What’s New in VENUE 5.3 Software for S6L

By in Live Sound, Music Creation

The VENUE 5.3 software update for S6L brings significant new capabilities to our flagship system, including:

  • 128 tracks of Pro Tools recording and playback over Ethernet AVB
  • Multiple user-definable fader layouts
  • Select follows Solo
  • Matrix Spill
  • Toggle EQ gain & frequency in Vertical Channel Strip Mode

This update is now available to download at no charge if you have an S6L system and a valid Avid Advantage ExpertPlus support contract (find the installer in your Avid Account).

VENUE | S6L at the Kraków Live Festival

Pro Tools 128 track recording/playback

With VENUE 5.3 the channel capacity over Ethernet AVB between S6L and Pro Tools increases to 128 channels (from 64 channels)—that’s 128 channels of simultaneous record and playback via an Ethernet AVB connection over a single CAT5e cable. Simply plug a supported Mac Pro with Pro Tools (and Live Sound Production Toolkit) into the Ethernet Pro Tools port on the back of the S6L control surface to enjoy 128 channels of recording and playback, including per-channel Virtual Soundcheck. Note that you will need to have two AVB-192 Ethernet AVB Option Cards installed in the E6L engine to support the increased bandwidth required on the network for 128 channels. Everything is pretty much plug and play. All of the VENUE patchbay functionality, the global virtual sound check functionality, the per-channel virtual sound check, the gain propagation workflows, transport control from S6L—all of that stuff that you got with 64 channels you’ve now got with 128. And this of course is really important because the I/O capacity of S6L is significant. This increased recording capacity covers all but the most demanding channel counts. Visit this page for a comprehensive list of hardware and software requirements to run 128 channels of Pro Tools with S6L.

Configuration diagram of single S6L system, three Stage 64 I/O boxes, and Mac Pro running Pro Tools for 128 channels of recording and playback—if recording 128 tracks in an I/O sharing configuration, only one Mac Pro is supported on the shared network

MADI-192 MADI Option Card

VENUE 5.3 also supports the new MADI-192 option card, which provides 64 inputs and 64 outputs per card at 96 kHz. You can have up to four MADI-192 cards installed in an E6L engine simultaneously, which would give you up to 256 channels over the MADI format. This is exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, just the ability to interface with other MADI-enabled devices is huge. We’ve provided customers with a MADI split via the Stage 64 I/O box since the beginning, allowing you to feed other consoles, broadcast locations, etc. directly from the preamps. But now with the MADI-192 option card, we can now deliver high channel count connectivity with other MADI-enabled devices, letting you route any signals to and from the system.

We can also use MADI as the front end for our Virtual Soundcheck workflows to interface with recording devices, similar to how we handle it over the Ethernet AVB network, only using MADI as the interface. As I already covered, VENUE 5.3 ups the Pro Tools recording and playback over Ethernet AVB to 128 channels, which is a very simple, no-fuss solution for Virtual Soundcheck. However, what MADI-192 cards allows us to do is just have a higher channel counts than 128—to a maximum configuration of 256 channels of record and playback if we have four cards installed. Since S6L supports up to 192 inputs on stage, using MADI enables us to capture all of those inputs. And this Virtual Soundcheck over MADI still provides you with all the unique VENUE advantages when used with Pro Tools, including per channel Virtual Soundcheck (the ability to just choose which channel is) and VENUELink which automatically configures your session files within Pro Tools (with automatic patching, naming, and interfacing between Pro Tools and VENUE console).

MADI-192 MADI Option Card

Another massive capability that the MADI-192 opens up for us is to interface directly with the Waves SoundGrid platform. A lot of customers who mix on Profile, D-Show, and other legacy VENUE systems rely heavily on Waves’ huge range of sonic tools, and the MADI-192 provides these customers with the capability to connect to Waves. With the MADI card installed, you can route signals via the VENUE patchbay out to the Waves SoundGrid server (via a DiGiGrid MGB I/O device). VENUE 5.3 makes MADI streams available as patchable hardware inserts—which is something that we couldn’t do with our legacy systems. What that allows us to do is associate the hardware insert for an input or output channel with a MADI input stream and output stream—all patchable from the VENUE patchbay. This enables us to send/return a channel to/from the Waves SoundGrid from the channel, giving us the ability to have Waves plug-ins running at the insert point of our input and output channels, which is absolutely amazing. And of course that also allows us to then to do the same thing when we’re setting up aux busses. We can route a bunch of channels to an aux bus then have the use the insert to route the signal via MADI to/from Waves SoundGrid. This is really useful when we want to use the reverbs and other bus-fed effects within the Waves MultiRack environment. With the ability to instantiate up to eight Waves plug-ins in series on a single channel within MultiRack, the sonic possibilities are endless.


