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Mixer for live surround sound?


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Yes, but the acoustic soloist has a better chance of pulling it off. Since I also work in the film business, (as does Todd here on the forum, who might want to give his perspective as he works more in post than I do), I have a little more insight into how difficult it is to generate a good surround track in a studio environment and how often it takes many tries to get from concept to something that is acceptable (not even "good") with the best of tools and talent. Try recreating this in a live environment with inadequate (read as piss-poor) tools and talent and the odds are really against the successful execution.


I do think it would be an enlightening excercise and may result in developing the smarts and approach for a better mix however.

 

Recreating music and film studio effects and techniques in a live performance is beyond the scope of my interpretation of the thread. I was thinking more like drum sounds moving around the room, or a vocal effect or a sample originating from an unexpected location, etc. It adds greatly to a performance if, as you stated, it is done tastefully and timed appropriately, IMO. I've always appreciated the person who would take the time to add these kind of risks to their performance, even if it fails in the end.

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Or takes away from the performance.

 

Except for a very few well executed "A circuit" attempts, the only thing I have seen is miserable attempts at something that wouldn't have worked even if it was well executed.

 

I have done something like this live for one client, it was for a reinforced symphony in alarge theatre and I routed the reverb return to a tapped delay with 4 zones spaced on the walls away from the stage into the audience chamber. I used the algorithem of reverb with about 30mSec of first reflection and then added the distance from the stage plus 10mSec to the second pair and d + 20mSec to third pair and d+40mSec to 4th pair and kept it subtle. Worked very well BUT was difficult and time consuming to balance and I have a lot of experience and education to be able to work this out on paper to see if it's reasonable before attempting. The client was also willing to spend some substantial money as this was part R&D paid by a grant. The problem is that when somebody who does not have the education or experience tries this, they will be faced with sorting out how to approach this and why you would approach it in a particular way and what are the pros/cons of the various methods.

 

I appreciate risks too, My "hobby" is training and breaking horses so every time I mount up it's a risk. BUT, I use my head and do my homework to be sure I know exactly what I am doing and prepare carefully to minimize the risk and maximize the reward. I prefer not to fail, it hurts way too much.

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At one time, I thought of using an 01V96 in surround mode. From the outputs, I was going to send each channel to separate wireless transmitters. From there to the wireless receivers at the satellite speaker locations. I was going to use powered speakers at the remote locations so I only needed to plug each into a wall receptacle for power. The receivers would have been "strapped" to the top of the speaker cabinets and the audio cable fed down to the speaker input.

 

This would have worked, but the costs were prohibitive.

 

There's also SAC (google "software audio console") that could accomplish the feat for the price of the software ($500) and an ADA8000 (~$250) you could mix up to 8 inputs and send out to all your satellite speakers. Perfect for the coffee house the OP was describing.

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As you see, I am on a low budget.
;)

 

Then forget trying to get fancy with sound that 90 percent of your audience won't even notice or care about, and instead concentrate on a good performance and a good sound without the fancy surround sound. As others have said, to do it right is expensive. Anything else is just a cheap imitation, and not worth the effort. Automating the moving of the audio image through space isn't going to be cheap or easy, and definitely not doable from stage on a budget.

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Then forget trying to get fancy with sound that 90 percent of your audience won't even notice or care about, and instead concentrate on a good performance and a good sound without the fancy surround sound. As others have said, to do it right is expensive. Anything else is just a cheap imitation, and not worth the effort. Automating the moving of the audio image through space isn't going to be cheap or easy, and definitely not doable from stage on a budget.

 

+1000

 

Is it better to put on a great mono performance where the performer can concentrate on the performance or a overly complicated and expensive performance where a majority of the audience will not receive the desired "effect" and the performer will be more involved in producing effects then performing? Keep it simple, at least at first. Hone the performance. Make some money and then go and spend the required amount, including a person to run the show from off stage. Doing those effects from the stage will probably have unwanted anomalies in the audience. To do it right, you would be much better off with the sound being run from out where the effects are to take place. I still don't see this working unless the venue is like a movie theater or somewhere where the audience is pretty much stationary.

 

The effects will be wasted in a typical bar atmosphere where the crowd is loud and moving around. What you think are cool effects can simply be received as sound system problems.

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The poor folks sitting in the back by a satellite speaker is going to have a very strange mix. It it will be way out of the planned balance. Surround sound only works really well when the listener has an equal opportunity to hear all the speakers, not just the one close to them. I would rethink all of this. If this were a stage production in an auditorium, you might have a chance of making something work (with a lot of difficulty and expense along the way.) If this is almost any other environment, you will have a difficult time making it sound like anything remotely listenable.

