Audio Apps

Faber Acoustical makes some pretty cool iOS and Mac apps.  I got them a while back when they were a little cheaper but they’re still reasonably priced.  Since I always have my iPhone on me I use these apps pretty often.  More often than I would use Smaart on my laptop.

There’s an RTA app that I use the most.  Granted the iPhone microphone doesn’t have full range, flat response, but you can still identify frequencies that are feeding back or sticking out.  When you’re killing feedback it helps to really zero in on the exact frequency that’s giving you problems.  Many times when dialing in by ear it’s hard, or at least a lot slower, to get perfectly center on the problem frequency.

Once I’ve gotten enough gain from a microphone then I can move on to adjusting for tone.  That’s how I approach problematic situations like wireless LAV’s and headsets or choir mics.

Smaart Live and Basic System Tuning

When you’re dialing in a system you’ll want something to reference along with your ears.  Smaart Live has been around a long time and offers a lot of features.  I use it with an Earthworks reference mic that gets it’s phantom power from an internal battery.  This allows me to use Smaart on my laptop and be completely portable without a board or power cables.  With a standard mic you’ll need to get phantom power from a board which usually ties you down to one spot.

Typically I’ll start tuning a PA with some pink noise and make some larger adjustments to get the PA in the ball park.  The software make this a quicker process than going by ear alone.  Once I make some tweaks with pink noise I’ll use the transfer function in Smaart.  This looks at the reference signal from the board and the measured signal from the mic and shows you the difference.  Now you can see the frequency response of the PA without listening to pink noise which can get annoying.

Once some large adjustments are in place I’ll listen to some music I know really well and tweak by ear.  Then go back to Smaart and see what’s happening. Listen, move locations, measure, repeat, etc.  I find that you don’t want to realy just on ears or software. Ears fatigue, software doesn’t.  That said I try to leave the “last word” to my ears.

Do you have to have measurement software to tune a PA?  No, but it will allow you to work much faster and be more precise.  And for dailing in system delays that are measured in milliseconds, you really need software.

QLab Live Show Control

I learned about QLab during a trip to New York.  QLab is used all over Broadway for audio playback on lots of shows.  It’s pretty simple to use and set up but at the same time is fairly sophisticated.

Set up is pretty straightforward.  You drag and drop placeholders for audio tracks, fade cues, whatever you need.  You number the cues to however you want.  Cues can be grouped and set up to trigger in a sequence or at the same time, just about anything you need.

We’ve used it for several shows now and it’s great.  No more burning CD’s for music and FX just to make a change and burn another disc.  Unlike just playing back from iTunes Qlab gives you a ton of control.  You get lots of track editing options so you can do all your playback and editing in one program.  The only thing it can’t do with audio is EQ, which is a little bit of a bummer but it’s not the end of the world.

It can also do all kinds of other stuff like video playback, live camera feeds, MIDI playback, MIDI show control, timecode, and more.  Crazy part is that it’s actually free if you just want basic audio playback.  Then you have the option to purchase it for more features or even rent it by the day.  Really cool.

Go ahead and download it and play around!

Audio Intro

The reason for these entries is that I hope my posts will help you in some way take your audio skills further.  One thing to keep in mind is that nothing replaces experience and time playing around with different ideas.  Something I love about mixing audio, live or in the studio, is that there’s no right or wrong.  Whatever gets you a good end result is “right”.  The more you learn the better your mixes will sound and the faster you’ll get there.

I started mixing audio, when I was 11 or 12, man that’s a while ago.  I just started with a CD and playing with the EQ.  Pretty sure it was a CD and not a cassette, ha ha.  Start building that mental connection between what you’re hearing and identifying what frequency it is.  I’m not saying that you have to be able to identify 862hz off of the top of your head, although that would be awesome!  But you’ll want to be able to get into the ballpark and know where to start to add or subtract EQ.

Before you get crazy into outboard gear like comps and gates and verbs, get to know mic placement and EQ.  Learn to get a good mix with those two things and your ears before you start to play with everything else.  You’ll be surprised how much you can do with mic selection and placement alone before you reach for an EQ knob.  That said there’s a lot of tools that can help you get good mixes.  Just don’t focus on the extra toys more than mixing and mic placement.

Easter 2012

This year our Easter service was at FAU Stadium.  This was our first year having our service here and it was awesome.  The staff and facilities were great and a lot of people showed up to take part in worship and hear the word presented.

Special Event Services (SES) came out to help us with staging, lights, audio, and video.  They have been helping us out for our large events for several years now and are a great organization.

Audio was highlighted by an Outline GTO line array.  At the stage there were two large line array hangs and two side fill line array hangs.  Since the furthest seats were about 400′ away from the stage we had three rear fill line arrays ground based on carts.  The subs were in front of the stage and with some special time alignment they created a single point source and created an even bass response throughout the whole stadium.

Overall things went very well and lots of people came forward to receive Jesus which is the goal!

Time lapse video of the setup and service…