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Davin

Mixer Mods for Zaxcom?

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Has anyone ever looked into modifying a controller to be used with Zaxcom Nomad? A cheap alternative to using Zaxcom's proprietary hardware...

 

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I'm not sure what you're asking but my guess is that you come from the music recording world rather than the location sound sector.  The gear we use and how it interfaces is quite different.  Zaxcom gear works with Zaxcom control surfaces just as Sound devices gear works with Sound Devices control surfaces.

Something simple like a remote roll switch or using an external keyboard is accommodated, but as far as remote control surface protocols, they're proprietary.

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40 minutes ago, John Blankenship said:

I'm not sure what you're asking but my guess is that you come from the music recording world rather than the location sound sector. 

John B, there are worse things you can say about a fellow mixer. I think Davin's point is well taken. When can we expect audio manufacturers to play well with each other, rather than "the my way or the highway" school ?

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34 minutes ago, al mcguire said:

John B, there are worse things you can say about a fellow mixer. I think Davin's point is well taken. When can we expect audio manufacturers to play well with each other, rather than "the my way or the highway" school ?

That wasn't meant as a put-down.  As you know I've lived in that world also.  Point being, location sound tools serve a much more specialized, niche field.

I seriously doubt that my Pro Tools HUI panel will ever work with any of the gear we typically use for location gigs.

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John B. I didn't take it as put down. I think the OP had a good point. I never understood why I couldn't overdub with my 788t, or remix a take where I missed a cue, I used to be able to do it with a razor blade.

 

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So, yeah, so far the fader surfaces avail for location mixer-recorders from the makers most of us use (SD, Zax, Sax, Zoom) are locked to just a few models from that maker, with no agreed-on protocol like Eucon etc shared by all.  But we can dream....? 

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I do come from a music recording background but for the past 8 years I've been primarily working as a location sound mixer.

I'm very interested in the possibility of modifying mixers to be used with Zaxcom recorder/mixers.

I want more flexibility in the field and I would love to spend less than $1k on a piece of hardware that better suits my needs than what is currently available.

I'm looking into hiring someone to mod some gear. I know there has to be someone who has had the same thoughts. I would love to hear about anyone who has tried or looked into it as well.

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The mix surfaces / Zaxnet uses a proprietary control language, probably not dissimilar to HUI but different language and protocols.  I remember briefly trying to interface with the QRX zaxnet buss, but was never able to establish communication.  I believe some machines use RS-485, but since QRX is 3 or 4 wire, maybe some are RS-422 and not fully differential like 485.  Memory is foggy but think my failure had something to do with baud rate not a standard rate or perhaps asynchronous, so my generic terminal was never able to arbitrate the serial protocol correctly.  Even if I had established comms, not sure I'd be that much closer to communicating in an articulate manner anyways.  I have some machine control experience, but it's not my primary area of expertise.

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What is it that you want to do that a Zax controller like Oasis or a real mixer (or both) can't do?  What you are considering is a fairly complex hack, probably with a hardware aspect, and it's kind of unlikely that Zax would help you much with this (they'd probably prefer that you buy an Oasis...).  If you aren't an engineer with expertise in this area yourself I'd think you'd spend well over $1k on that person's time, once you found them.

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I'm looking to mod a controller that is much cheaper, lighter, easily mounted for bag mixing, and still full of features. If I did pay someone to mod a mixer, I would use the technology to share with others who want similar features.

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I do think there is a market for something like that. I would love it if zax made a new mix 8 with those qualities. Maybe the cheaper part they would leave out.. but still.

Howard Stark could answer many of your questions or at least point you in the right direction I would think. 

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If I remember rightly - Zaxcom recorders communicate with their panels in the realm of RS422 or RS232. Whilst I believe one can convert from USB (most music fader panels connect via usb, yes?) to 232/422 I suspect you would then need to remap the entire function and communication settings of the fader panel. Unless you are an excellent hacker/programmer I genuinely it could ever be financially practical to achieve this.

On a related note. I believe that Sonosax are considering making their SX-R4+ look at standard fader panel protocols, which could be interesting. That said - does anyone know of any location practical fader panels with more than 8 faders?

From the land of the hung parliament, Simon B

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Getting some Howy help and reprograming a control mixer does sound like a long shot.

But is it impossible? 

I would imagine you need a very strong understanding of how sax gear is programmed. 

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I hope Sax does decide to make the use of standard MI market fader panels possible.  I will say from my experience with several of them vs proprietary units that the MIDI based units can be pretty latent, esp if you are used to instant fader response.

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On 10/06/2017 at 5:09 AM, Tom Visser said:

The mix surfaces / Zaxnet uses a proprietary control language, probably not dissimilar to HUI but different language and protocols.  I remember briefly trying to interface with the QRX zaxnet buss, but was never able to establish communication.  I believe some machines use RS-485, but since QRX is 3 or 4 wire, maybe some are RS-422 and not fully differential like 485.  Memory is foggy but think my failure had something to do with baud rate not a standard rate or perhaps asynchronous, so my generic terminal was never able to arbitrate the serial protocol correctly.  Even if I had established comms, not sure I'd be that much closer to communicating in an articulate manner anyways.  I have some machine control experience, but it's not my primary area of expertise.

Although not necessarily zaxcom compliant- this is the superslot serial data specifications (which may be in the right direction):

"Standard UART Rx and Tx connections required.
Recommended UART BAUD rate is 115k, 8n1. Lower rates can be used, but will result in slower communication of data.
SuperSlot UART signaling is 3.3V but is 5V tolerant on signals from client "

However I expect it may be easier to reverse engineer the controller and seeing what it transmits

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On 6/9/2017 at 6:24 AM, al mcguire said:

John B. I didn't take it as put down. I think the OP had a good point. I never understood why I couldn't overdub with my 788t, or remix a take where I missed a cue, I used to be able to do it with a razor blade.

 

Use a computer for that. Any job you might want that ability on you'd probably be tracking to Pro Tools or similar, anyway. When camera is involved, they just want an entirely new take to be edited later, since they have to edit the video as well.

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In music recording often "punch ins" are avoided in favor of editorial fixes anymore.  It's often better for the vibe of the session to just keep doing new takes and clean up the mess later, rather than dealing with old-school punching in, as on an analog multitrack.  I did A LOT of punching in on 4-8-16-24 track machines back in the day, mostly because we didn't have track space to spare.  I do NOT miss that work at all--comping was really a hassle, etc....  In video audio post, that sort of thing was done back when we had weeks, not days to mix a show!

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Punch ins are done all the time in music still, especially is there is a natural break. Studio time costs a lot of money, and editing takes a lot of time. If you've got a perfect take up to a certain point and there is a great punch-in spot, take advantage and save on studio and editing time. ;) 

Now, that being said, I am currently mixing an album where we had just a few punch ins in the studio where we tracked drums, bass, primary rhythm guitar, C3, and Rhodes, and those all sound great. But then I left tracking additional guitars, vocals, and electronic keys to the band in their studio and there are a number of poorly timed punch-ins to fox and the shear number of takes is staggering. Both require a lot of editing on my part. I asked them to edit tracks down to single takes, but that was too complicated for them. There are pitfalls to both methods... 

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