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Rüfüs Update Their Live Profile with VENUE | S6L

Story by Mark Davie, Editor of AudioTechnology magazine. This feature originally ran in Issue 116 of AudioTechnology. You can read more stories like it at www.audiotechnology.com.au.

 

With only three days to port Rüfüs’s Coachella live show over to the Avid VENUE | S6L and develop a new muscle memory, FOH Engineer Cam Trewin had to trust what his ears were telling him… that it was all worth it.

Standing front and centre on the floor of Adelaide Arena, Rüfüs FOH engineer Cam Trewin was torn between where his muscle memory was telling him to go and where his ears were beckoning him.

For Rüfüs’s Australian run of shows, Trewin had opted to try out Avid’s new flagship live console, the VENUE | S6L. They’d just stepped off the plane from a North American tour during which he’d meticulously dialed in his Profile show file in the lead up to Coachella. The jet lag was giving him the jitters and he was questioning the cogency of jumping on a new console on the eve of an arena tour. After one day in Novatech’s Adelaide factory getting the rundown, he had just two days of pre-production in Adelaide Arena to get the set back to or better than Coachella standards.

The VENUE software compatibility worked a treat — his session had carried across from the Profile one-to-one as advertised, and his head amp gain settings stayed put — but without any Waves integration on the S6L (Waves support has since been added with the VENUE 5.3 update), all the fine detail he’d spent months crafting on the Profile was gone. “I ended up tipping a Profile as well, because I freaked out a little when I first hit the ground,” said Trewin. “I didn’t feel comfortable at all.” Novatech kindly put in a third iso split so Trewin could pass everything through both consoles at the same time. With a direct comparison between the old Profile and new S6L, the sonic quality was winning him over fast: “You can really hear the new architecture; the default 96k sample rate, and the 64-bit AAX DSP plug-ins.”

There were two areas in particular where Trewin noticed immediate improvements. “My EQ biases are really different from the Profile to this,” he said. “I was winding heaps more back in on the S6L; my Profile EQs are a lot more aggressive, especially on the vocal.” The other difference was in his parallel ‘drum slam’ bus: “Usually I’d use a Waves PIE compressor or something really aggressive, but I’m just using Smack and finding a lot of front end in it.”

Overall, once he’d committed to learning the new console, Trewin reckons by the end of the three days he felt fluid on the S6L. “The muscle memory has come really quick in comparison to the Profile,” he said. “Even though the layout is quite different, it’s very intuitive. It was a little scary at first because I expected the Profile, but I didn’t want to use the mouse or the screen, I wanted to use the S6L’s encoders and faders, which feel really good.”

Cam Trewin at front of house

Rebuilding your profile

The other reason he had Novatech tip the Profile was to recall a few favourites in a different form. He’d been a heavy user of Waves’ C6 multiband compressor. Because you can’t see offline plug-in settings, he used the Profile as a recall sheet so he could match up starting points on Avid’s internal multi-band dynamics plug-in. “I was using the C6 to notch out some really problematic frequencies in the spill of the live drums bleeding into the mic,” explained Trewin. “Now I’ve wound a lot back in and I’m not carving as much away.”

There were a few of extra plug-ins he purchased to help mix the all important main vocal; the Cranesong Phoenix tape emulation and Sonnox plug-ins. “I was really heavily dependent on them with the Profile. Room to room I’ll click between Phoenix’s different tape types, biases and brightness, depending on whether I want more low mids or top end lift from the vocal in that room.

“I also used the Oxford EQ to notch out a few spots here and there, with a big 20kHz GML top end lift in the vocal to get a bit more presence.

Now relying on more of Avid’s internal plug-ins, he also uses the “Avid Multi-band Dynamics to reign in a little of the high-mid and top end information, and the BF-2A as a basic limiter.”

The track count for Rüfüs’s live show isn’t huge. It sits around 36 tracks, with a mixture of playback and live elements. Over the two years since Trewin has been mixing the band, they’ve brought more and more parts off the playback system and onto the live stage. Originally, the Ableton computer would run almost everything, including the soft synths lead singer Tyrone Lindqvist and keyboardist Jon George played via onstage MIDI controllers. It was putting an enormous load on the computer as well as sounding a bit bottlenecked. These days, alongside James Hunt’s live drums, all the album samples are loaded onto a number of Roland SPD-Xs, the keyboard parts are played direct from Nord Electro 5s, some of the basslines come from an onstage Roland TB-3, and occasional percussion elements are played live onstage.

Now, with more tracks to play with, and better splits from the playback track system, Trewin has a bit more to manage. The S6L’s new user layout page lets him customize an entire fader bank of the 32 fader console, which Trewin spends almost all his time on during the show: “I can condense it all to my key element tracks like keyboards, TB3s, guitar; key element VCAs like vocals; and effects returns. I spend pretty much all my time on that layer and very rarely jump out. Once the kit’s balanced, it’s just a push between the dry and parallel bus. If I want to though, I can just break out that VCA input.”

Tweaking with AVB

The new architecture also means Trewin can run out 64 channels via AVB over a single ethernet cable between the S6L and his Macbook Pro (VENUE 5.3 software ups this to 128 channels using a Mac Pro). With a simple button press for Virtual Soundchecking, it’s also far more convenient than the 32-channel optional Firewire card on the Profile, as he can now one-for-one his entire show.

A big part of Trewin’s preparation is making sure the programmed and live elements sit together well. The playback tracks feature all the drums on the album, with the live drums adding a whole new live kit over the top.

“I’ve spent two years trying to massage the two because I don’t want it to be one of those shows where you’re wondering if there is or isn’t a drum kit there,” said Trewin. “I want it to sit at a point where if you take away the live kit you really feel the energy is gone.”

He will often sit there looping the Virtual Soundcheck with the kicks solo’d in place, getting them to sit right. First, he gets up onstage to tune the kit, then he usually ends up gating the sequenced kit to limit the low end tail of those long 808 hits. It’s the same at the other end, cueing up the two sets of hats and using EQ and multi-band compression to get them sounding the same. Through trial and error, Trewin has found that matching them is best. “If they sound really different, one tends to dominate the other,” he explained.

At the Festival Hall show in Melbourne, the proof was in the pudding. At points during the show, like after the song Tonight, the three members of Rüfüs just had to stand around for half a minute grinning from ear to ear waiting for the crowd to stop cheering. While the crowd was deafening the mix was incredibly well balanced. Even the searing synths on You Were Right, which are more subdued on the album, perfectly lifted the song’s energy without taking your head off. Trewin and the band have nailed the transition from programmed to live instruments, and by all accounts the transition to the S6L has only added to the sound of the show. If you love engaging sound then the Rüfüs live show is definitely worth checking out.

