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Topic: Mike's Faders on BBC 4 TB Documentary, Controllers / Faders on Mike's Desk< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
zephyrsteve Offline




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Posted: Jan. 12 2015, 16:14

Hi All

Can anyone please help me to identify the faders/controllers on Mike's desk, in the BBC 4 Tubular Bells documentary? He has three of them linked together and they're silver, with 8 faders and various buttons on each.

If you own these (obviously not Mike's.... :p), are they a good investment?

Thanks

Steve
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Korgscrew Offline




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Posted: Jan. 13 2015, 11:30

They're Euphonix/Avid Artist Mix controllers. I own an earlier generation of Digidesign (who were bought by Avid) control surface and like it a lot, and from what I've seen of these (built by Euphonix, who Avid also bought), they're good quality pieces of kit which should give you a lot of years of reliable service. The displays have got a reasonable number of characters on them, so identifying what fader's doing what shouldn't be a big challenge in most cases - that depends on what kind of mixes you normally do, if you're usually only dealing with 16 channels or so, it matters a whole lot less than when you've been given something with 100 tracks which you've not labelled yourself and you really need all the help you can get with keeping track of what's where!

It does have a set of buttons you can use as transport keys, but bear in mind that it's a shared function using some of the solo/mute buttons rather than a dedicated set. If you reckon you'll use the transport controls a lot (I do find I use them a lot myself), you may find it's worth looking at an Artist Transport as well or, if you can live with only four faders, you may want to try the Artist Control, which combines a set of faders (no scribble strip displays above them, though...) with transport controls and a multipurpose touchscreen.

I think having faders and solo/mute keys is also generally useful, particularly if you're working with clients and want to demonstrate rough changes to the mix quickly. I've very occasionally done mixes where I've turned all the automation and ridden the faders up and down, but generally I'll use them to get a rough balance, then do the fine automation tweaks on-screen in Pro Tools's edit window. They, and some kind of transport controller, are generally nice things to have if you're a hands on kind of person - I certainly like to have controls to touch and prod at. You of of course still don't have the advantage of an analogue desk where everything's got a place and stays there, so you can navigate pretty much by muscle memory alone...but on the other hand, it does mean that you can do a 100+ channel mix on faders without having them fill the entire room!

There are of course cheaper alternatives, and whether those are better choices no doubt will depend on what software you're using and what kind of work you're doing with them. An issue with some can be that the faders are quite noisy - whether that's a problem may depend on what kind of levels you normally work at and whether you do mixes with a lot of automation in them...if they're rarely moving much, the amount of noise they make when they do might not really be a problem.

I can say that when I eventually come to replace my current control surface, it'll quite likely be an Artist Mix (or two) that I replace it with, quite likely with the transport as well. Whether they're a good investment for you depends on what you're hoping to do with them, but they ought to do the job of controlling Pro Tools (and a lot of other software) well!
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zephyrsteve Offline




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Posted: Jan. 13 2015, 16:36

Korgscrew - Many thanks for that and thanks for the in-depth 'review'.

I'm using Logic, with a MacBook Pro - I have to say, they looked amazing on Mike's desk! I'll have a look at the old bank balance and consider these.....
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Priabonia Offline




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Posted: Jan. 14 2015, 13:41

I work with Logic on a desktop Mac - personally I've never seen the point of hardware faders etc. outside a pro studio environment, I'm perfectly happy "twiddling my knobs" virtually!!

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zephyrsteve Offline




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Posted: Jan. 14 2015, 14:09

I'm finding no faders works for me too - But the sight of those big silver things on Mike's desk got me burning a hole in my pocket!

I use a Behringer BCF2000 - It pretty much does the job, but an upgrade would be good...

