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Author Topic: automatic mixers  (Read 5024 times)

mark ahlenius

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automatic mixers
« on: February 26, 2011, 01:28:05 pm »

Hi,

ok, I'm a pretty experienced sound tech/engineer in the church space.  Been doing it for a number of years.  But we have a new upper staff member whose pushing for more of an automatic mixer board for our children's ministry and high school rooms.  We'll typically have 6 or more mics and then 5-6 instruments +keys in the high school rooms.

Currently we have smaller boards in those rooms, but some of these units (Mackie for example) are very flexible, but are *easily* made inoperable by someone who bumps or presses the wrong button(s).  For example sub channel/group assignments, matrix assignments, etc.  I am sure you know what I mean.  And then the volunteer working in these spaces can't get the sound to work.

Now sure, a "one button" system could work,  but I have to be honest, I've never been impressed with the ones I have seen/heard.  I'm perhaps "old school" and much prefer manual control for levels, EQ and feedback suppression.

Perhaps there are better units these days, but for a band, I'm just not on board with the concept - yet.

I'd like to hear back from folks who have actually used both.

thanks

'mark
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Tom Young

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2011, 03:11:42 pm »

Now sure, a "one button" system could work,  but I have to be honest, I've never been impressed with the ones I have seen/heard.  I'm perhaps "old school" and much prefer manual control for levels, EQ and feedback suppression.

Perhaps there are better units these days, but for a band, I'm just not on board with the concept - yet.

I'd like to hear back from folks who have actually used both.

Mark-

I think you're intuition is correct.

I use automixing for services that follow a set ritual and for spoken word only. I have friends who use automixers for corporate shows where the automixer is inserted into a larger console's channel inserts. But (again) these are used for spoken word channels and are not used for music mixing.

Where I do see a possible solution for your needs is with a digital mixer with recallable presets/scenes so that if a volunteer screws up they can get back to "ground zero" easily and immediately.

FWIW
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Tom Young
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mark ahlenius

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2011, 03:18:05 pm »

Hey Tom,

thanks for the quick response.  Yes I agree with you.  For simpleton type use cases, I don't see a problem, although I think you are also quite limited to the ones i have seen in the area of being able to EQ each channel on the automixers.

One thing I failed to mention is that we are somewhat budget strapped.  We are spending most of our improvement funds on room reconfiguration and the like (moving doors, walls, stages, etc.).  Since these automixers are not really cheap, and since we already have 2 boards for these locations, i am hesitant to go that direction.

What I should do is see if either of these 2 Mackie's have an internal jumper config which would disable the majority of these sub group and matrix assignments.  One of the problems with these less expensive boards are the plethora of little grey buttons which are really hard to see if they are pressed or not.  If I could only disable (dumb down) the board, that would be sweet.

comments on that capability?  Ever seen that before?

thanks again.

'mark

Mark-

I think you're intuition is correct.

I use automixing for services that follow a set ritual and for spoken word only. I have friends who use automixers for corporate shows where the automixer is inserted into a larger console's channel inserts. But (again) these are used for spoken word channels and are not used for music mixing.

Where I do see a possible solution for your needs is with a digital mixer with recallable presets/scenes so that if a volunteer screws up they can get back to "ground zero" easily and immediately.

FWIW
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Taylor Phillips

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2011, 03:31:34 pm »

Don't buy an automixer for a band, and don't dumb down your boards either.  Take the time to teach your volunteers how to use them!  It might be easier to dumb things down, or just tell the volunteers not to touch anything but the mute buttons and faders, but it will much, much better in the long run if the people who are running the equipment know how to use the features.  Also, I would go against the recommendation of a digital console.  Yes, you can reset everything easily, but you can also reset everything too easily. 
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mark ahlenius

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2011, 03:56:01 pm »

Yep I agree with you as well on the automixers and training.  The problem is that in children's ministry and others using the room, there is often a high turnover rate.  As of yet we don't have a paid staff whose responsibility is to support these systems (just me and I'll come over whenever I can).  Plus - try to say that to a high school'er who thinks everything should have more bass!  ;-)  But honestly people do accident bump the buttons and with the board design you have to look at it at an angle in the bright light to even see if its down or not. 

thanks again!

