Tuesday, January 30. 2007
Inspirations and great ideas can strike at any moment. The key is to act upon them instinctively without hesitation. Fortunately, when the bus pulled over for a late night truck stop and several of us stumbled in, I was clear minded enough in my not so sober haze to follow that instinct and purchase a cowboy hat
and two large stuffed 'mixing' tigers that make roaring sounds
that so graciously rested upon my sound board for the entire show and added a whole new level of depth to our FOH theme.What puzzled me most is wondering how I got on so long without them!
And look, they are are so snuggly curled up in their new home in the case we refer to as "Throwing Hammers"
The Florida shows have been really good, awesome crowds and though cold for Florida, the warmer weather is refreshing. I grabbed a show shot as well so you can check out the band rocking as I do each night
And now for today's installment of....
Hello Dave Rat!
I found your blog this past December during finals week at my college. It became an addiction during study breaks for finals, as I started from the very beginning and worked my way through to the present day (studying was often delayed because I just (*had*) to read one more post!). To say the very least, your blog is awesome.
On the unofficial sound nerd scale, I rank around 2 or 3, on a scale from 1 to 11. I really enjoy reading sound nerd speak, though, even if it is sometimes way over my head.
So, I have been trying to conjure up a good sound nerd question to ask the venerable Dave Rat, and the recent Dear Ratty segments have encouraged me enough to come out of my blog-comment-lurking shell. All righty, here goes nothing:
As a sound person, the most important tools in your toolkit are, most likely, your ears. Also, as a sound person, you do many rock shows each week where you are exposed to high sound pressure levels. However, ears tend to dislike high sound pressure levels, especially for extended periods of time. So, my question is what steps, if any, do you take to protect your hearing?
Sorry for being so long winded,
You bring up a good point and very polarizing subject. In direct answer to your question, what I do to protect my hearing is simply to minimize exposure to loud volumes when I am not mixing. While I am mixing the show though, I feel it is critical that I hear and am exposed to the same volumes and sound that the audience hears so, yes I do get bombarded by multiple shows and a fairly consistent exposure to high volume sound.
Since you brought it up, I will go into a bit more depth on the subject. There are two things that come to mind regarding exposure to rock show volume sound as a sound engineer. First is protection of engineer's hearing because a deaf sound engineers should be, but rarely are, in lower demand. Second is hearing fatigue which causes the engineer's listening perspective to be out of whack with the audience perspective.
As far as protection, there are vastly different ways people look at it. Some people are hyper cautious and freak out about loud sound and perhaps apply the same caution to other aspects of life as well. The "be super careful of everything" angle. Finding that balance between the overly cautious approach witch in my opinion ruins life by immersing the human in boredom and constant fears vs the reckless approach that often leaves a human wishing that more care had been taken to preserve the humanly physical assets like vision, hearing, necks and backs. Some people desire to create rules based on their personal choices and then force those rules on others. My opinion is that each human needs to research and determine the way they wish to live based on how they want to look back on their life when they get older. If you do dumb shit, you then get to pay the price later with back pain or various ailments and whether it is 'dumb' or 'worth it' is determined by whether or not it brings you smiles or regret at a later date.
Actually based on the fact that my exposure to loud music is currently a small fraction of what it once was when I worked for many bands and the levels I mix are lower with Peppers than they were with bands like Rage Against the Machine and I tour much less, what concerns me more is compensating for the effect that multiple shows has on my hearing and not loosing touch with the audience's sonic perspective. I wrote a bit about it here http://www.prosoundweb.com/live/articles/daverat/drifting.shtml if you are curious.
I was talking to Buford about the advantages of digital snakes on long cable runs. Have you ever considered using one for the Peppers? I know you mix in the analogue domain so yes you would need to convert the signal more times that one would like.. but the high frequency loss on long cable runs can be quite significant, it would be interesting to try out a solution like a digital snake to see what thee results actually sound like with a decent set of converters on each end.
You mentioned you tried mixing the peppers on a digital board at the start of this tour.. did you notice you needed to boost the top end less when mixing through a digital signal path?
All the best,
Buford Jones is an awesome engineer and one that I truly respect and it was great to see him the other day in Nashville. As far as high frequency loss in in long cable runs being significant that may be true but I believe that the words 'long' and 'significant' require further clarification for the statement to have any relevance. Furthermore the audio cable industry has been infiltrated by a plethora of 'snake oil salesmen' so finding accurate info on the subject is difficult. So before seeking a solution, first confirm the problem you are attempting to solve actually exists. My experience is that the hf roll off due to typical audio cable runs is insignificant and easily testable. Just plug three 100 foot mic cords together and A/B the sound to a short mic cord. See if you can actually hear the difference. Try it and I bet the the word 'significant' becomes something more like 'questionably audible.'
As far as having to boost the top end with analog, actually the opposite is true, I typically am rolling off the highs as you can see on the pictures I posted a week or so back of the Meyer CP10 parametric system EQ's.
