Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Bite

Amazing weekend, The Bite of Bend is over and it was an amazing weekend of music. Tons of great acts including the chance to work with one of the Neville brothers and there amazing crew , all of the Black Eyed Records bands played out this weekend as well. And I mixed them all. We had great gear thanks to Horne Audio as always and our new PM 3500 was awesome. MOsley WOtta opened for Marc Cohn and the crowd was Electric, Leif James's smokey vocals were awesome and Anastacia band killed it!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sometimes working crazy rock shows with national acts can be easier then basic office and email work.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Analog vs Digital, Coke VS Pepsi

So, by now if you haven't see or been a part of an argument involving whats better, Analog vs Digital or Wedge, Side Fill vs IEM, then you haven't been around a lot (in the touring audio world as least) and to answer the other question... Coke is better, there is no argument there. :-)

Lets start with Digital Consoles vs Analog Consoles. Digital has been sweeping the industry by storm and has largely replaced the older analog standards. They offer a lot of features that were either not possible before or at least required a crazy amount outboard gear. They usually offer built in effects processors as well as lots of EQ. Routing options on a presidential-ed level compared to an analog counterpart. Usually digital boards are also much smaller and compact, making the tour ability factor way more appealing, and these days they're just as reliable as a analog in most respects (excluding opinions and old road dog banter). To top it off they're cheaper!!!...well seriously!! Why would you ever buy an analog console again? But don't sign off analog just yet...there is a reason that tour engineers the world over still go through the trouble of bringing the larger, heavier analog consoles everywhere they go.

Remember when I wrote about the BB King show in "MON vs FOH"? I discussed the decision we made, the morning of, to switch to digital vs analog for that is why that was a mistake: First, I was very proficient with the analog console, now that's not an excuse for not using digital, the whole "I just know analog, I'm not gonna learn that digital crap" with that attitude your days are numbered as an engineer. The main thing that messed me up that day was I couldn't do multiple functions at once. In that scenario I needed to be able to adjust multiple channel EQ's and multiple MON sends adjustments on multiple channels and make Graphic EQ channels, pretty much simultaneously, while not letting my eyes leave the band. In the digital scenario this isn't possible because of the way you have to cycle through inputs using the screens and switch between Mon and Main pages and rack pages to adjust channel EQ vs rack and graphic, I was 3 times slower and my eyes had to leave the band to watch the screen. So in this case analog not only was comfortable, it was more practical and would have been the correct choice for the Gig, I commonly will select analog if available for large festivals because of this same issue. Black Eyed Productions was recently out on the road and we stopped for a few days to work a large Festival withHorne Audio in Portland OR, with A Midas Heritage 3000 as the Mon console and it was great to have it there for some of these very reason's, the first band of the day came out with virtually no sound check and only 30min change overs for the rest of the day, we had a lot of acoustic instruments and as well as a Baby grand piano mic'ed, and they all needed to be loud yet pristine in the wedges and if it hadn't been for ease of analog in that scenario, the day would have much more difficult.

What about the benefits of digital? There are many and I am a big digital fan. In fact, for festival FOH scenarios digital is a life saver. You show up fresh off the road and the festival is already going, people in the venue, so an open air sound check is out of the question. And what about IEM's? If I'm carrying my ears and console saved from the last show then all I need to do is tune the PA to the way I want it using some house music, and using Dave Rat's concept, and my inputs should come up pretty close to how I want them. The bands ear mixes will virtually be the same. So once the show fires up, a couple adjustments and were rolling. But what if I'm not carrying? I can always carry my flash drive with the file from the console the night before, hit recall, tune the pa and I'm set. Same for MON's with the IEM's, its a life and time saver. If we had to redial the mixes and FOH mix from scratch on the fly it would be a nightmare, and most importantly it compromises the bands performance. So in this scenario Digital is by far the way I would go... I have had scenarios like this where the band is delayed until exactly 2 minutes past show start time! Luckily we had done exactly what we described and, since we also doubled as drum and guitar techs, the band walked right off the bus and on stage, lights went down and Rock N Roll!! They never had a sound check at all!! No one was none the wiser...and the band could hear fine after a few small adjustments and Rock N Roll!!

