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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Digidesign Venue demonstration

I got to play with toys this week :) No, not those toys! I know what you are thinking. Actually I got to demo a new sound console from Digidesign. This desk does everything I need it to do and then some. Plus it's a sexy toy that is guaranteed to induce envy in any other sound guy out there. Here's a rough breakdown of some of the tricks it does.

Remote control via a VNC client.

Hook the ethernet port on the local rack in to any existing ethernet network or wifi router and then use any freely downloadable VNC client software to access the desk interface. No more hassling with Windows only versions of remote control software. If your computer can run VNC then you can remotely control the desk.

This also means that if you have a separate Smaart laptop, you can VNC it also on the same network and carry one laptop or tablet PC to do both jobs

Up to 100 plugins (dependant on DSP resources)
Build 4 racks of 25 plugins each and then assign these as needed. Plugins can be inserted on each channel in the 4 available plugin insert slots, and can be moved around in order to alter the signal flow. Plugins can also be fed by the variable level Direct Outputs. This means that if you want a reverb on the snare and don't need that effect on any other channel, you can feed it from the direct out and avoid tying up an auxiliary send.

If DSP resources are getting tight, you can deactivate a plug in to free up processing power and reactivate based on snapshots.

The standard pack of plugins available with the system are:
VENUEPack 2.0

Digidesign Impact®
Digidesign Reverb One™
Digidesign ReVibe™
Digidesign Smack!™"
Digidesign/Bomb Factory® BF-3A
Digidesign/Bomb Factory Pultec Bundle
Digidesign/Bomb Factory Slightly Rude Compressor™
Digidesign/Bomb Factory Classic Compressors Bundle
Digidesign/Bomb Factory Moogerfooger® Bundle
Focusrite d2™
Focusrite d3™

Work how you want to
There are multiple ways to do anything on this desk. Assign channels to groups by selecting the channel and hitting the appropriate group assign button in the "Fat" Channel, or select multiple channels and assign them all to the same groups by selecting the group assign button, or select the Multi-Assign button above the group master and hit select on each individual channel that you want to assign.

The desk seems to have been designed in such a way that any method that you want to use, or a combination of all methods, is intuitive and fast.

Desk Config
There is a Desk Config button at the top of the main console. Hit this button and you can alter groups/aux configurations, add plugins to the racks etc etc. There is a mute in the audio when you alter the configuration and this needs to be done prior to the show or at the very least in a break between songs. Once you have the system set up the way you want it, hit the Config button again and nothing can be accidently changed during the show.

We did a complete change where we instantiated 24 graphic EQ's, changed the number of Auxes vs Groups and hit OK. Total time from audio mute to back and running was under 20 seconds. That would be bad during a show but quite impressive really if you think about the time it would take to repatch an analogue desk in the same configuration.

Adding plugins to the rack while mixing also creates a mute, so you have to get your racks built in advance. A plugin that was already in use and just needed another instance gave a mute of less than a second, to instantiate an entirely new plugin can be 3 - 4 seconds.

In the setup page it lets you know how many DSP chips are available at any time for use by plugins. Each chip can only run one type of plugin, but can run as many of that type as processing power permits. With 8 auxes, 8 stereo groups and 24 graphics running, we had 14 spare DSP chips to play with. When you consider that one of those chips had, I believe, 8 - 10 Focusrite D2 eq's on it and was still only at 85%, that's quite a lot of "outboard" gear that you can play with. Add more DSP cards and get more plugins.

Pro Tools integration
Digidesign have been quite smart about the interface between Venue and ProTools. There are two cards available as options. One is a Firewire card and the other is a HD card.

The Firewire card lets you plug a computer running ProTools LE into the FOH rack and gives you 18 inputs and outputs from ProTools. Record a multitrack of your show, playback studio backing etc, or record your soundcheck and send the band off for drinks while you finish your mix.

The HD card plugs into a ProTools HD system with Core or Accel cards and gives you up to 128 inputs and outputs. With that rig you can record every mic on stage and do a complete soundcheck after the band has left. Talk about a secret weapon!

Automatic Gain Setting
If you are in a rush and need to get rough gains in quickly, push and hold on the rotary encoder assigned to gain and the Venue will analyse the signal and set a best-guess gain to get you the best signal into the desk. Just another thing to get you through those festival soundchecks a lot quicker.

This desk is expensive so I'm gonna have to fight hard to get it, but I think it's the ideal setup for our theatre.

On a personal note, nothing much is happening. Lots of work and not much free time.

Catch ya later.


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