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Author Topic: Serial Compression  (Read 5948 times)

Steven Welwood

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Serial Compression
« on: December 13, 2012, 04:25:16 am »

I'm working a 5-day charismatic conference with some extremely dynamic speakers. To give you an idea of what I'm dealing with, imagine one guy screaming into the mic with lips on the grille, then handing it to a "low-talker" who holds the mic at the bottom of his rib cage, or vice-versa, without warning. Or even better, the same guy switching back and forth between those "techniques"!

To be clear, I've got no problem with riding a fader, or having dynamics in the output level (not that any solution I try will stop either of those anyway!). What I'm finding though, is that the fader control isn't enough, so I'm constantly adjusting the gain level and comp settings, and often I just can't keep up!

I read about serial compression long ago, but never had a need to try it until now. In the middle of the first session, I did a quick search on my phone, and read some basic instructions. I quickly patched both channels of my comp together and had some limited success taming the craziness, but I don't know how to go about setting the controls properly. I'm not looking for any hard numbers (I know no one can give me that), but rather the method for setting, or goals of, each stage of compression.

For example, from what I read, the consensus seems to be that fast peak compression should be on the first stage, and slow moderate compression on the second. So here's the procedure that would make sense to me:

1. Bypass first comp
2. Set second comp for a more-dynamic-than-normal speaker's range (3:1, auto attack/release, with moderately loud speaking resulting in 10 dB reduction, and regular make-up gain)
3. Set first comp to 3:1, fast attack/release, and adjust threshold so compression starts when second comp is cutting 10 dB. No make-up gain.

If I understand this correctly, once the threshold in the first comp is hit, compression will effectively be 9:1, which is fairly close to limiting, no? Is there a maximum gain reduction I should aim for on either channel?
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Patrick Tracy

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2012, 01:30:52 pm »

I've found serial compression useful on things like bass that switches between smooth finger picking to slap style, using a nice Drawmer 1960 for most of the control preceded by a 166 with the limiter and compressor set to take down bigger peaks before they get to the Drawmer.

But I would worry about feedback with too much compression.

Greg_Cameron

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2012, 02:19:42 pm »

FWIW, serial compression is very common for vocals and some instruments. Anytime you run channels with inserted compression which are then routed to groups that have inserted compression, that is also serial compression. I use it quite a bit myself for vocal channels where I'll run mild compression on the channel strip and then use a second compressor on the stereo vocal group to tame the big peaks.
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David Parker

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2012, 05:37:03 pm »

I've worked a few charismatic gigs, actually hope I never do again. The "preacher" was screaming at me to turn his mic up, and the church's sound guy was steady turning down the main fader to save the system. As far as feedback is concerned, as long as there is you set it where there is no compression when they are speaking softly, there is no drawback to gain reduction on the loudest passages. In other words, the most likely time for feedback is when they are speaking softly, so you don't want any compression then. As it gets louder, feedback will not be a concern.
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Tim Perry

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2012, 10:23:53 am »

It seems some speakers like to start out with the mic at their mid section and then bring it in closer and closer and get louder and louder for a thunderous finale. It's intentional not bad technique.  Drives you crazy if you don't expect it.

Sure you can add gated AGC + comps and make it all a similar level... but you are just fighting what they want.

Put the compeller + comp + limiter on the record feed.
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David Parker

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2012, 12:23:31 pm »

somebody posted on here a few years back about getting a job mixing at a church, and first Sunday, minister sound checks his mic speaking in a normal tone, levels were set, and the sound man was told "if you touch those settings you're fired". The minister got fired up and got really loud. There's not reason for that sort of theatrics.
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Steven Welwood

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2012, 04:18:48 pm »

It seems some speakers like to start out with the mic at their mid section and then bring it in closer and closer and get louder and louder for a thunderous finale. It's intentional not bad technique.  Drives you crazy if you don't expect it.

Yes, I'm definitely seeing some of that, and I don't want to defeat the dynamics, just keep them under control. The auditorium seats maybe 250, so it's not that big. If I don't control the "thunderous finale" I'm sure they'll blow something up--most likely people's ears!
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Tim Perry

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2012, 08:29:37 pm »

Yes, I'm definitely seeing some of that, and I don't want to defeat the dynamics, just keep them under control. The auditorium seats maybe 250, so it's not that big. If I don't control the "thunderous finale" I'm sure they'll blow something up--most likely people's ears!

Steve, I did a 'show' with just this problem last week. One girl would pick up a wireless and kind of twirl it like a baton while talking never getting it closer to her mouth then her...midsection.  The key here is don't chase it. Resist the urge to bring up the fader. At that point there is nothing you can do.

For the performance preaching, I am using the StudioLive with the compressor in soft (over easy) for vocals. threshold is set to engage when they scream. Compression ratio is about 7:1... about the same as a vocal setup on a heavy metal show. Gain reduction is about 6 to 10 dB during screaming. The K-12 speakers can provide additional limiting if needed.

For this show, I was running 2 wireless plus 8 vocal condensers plus a condenser on a grand.
 
Here's a pic of the set up. Not the K-10's in the back deployed to the preacher can 'feel' themselves.
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Steven Welwood

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2012, 11:23:56 am »

Well, the conference is over now, and I think I did OK. I ended up using the procedure I described in the first post, with the exception of makeup gain--I didn't have any on either comp.

I still had to adjust the fader, but not nearly as much as before. I also still had to bump the gain on occasion, but just for a couple of the quietest speakers. The compressors handled the screaming well enough for me, although the peaks sounded kind of grungy. I'm not sure if that was due to the compression or the fact that the wireless was clipping. My guess is that it was a combination, because sometimes there was distortion before the clip light came on.

Overall I was happy with the result, and I didn't get any complaints, so I guess that means they were happy, too! Thanks for all the input!
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Patrick Tracy

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 06:31:09 pm »

The compressors handled the screaming well enough for me, although the peaks sounded kind of grungy.

Sometimes people don't know they're loud unless there's distortion to give them "proof".

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Re: Serial Compression
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 06:31:09 pm »


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