So... Digital VS Analog...depends on the situation.....I will discuss analog "warmness" on a another day....:-)

So what about wedges vs IEM? I briefly touched on this during "Musician vs Sound Man” so for today lets discuss the down falls and benefits of both. Ever heard that loud insanely awful ear piercing high pitch sound that just jumps out when a band is sound checking or playing?? Most of us have....its called occurs when the audio source I.E. vocal mic or guitar mic is turn up in the wedge monitor to the point that is uncontrollably starts to feed its self. This is the biggest down fall of wedges as well increased stage volume and wash...but wedges still have their purpose....nothing can quite replace that low powerful kick and punch that wedges can. In a rock setting where volume isn't an issue then wedges and side fill are great as well as drum sub etc. but if you have a band that is hard of hearing or needs loud with clarity're gonna wanna look to another avenue Like IEM's. IEM's or In Ear Monitors are actual little drivers that are worn in the ear canal, similar to iPod headphones. Quality ones are even molded specific to the artists ear canal and can produce high output volume directly to the artists ear. A couple great benefits to these is of course the loss of stage wash, reduction in stage volume and feedback. With those things out of the way, you can get amazing clarity to the artist. However, IEM's have always struggled to get the low frequency dB's up to a comparable level to a wedge, yet they get better and better as time goes on. Because of this, it has led some artists (without budget constraints) to do a hybrid. They will actually run stereo IEM's and wedges, dividing the energy between kick, bass and impact instruments in the wedges with vocals and guitars etc in the ears. This definitely adds a lot of work for the MON guy but is sometimes necessary. When Black Eyed Productions was out on the road last month, after the Horne Audio Gig, we flew to South Dakota to work a show for our good friends in Everly and Enation. Chris Bergstrom (me) was handling FOH and Peter Wiley was handling MONs with both IEM's and Wedges. We ran into a problem described above; our artist couldn't get comfortable, she was having difficulty getting vocals how she wanted them in her ears and Peter was getting frustrated along with everyone else....and not really at anyone...just frustrated...because it is frustrating. Luckily I had dealt with this before....but I was hesitant to just jump up...sometimes too many people is not helping at all :-) (another article) So after a bit I jumped up and began to rebuild her mix, removing impact and low frequency items and putting them into the wedges and after a bit we got it figured and she was comfortable and the show went on, Rock N Roll!!

Some scenarios require volume to be the number 1 concern, you find this in a lot of “houses of worship” and “corporate gigs”. In these venues, IEM's and no stage amps will used because of the low speed limit (volume cap) in which case the artists desires are secondary to the clients requirements.

So what is better? Digital VS Analog? Wedge VS IEM? Depends on the application.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

There is something intoxicating about the rat race that we live in as audio company and production company owners... If you have been bitten by the bug you cant get enough

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Console Pic!

There is nothing greater then seeing your own road cases out at multiple shows!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Good VS Bad Mix???

This article is going to branch out a bit from my usual tech emphasis. It's going to focus on an unsolvable dilemma, a discussion that has caused as much strife and anger than most marriage counseling sessions. In fact, if you have ever been in a post show meeting about sound levels and mix style etc, its very much the same. :-)

So, what we are diving into today is, what makes a good mix? Who decides? We have all been to shows that were good and ones that were bad. Why is that? Now some things are universal, like say power cutting out or the stage falling over or speakers catching fire.... but beyond that almost everything boils down to preference. Black Eyed Productions works with such a broad variety of artists and clients that we could be working on any given night a hardcore metal show with mosh pits and fights and riots all compounded with kick drum at 108db making your eyes roll into the back of your head!! Rock N Roll!!! Then the next morning we could have 3 Black Eyed Productions crew in 3 different main stream corporate churches mixing contemporary House of Worship mixes to standard CD quality at 93db max c weighted. Those are drastically different styles and it takes a great engineer to be able to switch up styles like that. You might be thinking, depending on what side of the fence you land, that one of those styles is "wrong" or that you "shouldn't have to mix that way" etc. But as engineers we don't decide what is correct or who is right or wrong. We are supposed to accurately reproduce what the client wants whether that be through a cd mix we have for reference or lots of talks with the artist and management so that we know what they want. Either way its not up to us, and little word of advice? Find something to love in any kind of music your mixing or working for, because you will never find 1 style that you love everything about. :-) If you're honest that is.