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A sincere THANKS for the *helpful* suggestions. :)

 

As for the rest, it is no wonder that we get the same old shite whenever we show up at a venue hoping for something new. People are either afraid of failing or don't have the imagination to venture beyond their limited range of experience, even if that experience is extremely deep. A bell curve can have a great deal of area, but all in a very narrow bandwidth. I am totally convinced that if Jimi Hendrix came out today, people would boo him off the stage and he would never have made it.

 

I think I'll wander back to my own room now...:wave:

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The poor folks sitting in the back by a satellite speaker is going to have a very strange mix. It it will be way out of the planned balance. Surround sound only works really well when the listener has an equal opportunity to hear all the speakers, not just the one close to them. I would rethink all of this. If this were a stage production in an auditorium, you might have a chance of making something work (with a lot of difficulty and expense along the way.) If this is almost any other environment, you will have a difficult time making it sound like anything remotely listenable.

 

Precicely! In my case, where I routed verb rtns into a surround matrix, the speakers were mounted 20' above and 10' to the sides of the closest audience member so the distances were all reasonable for balancing, plus the surround channels were balanced as an ambient effect in mind and were for reinforcing an artificial acoustic environment. The primary audio source was from the main PA.

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A sincere THANKS for the *helpful* suggestions.
:)

As for the rest, it is no wonder that we get the same old shite whenever we show up at a venue hoping for something new. People are either afraid of failing or don't have the imagination to venture beyond their limited range of experience, even if that experience is extremely deep. A bell curve can have a great deal of area, but all in a very narrow bandwidth. I am totally convinced that if Jimi Hendrix came out today, people would boo him off the stage and he would never have made it.


I think I'll wander back to my own room now...
:wave:

 

Speaking of closed minded, you seem to be as closed minded as they come based on comments in this thread.

 

There are some of us here who have done extensive theatre work, cinema work and creative sound design projects where we have explored and/or used these techniques. OUR EXPERIENCE has shown that in general it would apply very poorly for a small venue application, on a limited budget, with limited experience and with a very limited understanding of how/why this process would/should/could work.

 

There are good, solid reasons why techniques evolve... because they work, and even better reasons why other techniques do not become accepted... because history and experience have shown time and time again that they do not work.

 

The definition of being stubborn is doing the same thing again and again expecting different results.

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...As for the rest, it is no wonder that we get the same old shite whenever we show up at a venue hoping for something new...

 

Ok, so you would rather attempt something and screw it up, potentially putting an end to your performing because the venue wont want you back? :facepalm:

 

I say go for it then. More gigs for the rest of us who know not to overextend themselves.

 

If you don't want to listen to the advice of people here, then by all means... go to your room, lock the door and stop asking for help. You obviously don't want help, you want someone to feed your delusions.

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Surround sound in Live= tough.

 

I've mixed many a soundtrack in surround in the studio, and as most of us do, mix bands live.

 

What the op is going for here is pretty doable; a small space with just a few things in the "rears". What most peeps are thinking interms of surroudn mixing doesn't really apply- because a true surround mix ala Movie Must be realistic positioning; we rarely ever "hard" pan anything other than music. That probably isn't what the OP is shooting for (correct me if I'm wrong).

 

To be honest, I don't see why this couldn't be done with a good 6 Aux console ala Mix Wiz... but the aesthetic would be somewhat an experiment.

 

To address mix issues & balance issues - well who goes to a movie theater and always sits in the "Mix Position", 2/3 back, centered by THX Rules? The solution? Get your speakers up over the audience heads. Thus the people beneath are getting a wash outside the coverage pattern, and those in the pattern are getting far away. This is sort of the accepted solution (in addition to multiple surround speakers, but that probably isn't the case here.)

 

To Automate, one could use a PTLE system, but it would have to have the Complete Produciton toolkit option. Again, quite expensive. However, with the right multiple channel interface, Nuendo could be an excellent choice... biggest issue would be latency.

 

Bottom line is that all the issues brought forward here exist, but You could do this for less than people think... and I agree with you don't be afraid to fail approach. Just understand what your limitations might be and experiment when you're not on the clock.

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Todd, in a cinema, the primary sound is handled by the LCR screen speakers and the surrounds handle the fx and ambience. I think the OP's question (based on the bands he mentioned) was more of moving the priimary sound around, a different application and less subtle having the surrounds suddenly handle some primary audio routed to them.

 

I agree that (with experience and understanding) some interesting effects could be developed, I just don't think the OP's goals are practical given the cheap-cheap-cheap nature of the approach and lack of good multi-channel production experience. You and I have the advantage of years of seeing what works and what doesn't, from many different approaches. That's a big, time saving step that gives us a better chance of being successful.

 

Just my thoughts.

 

Doing an HBO premiere screening next week, they decided to drop the multi-channel audio in favor of an LT/RT mix because the need to focus on other more important issues with the product. AND, we have multi-channel in-house!!!

