Studer Vista 9 Demo

We received our Studer Vista 9 demo this week.  This was our chance to get hands on with it in our facility at our own pace.  First off, that’s a BIG crate, ha ha.  The unit is assembled studio console style with the legs attached, not as portable as a dedicated live console, but it’s not meant to be portable.

The demo system we received consisted of a local I/O processor rack, a 64×32 remote input rack, and the Vista 9 console itself.  In a Studer system the console is really just a control surface, no audio processing takes place in it, that’s all happening in the process rack.  The console is your interface to control what’s going on.

Everything is built with reliability and redundancy in mind.  Everything has dual power supplies and stuff that handles audio processing has dual redundant processors.  This means that you would have to have multiple failures at the same time before audio would go down.  Good to know when it’s all software running everything.

One big difference between analog and digital is if you have a failure.  In the analog world you would have multiple power supplies in ahigh profile event so a power failure taking down audio would be rare.  Fail in the analog world in another way and you typically lose just one channel.  Since a software crash in digital would take down everything at once, it’s very important to have full, simultaneous, redundancy for high profile events.  Our campus ultimately feeds over 50,000 people in a weekend when you add up campuses, internet, and radio, we need reliability.

So we got everything set up.  It’s a little extra work since the processing isn’t built into the console but once you’ve connected it once it’s 5 minutes to set up again.  First you boot up the desk and then on the computer monitor you open of the software.  Once the desk boots up and the software loads you’re ready to control audio.  It’s a little slow but as long as you’re on a UPS and you don’t have to reboot during a show it’s not that big of a deal.

Once up and running you’re met with some nice huge meters, lots of knobs for direct access, and lots of touch panels.  The console we had to demo was 30 input faders, 10 master section faders, and 2 master faders.  You can have up to 6 layers for the input channels and 4 layers in the master section.  This gives you a good amount of faders for quick access.  Personally I would want more in the master section to be able to have groups and VCA’s on the same layer at the same time.  You can put any fader anywhere on the desk though so you could sacrifice some input faders for VCA’s or groups.

Once we got the console up and running we did run into some issues.  My guess is that this console does not like to be moved.  Our console went from Korea, to the UK, then to us in Fort Lauderdale.  The problems we experienced with this demo console are kinda typical of connectors or cards rattling loose.  I’m sure that these are all fixable but several things accumulated and kinda left us nervous about this particular console.  So for many reasons, we’re sending it back and the search continues!

Mackie DL1608 Digital Mixer

After posting about the Roland M-480 console and M-48 personal mixers I got to thinking about other personal mixing options.  Mackie recently announced a pretty cool little mixer that could easily be a personal mixing system.

The Mackie DL1608 is a small, 16 input, 8 output (stereo main and 6 aux’s), digital mixer.  The control surface is actually an iPad running their software.  If you want to check the FOH mix from other parts of the room you simply take the iPad out of the mixer and you can wirelessly tweak levels, dynamics, and EQ.

Now at a glance you might think, yeah, but iPads are expensive!  Granted they start at $500 and you’ll need one for each person that is running a mix.  But an Aviom mixer is about $450 street price and it’s only a mixer.  The iPad at $500 is reasonably priced and now you can use it for other stuff throughout the week.  For those on stage once your mix is dialed in close the Mackie app and use the Planning Center app or ProPresenter app to control or keep track of other things.

You can connect up to 10 iPads to the console using a standard wireless router.  So you could mix FOH with on iPad and assign 1 aux to each band member, give them each an iPad, and let them control everything themselves.  I could see this being perfect for a traveling band or a church that needs to set up and break down every week in a rented venue.  Get a split into the console, hand out some iPads, send the mixer outputs to wired or wireless in-ears, and you’re set up without a lot of work.

Lastly the Mackie DL1608 is pretty reasonably priced, $999 at Sweetwater, maybe less through your local Mackie dealer.  While I have not heard it myself, traditionally Mackie digital console work well and sound pretty good.  We have had both the digital 8 bus and digital x bus consoles in the past and both sounded good.  Granted the DXBus had build issues but those have surely been addresses in the DL1608.

At $999, and with the ability to return it if you had a problem or didn’t like it, there’s not a lot of risk here.

Roland M-480 Digital Console And M-48 Personal Mixers

We have a new campus coming online and it’s in need of a console and monitoring system.  I light of that we have been demoing a Roland M-480 digital console along with Roland’s personal mixers.  It’s a pretty nice package and we have decided to go with it for our new campus.

Keeping with the whole Roland family the M-480 serves as the master control for FOH mixing and setup of the M-48 personal mixers.  Audio routing is all done through their REAC digital snake system over standard CAT6 cabling.  You have a couple of different digital snake head options to pick from.  For our demo we had a 16 x 8, they also have a 32 x 8 and 40 input versions.

The Roland M-480 is a great small format digital console.  Pretty easy to use and smartly laid out.  Instead of a touchscreen you have lots of buttons on the control surface to access what you need.  The EQ and dynamics are all very useable.  The faders are laid out in several layers including one layer that you can customize the layout to suit your preferences.

The M-48 personal mixers are pretty incredible.  What makes these unique is that once they’re on the network you can feed the console any channel (up to 40) to any channel.  The 16 channels can be 16 individual inputs, 16 groups of inputs, or any combination.

