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Author Topic: automatic mixers  (Read 5023 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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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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John Fiorello

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2011, 02:21:21 pm »

Mark,

I don't know what your budget is (other than it's 'strapped') but the iLive system (hear me out now, I know it's not cheap) makes the pla-net interfaces that sound like they'd work for you.  They have a PL-10 which runs cat-5 with 10 channels set ahead of time to the main sound controller.  With rotary encoders, you can have people turn up channels (and you give them the channels they'll need, mic, monitor, etc) but you can set a limiter so they can't turn up the channels further than you've preset.

That makes it easier for someone to mix without much experience.  Just turn up the knob you need and don't worry if you turn it up too much because you've limited it to an acceptable level.

ALSO... you said you have several mixers you had to interface with and depending on your layout, you could put a controller (or 2) in each room you need a mixer for and run the band inputs to a central location.  All the rooms could share the same brain (which has dsp for 64 channels) at the same time without worrying about who is doing what where.


Just an idea to throw out there, it's something we've looked at for our pastors/wedding planner/funeral ushers who don't want to know how to run a board but want to have a few mics on when they need them.


JF
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chuck clark

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2011, 05:04:25 pm »

I've had pretty good luck w/ Yamaha EMX series mixers in these situations. The first 4 or 8 ch. have compression which is very helpful and they are quite simple to operate and even have built in effects.
"fool proof devices fail to take into account the ingeniousness of fools!" Ha! Good luck!
Chuck
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David Kaiser

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2011, 05:28:56 pm »

The other thing to remember is the used market. Shure SCM810 automatic mixers go for around 3-400 dollars on Ebay.  The SCM410 should be cheaper than that.  Ebay usually has lots of automatic mixers available for dirt cheap. The manual for the Shure mixers is pretty comprehensive. Do a search for  automatic mixer on the old Lab.
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Matthew Donadio

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2011, 09:14:01 am »

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.

The Crest HP-W series has them.  It is built into the dynamics section on some of the channels.  We have a HPW-28, but don't use the feature.

My understanding is that when AutoMix enabled channels are considered a group.  The one with the highest level goes though normally, while the others get ducked.  You can also set priority on certain channels.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2011, 09:55:14 am »

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.

The Crest HP-W series has them.  It is built into the dynamics section on some of the channels.  We have a HPW-28, but don't use the feature.

My understanding is that when AutoMix enabled channels are considered a group.  The one with the highest level goes though normally, while the others get ducked.  You can also set priority on certain channels.

Well sort of... The "Dugan" gain sharing algorithm only gives unity gain to the loudest channel when all the other channels are dead quiet. Two equal loudness channels each get -3dB gain*, 4 equal loudness channels each get -6dB*. This is continuously proportional so gain is shared smoothly between the loudest and softest channels grouped together for AM, so the total gain always adds up to exactly unity gain or equivalent to one open mic (NOM=1).

The priority feature, still maintains the NOM=1 relationship, but biases the gain sharing in favor of the input with priority. This is especially useful in a church application where you have a wireless mic and a podium mic picking up the same talker. If you give the wireless mic priority it will favor the wireless, effectively ducking the podium mic, only when the wireless is talking, but this will prevent or reduce comb filtering from both mics being hot and picking up the same sound from one talker.

JR

** The ratio for sharing with coherent signals is -6dB for two equal channels, and -12dB for 4 equal channels. The Dugan algorithm is smart enough to detect the wether sources are coherent or incoherent and adjust each gain accordingly. 
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Matthew Donadio

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2011, 10:29:18 am »

Well sort of... The "Dugan" gain sharing algorithm only gives unity gain to the loudest channel when all the other channels are dead quiet. Two equal loudness channels each get -3dB gain*, 4 equal loudness channels each get -6dB*. This is continuously proportional so gain is shared smoothly between the loudest and softest channels grouped together for AM, so the total gain always adds up to exactly unity gain or equivalent to one open mic (NOM=1).

Thanks for the explanation John.  The manual doesn't go into that much detail about it.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2011, 10:47:31 am »

I'm a little biased, because I got a patent for that priority feature (US05652800  Roberts) back in 1997. Peavey (and now Crest), has never been accused of over marketing their products. One of my complaints when I was working there.

Not my problem now... :-)

JR
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Arnold B. Krueger

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2011, 11:51:12 am »

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.

One aproach is to get the simplist mixer that will barely do the job. For what you're doing you can probably find one that simply doesn't have a lot of buttons that can make things go wrong.

Another approach would be a small digital mixer. You just tell your volunteers what scene to punch up to do what they need to do.

I can definately see where neither of these approaches would be practical, but they do exist.
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Chris Penny

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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2011, 09:34:41 pm »

Seems to me the problem is two-fold
1) A desire to run a full band in these rooms
2) A desire to run sound with a minimal skill set in these rooms

Options to me seem to be
1) To reduce the skills required to mix you could simplify the music program.  For example do you really need 6 vocals plus 6-7 instruments or would an acoustic guitar and a vocal or two suffice?

2) Upskill your volunteers to be able to mix your full bands as you would in the main auditorium. What is wrong with a high schooler in a high school service wanting to up the bass anyway? Use it as a ministry development opportunity bringing through the next FOH operators for teh main auditorium in the future.

I think "engineered" solutions like digital desks with function lockouts or very simple straight through systems may be ok but I think in your situation there use may be limited.

Edit: Excess Spaces
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Sound Guy
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Re: automatic mixers
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2011, 09:34:41 pm »


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