Friday, March 16, 2007

Getting in sync

Back in 2000, long before my time here, the church built a new auditorium. As a part of that build they took some gear they had and added some new stuff in order to have a small studio. The setup was functional at the time but certainly nothing all that special. A Mackie 3208, four ADAT XT20’s and a pair of Mackie 824 monitors hold down the primary pieces. Since I have been here, I’ve added acoustic treatments to the control room as there were none before (scary). However, despite all my best efforts I have been unable to make the old ADAT XT20’s work correctly. Sometimes they would record and sometimes they would play back. I tried carefully cleaning them properly, new tapes, and just about everything I could think of other than changing the heads or buying new (used) ones. I finally gave up and the stuff has sat there doing nothing but mock me for many months.

Our church asks for our worship that they can take home regularly. I do record our FOH mix for our team and I am often surprised at its quality, but it’s still not something that I am comfortable giving to our people in general. I am not concerned with mistakes, but I am concerned with mix issues that come up when you are mixing for a live room and not for recorded playback. People are accustomed to listening to music in their cars and I want to give them an experience they enjoy and remember hearing live. Its not worship if it’s distracting.

Oh, it was frustrating to see the infrastructure, full iso-split, full patch bays, nice out-board gear including a Manley pre-amp, just collecting dust. We’ve changed so many things and have come so far over the past two years. We now have a worship leader who is a GREAT song writer along with a band that can really play and I wanted to be able to use this capability. I decided I would figure out a way to record and edit 24-32 tracks without spending much money and try to use as much of the gear we have as I possible. Hmm… a nice Mac G5 dual processor box I have, only being used occasionally for video as I much prefer Sony Vegas, would make a good platform. I’ve got 32 converters in those ADAT boxes, nothing amazing but very functional for what I need. Along comes the MOTU 2408Mk3and Digital Performer (wish I could afford ProTools) via eBay and I’m off and running, mostly.

It took a phone call to my good friend Jesse Jones to help me configure all this gear as I'm mostly clueless with a Mac. Last night I recorded our rehearsal to see how things would work and was thrilled to see all the tracks recording along with ease. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to all of Jesse’s advice and tried to use the digital sync clock riding on the optical lines as the reference for the system. The recording I made had lots of pops and fuzz on all the tracks but the first eight channels where the clock was originating. I grab another ADAT sync cable and attach the last ADAT sync out to the sync on the MOTU PCI-424 card and try again. This time all is quiet and clean. Lesson learned, again. I will record Sunday morning and see if I have everything working correctly. I sincerely hope and pray it’s right now. If all goes well I will be looking for a DAW controller of some kind. I’m open to suggestions if you have any. I may also move to Cubase as a DAW as it appears that it fits my work style better and I can move over to a Windows box with it if I need to. Long term I hope to loose the Mackie 3208 and move to something like the Focusrite Saffire or the MOTU 8pre. It will be exciting to see where this leads.

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Blogger James said...

Man we need to talk! You probably could afford ProTools M-Powered, and M-Audio's Lightbridge interface is made specifically for ADAT inputs. I haven't done editing in DP, but I've heard that their pitch correction is wonderful. The Mackie Universal Controller is pretty standard for a controller. I hate mixing with a mouse. It's awful. Oh, and if you have some bucks to spare, get an Apogee Big Ben. That'll give you sweet clocking no matter what system you use.

I think about gear too much. When it reality, it's all about the low end.

3/17/2007 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I have looked into the small ProTools systems and as best as I can determine none of them will record more than 18 channels at once. You have to move to the full ProTools to be able to record 32 channels at once. They will play back that many channels just not record them. I've been checking with a number of my studio friends around and pretty much across the board they say that if you cant afford ProTools or Neuendo then Cubase is the best thing going. I need fast, EASY editing. There is nothing more important to me than that part. I want it to be as easy as SoundForge and Vegas in terms of editing. At this point there is nothing easier than those for editing that I have found.
I totally agree with you on mouse mixing. I wont do it. Right now I can just route stuff back thru the 2408 and mix on the analog console. When I dump the Mackie desk I have and move to outboard mic pres, I will get a Big Ben for sure. Funny that Jesse said the same thing. I should listen to him more.. :)

3/17/2007 01:10:00 PM  

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