Now, what is audible to me and clearly so, is the sound of the digital desks that the support acts have been using. Mars Volta was on a Yamaha PM5D, Mike Watt was on a Yamaha MC7L and Gnarls Barkley is on a Digidesign D-Show. So everyday I get to here a digital console plugged into the exact same rig that I mix on, through the same PA system and the support acts have 100% full control without limitations of all of the PA gear. It is not too tough to zero in on to the sound artifacts that are digi console related and are in line with my experience of A/B'ing a Digico D5 to the Midas during pre production. As far as digi snake, we have one with us, the Light Viper that is used for the protools rig is fully set up to be used as a main snake and we can drop the Tonelux mic pre's on stage. When I weigh the potential advantages to be gained vs the non existence of issues at hand and the detriments involved, making the switch to a digi snake into an analog console currently has little desirability.
How do the versa tubes go into the truck pack? My thought is that the stay in 10 or 16' sections and roll in on set carts, am I close?
I think they are in 6 or 8 foot sections and yep, they hang in set carts. There is a picture of Rusty I believe near a Versa set cart in the blog somewhere but heck, that may be tough to find in the hundreds of pages. I tried to print out the blog a few weeks ago and stopped after the 400th page spit out and I went through $100 in printer ink cartridges.
Thank you for providing all the inside information on what's going on with the tour!
Quick, but curious question, how do you feel about those who may try to record the show...whether by audio or video?
I personally am fine with it as long as people are not then reselling or trying to profit from it but that is more of a question for the artists involved. I practice what I preach as well. For example, this blog creation is open and free to share but it would bum me out if someone was attempting to profit by reselling my words or pictures.
Good night and off to Ft. Lauderdale for the last show of the tour leg, hurray and also sad as another adventure comes toward an end.
To start off today's words of confusion and uselessness I will start with something that is neither confused nor useless. As you all know perpetuation and preservation of the roadie breed is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately not all can always be a shangri-la of smiles in roadie world and occasionally the big hammer of crushing reality enters our roadie world to test our voracity and strength. So with a concerned and well wishing heart I present some difficult news. A friend of many and long time amazing sound roadie named Gungi has been diagnosed with cancer a little while back. While much has been done within the roadie community to assist him and other roadies with life challenges I thought that given the wonderful group of friends that share my travels, I would share some info to those that may be curious enough to take a look and perhaps assist. If so, take a look at http://www.friendsofgungi.com.
So, our day off in Orlando has us staying at an oh so joyfully located hotel that is part of the Universal Studios compound out here.
Oh joy! The coldest day Florida has seen in 40 years and we are shacked up at a tourist trap that is a virtual ghost town a 20 minute cab ride from anything that is not big piles of fake marketing crap. The water taxi was the thrill of day, so thrilling that we decided to walk back to the hotel after eating lunch in order not to over thrill ourselves in one day.
Welcome back to another fascinating slow motion interactive segment of...
**** Warning! Techno Babble Below ****
Posted by janedoe2
Considering the size of your sound board, I always wondered if you have to make constant adjustments during each song throughout the concert, or do you have some sort of preprogrammed set up that handles some of the load once you get a look at the set list? I also wonder if digital boards are made with analog parts?
I do make some adjustments during the show. Mainly I set up each song, which involves making some changes in levels to compensate for things like different guitars, effects, who sings and song speed etc. Also, during the songs I make some changes to compensate for level variations related to how hard or soft each person is playing or various cues like solos or effects All in all, compared to most sound engineers, I do relatively little though. Nothing is programs though and all the things I do are done manually by hand and I do not use preset scenes.
As far as digital vs analog, I would first like to clarify that the terms digital and analog typically refers to how the sound is dealt with rather than the parts used. In an analog piece of audio gear the audio travels through wires and things and stays relatively intact as a version of the original signal. Digital typically refers to a process where the analog signal is converted into series of numerical representations. These numeric representations are then moved around and altered as needed and at the end of the signal chain those numeric representations are interpreted back into an analog signal and run through a speaker for our ears to hear.
An analogy that may help clarify would be to imagine we have a piece of paper with a intricate hand painted water color artwork drawn upon it and it is the "analog" original creation that we are dealing with. We now want to send this painting to someone that is elsewhere and for this example, lets say we only have two viable sending choices. One method is to hire a courier and have it delivered to the recipient which I will equate to an "analog delivery". The other choice we have is to scan it and have the artwork converted to a digital representation of the original which is then emailed, and then the recipient prints it out creating a an analog final product that is very similar to the original.
Each of these methods offer advantages and detriments. By scanning the document, depending quality of the scanner (A to D converter) and printer (D to A converter), a nearly exact copy can be created on the receiving end. Plus, once digitized email format, the writings can be forwarded via email over and over again and each time it will be a near perfect representation of the original. Whereas with the courier method, each time the artwork is forwarded and admired by someone, it picks up a smudge and over time begins to get worn out and degrades over time. That degradation can occur quite quickly if much care is not taken at every step in the documents journey and eventually the readability can be lost, sort of like how analog audio degrades when it goes through too many pieces of gear or poor quality gear or if care is not taken to have everything set up properly.