This opens up a world of flexibility.  Each mixer can be customized for each user.  So the drummer could have the drums laid out with all discrete inputs then have a sub-mix of vocals on one channel.  Then the vocals could have discrete control of vocal channels with drums on one channel, band on one, etc.  Even when you group things to one knob you still can have everything panned within that group.  A stereo group also only takes up one knob so you could have 16 stereo groups if you wanted to.  Other systems you lose mixer channels when you go stereo.

Now everyone can have exactly what they want.  No more sharing one set of 16 channels for everyone on stage like you would be stuck with in other systems.  Once you decide what you want to send to what mixer you can apply EQ, pan, and reverb to each channel.

You also get a lot of other features with the mixers including a built in ambience mic.  That’s great for band members that don’t have vocal mics.  Now you can talk to each other without having to pull ears in and out.  There’s also a line input to add another source to rehearse from or a local input like a click track that doesn’t need to go to the house.

Setup of the personal mixers can be done through standalone software if you don’t have a Roland digital console.  If you have a console like the M-480 then everything can be done through the console, pretty nice.

Whether you just want the M-480 console, or the M-48 personal mixers, you need the REAC snake system either way.  This makes it a little more expensive if you only want a personal mixing system.  But if you get the console and the personal mixers now it’s a more reasonable package and everything plays nice together.

If you’re in the market for a system like this definitely give the Roland gear a look.  So far we have been happy with everything and the service has been good when we’ve had questions.

Links… M-480 digital console M-48 personal mixers

Element 3D Is Out!

Video Copilot’s Element 3D plugin for After Effects is now out!  I’ve talked about it a little already and there’s plenty of information on their website but basically it’s true 3D inside of After Effects.  There are some limitations but for motion graphics and title work it does 90% of what you would want a dedicated 3D program for.

I’ve only been playing around with it for a little bit now and it’s really cool.  It’s pretty easy to create some nice graphics and animations.  You can check out all of the Element 3D tutorials here and get the idea of what it can do.  The different software packages are available here.

Blender 3D Program

If you’re like me you occasionally need to do something in a 3D program but you don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars.  I want a 3D program I just can’t justify that kinda money, I don’t need it that much.

In going through the tutorials on I learned about Blender.  Blender is a free 3D program and a pretty sophisticated one at that.  Even thought it’s free you still get a complete 3D toolset with materials and physics, pretty impressive.

I may dive into it deeper but for now I’m just using it as a tool to help composite in After Effects.  Using blender I can create some true 3D title graphics or create and edit other 3D objects to export into AE.  If I get real courageous I may use it to create some better models for when I use Light Converse.  I need some better people models in there.

That’s it, I’m not familiar enough with it to show a tutorial or anything but there are already plenty of resources out there for that.  It’s available on Mac and PC, go ahead and download it here.

Mackie HDA Speaker System

I got to check out Mackie’s new HDA arrayable speaker system today.  We are looking into it as an option at one of our satellite campuses.  I have to say we were pretty impressed with the sound right out of the box.

Basically these are self powered speakers with some processing already built in.  There’s an HDA top speaker that’s 110 degrees by 20 degrees with a 12″ low mid driver and two 1.7″ mid high drivers.  This matches up with the HD1801 subwoofer.

You can have a system as simple as one HDA and one HD1801 up to a flown system of two HD1801’s and four HDA’s.  (That’s the weight limit of the flying hardware.)  Ground stacked you could have as many subs as you want and up to 3 HDA’s stacked.  We are looking at two HDA’s and two HD1801’s per side ground stacked in our application.

We heard the HDA’s in a music store, not really an ideal setup, but it still let us know whether they were going to be an option or not.  They were set up with two HDA’s flown left and two flown right with two HD1801’s ground stacked.  All of the system processing was done in the boxes, no external processor was set up.

They sounded really nice.  Pretty smooth from front to back as you transitioned between boxes and very smooth from left to right.  Some line array systems transition very badly left to right with all kinds of weird phase issues in the middle of multiple hangs.  These aren’t really line arrays since you don’t couple the speakers but you get some of the benefits of a line array.  Being able to adjust the level between the HDA’s to better balance the level between the near and far seats is a benefit of an array style setup.

The built in processing resulted in a pretty smooth system response.  Nothing seemed like it was standing out or lacking.  Overall system EQ would still be needed to adjust for the room but out of the box you have a really nice starting point.

Price wise I’ve seen street prices of $1,800 per HDA and $1,000 per HD1801.  That means you could have a stereo rig with two HDA’s and two HD1801’s per side for about $11,200.  That’s a pretty rocking system for the money!  Some of our rooms have line array cabinets that cost thousands of dollars per speaker and you don’t have any amps or processing yet.

The HDA system is a great middle ground between powered speakers on sticks and a full blown line array system.  Both price wise and performance wise.  Now that we have heard these we are going to get an on-site demo and listen to them a little more critically.  I’m sure for the application we’re looking to use them for they’ll be great.

Check out Mackie’s site for more information on the HDA’s.  Also check out the Resolution coverage software.  It’s pretty easy to use and will let you plug in your room’s specs and see what kind of coverage you can expect from the system.