"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

The Future: A world without fun

Toby Roworth

Apr 22, 2013

I look forward to the day I get a digital sound desk - it will probably happen just as soon as I have four grand spare, a house and enough no claims to make car insurance reasonable. I also look forward to the day Crown Church has its own venue - new venue means new tech kit.
However, many people have misconceptions about why I look forward to the aforementioned nice things - today's post hopes to rectify this, with smoothing capacitor and everything!
Pseudoquote one:
"Imagine how quick your soundchecks will be when you can just click load, and have the band ready to go"
The word "soundcheck" is a portmanteau of "sound" and "check". These each represent an oversight:
There's no checking going on when a load button is pressed, so we'll still have to do a line check (a basic check of a signal being present where expected). In fairness, this won't take too long.
There's also no sound present - I'm fairly sure even a DiGiCo won't tell you if Dan's voice sounds the same as last week - yet again, I'll need to give each channel a check. That's a small annoyance, until:
Pseudoquote 2:
"But your EQ will be sorted already"
Lets assume that the acoustics of the room are exactly the same, and the talent singing/playing exactly the same as the week before. Firstly, I could've just put a CD on! Secondly, I have an hour soundchecking time, during which I may as well just twiddle my thumbs and get a coffee. Except there's only instant, so it will have to be tea.
Call me weird, but I like EQing, in much the same way as a chef cooks his own stock instead of using OXO. It gives me something to play with, something to improve on, and try differently. Sometimes it's better and sometimes I've made Michael's snare sound like a dog, but that's all part of the fun.
And as for the CDlike identical acoustic; size of crowd, temperature, how many kids are jumping, how hot the lights are running (usually on the wrong ring...) and how much overspill there is from the stage all affect the acoustics. And singers' voices change day to day based on stress, joy and alcohol, so its nice to try and capture that note of whiskey in the mix!
Pseudoquote 3:
"Buy even you will enjoy not having to set the foldbacks - they hardly change week to week, right?"
In the words of +Jonathan Hollander: "I'm not even going to dignify that with an answer..."
Pseudoquote 4:
"Think of how much of the outboard rack will be built into the desk - it'll look so neat!"
Whilst watching The Bourne Identity, the bit I remember most was when I picked out an out of focus Ultracurve 8024 in the background. There were also some Behringer compressors in there, presumably both playing the part of "equipment with blinky lights that looks complicated".
However out of place, that rack looked cool, and it'll be sad to see them leave the world of production.
In fairness though, Allen & Heath's iLives have plenty of pretty blinkies...
Pseudoquote 5:
"Won't it be nice not having to carry speakers and flightcases everywhere"
This explains pretty well
Pseudoquote 6:
"You won't have to set up all the kit every week - you can just roll up, roll the lid open and roll 'n' rock"
I like setting up kit! The feel of connectors mating, the satisfaction of finding a particularly peculiar way of plugging things in the make them work, despite not having the right cables, the distress of finding all the cables are knotted together - they all form a great part of the challenge that is "tech".
Peudoquote 7:
"Fine - I get it. You like doing tech, even the bits everyone else thinks are rubbish. So why would you even want a digital desk in the first place?"
In the spirit of ranting properly, I should explain that I'm not just a grumpy old man who doesn't like change. As the pseudoquotee pseudosaid, I like doing tech, and I get a lot of pleasure out of playing with proper cables - cat5 just isn't the same. And yet there are many, many benefits of all these newfangled whirlygigs.
Digital desks have many blinky lights - this provides a lot of happy, even when the musicalists still aren't happy with their foldbacks (I'm guilty there too...). Happy is good, and blinky lights make happy quicker than beer (also I'm fairly sure drinking beer whilst mixing at church is frowned upon).
The sheer amount of kit built-in to a digital desk is staggering - most have a compressor on every channel, several FX units and a graphic. Sure they're not in a lovely rack, but we'd need a whole new rack to do that anyway (and a grand or so for the compressors).
And then there's the routing - being able to patch a sound desk so each channel is on exactly the fader you want is quite useful - add in being able to put different layouts in scenes and you can go from having the band at your fingertips to having the talk mic in easy reach with a single fader for a whole band submix.
In short, digital desks have tonnes of lovely features, only a few of which I've outlines here. They're just not the ones everyone else thinks I'll get excited about.
Pseudoquote 8:
"I think I get the point now - thank you Toby. But what about the installed system - what would make you happier about not rigging it every week?"
Truss, chainblocks and line arrays.