Questions & Answers

Live recording and post production in a small house of worship environment

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asked May 8, 2019 in Mixing by davidhamby1 (120 points)

Could a new Studio One variant be developed that supports long live takes, splitting the session recording tracks into segments to become "songs", some processing by channel inserts, mixdown, and mastering with basic automation? Simple is good! Let me explain our user story, use case and actors, and some background.

User Story

In retirement, I mix FOH sound and mix and master service recordings for a 300 seat house of worship having a relatively traditional service of spoken word, accompanied choral performances with soloists, and singer-songwriter music. We post the sermon to our website as a podcast so congregants who missed a service can listen online. We also master a CD for car play while traveling or home play.

Use Case and Actors

Our current approach is to use the Allen & Heath mixer routing to send the unprocessed sampled tracks to USB disk. I've used Ardour 5 for mixing and mastering for about 6 months and found that the UI was not really happy with MacOS magic mouse.

Remembering Studio One, I decided to give Prime a try. I import the mixer channel files into tracks (a single import brings the whole schmere into individual tracks). I divide the track set into service segments using markers and export mixdown between markers. I've not yet tried the automation capabilities. I like the magic mouse behavior, the Editor and Console views and the track time line. I've used the FAT channel and channel presets. The basic set in Prime worked well for us.

Being a small house of worship, volunteers operate the mixer during service and prepare the service recording for distribution. About half our volunteer board operators are retirees and about half are working but active in theater or related pass times. I'm a former EE, audio enthusiast, and submariner with an interest in recording that I can indulge. One works and is active in youth theater here in Norfolk. Another is a retired psychology professor. You get the idea. Widely varying backgrounds and interests. I'm currently the only person mixing and mastering and would like to use a polished product like Studio One that would allow me to enlarge the pool of mix and master volunteers. Simplicity is a virtue. Sound quality is a virtue. Keeping up with Pro Tools is not.

My current workflow is to capture the tracks off of tie lines on our Allen & Heath SQ mixer as WAV track files on USB disk. The captured tracks are imported using the Song -> Import feature with the whole group of files selected which brings each track WAV file into its own track. I add markers for the ranges like 01 Start and 01 End. Once tracks are marked, I set up the mix by soloing the channels I want in the mix, set up channel FAT for the track, and export mixdown between markers. This works nicely and this is an OK workflow. Others import the tracks into iTunes, add any missing metadata, and write member CDs.

Other than the high end Merging Tech stuff (Pyramix), nothing out there seems to have live field recording as its focus. Long take live recording is a different animal. Disk capacity, file size limits, disk throughput limits, and working with large data sets are issues not encountered making a 3 minute radio mix of a pop song. Our services run about an hour and we typically are mixing 7 or so choir and soloist tracks with another 3 or 4 spoken word tracks in the take.

One issue we have is that volunteers use their own computers for volunteer tasks. Availability of Studio One for MacOS and Win10 is a definite plus for us as volunteers have either and some like me have MacOS, FreeBSD (FreeNAS) and Linux about. Church computers tend to be hand me downs and our donated Macs are no longer supported for updates. Most personal Macs are kept updated. My older Macs become Linux boxes.

Market gap and potential opportunity

Education AV and House of Worship audio reinforcement are primary markets for our local pro audio companies and may be core markets for PreSonus. I assume that many smaller houses of worship are like us in their recording needs and volunteer skills. I think there is a market niche (large but cost sensitive) that is largely unserved here.

I would prefer that PreSonus offer a paid version priced below Artist for those doing basic live recording post session mixing and mastering. Even Prime's feature set is adequate if a basic project and mastering capability were added. We need plug-ins for mixdown and mastering (de-essing, plosive fix-up, compression and limiting, FAT channel EQ etc and not a lot more). Waterfall spectrum analysis might be helpful in identifying environmental tonals , resonances, etc. 

Artist adds a large suite of plugins and loops that we would not use. Professional adds more plugins and loops plus the mastering suite. I'm not sure I can justify the price increment for Pro knowing that a large slice of it goes to paying royalties to the loop and plugin publishers.

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