Mark Davie, Editor of AudioTechnology magazine—Australia’s premiere pro audio publication. You can follow his Instagram at @markof1984 and read more in-depth features at www.audiotechnology.com.au.

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.

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Avid VENUE | S6L Romps it in at “Splendour in the Grass”

Last month saw approximately 30,000 diverse and hyped music fans roll into one of Australia’s most-loved beach towns, Byron Bay, for the 16th annual Splendour in the Grass music festival.

Despite being the country’s largest winter festival, the 27 degree temperature, blue skies, and zero rain made it pretty hard to believe it was winter.

The vibe was buzzing from day one. Picture tee pees, tents, campervans, and combi vans created a pop-up tent city. For three full days, the crowds were rocking out to the finest international and home grown acts, including The Cure, Flume, The Strokes, The Avalanches, Sigur Rós, James Blake, and loads more. With close to 100 bands and five main stages sprawled across North Byron Parklands, there was plenty to see and hear.

Amongst the companies in charge of audio solutions was no other than JPJ Audio – one of Australia’s premier live touring production companies – who delivered FOH equipment across the entire festival. I had the enviable task of visiting the event and work alongside Bruce Johnston and his team. Armed with an S6L, I was able to offer sound engineers the chance to get hands-on with the console and test drive their own VENUE software show files.

The Strokes used the console on the first night and it sounded amazing! JPJ left the board set up at main stage with a split from stage for the rest of the festival so anyone could monitor lines off-stage on the S6L.

Backstage we had a room with another S6L and a lot of people popped their heads in to take a look. For many, this was their first chance to get eyes on the console and even the seasoned engineers were impressed.

Courtney Barnett’s FOH mixer, Dylan Hughes, gave it a run as part of a complete demo. Dylan loaded his show file, we ran through it and he was ready to go. One thing that impressed Dylan was the custom layout for the knob modules. He could organize a channel strip any way he wished and after mixing on the S6L for only 20 minutes backstage (just prior to Barnett’s performance), Dylan used the S6L live on the main stage and it sounded great!

Bruce Johnston agreed with the rest of the JPJ tech team that Dylan’s mix was one of the top three of the day. He thought it sounded really different to the Profile and much more analog.

The overall reaction was great and every person who tried the S6L said the console was intuitive and very snappy to use, with the touch screens reacting quickly.

It was rewarding to me for the engineers to hear the sonic difference between S6L compared to Profile and appreciate how intuitive the surface is, and we can’t wait for them to  start spec’ing the console for the coming Australian summer festival season.

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.

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Avid VENUE | S6L Leads the Line-Up for BCS Audio

One year after the launch of the Avid VENUE | S6L, the resounding success of the award-winning live sound console continues. It’s out on the road with some of the most prestigious and demanding tours across the globe and has won an array of industry awards and accolades for innovation. Now, UK-based production company and hire firm, BCS Audio, is the latest UK distributor to add the powerful live sound surface to its product inventory.

Supporting a wide range of areas in the live sound market – including touring and festivals to corporate and theatre work – BCS Audio faces the daily battle of competition from other firms. The powerful VENUE | S6L is now the most capable live sound console in their inventory, providing a diverse customer base with the next level of live sound production.

Dave Shepherd, Director at BCS Audio, said, “In today’s live sound market, our customers’ expectations are higher than ever, while budgets are, at best, static year on year. The VENUE | S6L offers a reliable product that’s open to a worldwide client base, and Avid’s effective design of surfaces like this is a testament to their commitment to users.”

Avid’s proven track record of supporting the world’s most demanding tours and events with ease – for popular bands and artists like Rudimental, John Legend, Hurts, Jack Johnson, and Tom Odell – made BCS’s decision to invest in the new flagship desk easy. “Profile has become an industry standard at shows and festivals, and being able to load any existing show file into the console is a massive plus point,” said Shepherd. “Avid systems have always been a solid investment and allow us to create consistent and excellent sound touring and festival packages for our customers.”

With the groundbreaking VENUE | E6L engine integrated into the S6L live sound console, BCS Audio’s customers benefit from two powerhouse technologies working in unison. The real-time processing engine handles all routing, channel, and mixing functions for maximum stability and power, while the HDX-powered DSP engine manages all AAX plug-in processing, enabling bigger, better sounding mixes with ease.

BCS Audio purchased the VENUE | S6L-32D with an E6L- 144 engine and one Stage64 configured 56/32 with 4 AES. Shepherd explains, “We chose the 32-fader surface to keep a similar layout to existing profile systems in our inventory, with Pro Tools and twin touch screens. The flexibility of the system will allow us to increase channel count at short notice through acquisition of a larger engine.”

This summer, BCS Audio are booked to take the VENUE | S6L out on a festival control package to support British band ‘Hurts’ on a European tour, covering Spain, Finland, Romania, Russia and more.

The first ‘hands-on’ opportunity BCS Audio had with the console was at an introductory seminar held by UK reseller, HD Pro Audio. Sales Director Andy Huffer said, “We’ve been involved with the Avid VENUE line since the launch of the original D-Show console in 2004. It’s great to see the VENUE | S6L has had such a great response and is excelling in the marketplace. The significant investment in an industry-leading console like this will be a credit to the continuing success of BCS Audio, and we wish them all the best.”

“Avid has a fantastic support network with engineers on hand for advice pretty much round the clock. Avid has always been a great investment for us at BCS, and I can definitely foresee more surfaces and systems being added to our expanding inventory in the near future.”

—Dave Shepherd, Director at BCS Audio

Headquartered in Fareham, Hampshire, BCS Audio is a production company that caters for sound, lighting, video, staging, rigging, special effects, and logistics. For sound and audio, they support many areas of the market, from live touring and festivals through to corporate and theatre work. BCS Manufacturing manufactures and distributes flight cases and transit cases for the transportation and storage of any delicate hi-tech equipment, forming an important division of the business.

VENUE has long been one of the most requested live mixing systems in the world, and now the legacy continues with Avid VENUE | S6L. When you need to present the best mixes possible, S6L delivers unmatched power, clarity, and customization to meet the demands of any gig. Learn more about the VENUE | S6L live sound console here.