Multiple user-defined fader layouts

One of the most highly requested features from S6L users has been support for multiple user-definable fader layouts. The default fader banking configuration of S6L is what we call “Profile mode” – input channels positioned either side of centrally located output channels. In addition to this we give you four fader banking modes (Inputs, Outputs, VCAs, and Layouts) each with its own switch located in S6L’s central Master Live Module (MLM). Pressing one of these switches places the console into the corresponding banking mode, targeting channels of the associated type onto the faders (all your inputs, outputs, VCAs). Pressing the Layouts button recalls your custom, user-defined fader layout which can be a mix of any type of channel—whatever you want at your fingertips. With VENUE 5.3 we’ve expanded this feature to provide you with 24 user-defined fader layouts. Now when you press your Layouts button, the control surface will go into Layouts mode and the MLM’s middle soft keys section will populate with 12 layouts. If you need more than this, simply scroll onto the next page to get layouts 13 to 24.

Access up to 24 custom layouts from the MLM section of S6L's control surface

Layouts can be created and assigned to MLM switches using the INPUTS and OUTPUTS pages of the External GUI or Standalone software – and via the control surface

This allows you to create a number of different fader layouts, store them to a soft key switch, and then recall them live on the fly to get to that custom fader layout during operation. The idea of it is to enable you to create your own console. Although we give you the default configuration of banks in our default “Profile Mode,” user-definable fader layouts let you configure the console exactly how you want to and recall those layouts directly from the control surface. You can create any combination of inputs, outputs, VCAs, and groups, in whatever order you want them, store it as a custom layout within your show file. When you next load your show file, up comes your user-defined custom configured control surface. And we still allow you to store and recall custom fader layout via Snapshots, but you can now access up to 23 additional layouts in addition to the one stored in your snapshot. You no longer need to dedicate Snapshots as the primary method of sorting and recalling fader layouts.


Select follows Solo

Select follows Solo is very straightforward new option that has been placed into the Options > Interactions page of the VENUE 5.3 software. With Select Follows Solo engaged, when you solo a channel from control surface or the GUI, if the channel is banked to the control surface, it will also be locally selected. This means that you can use the Solo button to target channels locally and have their parameters presented on the CKM encoders. This is really useful during a line check. As PFL channels the console will automatically select that channel you’ve soloed and provide all the functions for the channel directly on the encoders.

Now this is something that we’ve done in legacy VENUE before where we linked solo to select on a Profile system or within S6L we linked solo to attention, but what’s cool about this new enhancement is that with S6L as it’s the Select key that targets parameters onto the encoders. So every time you’re pressing Solo you’ve got access to all of the parameters associated with the channel directly on the CKM encoders in front of you and the console will follow you as you go.


Matrix Spill

With the VENUE 5.1 software update, we introduced Spill Mode for S6L, which includes Aux Spill, Group Spill, and VCA Spill. The concept is that you double press your Attention button or press the Spill button within the Universe View of the Master Touch Screen and all of the channels that are members of or assigned to that particular output are then spilled onto the control surface faders in front of you. With VENUE 5.3, this works with Matrixes too. Now with S6L, you have always been able to select a matrix output and access all of the sources that feed into the matrix from the encoders, but with the new Matrix Spill feature in VENUE 5.3, you can access and adjust the levels of the sources feeding the matrix using the faders too.

Toggle between EQ gain & frequency in Vertical Channel Strip Mode

This is a very simple control surface feature but requested by many S6L users. If a channel has not been locally selected to the CKM, the CKM is in what we call Vertical Channel Strip Mode. Parameters are arranged on the encoders vertically like an analog console aligning with the associated channel on the fader below. The CKM < and > switches allow you bank through the parameters for the channels below (input, EQ, Dynamics, and Mix). When you get EQ, four gain parameters are provided, one for one each band of parametric EQ (two pages for the 7-band output channel EQ). With VENUE 5.3, you can now toggle between gain and frequency by pressing the SEL switch next to the respective encoder. This simple feature significantly enhances your workflow for controlling parameters in an analog channel strip configuration.

I hope that you’re as excited as we are about this release, as it represents another big step forward in the functionality and capability of the system. We’re sure that you will use many of these features and workflows regularly to deliver the best mixes possible for your artists in the months to come. Check out all that VENUE | S6L has to offer or contact sales to find the perfect system to meet your needs and challenges.

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.

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