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Another way to mix


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A new way to mix:

This is a bit long but worthwhile read to discuss.

Here’s the scenario. I walked into Gotham Sound and talked to Peter Schneider. My needs for an upcoming show were to be able to record dialogue and be able to do up to 16 tracks for music on a lower budget.  I was not able to afford high end ie $$$ like the Deva, Sonosax, Cooper etc, and I was rather leery about going the Mackie route.

Peter sums the system up in an email he had sent( he gave me permission to post it)

I think that the control surface is the future for location "cart" mixing. The use of Lemur on location was the first attempt at that, and resulted in http://www.lectrosonics.com/PressReleases/foodnet/foodnet.htm

The mixer you saw was Graham Gardner. How he came to be using the Behringer  came about roughly like this:

Nick Masiuk and I were talking about the failure of the Lemur as a "mixer" - no tactile faders (only virtual "multi-touch" faders). As a joke, we mentioned the Behringer BCF-2000 - the joke of course being that it was $200 to the Lemur's $3,200. Eventually our joking turned serious and we ordered one to play with.

Around this time, Graham came in the shop to talk about a "cart" style package with up to 16 inputs he wanted to put together, and asked if there was an alternative to the choice of either Mackie (cheap, and, well, "Mackie") and Cooper (great but expensive). We started talking about the idea of a control surface, and the Behringer was mentioned, and Graham took to the idea.

Among audio interfaces suitable for control with a fader surface, there is a hierarchy as follows:

1) It has to have an internal (DSP driven) mixer with hardware routing (ie no roundtrips between interface & computer app)

2) A mixer app has to be controllable via Midi (Metric Halo has MIO Console, RME has TOTALMIX)

3) Optional: runs on 12V

4) Optional: DSP effects on the chip like EQ, etc.

5) Holy grail: even away from the computer, the interface will respond to external control and act as a standalone mixer.

Masiuk and I each designed a controllable system at the Pro-Tech expo. My system stuck to the above criteria, and Masiuk designed the opposite system based around Apple Logic and Apogee, where Logic provided all of the mixing and effects, and routed the audio to MetaCorder  (2 concurrent apps running on the same machine). Masiuk's system was brilliant, but I felt there were too many layers.(Incidentally it does violate #1 above, but due to the tight integration between Apogee and Logic, and the fact that Apogee is an ExpressCard interface, Latency was next to zero).

My Pro-Tech system consisted of the Lemur with the Metric Halo 2882+DSP, and when we contacted them to tell them what we were doing, they invited me to their factory upstate. What they were (and, sadly still are) working on blew my mind - they're upgrading the 2882 so that it's basically the heart of a digital mixer, and they're going to make everything "touchable" by a control surface. Furthermore, and this is what makes them unique among computer interfaces, the +DSP model will have things like EQ, automixing, compression, etc, available to each input, and all DSP elements will also be touchable by a control surface, and eventually will satisfy the holy grail criteria as well.

… Imagine - for the same price as a Cooper 208, you can have the control surface, audio interface, software, computer, backup recorder, etc. This will be the future - it's essentially here now only we have dedicated hardware controllers costing thousands of dollars from Aaton and Zaxcom. When customers realize they don't need that, it's gonna be very interesting. Fostex is contemplating making the PD606 touchable by a control surface. I begged Rick to stick to an open standard - let Fostex sell a high quality control surface that works with the PD606 that the music people might buy as well, and have a PD606 that the end user can control with whichever control surface they want IF they don't want Fostex's design. We'll see if they "get it".

With Graham's system, we ran into a serious issue when controlling the 2882: although the first fader was smoothly controlled, each additional simultaneous fader could only move in a hurky-jerky fashion. His production actually "pulled" and so without much time, we switched to an RME FIFA400, with TotalMix having smooth control.

I cannot say this enough times: Graham is awesome. This is new, ground breaking, complicated shit, and he dedicated himself to learning the intricacies of this technology to the point of being an expert.