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




Rock ’n’ Roll in a Nutshell

On tour with Die Toten Hosen and S3L-X

“Die Toten Hosen” are one of the few German (even more importantly, German-speaking) bands that have a solid fan base abroad, especially in South America where they have been touring for more than 20 years. This year the band headed to Argentina again for some intimate shows in five clubs across Buenos Aires. When you play in a club that holds 500 to 2,500 people, there is typically little space for bringing in your own equipment, so it’s important that the mixing console not only delivers the goods sonically, but also does it as compactly and flexibly as possible. Having used Avid’s VENUE | S3L-X on earlier occasions with positive results, I decided to rent a system locally. Well, to be more precise: I rented two, for FOH and monitors. Even Horst Hartmann, our monitor engineer, had to admit—after initial reservations—that the S3L-X is the optimum choice for this kind of tour given its size and technical capabilities. Given our experiences, I would say that we’ll do it exactly the same way next time around.”

In small clubs space is always an issue – monitor engineer Horst Hartmann at work

“S3L-X is not a workbench, but a Swiss army knife—in fact one that can do anything you need for a ten day survival trip, or a festival for that matter.”

—Stefan Holtz, FOH Engineer  “Die Toten Hosen”

Is it growing still?

“After the Argentina gigs, I just took the S3L-X to some festivals here in Germany—specifically two big festivals: “Rock am Ring” and “Rock am Park”. The other festival sound engineers smirked quite a bit when they saw it, with comments ranging from “Is it still growing still?” to “better not cover it up with rain protection, it needs to be watered”. But if we, as the headlining band, can rock the festival with great sound using the smallest console, it really provoked people to ask themselves if size really does matter. After seeing me with the S3L-X at Rock am Ring, it sounds like Ron from Bad Religion most probably will buy one too.”

Nothing but VENUE consoles (S3L-X for the main act first row on the right).

“For him, being able to take it on a plane is the most important selling argument, but so far, he hasn’t used it for festivals. I have to admit that it might take some getting used to the console and its operating system, and there are gigs where I would choose a different console—there is limit to how many plug-ins you can run. But honestly, you might have a different problem if 40 plug-ins are not enough to mix five people on the stage, so I’m totally fine with it.

At the end of the day, S3L-X is not a workbench, but a Swiss army knife—in fact one that can do anything you need for a ten day survival trip, or a festival for that matter. It will definitely remain my go-to console for the upcoming Toten Hosen shows in August. And as soon as the new S6L ships, then we’ll see…”

VENUE | S6L

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Music: My 11th Hour Call to Mix at the Paradise Music Festival

Music: The Story Behind My 11th Hour Call to Mix the Paradise Music Festival

How many times have you been asked, last minute, to mix a band you’ve never heard of, on a PA you’ve never listened too, by someone who has never met you? If you’ve been mixing for any amount of time this has probably happened a lot. As “exciting” as it is, it can also be detrimental to your career—most 11th hour calls are. If you blow it, whether it was your fault, a terrible band, or a bad PA, you will most likely not get a call to come back.

It’s crazy. Bands will spend months in the studio working hand-in-hand with the recording engineer on the minutia of their record in an attempt to make it to sound “perfect.”  However, when it comes to a live gig with thousands of people maybe listening for the first time, it’s like, “Hey, let’s get some guy we’ve never met or heard mix to run sound for our show tonight.” What?!?!?!?! While the recording engineer has had the privilege to mix the band’s songs as many times as they’d like before committing to a final version, the mixer du jour might not have even heard of the band. At best you may get to hear a song or two during a brief line/sound check, but you’ll still be expected to make the whole set sound like the recorded product.

Music: The Story Behind My 11th Hour Call to Mix the Paradise Music Festival

Another thing often overlooked by the band is the tremendous amount of prep work that is required just to get them up and running: patching inputs, labeling inputs/outputs, setting gain, routing to busses and VCAs, inserting processing, etc., etc.—this takes time. For an opening band on one-offs, this work is typically happening during soundcheck and is a terrible distraction for the engineer who is trying get a good mix.  Also, it doesn’t leave much time for making inputs actually sound good. And, of course, this typically happens while the spouses, partners, family members, managers, etc. are looking over your shoulder and providing their “helpful” input. A few minutes later the band is gone and doors will be opening soon. Good luck! So, what can we do to have a good sounding successful show under these circumstances?  Answer: Work like the recording engineer and mix until you are satisfied! This is where VENUE’s Virtual Soundcheck comes into play in a very big way.

“The [VENUE] board is one of the most intuitive digital boards in the market today, not to mention that it sounds amazing. Getting around on it is effortless, letting me focus more on the mix rather than trying to remember what layer or page I’m on.”

—Joel Jiménez FOH engineer

I recently had the pleasure of helping out at the Paradise Music Festival held at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas where I mixed a couple of the opening bands. Zamar Audio Visual and Productions provided a mix of VENUE | D-Show and Profile systems to support the various acts, including Dierks Bentley, Jewel, and Rascal Flatts. I did not plan on this because I was there for audio support, but when I was asked asked to mix two of the opening bands, Casey James and Striking Matches, I said, “Sure!”

I was unfamiliar with both acts, so I quickly ran to a quiet spot, got online and listened to a couple of their songs. This way I could at least familiarize myself with their sound. Knowing that I was only going to be able to hear a few minutes of the band during soundcheck, I grabbed my  Pro Tools HD | Native rig, MacBook Pro and connected them to the VENUE HDx card. I was ready. I recorded just enough to get through all of the instruments and some dynamic variation of the material, but that was sufficient to use post soundcheck to listen to (headphones only) and cleanup my inputs.

If you’ve never tried this, you would be absolutely astonished by how much work you can do and how much of an impact this can have on your overall mix. Within 15 minutes I was able to set better gain structure, set filters (which cleared up a tremendous amount of low and high frequency noise), listen to compression, check gates, and listen to my delays and reverbs, as well as setup some automation for the show. With limited time and being under pressure it’s easy to make excuses like, “There isn’t time for Virtual Soundcheck,” or “It just won’t make that big of a difference.” Whether you are a mixing novice or a veteran, I suggest you try it—I’m certain you will be surprised. I believe there is no better way to improve your skillset as an engineer. We now have the tools to improve our mixes immediately and become better engineers overall. I have yet to meet an audio engineer that can say, “Yep, I’m done, I simply cannot learn more or get any better.”