On the surface it would seem that digital is a clearly superior choice but looking deeper, there is more than meets the ear. The painting in reality consists of more than just colors and patterns. What about the texture, thickness and feel of the paper it was painted on? does the paper reek of smoke or perhaps have an essence of perfume? Is the paper wrinkled or warped from the water when painted? Even though scanners and printers do an incredible job of capturing and recreating, they are far from perfect and I will venture to say that with any relatively complex document , it would not be very difficulty to differentiate the original from the scanned copy when held side by side. Of course if enough time, care and expense is allowed, some or many of these nuances can also be approximated to a higher and higher degree of perfection so that the final reproduction is closer to the original. That 'striving for a perfect recreation of the analog original" is what the designers of digital equipment are striving to do. As the quality of digital continues to reach new levels and as it improves, it keeps getting closer and closer to the analog original with fewer and fewer concessions made due to technology limitations or cost. But the fact remains, "no matter how perfect you digitize and then recreate a copy of the original, it will never be as perfect as not digitizing it in the first place."
So, stepping back and looking at the decision about whether to convert something to digital really depends on many factors and opinions. If the artwork will get forwarded many times or if you need to do some complex manipulations or you need to store it away for a while, then digitizing offers strong advantages. If you are going to move it a relatively short distance or you have quality methods of handling the original as to minimize degradation, then quite often there is no reason to replicate the original when you can just use original.
Put into practical terms that I try and follow, I avoid converting to digital unless converting offers distinct advantages as it does with system processors. If I do let the signal enter the digital domain, I keep it there as long as possible and never convert the primary signal more than once in and out of digi because it is just plain silly to keep making copies of copies. Also, when I do convert the primary signal to digital, I try and do in such a way that it does not sound displeasing to me, I use the complex method of listening to determine this part. That is about as far as the analogy will take us but hopefully that brings some clarity to the lucky humans that are not cursed with the techno gene.
User Name: Justin Slazas
As a fellow engineer, I am very happy to see you offer up your tips and tricks to the curious. I have had the pleasure to work with some of the tops in the industry. The one thing I noticed that they all have in common, is a love to teach. I love to learn and this blog is no exception. I will confess that on a late sleepless night, in china on a corporate gig, while surfing away on the web, I ran into your blog and have been hooked ever since. So here is my chance to ask a couple questions.
Good thinking Justin!
I currently am drinking red wine as the tough guy roadie drink of choice.
I do not use Smaart to tune but do use it when developing processor settings for MicroWedge etc... This far into tour, I do not play anything, I just stand in the venue and listen to the echo's of load in for a bit. I look at the seat coverings, shape of the arena and have a listen during the support act to figure out any aberrations. Lee, the FOH system tech, deals with making sure the PA is hung properly to cover the venue and matches up the various zones. For the most part, as long as we are in arenas, the main variations are room resonance and brightness. Everything else stays relatively constant. Tuning music when I do tune is typically Dub Syndicate "Echomania." As far as music I listen to on my non-iPod, well I leak that little by little in various blog days.
User Name: Jay Rigby
I am fine with graphic EQ's, it is a tool just like everything else in the rig and with each tool I am faced with assets and issues. The graphic may be less than optimum in some respects but in it's usability more than makes up for it in my opinion. I personally do not have the time or patience mid rock show to be mucking around inside a digital system processor. I want to see everything, always. Ultimately, what really matters is "How good does the mix sound?" and "How quickly are problems and issues dealt with by the engineer when things go awry?" What ever tools an engineer uses to get there really makes no difference. So let the quality of the product produced determine the credibility of the opinion offered.
User Name: Ian
Every show is "advanced" in great detail and everything from truck entry ways, roof load capacities, stage placement, seats to be sold, security to be supplied, local crew and on and on is arranged to assure that everything is dead on. Things do get screwed up occasionally but on this level of touring, the roadies really know what they are doing. As far as sound, the riggers arrange to get us hang points in the right spots and make sure the roof will support the weight or else we make adjustments in the system configuration to compensate. We do not use EASE but do use L'Acoustics three dimensional acoustic modeling software called SoundVision.
Each day, Lee comes in with a laser rangefinder and an inclinometer and takes the room dimensions and relevant shapes. This data is then input into the modeling software along with the quantity and type of speakers we want to use. He then works with the software to optimize venue coverage and volume levels. The software then generates the angles between the various boxes which is then implemented in the speaker arrays. The predictability and consistency is can be extremely good with an experience system tech like Lee and Nick the Fly.
Here are a few real life and 3d software shots from a stadium in Manchester that we played in 2004.
Here is a side view of the real deal, empty
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