There are a number of lingering issues with his rig:

1) We all would prefer the Metric Halo. It's mixer console software is SOOOO much simpler and cleaner than RME's TOTALMIX, not to mention you get DSP and routing, so that one could record a mix and iso tracks with EQ and iso tracks without EQ!

2) We modified the Behringer to run on 12V DC, but Graham reports that it doesn't work correctly (it sends false midi messages), so back to the drawing board for us.

3) The holy grail is not realized with this rig - if the computer suddenly dies, the interface stops responding, thus fucking everything to the point where you'd probably call cut (I believe the levels stay where they are at least).

4) There is still a complex level of interaction between control surface, hardware, hardware's middle-ware (ie driver and TOTALMIX) and software app (in Graham's case its BoomCorder).

I have used this system of 6 weeks. The software and routing have worked well( once I figured it all out). I have the boom iso, mix the lavs to one track and have each iso as well, talkback with my boom op, enough channels for whatever comes up, 6 outputs to route whatever I need( L and R cam feeds, boom op, comteks, L and R for backup recorder.

Equipment:

New Macbook 2ghz ram

RME FF400

RME Octamic

Behringer BCF-2000 (midi into FF or usb)

Fostex FR2 with timecode

Boomrecorder

PSC Power station

16 tracks, 2 channel backup/portable recorder, DC power for everything for roughly $6000

picturebyBrianMiklas.jpg

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Wow! This is a lot to digest --- infinitely intriguing concepts, not fully realized in hardware/software by any means, but amazing progress towards a fairly new "way to mix" (good choice for thread topic).

I find it particularly interesting the two ways proposed, although I do not really consider them opposites. The one approach, represented here by the combination of very sophisticated software (Logic Pro) and rather simple hardware, and the other being hardware that is more sophisticated control interface and rather simple software (BoomRecorder, Metacorder, etc.).

It is going to take some to think a lot of this out. I really appreciate Graham's efforts here in posting such a provocative subject.

-  Jeff Wexler

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I was not familiar with the Lemur controller/touchscreen. I just looked at the JazzMutant website and went through the descriptions of both Lemur and Dexter --- fascinating devices that seem to allow a very customizable control surface. It was all new to me --- anyone else interested, take a look at:  http://www.jazzmutant.com/index.php

-  Jeff Wexler

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Is the man in the picture mixing a 2 mix while also recording prefade isos, or is he levelling trims BEFORE the isos?  Did you find that the combo you mention was free of "zipper noise", and was sufficiently UN-latent to allow for the sort of fast level changes needed to follow production dialog?  I have VERY serious questions about basing any system on a Behringer product--not just design and QC issues but that they are an entirely sales-driven company and products can appear and disappear very quickly.  I agree that the future may be in control surfaces as opposed to mixers, but so far the Zax and Aaton approaches to this are way ahead of what is described here in reliability and integration.  I use Metacorder all the time w/ MOTU boxes and setup levels and monitor via MOTU's "CUEMIX" app.  This works fine for situations where the mix is mostly set-and-forget or just a few moves.  My main issue with the setup is the number of separate boxes and cables involved, and the need for a steady flat surface to set it up on (cart).  I see a trend towards smaller, more portable sound rigs even for big jobs, and the laptop/interface/drive/control surface type rig seems cumbersome (you still need a portable rig as well).

Philip Perkins

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Hey Phillip,

   I am the man in the picture. The Behringer does NOT process the audio, but controls levels for the mix. Think of it as a big mouse.  I have it set up via midi to ff400. i set the trims on the octamic(8 channels). I only use the ff when we do concert part of the show. The ff allows Input AD: 6 x 1/4" TRS (4 x Line, 2 x Line/Instrument), 2 x XLR/TRS Combo connector (2 x Mic/Line), all servo-balanced. the 4 line inputs do not have separate trims and can be set to -10, +4, and low gain. I found that running lectros( set at +5) into line in 5-8 yielded to low a signal.