This was a great show and I was able to meet some fantastic engineers for the other bands.  I want to sincerely thank Chris Meyer, audio manager from Zamar Productions, the console and PA provider for the indoor events. I had a chance to catch up with an old acquaintance, Joel Jiménez, who is FOH engineer and production manager for Jewel. I was sharing what a great tool Virtual Soundcheck was for the bands I was mixing, and he shared similar experiences. “I love the ability to have most of my heavy lifting done via the offline editor even before I walk into rehearsals. Plus, the ability to seamlessly hook up a laptop with no fuss at all and multi-track the show.” He explained that this gig was special since Jewel hadn’t had a band out since 2008, so having the ability to archive the performance was very important. I asked Joel why he was still mixing on VENUE systems after all these years, and I guess his answer didn’t surprise me. He said, “The board is one of the most intuitive digital boards in the market today, not to mention that it sounds amazing. Getting around on it is effortless, letting me focus more on the mix rather than trying to remember what layer or page I’m on.”

“The physical controls and racks are straightforward and user friendly—a joy to sculpt a mix with.”

—Chris Meyer, Audio Manager Zamar Productions

When I spoke with Chris Meyer after the festival, he shared similar thoughts about why VENUE systems cover 90% of the riders that Zamar receives for events across the Bahamas. “VENUE consoles are the industry standard. We cater to most of the acts coming here as fly-ins: we’re providing back line, mics and DIs, PA, monitors, in ears, wireless, etc., and while all these items can vary from band to band, VENUE consoles, as choice, do not.”  Chris credits the same intuitive workflows as Joel for VENUE’s industry adoption. “I love the layout—it’s all there to touch and find my way to whatever I need. The physical controls and racks are straightforward and user friendly—a joy to sculpt a mix with.”




Avid S3L: The Center of Your Live Production Environment

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

 

Picture the scene.

It’s Friday night, 7 p.m. You walk into the auditorium. The walk-in music is pumping, house lights down, band not yet on stage. A sea of heads spreads out in front of you. You approach front of house. It’s another night, another gig, another rock ‘n’ roll band.

In front of you—the new console. Avid S3L. Super slim, super compact.

How can a live console have such a low profile, such striking contours, and such defined lines? The beautiful dark grey surface, unburdened with unnecessary controls, all-white silkscreen popping from soft-touch coating, and the matt finish only marginally reflecting the light. 16 faders, 32 encoders, 32 high-resolution OLED displays and unmatched control and flexibility in an ultra-compact small format. How is it even possible?

And that’s it; you are gone. It’s love at first sight.

Who would think it—you and Avid S3L? At first, you would be forgiven to think this love is skin deep, a surface love. But believe me, it will not be love that’s skin deep for long. Soon this love at first sight will blossom into a beautiful partnership. All you need to do is get to know Avid S3L

Avid S3L is not just a great sounding, great looking, easy-to-use, and ultra-compact digital mixing system. Its capabilities go far beyond that and far beyond any other mixing console in its class. Scratch just a little below the surface and you’ll see how deep the functionality goes. Learn just a little of the snapshots and events system, the onboard MEDIA record and playback system, and how S3L interoperates with Pro Tools and you will be opening your mix to a world of creative possibilities and realizing a new benchmark of production values.

Avid S3L provides capabilities that put it firmly at the center of your live sound production environment. This is achieved by taking many of the capabilities of devices usually external to the mixer (such as outboard processors or triggered playback devices) and providing them to you directly within the S3L system—providing you with a completely unified user experience when controlling your show.

I guess you are going to want specifics right? I’ve already covered some of the key capabilities of the system in my blog series, but let’s pull them all together and take a closer look at how they work together as a complete, turnkey live sound production system. The following five capabilities make Avid S3L much more than a mixing console. It’s these elements that put S3L as the central point of control in a live sound environment:

  1. Avid S3L provides a fully networked system of distributed I/O
  2. Avid S3L uses an onboard AAX plug-in ecosystem for infinite sonic possibilities
  3. Avid S3L provides an advanced integrated system of snapshots and events
  4. Avid S3L provides an onboard record and playback system, fully integrated into all areas of the VENUE software
  5. Avid S3L provides the most integrated interoperability with Pro Tools ever provided by a live mixing console

Avid S3L devices are connected via a robust network of Ethernet AVB and EUCON.

1.  Avid S3L provides a fully networked system of distributed I/O

Firstly, let’s discuss Avid S3L’s fully distributed network of distributed I/O over Ethernet AVB. We have discussed before that with Avid S3L, you can connect up to four Stage 16 remote I/O boxes. Since each box has 16 mic pres, 8 analog outputs, and 4 digital AES outputs, this provides you with a maximum of 64 inputs and 48 outputs on stage. With 100m cable runs supported between devices, Stage 16 boxes can be easily deployed around a venue to establish a system of true distributed I/O.

The cool thing is that S3L is the central point of control, management, and monitoring of this distributed I/O. It is the hub of the assignment process, patching, and signal processing. All network management is done from within the VENUE software directly. No third party devices are required to monitor devices or to route signals to perform setup functions.

The OPTIONS > Devices page is the central point of control for device navigation and network management.

As all Avid S3L devices are plug-and-play, there is no device configuration needed at all. A simple drag and drop method assigns Stage boxes in the VENUE software OPTIONS > Devices page. To simplify this further, the E3 engine always seeks to maintain its last configuration, looking across the network for the Stage 16 boxes it connected to the last time it was in use. The VENUE software acts as a central point of control for the networked devices, providing device health, redundancy indication, and even control of Stage box muting from the software—putting you in maximum control of the networked world as you stand at your mix position.

The renowned Avid Channel Strip plug-in running internally in S3L.

2.  Avid S3L uses an onboard AAX plug-in ecosystem for infinite sonic possibilities

Plug-ins! This concept is still amazing to me—the concept of taking all the outboard gear required for a show and running it internally in the mixing console. This is a concept first introduced with the Avid D-Show System and is as beneficial today in S3L.

Avid S3L’s onboard ecosystem of AAX plug-ins puts infinite creative possibilities at your fingertips. S3L users have no need for outboard or external plug-in runners, as up to 20 plug-ins (in mono or stereo) can be run simultaneously on the system. Plug-in parameters map directly to surface controls, and all plug-in settings are stored in snapshots and show files, meaning you only need a single interface to control what would otherwise take a whole outboard rack of processors to achieve.

Avid S3L comes complete with a full range of plug-in effects. Even more Avid and third party plug-ins will be qualified for S3L on an ongoing basis, increasing your range of creative choices throughout the product’s life.

 

3.  Avid S3L provides an advanced integrated system of snapshots and events

Snapshots and events are advanced functions that can take the heavy lifting from you by enabling you to store and instantly recall huge ranges of parameters, link previously unrelated functions, and subsequently control multiple areas of the system simultaneously. If you are feeling like you need more arms than an octopus, you probably need snapshots and events.

The snapshot system takes the heavy lifting from you by enabling you to store and instantly recall huge ranges of parameters.

