possible for their show. Properly advancing their technical needs is crucial, and then making them feel as comfortable as possible when they walk through the door. Our job is basically to cater to them and their needs by adapting their show to our stage and venue. Making sure everyone is on the same wavelength is very important. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a great team. Our crew has grown very strong throughout the years thanks to an extended family of engineers, techs, and artists from all over the world that pass through this venue. It is definitely a valued privilege and a continuous learning experience.

HL: The upgrade happened just in time for two important festivals happening at the venue (Les FrancoFolies de Montréal and Festival International de Jazz de Montréal), with multiple acts every day for a series of dates. How was the response from the guest mixing engineers?

RR: It was a real test run for us and the new system. Guests were excited to mix on it for the first time, and we were eager to validate our choice for the venue. All were impressed and very satisfied with the result. Day to day shows allowed us to experiment with different configurations and develop various workflows to run the system. It propelled us quickly to be prepared to handle a multitude of future scenarios and accommodate engineers according to their habits or preferences.

HL: Your shared I/O functionality was recently activated with the arrival of version 5.2 software. What is your impression so far about how it functions?

RR: At first I was skeptical because I have worked many times with shared I/O on various consoles and it was definitely not ideal. I have to admit that I am very impressed with this, because it is the most transparent sharing I have heard to date. This is obviously only used when we have both our FOH and monitor systems online together, but as long as you work in tandem with the other engineer, it slips from your mind that you are sharing I/O because compensation is practically seamless and instantaneous.

HL: What do you like the most about VENUE | S6L?

RR: Touch Screens! Being able to observe all aspects of multiple channels on screen means that any given parameter is literally at your fingertips in one step. As soon as you see something that needs tweaking, a simple touch of the screen spills the parameter controls onto your encoders instantly. Basically it shortens the steps between knowing what you want done, and getting it done. We’re talking seconds here, but they add up and we all know that sometimes in a live sound environment, seconds can seem to last minutes.

The all around design of displays provide you with an incredible amount of vital information. Many digital boards only allow you to view one channel’s parameters at a time on its main screen. In our case, on the 24D, we have three internal screens [to the control surface] plus one external. You can glimpse multiple channel parameters without scrolling through them one by one. Channel meters have a deep range and clear display for great visual reference. Comp gain reduction and Gate status are also displayed on module meters between the smooth sliding faders.

User Layouts is an incredible feature that simplifies the workflow brilliantly, allowing you to place any fader strip (Inputs, Aux sends, VCAs, Groups, Matrix sends, FX returns, etc.) in whichever order you desire. It only takes a few seconds to set them up and you can even modify them live since it doesn’t interrupt the audio flow. They also do not affect your patch in any way since they are completely separate from the “conventional” fader banks and layers. They are basically just another route to access your channels. This is a huge advantage for first time users, as they don’t get lost searching for what they need—it’s all laid out in front of them.

The ”Universe” on the Master Module is also a very effective tool. Home base for assignment, user layouts, sends on faders and color codes, it’s also another quick access to any channel. All of their meters are displayed here so it’s easy to spot a faulty channel and fix it quick if there’s a problem.

Pro Tools via AVB, two Flex faders, backlit keyboard, dedicated tap tempo as well as 1/4” inputs for tap pedals, etc. These are all upgrades and improvements that were made with specific purpose in mind to fulfill the needs and realities that sound engineers face today. The S6L system is a complete package that is perfectly suited for us and our guests.

VENUE | S6L Now Available

The next stage in live sound is here—with the award-winning VENUE | S6L system, you can take on the world’s most demanding productions with ease.

LEARN MORE