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Creating an artistic mix

Recently, I wrote an article for Sunday| Magazine about Getting a Consistant Mix from Different Techs.  The concepts and methods in that article are sort of a preface for creating an artistic mix.

We get so worked up gear, what levels we have to run at or what we think the EQ curve on our console graph should look like that we forget about what its really supposed to sound like and what we are actually doing as audio engineers.  I blogged about mixing with your ears instead of your eyes a while back as well.

This is why the topic of mixing artistically is so important.   Continue Reading…

Sunday| Mag article: Getting a consistant mix

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve heard me talk about Sunday| Magazine.  It’s an awesome resource for not only techs, designers and creatives in the church but for worship teams, leadership and other leaders that pour themselves into creating a great experience each Sunday at church.  The man behind it all is Jonathan Malm who has become pretty well known in the church tech and stage design circles as a result of the great websites he runs.

I was privileged to write once again for the second issue of Sunday| Magazine.  In this issue, it focuses on curating rather then creating.  I could go into how amazing I think that concept is but I don’t want to take the fun away.  Go to www.sundaymag.tv to subscribe and read it.

My article is on “Getting a Consistant Mix from Different Techs“.  Check it out and let me know what you think!  I always love to get feedback and hear what people’s rections and impressions are.

Check out Sunday| Magazine launching March 1st

If you follow me on twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, you’ll know I’ve been talking about Sunday| Magazine for a while.

At WFX in 2011, I was introduced to Jonathan Malm who is the creator of websites like Church Stage Design Ideas as well as his self-branded creative inspiration site and new new Sunday| Magazine which launches March 1st.  As we talked, Sunday came up and ultimately, I was given the incredible opportunity to write it.

His concept behind the magazine is what really has impressed me. Continue Reading…

Are you excited about what you’re doing?

I had someone pay me a complement recently that kind of blew my mind.  A leader mentioned to me that my opinion and ideas meant more because of how enthusiastic and excited I was about what I do.  Anyone who knows me, knows just how much I love church production.  My passion permeates who I am and how I serve.  It’s my calling, my element and my gift of worship given back to God for the furtherance of His Kingdom here on earth as well as in heaven.

How cool is that?  We get to influence people simply by living out what we’re passionate about and giving our all in the service of our Lord!

I just wanted to share that encouragement with everyone else who is in church production.   Continue Reading…

DPA d:fine headset mic review

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all used them.  We’ve all be frustrated with them.  At least they’re better then lapel mics right?

I’ve never really been satisfied with Countryman headset mics.  They are easily bent up and even broken at times especially if they are used by different people all the time.  In all honesty, they don’t particularly sound that great without alot of EQ even on a well tuned and optimized system.  At church, whoever is preaching uses one when we record our video services.  If they aren’t fitted properly, they can easily move when someone turns their head or simply moves around.  If a speaker is constantly playing with his headset while we’re recording the video, not only is it distracting to the live audience, but it isn’t something I want on the video recording.  I decided to do some research to look for a different mic to try.

While I was at WFX, a friend recommended that I check out the DPA d:fine.  DPA had a booth and I was able to put one on my ear and get a feel for how comfortable it was.  It felt awesome!  I knew that if it sounded as good as it felt I had to get one.

Wally Grant of Church Solutions Group was able to quickly hook me up with a demo.

The headset doesn’t sit on your ear quite like other headset mics.  It is made of a rubbery material that is smooth but springs back putting slight pressure on your ear.  Not enough to be uncomfortable, but enough to hold it in place. It loops over your ear and then once it reaches the front of your ear, it looks inside your ear slightly allowing the headset to stay perfectly in place.  It a little hard to explain, so here is a screen grab from a DPA demo video that shows how the mic is supposed to be positioned on your ear.

There is also a clip on the cable so that you can clip it to the back of your collar so that you don’t yank it off.

The design is modular.  You can replace the mic capsule with the boom, the ear piece, or the cable all separately.  That’s great if something breaks.

It comes in black, beige, brown, as well as a pretty stunning lime color which seriously caught my eye.  I don’t think I’d be able to get away with lime green but it’s still pretty cool looking in my opinion.

All that is well and good, but how does it sound?  I must say I was stunned at how great it sounded.  It was crystal clear and didn’t require alot of EQ.  Just a little bit of ringing out and tone shaping mostly based on preference was all it needed.  It comes in a omni directional or a cardioid pick up pattern.  I bought the directional cardioid model which does an awesome job of rejecting noise or interference especially when the band is playing on stage at the same time.  It also improves the gain before feedback over most other headset mics I’ve used in the past.

All in all, it was a great buy and I’d highly recommend the DPA d:fine headset.  It’s one of those things that once you hear it, you don’t want to go back to what you had before because of how great of an improvement it is.  It’s something you seriously need to hear.