All channels are recorded prefade to BR with the exception of a 2 channel mix, no latency, to BR with the faders.  16 inputs on rme and 6 assignable outs( also 8 direct outs from octamic). FF and octamic synced adat then Firewire to computer

There is no zipper noise or latency other than AD converters. I have moved multiple faders rapidly to check for any noise or latency. This is where Metric Halo failed(couldnt process the the midi signals well) so we landed on the FF with total mix.

As for reliability... No problems in 30 days of shooting so far. Would i take in inclement weather? No. Would i trust it in the desert? No. How do you use metacorder and motu without being on a cart?

Yes its clunky, but it definitely satisfies my needs for the current project. As compared to Deva Mix 12 isnt that $6500 on top of the cost of a Deva IV or V? The system I'm using minus wireless units and mics/booms, costs under 7k with cables, cart(multicart with rack unit), FR2 with timecode, hard drives, AD converters, computer, control surface, dc power

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Not saying anything about behringer, but the BCF-2000 basically replaced me at a network I was at. We had a Yamaha DM1000 doing daily host stuff, and lots of routing. The TD and Engineering people, who were at the HQ in San Fran said that they were installing the BCF-2000 so that the TD could do his own monitor mix. They installed it, and I copied a whole bunch of channels, took them out of the main mix (as the originals were"live") and assigned them to the unit so the TD could bring whatever copied channels desired into his monitors. About 2 months later, I was laid off, and the engineering team came down, reassigned the faders, and now the TD is the sound mixer. Sad story, but it got me back into freelance production, so there's always a silver lining!

Tom

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Hey Phillip,

  I am the man in the picture. The Behringer does NOT process the audio, but controls levels for the mix. Think of it as a big mouse.  I have it set up via midi to ff400. i set the trims on the octamic(8 channels). I only use the ff when we do concert part of the show. The ff allows Input AD: 6 x 1/4" TRS (4 x Line, 2 x Line/Instrument), 2 x XLR/TRS Combo connector (2 x Mic/Line), all servo-balanced. the 4 line inputs do not have separate trims and can be set to -10, +4, and low gain. I found that running lectros( set at +5) into line in 5-8 yielded to low a signal.

All channels are recorded prefade to BR with the exception of a 2 channel mix, no latency, to BR with the faders.  16 inputs on rme and 6 assignable outs( also 8 direct outs from octamic). FF and octamic synced adat then Firewire to computer

There is no zipper noise or latency other than AD converters. I have moved multiple faders rapidly to check for any noise or latency. This is where Metric Halo failed(couldnt process the the midi signals well) so we landed on the FF with total mix.

As for reliability... No problems in 30 days of shooting so far. Would i take in inclement weather? No. Would i trust it in the desert? No. How do you use metacorder and motu without being on a cart?

Yes its clunky, but it definitely satisfies my needs for the current project. As compared to Deva Mix 12 isnt that $6500 on top of the cost of a Deva IV or V? The system I'm using minus wireless units and mics/booms, costs under 7k with cables, cart(multicart with rack unit), FR2 with timecode, hard drives, AD converters, computer, control surface, dc power

You look good in that picture!  You don't have to sell me on the economies and bang for buck of laptop-based recording--I do it because the alternative for me in hardware multitrack recording would have MAYBE 4 tracks, and I, like you, often need WAY more than that. For me the key to what you are doing is the TotalMix app, that it can smoothly control the FF enough and w/low enough latency that real mixing is possible, unlike CueMix.  The control surfaces will come and go according to the fashions of the MI market--the numbers people like us would make in that market are too small to be noticed by Behringer or Yamaha etc..  My Metacorder rigs are either a traditional sound cart or an 8 space rack depending--they work fine but can't be used in tiny spaces and the rack version needs AC power.  As you've found, usually if there are that many channels working there is some space and AC available--my problems with the rig are on shoots on location where 6-8 tracks might be needed, AC is spotty and weather probable.  My cart has things pretty well protected, but I'd have to use a separate bag-rig to do anything where the cart couldn't go.  The Zax and Aaton configs, as you know, can do a lot more for you than just channel levels, but although they are well designed and nicely made they are too pricey for me (also).  I am going to look into your FF setup--I thought RME had come out with a version that can run on DC?  Love to see screen shots of your TotalMix routing. 