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To address mix issues & balance issues - well who goes to a movie theater and always sits in the "Mix Position", 2/3 back, centered by THX Rules?

 

I do, if at all possible. The only thing that takes precedence is whether or not the seat is broken. :-b

 

Surround sound in Live= tough.


I've mixed many a soundtrack in surround in the studio, and as most of us do, mix bands live.


What the op is going for here is pretty doable; a small space with just a few things in the "rears". What most peeps are thinking interms of surroudn mixing doesn't really apply- because a true surround mix ala Movie Must be realistic positioning; we rarely ever "hard" pan anything other than music. That probably isn't what the OP is shooting for (correct me if I'm wrong).


To be honest, I don't see why this couldn't be done with a good 6 Aux console ala Mix Wiz... but the aesthetic would be somewhat an experiment.


To Automate, one could use a PTLE system, but it would have to have the Complete Produciton toolkit option. Again, quite expensive. However, with the right multiple channel interface, Nuendo could be an excellent choice... biggest issue would be latency.


Bottom line is that all the issues brought forward here exist, but You could do this for less than people think... and I agree with you don't be afraid to fail approach. Just understand what your limitations might be and experiment when you're not on the clock.

 

I agree.

 

-Dan.

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Every 10 years or so, a band comes along and wants to quadraphonic sound in an arena. In the 90's, it was our turn in the barrel as a particular jam band, who were clearly never told no as children, decided it would be way cool, man. So, the rig was reconfigured for quad and a run of shows were done. I think we did as good of a job as you can do in that situation, and the effect was really neat being kind of inside the mix. It was however, an incredibly time-consuming and expensive experiment to prove why it's not done regularly.

 

That being said, since you're looking to do this in small spaces, it's going to require much less of an expense in time and money. Any mixer with L, R and 2 pre-fader auxes will do a 4 channel surround. The Mix-wiz above is great console for this with good routing options. An 01V would be even better, since you could create scenes with it for each song. Since it sounds like you're doing electronic music, this could work really well, assuming you have little to no stage volume going on. I do theater shows like this with the sound effects coming out of different zones around the audience, with some effects routed to a sub underneath or behind the seating. The way to do it all correctly involves time, phase and EQ correction, but in a small room you might just get away with good speaker positioning.

 

Doing the actual real-time mixing, you may find to be very cumbersome, depending on how active you are with your electronic instruments. If you're playing keys, you probably don't want to be twisting knobs, but if you're just triggering loops or samples then you might have the time and brain space to do the mix. I would think as with most live music, a dedicated engineer who knew what you wanted, would do a better job with this.

 

I say experiment. Maybe rent or borrow the gear to try this out before investing any money in it. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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My guess is to have complete control over the mixes coming off the auxes. If they were post fader, the fader would affect the faders channels plus the auxes channels. In order for this to work, all outputs must be completely independent. I still don't see it working because the amount of time needed to tweak the routing (not talking stereo if you need to move the sound in 3 dimensions around the audience). So in order to do that from stage you would need to perform while manually adjusting ALL faders, auxes and panning at the same time (at least 8 to 10 hands on board). Stereo is one thing but moving the sound around the crowd is what is being asked about and it will not be easy without a surround board with a panning joystick.

 

Suilebhain, no one here said it can't be done. They said it can't be done well on the cheap. $60,000 to $100,000 can do it $600 to $1000 can't. If you really believe that you will impress people by trying something new that will fail, go right ahead. You seem to have a lot more experience then us and we are all willing to learn from you. On the other hand, if you simply can't grasp what is needed to do what you want to do successfully, you may be learning from us. Apparently the hard way. Good luck. Maybe my 4 Phonic systems is starting to make more sense now?

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Why pre-fader instead of post-fader?


-Dan.

 

Right, for independent control. With post fader sends, if you turned a channel up in the front right, you might be turning it up in one of your rears as well. You could do a 4 channel surround with 4 post fader sends, and use the channel fader as a kind of "master volume" for that channel.

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Moving things around that way would be inefficient at best and a total clusterf*ck more likely.

 

On the cheap, a better way to do it would be with 2 identical consoles, splits into the consoles, one guy mixes the fronts the other the rears (assuming he could hear them, locations of the mixers would be critical) and together they would have to work out the concept of what's being expected.

 

I would allso recommend a d/2 delay to make the rears at least "less"-competative with the fronts so that in the center 2/3 of the listening area the difference in arrival times is held to maybe 20-30mSec. The stage and front speakers need to be at t(0) and assiuming a 60 foot deep audience area that would put the t(30')=25mSec and if you delayed the rear speakers by 25mSec the arrival times at the center will be the same (sort of) and as you move off of center you will see a difference of ~1mSec/foot front or back of center. Without doing this, the rears will lead and clash locationally with the fronts and the band. It will also be tiring and difficult to listen to for very long.