The VENUE software provides deep snapshot functionality, and every parameter in the S3L system and VENUE software can be stored and recalled with snapshots. All fader levels, send levels, pans, mutes, and solos. Every parameter within every channel, plug-in settings, VCA members, matrix input levels, even patching and channel names can all be stored and recalled. In addition to this, snapshots can be used to trigger MIDI commands, 2-track record and playback from a connected USB drive, and Pro Tools transport controls and marker insertion.

The Events system is equally as powerful. The huge range of event triggers and actions allow you to configure the behavior of your S3L system to match your workflow, linking previously unrelated operations. 2-track USB record and playback, Pro Tools transport control, snapshots, and even GPIO operations can all be triggered via the Events system.

Pictured left to right: Event triggers and event actions.

4. Avid S3L provides an onboard record and playback system, fully integrated into all areas of the VENUE software

Avid S3L has the capability to record and play back stereo audio files via a connected USB drive. This is hugely exciting and useful functionality to have fully integrated into the system, as S3L can be used to play walk-in music, background music beds, spot effects, and other cues, or to record a simple board mix of the show. This capability is managed in the MEDIA page of the VENUE software, and is directly and deeply integrated into all other areas of the software, including Patchbay, Snapshots, Events, and Show files.

Onboard 2-track playback functionality is managed from the MEDIA page.

The recording functionality is managed from the MEDIA > Record page in the VENUE software. As the USB device appears as an item in the VENUE Patchbay, any pair of output channels can be routed to the USB drive for recording, as can any direct output from any input channel, FX return, or output channel in the system.

The record functionality is directly integrated into the snapshots system. Every snapshot in the snapshot list has the capability to either trigger the record or playback of audio files on the USB drive. When triggering a recording via a snapshot recall, you have the option to take the name of the snapshot as the name of the recording. So, if you are using snapshots for each song in your show, at the end of the gig, you will have a USB drive full of audio files already labeled and cut to length.

Record and playback functionality can be linked directly to snapshot recalls.

The MEDIA > Playback page provides a playlist for you to manage your audio files. Add tracks to the playlist (from multiple USB drives if you like) and then play them back either directly from this page or trigger them via Snapshots and Events.

 

5.  Avid S3L provides the most integrated interoperability with Pro Tools ever provided by a live mixing console

Avid S3L has the deepest interoperability with Pro Tools found in any live mixing console in the world. A single Cat5e Ethernet cable between S3L and a Pro Tools computer brings 64 tracks of record and playback, all the fantastic VENUE Link functionality, and (coming soon) DAW control via EUCON.

VENUE Link functionality is the transfer of metadata between an Avid Live System and Pro Tools. Plug your Avid S3L system into Pro Tools and load a new session—Pro Tools knows its connected to S3L and prompts you to import your VENUE settings into the Pro Tools session, creating an audio track for every mic-pre, generating the correct patching, naming the audio tracks to match your settings on S3L, and even arranging them to match the layout of your channels on your S3 control surface.

But VENUE Link brings even more functionality than this. When Pro Tools is in record (for example, during show time), recalling a VENUE snapshot will automatically place a marker on the Pro Tools timeline. This greatly speeds up the process of navigating through archived recorded material. Conversely, when Pro Tools is in play (for example, during Virtual Soundcheck), recalling a VENUE snapshot locates Pro Tools to the marker created by that snapshot. This functionality dramatically speeds up the Virtual Soundcheck workflow, as Pro Tools playback will always be in sync with the VENUE snapshot you are working from.

Use Pro Tools to record your live show, use Pro Tools to play back music beds, spot effects or sound design, or why not use it for both? S3L can record and play back from Pro Tools simultaneously, enabling you to choose live stage inputs or Pro Tools playback inputs on a per-channel basis.

The Pro Tools transport can be controlled directly from the S3 control surface or VENUE software, allowing you to integrate control of Pro Tools directly into your live mixing workflows and use one interface to control your entire production.

Coming soon with EUCON DAW control functionality, you will be able to take your live recordings and mix them in the box in Pro Tools using S3 as a studio controller. S3 was designed specifically with this function in mind, keeping the console as lightweight as possible with as small a footprint as possible for portability. This enables the console to be used in environments where space is as a premium, such as mixing on the tour bus or in a hotel room.

Michael Brennan with Avid S3L for Primal Scream.

So, lets bring all this great functionality together. Picture the scene once more:

You walk up to your Avid S3L at front of house. You are at the center of a network of distributed I/O, standing before a compact control surface with unrivaled flexibility, controlling a rich UI, and all powered by a next generation HDX-powered engine. The OPTIONS > Devices page in the VENUE software tells you all devices are online, and everything is connected with full redundancy.

You connect your Pro Tools laptop. One Ethernet cable is all it takes for 64-tracks of record and playback, VENUE Link, and EUCON connectivity. You load a new session. Pro Tools sees S3L and with your prompt, automatically creates 64 tracks to match the 64 mic inputs of your mix, naming and ordering every track to match the layout of your console.

At 7 p.m. the doors open. The crowd begins to fill the auditorium. You unmute FX Return 8. This subsequently recalls your first snapshot, triggering the MEDIA playlist to play the walk-in music from your USB key drive. With the press of a function switch, all tracks in Pro Tools are armed and the transport is in record ready.

The band is about to come on stage. Your next snapshot is recalled, loading all the parameters of the mix of the first song, recalling all plug-in settings, and triggering Pro Tools to begin recording 64 tracks, and the name of the first snapshot automatically appears in the Pro Tools timeline.

The band comes on stage. You are all over this little desk with the elegance of a gazelle. Paging through mixes, AFL-ing Aux masters to spill the sends down onto faders, banking the faders to input channels while throwing the VCAs up onto the encoders, mapping plug-ins to encoders. You trigger snapshots throughout the show, each time placing the snapshot name into the Pro Tools timeline. You use a footswitch to set plug-in tap delay and function switches to trigger spot effects directly from the MEDIA playlist.

At the end of the show, you press a touch strip zone to stop the Pro Tools transport. 64 tracks have been recorded into Pro Tools. You pick up your Pro Tools laptop and carry your S3 control surface onto the bus to mix down the night’s recording. With the S3 DAW control functionality via EUCON, you plug your S3 straight into your Pro Tools laptop and do the mix right there on the tour bus, ready to publish to the web.

With the S3 DAW control functionality via EUCON, you plug your S3 straight into your Pro Tools laptop and do the mix right there on the tour bus, ready to publish to the web.

