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Mixers/Consoles New to Digital Mixing

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by lieperjp, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
    Teacher
    Location:
    Central Wisconsin
    So, we recently got our new Roland M-400 digital mixer. This is going to be permanently installed in our new chapel, however since they don't even have the walls/roof done yet we get to play around with it in the theatre for a few months :D! We had a tutorial done by the sound company today, and I can't wait to set it up in a week for our next show. It will be the only time this board will be used for a live performance - for the most part it will be used to run chapels (just 1-2 mics) and then record the concerts in the chapel (upwards of 30 mics). But it's already purchased, so no need to justify it anymore. (Note: it was not our decision to go with this, we just let the audio design company we're working with pick it out for us)

    I've never used a digital mixer before. I was searching through some past threads for tips on getting into a digital mixer - found some good ones, but my question is: Do you have any tips for a first time digital mixer? Keep in mind that all of the people have never used a digital board before and most haven't really mixed anything before.
     
  2. hsaunier

    hsaunier Active Member

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    Location:
    Northwest Ohio
    Welcome to the club.

    I will give you one tip in the digital world.

    Select / tweek / save!!!!!

    Treat your work like a word document / file. If you spend much time at all making things better save your work often. Can't count the number of times I've heard guys say they had spent countless hours tweeking and decided to recall another page without saving and lost all they had done.

    Since you do not have layers of faders like a PM5D, not much need to spend time trying to lay out inputs to avoid punching up a different layer to get to the desired fader.

    Just use your ears. It's not any different then analog. Remember, if you are having a difficult time bringing out a particular part of the mix, many times the best adjustment is to bring the rest of the mix down instead of adding more from something else. -1db of several inputs may be better then +5db of a single input.
     
  3. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Occupation:
    Acoustical, audio and audiovisual consultant
    Location:
    Marietta, GA
    Actually, the M-400 does have four layers on the faders, three fixed (1-24, 25-48 and AUX/DCA) and one User Defined. The User Defined may be great for your typical live use, but apparently the recording aspect may require at least two layers.

    One downside to this on the M-400, and just about any entry level digital console, is that there is no electronic labeling and every fader potentially has four different functions, one of which is completely assignable. Once you get used to a particular setup it can become second nature, but it might help to initially try to find a good labeling practice that lets operators readily discern the fader assignment for each layer. In many cases the User Definable layer can really help here as you can put the channels, auxes, DCAs, etc. that you use the most on that layer and perhaps not need to change layers (except for your recording which with 30+ mics and 24 faders will require at least two layers).

    I always look at digital mixers as having in effect two levels of operation. To the casual user it doesn't have to be much different than using an analog console other than on the M-400 some things like having one set of controls that is related to the selected channel rather than separate controls for each channel. But you get into a completely different level of operation when you are configuring and programming the console. In that sense a digital console is much more flexible than a fixed architecture analog console and it requires more thought and planning to address that aspect of it. But in many applications not everyone needs to be at that level.

    Hugh is right on about saving. Saving and recall is one of the most powerful tools that a digital console offers. Also learn about things live safing, the ability to include or exclude certain parameters or channels in what is saved and/or recalled. There may be times that you want to recall the EQ and aux routing but not the fader levels or that you want to save and recall all channels except one or two, maybe those are for a guest speaker for which you do not have an opportunity to setup the channel or for one performance where someone has a bad cold and you have to modify their channel on the fly in order to compensate.

    For people that have not mixed before, keep it simple. Maybe let them learn to handle a basic mix before getting into channel processing so that they don't get caught up in playing with the processing and overlook handling the basic mix first.
     
  4. DaveySimps

    DaveySimps CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Occupation:
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    I am not familiar with your exact board, but do save often as hsaunier suggest, you will thank us later. Also, you need to treat your gain structure just a little bit differently in the digital realm as far as headroom is concerned. When you are setting a level at a channel, dial it into about -18. On an analogue desk, we are use to going a bit hotter, but this is an issue on a digital desk because digital tends to distort on the top end, where analogue would not sound as bad. You have to leave yourself some headroom before you get to that distortion (hence the -18). Have fun with the new board!

    ~Dave
     
  5. hsaunier

    hsaunier Active Member

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    Location:
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    Thanks Brad,

    I took a look at the image on Roland's site and just did not look closely enough at the photo of the control surface.
     
  6. Eboy87

    Eboy87 Well-Known Member

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    1.) Just remember that it's a computer and (hopefully) won't do anything unless you tell it to.
    2.) Always check which layer you're in on the faders.
     
  7. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Occupation:
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    Actually, this is greatly a matter of the reference used for the levels. You have to remember that dB levels are ratio of a value to a reference value and the problem is that the reference value for analog and digital signals is quite different.

    Most analog consoles have a maximum level of +24dBu or higher (a few less than +20dBu) and "0" on the output meters often represents a +4dBu level, so if you look at the meters on many analog consoles you find that 0 is a 'normal' level while the meter goes about +20dB or so above that. So if you run around 0 as the meters are labeled, you have probably 20dB or so of headroom.

    In comparison, in the digital realm levels are based of dBFS where 0dBFS is the Full Scale digital value, or the maximum level that can be represented, and when metering a digital signal level, 0 is typically at the top of the meter. So running at 0 in the digital realm means that you have absolutely no headroom. To have the same 20dB of headroom you might typically have when running an analog console at 0 on the meters, you have to run most digital consoles around -20.

    So you are right about the levels, however it is not so much that the gain structure is different as it is that the level values are based on different references and while "0" may represent a good nominal operating level for most analog consoles, it typically represents the maximum level for digital consoles.
     

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