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Thea Cochrane Offline




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Posted: Jan. 18 2015, 18:24

I find working in the computer vs working with faders puts you in a different kind of mental space for working. It's been interesting for me to put students (who have pretty exclusively been in the box without controllers) in front of a mixer and turning off the computer monitor to see how they react.
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Korgscrew Offline




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Posted: Jan. 19 2015, 08:42

It's certainly one of those things which is a tough choice, considering how it's not in the signal path and doesn't do anything that the onscreen faders don't (apart from let you touch it, of course! ). There's really no reason at all you can't do a great mix using just a mouse/trackpad and the onscreen mixer. And yet...something different happens to my concentration when I've got controls I can touch, things that are right there under my fingers, and the ability to jump between lots of parameters quickly...sometimes mixing can be slow and contemplative then sometimes it can be fast and instinctive (if I can say that without sounding like I'm trying to write Zen and the Art of Music Mixing), and when it's the latter, it's frustrating when the input method can't keep up. There can be that feeling of trying to paint the hallway through the letterbox!

I've found I also get along better creating sounds on hardware synths where there are physical controls for parameters - something about me feeling more connected to what's going on, having a better overview of everything at once (I think a lot of my thinking is quite spatial, so I like it when things are laid out in front of me like that) and I suppose ultimately, having the patience to carry on tweaking rather than getting fed up with prodding at virtual controls...perhaps it's also a case of not having to stare quite so hard at one spot for a length of time, not feeling so glued to a screen.

All that said, it can be very liberating to do things all in software, work on a laptop and take things anywhere you like. I'd also say that if I was having to make the choice between spending money on something like the Artist Mix or spending it on a good pair of speakers, the speakers would most likely win...there are definitely bits of studio hardware that (at least in my opinion) are more essential to start with in terms of what they contribute to the results you'll get.
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Olivier Offline




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Posted: Jan. 19 2015, 13:29

I couldn't find the interview but you are talking exactly like Vangelis explaining computers are slow. I always found it cool because it's so counter intuitive, to me, that computers would be slow at anything. And along these lines I think Mike said that it's difficult to do everything with one finger (mouse). To be exact, I guess computers  are slow to capture your command, once they got their input, they have a pretty decent speed processing the data.
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EeToN Offline




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Posted: Jan. 19 2015, 19:23

I've never felt comfortable to use a mouse while working with music either. (I prefer using the PC keyboard but that's another matter.)
However, since we have tablets nowadays, doesn't tapping the screen to issue commands have the benefits of both worlds combined?


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Korgscrew Offline




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Posted: Jan. 20 2015, 19:31

Interesting thought there, about tablets! They can certainly enable an amazing amount of real-time control over things, and people are doing some fascinating things with them. A great example is Beardyman's Beardytron 5000, which uses an array of four iPads and two laptops, running custom-built software which allows him to do what I think is a brilliant (and often hilarious) live beatbox/looping act - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIh8KBOOkYU

I think a lot then depends on the interface design. There's a Mackie live sound mixer which substitutes an iPad for physical controls, and I've seen people really struggle doing live mixes on that...it seems like it's actually quite a fiddly way of controlling a set of parameters which are far better controlled with a set of knobs and faders (of course, saying that ignores the reasons the thing was no doubt designed - to offer a programmable digital desk in a compact and fairly affordable format...so it's a compromise that's going to work really well for some applications). What's really really useful about things like that (and there are some larger desks where you can use a tablet in addition to the desk's physical controls) is that you can then detach the control surface and take it anywhere in the venue - being able to go and listen in different places and tweak the mix accordingly without having to go back to the desk is a really handy thing to be able to do.

I think having an interface designed for tweaking more than one parameter at once (which, with multi-touch screens, is of course perfectly possible) is an important thing...which ties in with what Olivier was saying. The way that something like an analogue desk allows you to grab hold of several things at once, or even have several people working on it at the same time, is something that's maybe a challenge to replicate in an interface that's limited to a relatively small touch screen...though one answer to that is to do what Beardyman did and have more than one!

I think in at least some applications, the lack of any tactile feedback is still a bother, but I think it's true to say that touchscreen interfaces offer some really interesting possibilities, and of course the more that tablets become household objects, the more sense it makes to extend their use into music making.
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