Philip Perkins

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I will not deny the back of my head is quite nice to look at. That being said...

The equipment is powered off the psc powerstation and therefore DC, which was one of the goals with this system. I also have a spare battery for the mac. As of now, I can operate 5 hours ( more liks 5.5)dc running 6 lectro 411, ff400, octamic, fr2, and behringer control surface and mac on separate batteries( i have 2 macbook batteries).

I built this on a multicart r12 to be able to move around as needed. It keeps life simple for moving around. No powering down, just pull the plug to powerstation. We have also shot in parks and exteriors using available light and bounces, so no easy to access DC.

Total mix routing is not intuitive. If you have any specific questions regarding this, send me an email and i will be more than glad to answer.

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Good idea w/ the DC, on a laptop recording setup an AC kickout is no joke--rebooting etc.  We keep a battery up all the time on the regular sound cart, since we seem to average at least one AC outage a day, and we can move the cart w/o shutting down.  The music rig doesn't usually get moved once it is set up (thank God). 

Philip Perkins

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  • 4 weeks later...

I wanted to provide an update to everyone regarding Graham's system and Metric Halo:

Firstly, I wrote (as quoted):

"With Graham's system, we ran into a serious issue when controlling the 2882: although the first fader was smoothly controlled, each additional simultaneous fader could only move in a hurky-jerky fashion. His production actually "pulled" and so without much time, we switched to an RME FIFA400, with TotalMix having smooth control."

After we had some time with the Metric Halo system, we were able to get multiple faders to move smoothly via midi control - it just took some tweaking of the mixer application settings.  Graham still stuck with the RME system because he didn't want to switch mid-stream on such a crazy show, and he also wanted to wait for Metric Halo to release their 2d upgrade for the 2882.

Metric Halo released the MIO 2882 firewire audio interface 7 years ago. Rather than discontinue it and force everyone to buy new interfaces, they promised from its initial release that they would allow customers to upgrade it to add new features. Contrast that philosophy with the manufactureres that we as location recordists deal with - some of which are already on their third generation of products in the time that MH released the 2882.

The latest "2d" upgrade is truly astonishing and has broad implications for location sound recoding. In one 12-volt friendly box, you have not only an audio interface, but an entire digital mixer complete with eq, comp/limiters and full routing capability, and they throw in the recording software free (admittedly not metadata friendly, but great for long form recording and TC aware) - check it out at http://www.mhsecure.com/v5mm/2882_2dExpanded.html

Peter Schneider

Gotham Sound

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I have been a big fan of Metric Halo for years (even though I have had limited experience with it, years ago) and looking through the new website is truly amazing. It looks as if the software has come a long way and is fully capable of doing almost anything anyone would want to do. I am curious when you say it isn't metadata friendly --- it is true that I did not see any mention of metadata entry or management, beyond timecode, so maybe that is the one area that the software is light.

-  Jeff Wexler

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I own two MH2882's and am considering upgrading one of them with the new 2D card, mainly so that I can set up a spare mixer with a remote fader surface and  also (but not seriously), so that I can send the client a Comtek feed with one of the new "Character" settings such as "California Vocal Box - Drive" or "Classic British Mic Pre".

I can't find any reference to the "Record Panel"  accepting timecode, either in the manual or in the version 5 software preferences.

As for Metadata, while there is the ability to record bwf, the metadata is limited to two fields, "country code" & "facility code". To quote MH " It does support timestamping and standardized metadata"

If anyone with Metacorder and a 2882 upgrades with the 2D card, I'd be interested to know if any parts of the new mixer such as the inserts appear before Metacorder.

"they throw in the recording software free (admittedly not metadata friendly, but great for long form recording and TC aware)"

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  • 1 month later...

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