 

To do it right, a quad console with joystick panning at least on the groups would be necessary. Not gonna happen for cheap-cheap-cheap.

 

Just my 2 cents.

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I would allso recommend a d/2 delay to make the rears at least "less"-competative with the fronts so that in the center 2/3 of the listening area the difference in arrival times is held to maybe 20-30mSec. The stage and front speakers need to be at t(0) and assiuming a 60 foot deep audience area that would put the t(30')=25mSec and if you delayed the rear speakers by 25mSec the arrival times at the center will be the same (sort of) and as you move off of center you will see a difference of ~1mSec/foot front or back of center. Without doing this, the rears will lead and clash locationally with the fronts and the band. It will also be tiring and difficult to listen to for very long.


To do it right, a quad console with joystick panning at least on the groups would be necessary. Not gonna happen for cheap-cheap-cheap.


Just my 2 cents.

 

 

:thu: That explains it pretty well.

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Eh, I gotta say that the OP has at least a little point.

 

I do not think it is possible to create anything useful in a 5.1 surround sound sense. If the goal is to reproduce anything remotely like the experience of listening to a band but louder, then it ain't gonna happen on any realistic budget. And if that is the goal of sound reinforcement, then the OP ain't gonna get anywhere.

 

But this might not be a sound reinforcement problem. It might be a one-off audio installaiton, or a sound sculpture. OR jsut something goofy.

 

There is absolutely no reason why you can't put a powered speaker or guitar amp in the back left and right of the room and pump some crazy signal to. There is no rule against it.

 

Similarly, there is no rule that says you cant do the same with a delay return.

 

You don't need a mixer to accomplish this, though, and that is where the cognitive dissonance is creeping in. It is a goofy effect that leaves different parts of the audiences with different experienced. It isn't the kind fo thing that you would use a mixer to accomplish.

 

But the goal here isn't to fix the problem with reverberation under the balcony, which is rightly an engineering problem.

 

The problem is to put some kind of noise maker behind the audience, and if you missed that element of the system then you may be a great engineer but a deficient problem solver.

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But this might not be a sound reinforcement problem. It might be a one-off audio installaiton, or a sound sculpture. OR jsut something goofy.

 

OP Statement:

What I had in mind is Orb/Tangerine Dream type music performed by two or three players witht he outputs of their submixers fed into something that then enabled the sound to move through the soundspace either controlled via MIDI or just through the patches.

 

My statement:

If he plans on running that in surround, it won't be cheap or easy. Most likely, it is not going to work very well for this situation unless he has lots of experience and/or deep pockets.

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OP Statement:

What I had in mind is Orb/Tangerine Dream type music performed by two or three players witht he outputs of their submixers fed into something that then enabled the sound to move through the soundspace either controlled via MIDI or just through the patches.


My statement:

If he plans on running that in surround, it won't be cheap or easy. Most likely, it is not going to work very well for this situation unless he has lots of experience and/or deep pockets.

 

Yes, you are right. The surround thing isn't going to work. Even with deep pockets, and experience shows that surround ain't happening.

 

Once again, I think that there is cognitive dissonance between the normal goals of Sound Reinforcement and the stated goals of the situation at hand.

 

If you want to put a loud ass guitar amp at the back of the room and feed it the B-tap of a digital delay, then it would achieve the "move the sound through the sound space" goal that you state there. Not expensive. Perfectly doable. Good? I dunno. But it meets the fundamental criteria for playing with the front-to back sound field without breaking the bank.

 

It may be boring or bad sounding. And I get your point that it isn't the same as taking the guitar players signal and running it around the room with an azmuth coordinator.

 

Definitely not mixing for the entire audience, either.

 

Everyone is right: you ain't going to be able to hook a joystick up to a PA and make the drumkit fly around.

 

But that doesn't mean the problem is stupid, and that there is no way to play with the front to back sound field and that everyone should just give up and have a nice mono PA in every occasion.

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The OP was asking about a specific application. There is no problem placing speakers around the venue for stereo effects but what he wants to do is a lot more complicated then that. We never said he was wrong and he should stick with mono. We just told him that his original idea was very difficult to achieve and impossible without a huge amount of investment. Nothing wrong with pushing the envelope as long as the goals are physically achievable.

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The OP was asking about a specific application. There is no problem placing speakers around the venue for stereo effects but what he wants to do is a lot more complicated then that. We never said he was wrong and he should stick with mono. We just told him that his original idea was very difficult to achieve and impossible without a huge amount of investment. Nothing wrong with pushing the envelope as long as the goals are physically achievable.

 

Fair enough.

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