So who decides? Once again I leave you with no answers, just things to ponder. But on the practical side of things, if you can't decide who should decide if the mix is good or bad, remember who is signing the checks!! :-) Always seems to help clear up confusion.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's all in the hours

So what makes a true battle hardened "Roadie" ? Or good "Crew" is it there ability to mix or setup gear ? Or maybe there demeanor and ability to get stuff done? Perhaps it lies in there built up resistance to pharmaceuticals... Those may all be valuable badges to be sowed on to your vest as achievements but my thought is that it all lies in the hours, what really makes a true roadie is being able to pull off all the amazing and hectic pieces that are required for rock n roll day in and day out , on top of all the above requirements and throw in a bit of chain smoking.... But when it is all set and done and all the road cases are pack in the trucks and it's starting to be come day light out and your eyes are all grainy and your tired, the green horns have all long sense passed out, including the really cocky one who thinks he's learned more then can be contained by a normal human which in his mind makes him a super human roadie, ( all it really makes him is a young idiot ) when all of them have passed away into a stupor and you make your way to the bus and crawl into your bunk .... The final thing that distinguishes a real roadie from wanna be ones or fake ones or just plain clueless ones is ..... I'm gonna do this tomorrow , and keep doing it .... Forever. Rock on.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Video that we just got done editing!
I admittedly have cut my teeth on Rock N Roll when it comes to mixing, there is nothing better then kick and more kick and bass etc ect. In fact, here is a little quiz... Who knows why we Number console inputs in the order we do with drums on channel 1 and through whatever?... Because that's the Number of importance!!! Haha... I'm joking of course but I'm sure you have heard a few mixes that sounded like that was the hierarchy... While writing this I'm mixing and recoding for a group of 4 ladies who play bluegrass and folk music and they play it extremely well. There are no drums. Only a couple guitars and banjos and up right bass and fiddle etc but the main thing is the amazing ,haunting ,beautiful harmonies they produce. Trust me, it's worth missing a kick drum for, the band is called misty river check them out !
Crazy day today, we are handling 3 shows at once, one large PA and 2 smaller ones. Every last scrap of cable and equipment out working is a really cool feeling. I love the electric feeling I get when coordinating a big tech day or weekend.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Ever heard self proclaimed “audio files” that tell you which mic to use? Siting specs, and talking about it and how great it is, or maybe the musician shows up with their mic and say they have to use it because it makes their “vocals sound right in the house’ (which is odd because they don’t spend much time listening to the house mix). Maybe you have had discussions or arguments about condensers vs. dynamic mics. The only thing I’m going to state factually, is that anyone who says either mic type is the answer in any scenario… knows nothing about it.

Lets start in on dynamic mics; definitely the most common mic, Sm 58, which is among the dynamic microphone legends. I’m not going to get in to polar patterns today. For this discussion we’re going to compare 2 common mics, the Sm 58 (dynamic) and the Beta 87 (condenser).

The Sm 58 is know of as the die “really ” hard vocal mic, standard from bars to arenas. It can be dropped and gotten wet, and will still works and sound ok for most everyone you put through it. It is also easy to get really, really, really loud in a wedge, which sometimes is exactly what is called for. However, it has some down falls. It’s not really hot as far as gain goes, its not very bright and it has a lot of proximity ( low build up as you get closer to it).

The Beta 87 is a condenser mic and it has some great features. It has really hot gain, is really bright and has very little proximity compared to the Sm 58, but…. it is very delicate. It can’t handle water or dropping and because of its Eq and polar pattern it cannot get anywhere near as loud in a wedge as a Sm 58.

If you want to learn some more in depth specs on the Sm 58 and the Beta 87 check out these links

Sm 58

Beta 87

So there should not be an all or nothing answer… it really comes down to application. If you have a loud rock stage with loud wedges or if you have a quieter acoustic stage with less demanding wedge requirements and levels or maybe IEM’s …

So once again I leave you with no real answers just more thoughts.

Want some more in depth answers on the subject ,message me !!
Thanks to Peter for updating the blog, we are loading trucks and trailers for 4 shows this weekend.