Presonus StudioLive consoles now include Smaart Analysis tools

Rational Acoustics, who has been a leader in software for acoustic tuning and measurement software, is now including system analysis tools with the Presonus StudioLive VSL remote control/editor software.  These tools can be used for sound system analysis and optimization and can interface directly with the console’s graphic EQ.  Also, with the software, users can view the spectral analysis of their mix and make changes in real time.  It can help identify feedback frequencies.  For the many churches that have already adopted the StudioLive into their sunday morning set up, this will be a huge update for them and will not only give helpful flexibility, but will also equip church volunteers to serve more effectively.

You can check out the press release at: http://www.presonus.com/news/press/Detail.aspx?NewsID=183

Mix with your EARS, not your eyes

With the advent of digital consoles, meters, RTAs, and the like, so many times, we as audio techs begin to lean on those tools more and more.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, lately I have noticed that I began leaning on them too much instead of simply using my ears to make it sound great.  I think we can easily get caught in a trap of turning knobs that make changes on a screen until it “looks right” whether it sounds good or not!

I don’t think that displays or graphs are bad.  They are an extremely helpful tool when used appropriately.  However, when they are used as a crutch, they’re no good.

I recall something that Danny Duncan from Vanguard Recording said to me.  It’s so simple I feel like I should have thought of it before but never did.  Stop looking at the controls.  Stop looking at the screen with the graphs on it.  Close your eyes and EQ only using your ears.

It’s crazy that we have become so dependent on the graphic and visual representations of what we do as audio engineers.  Ultimately, it’s all about how it sounds in the end.  Call it a New Years resolution, but I’m going to make a conscious effort to not depend so much on visual tools to get me to where I need to be.  Rather, I’m going to force myself to depend on what my ears hear.

 

Related Articles:

Creating an Artistic Mix

Killing Feedback

The Church Balcony and the FOH Engineer

When the Production Leader steps into the Worship Leader’s Shoes

Allen & Heath announces the new GLD series digital console

Allen & Heath has really outdone themselves this time announcing a product that is a serious contenter for the mid-range price point and the medium format digital console market.  Their small format digital console teaser is now public with announcement of the GLD series.  They created a happy medium between their high-end iLive series and their  reliable, budget-friendly, workhorse GL series consoles.

The console is very similar to the iLive in look and feel but obviously scaled down to come in under the more budget conscious bar.  The GLD-80 is currently the only control surface in the GLD line.  It should be interesting to see if A&H will expand this range with another control surface or two.  The GLD-80 has 20 faders and 4 layers so you can lay your show out however you’d like and connects over a CAT5 cable using the new DSnake protocol to an audio rack.  There are currently two racks in the GLD line: the GLD-AR2412 which features 24 in’s and 12 outs and the GLD-AR84 which features 8 in’s and 4 outs.  The GLD-AR2412 features a CAT5 port labeled “Monitor” which is compatible with Aviom.  Similarly to their iLive line, they offer the ability to scale the system capabilities to what the user or venue requires.  Those two models can be linked together and, when connected to the GLD-80 control surface, it is capable of processing a maximum of 48 inputs and 24 outputs.  Each of those inputs features gain, polarity control, HPF, gate, 4-band parametric EQ, compressor and individual channel delay. It also has 8 stereo FX racks, 16 DCAs, 30 mix busses and 20 mix outputs which are all configurable and accessible from the GLD’s 8.4 inch touch screen.

I was extremely excited to see that the GLD system includes a card slot in the console for expandability similar to the iLive system and cross-compatibility with the iLive system if you put an ACE card in that slot.  However, I’d certainly be more inclined to put a Dante card in there and have a killer multitrack rig or the Waves plug-in’s card and rock some of those.  Either way, that slot option is an extremely powerful option that pushes the GLD farther then the rest because it leaves the door open for future functionality and updates without having to buy a new system.

A feature that is new to Allen & Heath’s digital systems is the ability to record and playback audio files with a USB flash drive.  Hopefully, this functionality will appear on the iLive in a future firmware update.

I must say, I’m really excited about the release of the GLD.  On paper and in pictures, it looks awesome.  Out of the digital console manufacturers, Allen & Heath has planned their development and marketing strategies extremely well.  They developed an extremely innovative family of systems that create a world of flexibility both now and for people who many need to expand down the road as their needs and requirements change.  I will certainly be excited to get my hands on the GLD and work with it in a live concert situation for a real world test.  I will certainly write a demo as soon as I have the opportunity to do so.

For more info, check out A&H’s promo video.

Check out my Hands-on Review of the new ALLEN & HEATH GLD digital console:http://bit.ly/LhKSrL

 

Allen & Heath to announce new digital console January 2012

Yesterday, I received an exciting promotional email from Allen & Heath “leaking” pictures of a new digital console that will be officially announced in January 2012.  You can check out a link to the announcement on the news section of their website by clicking here.