The next day you can use last night’s recording for the Virtual Soundcheck, integrating artists back into the process, as they soundcheck live over the multi-tracks as you control Virtual Soundcheck on a channel-by-channel basis using S3L’s Pro Tools Input switches.

So there it is, Avid S3L. 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 looking, ultra-portable mixing desk—it’s a live production system and the central point of control of your live sound environment.

This is my last blog entry in the Designing Avid S3L series. I want to thank you for taking the journey and I hope that I’ve been able to pique your interest in this amazing system. 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.




The Power of Events with Avid S3L

Designing Avid S3L: The Power of Events with Avid S3L

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.




Designing and Optimizing Your Live Sound Monitor Mixing Workflows with Avid S3L

Avid S3L

The following is the fifth 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.

 

In this week’s blog we are going straight to the point. No introductions, no tongue and cheek opening gambit, no setting of the scene. We are going straight to the heart of the action.

This week we are standing by the side of the stage in monitor world. We are talking about managing multiple mixes to multiple destinations across a distributed network of I/O. We are talking about super-fast shortcuts and navigating with speed across an ultra-compact control surface with the grace of a gazelle that your job depends on. This week we are talking monitor mixing workflows with Avid S3L live sound system.

Lets start with system configuration. Avid S3L provides 64 input channels, 24 mix busses, 8 VCAs, 8 matrixes and mains, and the system can be placed in one of three bus configurations:

  1. 8 Auxes and 8 Stereo Groups
  2. 16 Auxes and 8 Mono Groups
  3. 16 Auxes and 8 Variable Groups

Avid S3L provides a choice of three bus configurations in the OPTIONS > System page of the VENUE software.

For the monitor guys out there, there is option #3: 16 auxes and 8 variable groups. Informally, we call this bus configuration Variable Groups Mode that essentially gives you 24 aux busses (a variable group being an aux bus that can be routed to mains).

To place S3L in Variable Groups Mode, navigate to the OPTIONS > System page of the VENUE software, and under “Bus Configuration”, select “16 Auxes and 8 Variable Groups”. For the rest of this blog, we will be working from the assumption that we have placed S3L in Variable Groups Mode to have the system nicely optimized for monitor mixing applications.

These 24 bus masters can be accessed quickly via the fader banks. As the S3 Control Surface has a tiny footprint (relative to its level of control), 7 fader banks are provided to navigate through all channel types. In Variable Groups Mode, S3 will give you the following banks:

  • Banks A-D = Input Channels 1-64
  • Bank E = Aux Masters
  • Bank F = Variable Group Masters
  • User = VCAs 1-8, Mains

 

Fader Banking:

Aux and Group output channels are accessed from the S3 Control Surface on Fader Banks E and F.

The Aux masters will always appear in Bank E and Group masters on Bank F, irrespective of the bus configuration. In addition to using the fader banks, all output channels can be controlled by the Global encoders (the 8 knobs on the very top-right hand side of the control surface)—more on this later.

Output channels can be labeled up in the VENUE software, and labeling an Aux or Variable Group output channel will automatically label the sends to that bus as well, and populate the name throughout the software and control surface.

All output channels are given discrete outputs in the VENUE Patchbay and can be routed to any physical output, ranging from Stage 16 remote I/O boxes to drive your onstage monitors to any local output on the S3 Control Surface and/or E3 Engine (and additionally patched direct to Pro Tools). To put it bluntly, any output channel can be routed anywhere you like in S3L’s fully distributed system of networked I/O.

Aux and Variable Group output channels can be routed to any Stage or Local output in the Patchbay page of the VENUE software.

OK, so that’s how you access your bus masters, but how about actually setting up your monitor mixes? How do you access the sends to the busses and start dialing in the mixes? Well, on the S3 Control Surface, this can be done in two ways:

  1. Using the Channel Control section
  2. Using the Assignable Channel Encoders

The Channel Control section gives you all the parameters associated with the selected channel. Select a channel and the top left-hand set of 8 knobs on the control surface will give you a choice of Input, EQ, Compressor, Gate and Aux Sends to access for that selected channel. Choose Aux 1-8, Aux 9-16 or Variable Groups to spill those sends onto the Channel Control encoders and you are good to send that selected channel to any mix bus (or multiple mix busses) you might be working from.

This is a great workflow when working from the input channel, and setting up which of the 24 mixes to send the channel to. It is not as efficient for the monitor engineer working from the Aux or Variable Group bus, dialing in the sends for multiple input channels to create a specific mix. For the multi-tasking gazelle-like monitor engineer, we have the Assignable Channel Encoders.

 

Encoder Assign:

Aux and Variable Group sends are accessed from the bottom row of encoders (Channel Encoders) using the Encoder Assign section.

The Assignable Channel Encoders (or just “Channel Encoders” if you prefer) are the bottom row of 16 knobs that stretch right across the S3 Control Surface. Each Channel Encoder is part of each channel strip—every channel strip has one, providing one type of parameter for every channel banked to the surface. If one Channel Encoder is controlling input gain, they are all controlling input gain.

Every Avid Live Sound console has this row of knobs, and they all work in pretty much the same way. On S3, the section of 6 buttons to the left-hand side of the Channel Encoders, allow us to target a range of functions. This section of buttons we call Encoder Assign. Encoder Assign allows us to access Gain, HPF, Pan, Compressor Threshold, and any of the 24 sends via the Channel Encoders. Pressing one of the Encoder Assign buttons targets that parameter to the Channel Encoders.

Here’s how you access the sends. Press the Aux button in the Encoder Assign section. This will bring up Aux Selection Mode. The Aux button will flash and each channel display will show a different aux send. Press the encoder associated with the send you want to access, lets say its Aux Send 4, now each Channel Encoder will give you Aux Send 4 for every channel banked to the surface. Press the Flip to Faders button and you can use the faders to dial in the mix rather than using knobs.

If you want to access another mix, press the Page Left or Page Right buttons above the Encoder Assign section. This will page through all the adjacent Aux Sends—so if Aux Send 4 is targeted to the encoders, pressing Page Right will target Aux Send 5 and so on. This will continue to work even if the console is in Flip to Faders, so you navigate across your mixes and use the faders to control the send levels.

If for example, you are operating from Aux 1 and you need to get to Aux 15, perhaps you don’t want to have to press Page Right 15 times to get there—neither do I. Instead, press the Aux button in Encoder Assign one more time to bring up Aux Selection Mode once again. From here, you can access any of the 24 sends by pressing the associated encoder. Bear in mind that when you are in Variable Groups Mode, you will need to page right to access the Variable Group Sends in Aux Selection Mode.

