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Stevie C’s Blog.

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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…






Technical services for events, theatre, private parties, raves, discos, music production, weddings and charity functions. Tech Crew, sound engineering, on-location recording and mixing, PAT Testing, spot-op, cam-op, lighting setup and control, equipment service and repair, hire and sales, PCB prototype and circuit design, installation and consulting. Serving Dundee, Forfar, Kirriemuir, Arbroath, Carnoustie, Montrose, Monifieth, Broughty Ferry and Perth. Will travel further afield to Falkirk, Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh by appointment.