It’s advertised as a “professional digital mixing console system at a distinctly analogue price.”  They also mention that their most accessible digital console will be unveiled in January 2012.  Obviously, it will probably be announced at NAMM which is towards the end of January every year.

It’s a pretty huge deal to me considering what I do and the goals I need to make sure are accomplished on a week-to-week basis.  National Community Church runs Allen & Heath consoles almost exclusively across all of our locations including their current iLive digital series in our Barracks Row location with another iLive system with Dante being installed in our Ebenezers Coffeehouse location early in 2012.

I’d like to give my opinions based on the few teaser pictures that Allen and Heath has released already and try to predict some features that will be available on the new digital system.

Here are a few pictures from the Allen & Heath website.

Picture #1 shows that not only does it feature a touch screen similar to it’s bigger brother, the iLive, but it also has a feature that the iLive does not have as of yet.  It seems like it will feature flash recording to a USB drive as well as playback.  The tab on the top of the navigation screen says “USB Audio” and in the box being displayed below, it says “Playback”, a file name and size as well as controls that seem to allow you to navigate playing the selected file.  Below, there is a finger touching a record button on the screen with an indicator showing how much space you have available on the USB that is plugged in.  Also, the navigation menus to the right of the screen indicate that the operating system will probably be similar to that of the iLive.

The LED channel strips are also similar to the iLive so it seems like Allen & Heath will be keeping a pretty similar vibe across their lines of consoles.

In the second teaser photo, you can see that the button arraignment is similar to the number on the iLive but we’ll have to wait and see exactly what they are but I’d venture to guess that they are Mute, Select, Mix, and PAFL buttons.  It looks like it will look similar to the iLive.  However, I assume they’ll continue the trend that it set when they released the T-series and R-series of flattening the original oddly-shaped i-series modular iLive.  It will feature LED meters on each channel for monitoring levels but obviously not as long as the iLive’s.  To the left of this photo, you see two PK lights which I assume are to indicate peaking on different layers.  That also would mean it features layers which could mean that this console will be capable of a higher channel count then other smaller digital consoles.

Teaser photo #3 confirms a very similar vibe to that of the iLive in orientation of controls and functions.

Teaser photo #4 is another very interesting picture.  It’s a picture of a small section of the control surface and the stage rack.  Purple is certainly an interesting choice of color since the only purple mixer I’ve ever seen to date is a Midas.  The featured stage rack has 12 outputs on it which I’d say is a pretty decent number for a small format console.  There are also 3 Ethercon networking ports on the right side of the stage box.  The top one looks like it says “Expander” and in the picture, it looks like there is a separate rack stacked on top of the main rack so I’d assume you can use multiple stage racks with the same surface.  Second ethernet port down says “Monitor” which makes me wonder if these small stage boxes will support a digital split to a monitor console.  I’ll be interested to see if that is a feature or not.  Finally, the last ethernet port says “dSnake” which I assume is the connection protocol for the new digital system.  I also assume it will not be compatible or interchangeable with any of the iLive systems at this point since the iLive control surface protocols are currently only Ethersound, ACE and MADI.  Photo #5 shows a more close up shot of the stage rack but unfortunately does not show how many channel inputs the stage rack has.  I’m hoping it’s 32 channels.  That would be awesome!

Teaser photo #6 is a picture of the EQ menu on the screen.  Even though it’s cut off, I’m assuming that it will be a FOUR BAND fully parametric EQ with the option to select cut, shelf, or parametric filters on the low end and high end.  You can see five different filters on the screenshot they showed.  Purple looks like a high pass filter, then you see green, light blue, blue and a red filter on the graph.  On the display below the graph you can see that it indicates where you’ve swept the filter and the Q-size.

Bottom line is that I’m really excited about this console.  I’ll certainly keep my eyes and ears open for updates and blog about them as they come out.  If anyone else gets more information, please pass it on to me at jdcastellente@gmail.com.

 

UPDATE:  Allen & Heath has now released more information on this console.  You can check out my post on the release here:  http://jasoncastellente.com/2012/01/mix-with-your-ears-not-your-eyes/

The Next Level

The big question:  ”How do I get to the next level in what I do?”  I’ve always loved audio engineering and mixing.  It’s something I’ve been passionate about for years.  Someone once told me that when you think you’ve arrived and you’ve got no more to learn, you’ve died as a creative and an innovator.  I want to consistently stride forward and improve in my field as and in new areas as well.

There are tons of great nerd books out there that I enjoy reading and learning from.  Hands on time with gear is critical in moving forward.  Mixing shows, tuning systems, training your ears…it’s all critical and I undertand that.  However, I want to take what I do to the next level.  There must be ways to learn more and I need to find them…  I have a few ideas already but still, I want to learn and grow.  I’d love to get some feedback and ideas for how I can do that.

Feel free to comment or shoot me an email at jdcastellente@gmail.com

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