OK, so before we deep dive into more advanced workflows, let’s have a little recap…

Steps to dial in an aux mix from the S3 Control Surface:

  1. Press the Input Bank (A-D) you want to work from
  2. Press the Aux button in Encoder Assign to enter Aux Selection Mode
  3. Press the encoder for the Aux mix you would like to access (encoder #3 for Aux Send 3)
  4. Press Flip to Faders to dial in the mix on the faders rather than the knobs
  5. Press Page Left or Page Right to access an adjacent mix or press the Aux button to re-enter Aux Selection Mode and target another mix

As mentioned earlier in the blog, all the output channels can be controlled via the Global Encoders as well as the faders. These 8 knobs in the top right-hand section of the console provide access to Aux and Group masters, Matrix masters, VCAs, Monitors and Mains.

Aux and Variable Group masters can be accessed via the Global Encoders freeing up the faders to control input channels and sends to the busses.

To target the Aux masters, just press the encoder displaying “Aux/Group”. This will spill Aux masters 1-8 to across these top right-hand 8 encoders. To AFL an output, double press the SELECT switch next to the encoder. To bank the encoders to Aux 9-16 and Variable Group masters, press the Page Right button.

Being able to control the Aux masters using the encoders enables the 16-fader S3 Control Surface to behave like a 24-fader console, freeing up the faders to navigate around the input channels. This is really powerful when the S3 Control Surface is in Flip to Faders mode, allowing you to navigate through your mixes and keep the aux master (and 7 other aux masters) up on the surface at all times. If at some point during the show you need quick access to any of the 24 mix outputs, you can press Fader Bank E to get all 16 Aux masters on the faders and bring up the 8 Variable Groups on the Global encoders.

Now stay with me, lets go deep.

Avid S3L provides a number of functions to dramatically speed up your monitor mixing workflows. They are as follows:

  1. Aux Follows AFL
  2. AFL Follows Aux
  3. Bottom Row Flip to Faders

 

Aux Follows AFL:

To select this option, navigate to OPTIONS > Busses page in the VENUE software. When Aux Follows AFL is active, every time you AFL an aux bus, the sends to that aux bus are automatically targeted to the Channel Encoders. So, if you AFL Aux 3, Aux Sends 3 will appear on your bottom row of knobs. This workflow is particularly powerful when you have the aux masters up on your Global Encoders.

Here’s why this is cool…

Target Aux 1-8 onto the Global Encoders. Now double press a SEL switch to AFL an Aux master. The Aux master will solo to your headphones and immediately you have the sends to that same Aux bus on your encoders, or when in Flip to Faders mode, to the faders themselves. Now, Global Encoders will retain this AFL state, allowing you to AFL any Aux master by pressing the SEL switch for the next bus just once, meaning you can navigate through all your mixes very fast, soloing each one in turn and having the console follow your every move.

Now you’re looking hot.

'AFL Follows Aux' and 'Aux Follows AFL' modes are selected in the OPTIONS > Busses page of the VENUE software.

AFL Follows Aux:

What can I say, it’s like it says on the tin. It’s the opposite of Aux Follows AFL. Easy right? When this option is engaged, choosing an Aux Send to target to the Channel Encoders will instantly AFL the associated Aux bus. So, if you are paging between the Aux sends on the bottom row of knobs using the Page Left and Right buttons, S3L will solo the master for the Aux sends you have selected.

To use Aux Follows AFL, navigate to OPTIONS > Busses and select the Aux Follows AFL option.

 

Bottom Row Flip to Faders:

Bottom Row Flip to Faders adds that little bit of extra spice and efficiency to the Aux Follows AFL workflow. Bottom Row Flip to Faders is activated via an Event. It is an event action that engages Flip to Faders. This means we can use operations on the console other than actually pressing the Flip to Faders button to engage Flip to Faders mode.

Still with me? You already know what I am going to say right? What function should we use to engage Flip to Faders? How about Aux or Variable Group AFL? Now we are talking.

Navigate to OPTIONS > Events. Create a new event with “Solo Any Output” as the trigger and “Bottom Row Flip to Faders” as the action. Every time you AFL an output channel the console will engage Flip to Faders.

Engaging Flip to Faders mode whenever an output channel is soloed is achieved in the OPTIONS > Events page of the VENUE software.

Using the 3 advanced functions outlined above unlocks a fantastically efficient workflow of accessing, navigating, and creating your monitor mixes.

Let’s put this all together—here’s another example for you:

You are doing a show. The lead singer signals to you, she needs more lead singer in her wedge.  She’s on Aux 3. As always you are prepared. You already have your Aux masters on the encoders. You double-tap SELECT and AFL Aux 3. Automatically the sends to Aux 3 are targeted to the Channel Encoders and thrown down onto faders—the console following your every move. You turn up the send on the vocal channel. You page left and right between your other mixes if you need to, or just AFL the next Aux master and again, the console follows you. You have super-quick access to all your mixes without the need for the arms of an octopus; you’re playing that console like it’s a piano. Forget the aux master, you are the master.

Now you are looking very hot.

Avid S3L is immensely powerful, provides a versatile distributed system of networked I/O and is the perfect size for sitting by the side of stage. The S3 Control Surface is heavily optimized for monitor mixing workflows and purposefully designed to empower the live monitor engineer to effortlessly navigate through extensive parameters and mixes like a true virtuoso.

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 the upcoming blog, we will take a look at advanced workflows of the Media, Snapshots and Events systems, Pro Tools interoperability and how Avid S3L is optimized to be the central point of control of your complete live sound production system.




How Avid S3L and Ethernet AVB Create the Most Robust and Configurable Audio Network in Live Sound

Avid S3L

The following is the third 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.

 

Picture the scene:

You are 12 years old. You are in school sitting in mathematics class. Now if you’re a musician, live engineer, studio engineer or roadie, then like me, you were probably sitting at the back of the classroom scrawling Metallica logos over your textbook. The teacher leaves the room. She tells everybody to behave themselves and she’ll be back in five minutes. The moment she is out the door, as usual, on cue a riot breaks out. Everyone in the class starts shouting. The noise is literally deafening.

This is an audio network.

Unlike in my mathematics class growing up, in an audio network, everyone can hear each other perfectly. In an audio network, everyone knows each other’s names, who they are and what they do. In an audio network, like my mathematics class, everyone in the room is shouting; however, unlike my class, every word from every shouter is heard perfectly by every listener. As long as everyone is shouting in the same language, everyone can communicate just fine.

