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Stevie C’s Blog.

What I’ve been up to…

Roadie: lighting tech, stage crew, spot-op, sound engineer, DJ.

Live Reverb & Virtual Soundcheck

w/c 12th December 2011…

“Any effects created before 1975 were done with either tape or echo chambers or some kind of acoustic treatment. No magic black boxes!”
 - Alan Parsons

As a group, we had to “unpack” how a project or research topic would be considered advanced, by which [I] don’t just mean complicated for the sake of complication.

The inspiration for this project came from an interview with Phil Collins on Classic Albums, an article on live re-amping by Lloyd Gilbert (Status Quo’s Guitar Tech, the Tom Jones Reloaded album cover - and a personal passion: re-amping & convolution reverbs.

Why?

As the man said, effects are/were created with echo chambers and acoustic treatment, while modern effects processors aim to emulate these processes. So, I wanted to use reverb effects in a live gig environment which were not the product of digital processing. I would need to feed a dry signal into a separate reverberant space - and then capture the resultant sound and feed it back into the mixing desk; kind of like how the drum track in Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” was generated.

I thought it would be cool to have a system where I could perform a sound check without a band having to be onstage.

How?

The project should have been simple enough to execute: after all, I had previously implemented each of the component tasks (multichannel DAW recording & playback, re-amping, convoluting a reverb, re-snaring/re-triggering etc) many times before. I had setup my Mac to feed audio into the instrument amps onstage; an upturned speaker on a snare drum fed with a heavily gated and compressed dry signal would act as a sonic drum stick.

The onstage amps and drums would then be miked up as per usual gig techniques and a desk used likewise; said desk would then feed dry signal to an AUX send - but instead of feeding a conventional reverb processor, it would feed into a powered wedge in the bottom of a stairwell. The resulting reverb was recaptured with an array of mics, spaced at various intervals for different wet/dry ratios and piped back into the auditorium and mixed into Quadraphonic surround sound.

Presenting

I had intended to be the first person in my group to present for once, and I wasn’t going to let the failure of three Macintosh computers stop me (My Mac died - it later transpired to be the HDD interconnect cable). When tensions began to run a little high, my college-wide reputation as a re-amp freak put just about everyone at ease. In particular, my party piece of the re-triggered snare drum really hit it off…

For the record: All Computers Suck. I was driven mad by Windows PCs for years. With a Mac, you don’t get any problems as with a PC, you just get a different set of problems. Computers appear to have some kind of “urgency sensor” that uses the importance of your task to determine how big a problem to have.

Time implications meant that I wasn’t able to implement my Gorillaz-style vox-on-TV idea.

Conclusion

Computer woes aside, I managed to successfully demonstrate my virtual band, live re-amping session and live reverb chamber. Although all problems were dealt with, technological constraints - at the time of writing - render my setup unworkable in a real-world scenario. However, due to the fact that I combined three individual concepts into one design, this should qualify for a quintessentially advanced system.

When setting up, I connected my iPod into the reverb speakers and forgot that the volume defaults to 100%. Two earfuls of Liam Gallagher at 10am in a reverb hall is just what I needed.

Future Work

Future work would obviously focus on refining the re-amp techniques in order to create a more sonically pleasing performance. It would also be interesting to develop a way of re-triggering a hihat…
· Use a DAW plugin to detect the transients of the hihat signal
· Convert the transient to a MIDI tick
· Use the MIDI tick to trigger a drumstick attached to a solenoid
Or something like that.
Remember, you heard it here first. Idea © 2011 Stevie C.

Pub Bed time…