Don't buy an automixer for a band, and don't dumb down your boards either.  Take the time to teach your volunteers how to use them!  It might be easier to dumb things down, or just tell the volunteers not to touch anything but the mute buttons and faders, but it will much, much better in the long run if the people who are running the equipment know how to use the features.  Also, I would go against the recommendation of a digital console.  Yes, you can reset everything easily, but you can also reset everything too easily.
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Taylor Phillips

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2011, 05:31:16 pm »

The problem is that in children's ministry and others using the room, there is often a high turnover rate. 
Then teach your youth minister and children's minister how to run the board.  Also, make sure they tell you when they have someone new running it, so you can come in and help teach them. 
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Mike Spitzer

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2011, 07:53:02 pm »

Then teach your youth minister and children's minister how to run the board.  Also, make sure they tell you when they have someone new running it, so you can come in and help teach them.

Yeah; that's probably the best way to go. You can get a cheap Mackie that doesn't have any subgroups or auxes. They don't sound very good, in my opinion, but you could teach somebody how to use it in a few minutes. Like you mentioned, you'll still have the problem with not being able to tell if the buttons are pushed (I can always see the white part!), but you'd limit what could go wrong. If you go that route, you can do it cheaply and either sell your other boards or donate them to another church.

What exactly are your needs in the room?

-mS
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James Hicks

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2011, 12:49:54 am »

Yep I agree with you as well on the automixers and training.  The problem is that in children's ministry and others using the room, there is often a high turnover rate.  As of yet we don't have a paid staff whose responsibility is to support these systems (just me and I'll come over whenever I can).  Plus - try to say that to a high school'er who thinks everything should have more bass!  ;-)  But honestly people do accident bump the buttons and with the board design you have to look at it at an angle in the bright light to even see if its down or not. 

thanks again!

I have seen a high school theater that had a box built around the console, with nothing exposed except the channel faders. Imagine a box not unlike a roadcase for the console, with an access door that only exposes the faders when opened. So the operator could turn up the faders of each channel, but that was it. Crude but effective. The problem I could foresee would be if it is a console with subgroups, since most subgroup consoles have the group assign buttons located right beside each channel fader.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2011, 12:52:07 am by James Hicks »
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Brad Weber

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2011, 08:37:07 am »

There is the option to have both, a simple 'automatic' mode for some uses and a manual mix mode for others, but supporting that means the system gets more complex and expensive, probably beyond what you're looking for.

I don't think that 'dumbing down' a typical analog console as you describe is really feasible, the routing structure is such that those are physical paths that you would have to break and doing so would then diminish the capabilties availabel when you want them.  You could probably do some things like not use subgroups or matrix outputs so that someone would have to make multiple errors to have an effect (say accidentally assign a channel to a Group and assign that Group to the Main and raise the fader for that Group and unmute that Group in order for it to have any impact) but that may also limit the flexibility and functionality of the mixer.

It really sounds as though a digital console with the ability for you to control access to the routing aspects is what you want.  Most users could have access to all the faders and 'channel strip' controls but you would have to make an effort to get to the routing and may even be able to protect access to those aspects.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2011, 12:01:18 pm »

I don't know how cheap the computer based (like Mediamatrix) have gotten, but this seems like one possibility to cover widely varying situations with simple one button presets.

The only "automatic mixer board" I am aware of is a series from Peavey that has some channels of (Dugan algorithm) AM gain sharing built in. Maybe even some dynamics processing too.  This was done after I left so I have no personal experience with these and while they may be more user friendly than a similarly featured console, it still seems like widely varying events would require some set up.

If this isn't what you were talking about never mind... If it is, maybe ask if any here have first hand experience with this series.

JR   
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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2011, 12:01:18 pm »


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