With Avid S3L, the language we are talking about is Ethernet AVB, or Audio Video Bridging, if you are not a fan of TLA’s. AVB is an Ethernet-based networking protocol for the connection of real-time media devices and is one of many such languages that exist in the live sound world. There are of course a number of differentiators between AVB and the other networking protocols used for live sound applications, but perhaps one of the most prominent attributes that makes you cast an eye in its direction is how AVB emerged.

Revert your mind back to the turn of the Century. A few years ago, most audio connections in a live sound system were analog, one-way, and point-to-point. In applications with high-channel counts, this point-to-point serialized connection model resulted in crazy spaghetti-like cable jungles closely resembling a roadie’s bad hair day.

At the same point in time, Ethernet and Wi-Fi were fast becoming the most dominant networking technologies on the planet. Evolution in this technology has been driven by monumental changes in social behavior, the consumption of digital media, and social networking, while mobile technology enabled huge leaps in speed, resulting in Ethernet currently being clocked somewhere around the 100Gbps mark.

You would imagine that with this progress in Ethernet technology, it would fast become adopted as an audio transfer protocol by the live sound industry, removing costly analog cabling and drastically simplifying connectivity. This, however, was not the case, as its widespread adoption was blocked primarily by the cost-per-node expense and the technical expertise required to deploy a networked system. This is until Ethernet AVB emerged onto the scene.

So what is Ethernet AVB?

Well, Ethernet AVB is an open, standards-based networking protocol for the connection of real-time media devices. When I say open, I mean truly open, like MIDI is truly open. AVB is not owned by one vendor or technology provider, which means manufactures do not have to pay a license fee to use it and do not have to pass that cost to you as a customer. AVB is built literally into the fabric of Ethernet networks, making them “media-aware” for the reliable, low latency transmission of audio and video. Essentially, it is a suite of open standards defined by the IEEE, yes that’s the same IEEE that defined the original Ethernet standards in the first place. All of the standards comprising Ethernet AVB are fully ratified, and manufacturers are deploying AVB-capable products.

The AVnu Alliance features major players from the professional A/V, consumer electronics and automotive industries.

What’s interesting is where it’s being deployed. AVB is targeted for widespread adoption across multiple markets, beyond that of live sound. Avid is a member of the AVnu Alliance, the industry forum committed to the adoption and advancement of Ethernet AVB. The AVnu Alliance is made up of major players across the professional A/V, consumer electronics and automotive industries. I’ll leave that one to sit with you—it’s exciting stuff.

What’s interesting is where it’s being deployed. AVB is targeted for widespread adoption across multiple markets, beyond that of live sound. Avid is a member of the AVnu Alliance, the industry forum committed to the adoption and advancement of Ethernet AVB. The AVnu Alliance is made up of major players across the professional A/V, consumer electronics and automotive industries. I’ll leave that one to sit with you—it’s exciting stuff.

These key benefits are the reason that Avid is fully committed to the development and utilization of Ethernet AVB networking technology. When the Stage 48 remote I/O unit was released as an accompaniment to the SC48 console, Avid became the first manufacturer in the world to incorporate Ethernet AVB into an audio console. Subsequently, Avid S3L is the first console in the world to be designed from the ground up utilizing AVB as its audio transfer protocol. The implementation of this networking functionality in the product is highly compelling.

An Avid S3L system is made up of an S3 control surface, an E3 engine, up to four Stage 16 remote I/O boxes, and if you want all the innovative record and playback functionality, a computer running Pro Tools. The E3 engine is the central point of processing of the system, connecting to the other S3L devices with Cat5e cables transmitting audio data via Ethernet AVB.

A fully expanded S3L system provides 64 inputs and 48 outputs on stage, 8 analog inputs and outputs locally at the mix position, 8 digital inputs and outputs also locally, and 64 tracks of record and playback all connected via an Ethernet AVB network and available to be processed by the E3 engine. In addition to this, all the EUCON control data and VENUE Link metadata messages from the S3 control surface and VENUE software are flying down the same Ethernet pipe as the audio. Now that’s no small amount of data to pump down a cable. If you were crazy enough to try to replicate that in analog connections, you would need to start putting a loom together with at least 270 XLR cables.

This level of functionality is fantastic, but as we discussed in my first blog entry, Avid does not want you to have to go away and get a degree in network engineering before you can get some audio coming up on your S3L system. Plug a Stage 16 into any port on an E3 engine and the two will connect, handshake, and talk automatically. Navigate to the OPTIONS > Devices page of the VENUE software and you’ll see that Stage 16 box sitting there ready to be assigned for use, unless of course your E3 has communicated with it previously, in which case you’ll find that Stage 16 assigned for you already.

The Devices page of the VENUE software is the central point of configuration for networked S3L devices.

There are no DIP switches, ID switches, or network settings of any kind that need to be played with when hooking up your S3L system. You do not need to tell the system how devices will be connected, connect devices in predefined ways, set a system latency, or even know the Mac or IP addresses of the units. Plug S3L devices into any available AVB network ports and the E3 engine will organize them for you automatically.

The E3 engine will always maintain the last state of connectivity you left it in, connecting to the devices on the network that you used last and presenting that environment to you. This connectivity state is stored on the E3 unit itself, not in your Show file. This is essential in any scenario where S3L will be used by multiple guest engineers. When S3L is being used as the front of house console at a festival, for example, a guest engineer can walk up to the system with a USB key containing a show file, load all the mix settings, patching, and everything else, and not accidentally change the devices the E3 engine is connected to currently.

But how reliable is all this AVB networking stuff with S3L? We have already discussed the precise, guaranteed low-latency delivery of media this protocol provides, but for that additional piece of mind, S3L gives you redundancy, too. Daisy-chain your Stage 16 boxes in a loop with the E3 engine and the system will automatically give you network redundancy for these devices. This redundancy is not inherently provided by the AVB network, it’s actually facilitated by the implementation of the advanced ring network topology designed specifically for S3L by Avid engineering. Think of it as two simultaneous bi-directional connections for the daisy-chained units. Should any connection fail between devices, the E3 engine engages a glitch-free redundant switch over with no loss of audio. Should this happen, the VENUE software will pop up an alert to inform you this switchover has occurred and that the system is still passing audio.

Even though the networking functionality that S3L provides is progressive and highly compelling, it represents only the tip of the iceberg of where Avid and the industry can go with this proven and trusted, revolutionary technology.

So there you have it, a small study of the simple, reliable, plug-and-play network environment facilitated by open Ethernet-AVB and implemented in Avid S3L—an implementation that has resulted in the most robust and easiest to configure audio network of any live sound console available today. 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 schedule a demo, and as always, let us know what you think.

In my next blog, we will take a closer look at the S3 Control Surface workflows for live sound applications.