I really have some awesome friends. No, really – I do.
My friend, T.C. Furlong from the Chicago area, owns a large rental house/sales/show support company. Already knowing about my recent transition plans, I was talking to him about how my entire mixing and engineering career was based on analog systems. I was telling him about how almost all of the touring industry was digital now, and I expressed to him my fears about entering a new major market (Nashville, TN) not having knowledge or experience of those systems.
Well, one thing led to another and pretty soon we had a plan, with help from TC’s General manager Jeff Cech who set all the details up. Since it’s a drive of just over 4 hours from Kokomo, I invited my friend Rob Moss, an audio-video guy, to tag along.
We spent 1/2 day with Mike Eiseman of Yamaha Commercial Audio. Mike is a former FOH engineer for Willow Creek church, as well as a former staff member at T.C. Furlong, Inc. He has been with Yamaha for a couple of years now and is just an awesome guy. He gave us a 3-hour crash course on the Yamaha PM5D – Yamaha’s most popular large-format digital console. This was the RH version, which has the recallable mic preamps. Yamaha’s console was designed from the ground-up to be a direct digital replacement of the PM4000 – one of Yamaha’s most popular analog large-format consoles. You can tell from the design, layout, and function that this is what they were going for. I found this console to be pretty easy to operate and get up and going on, once you get used to it.
After lunch, we spent 1/2 day with Greg Addington of Avid/Digidesign, who gave us a hands-on overview of the Digidesign Venue/Profile system. The Digi philosphy is completely different than the Yamaha outlook. While Yamaha was trying to retain the paradigm of their older analog system to ease the transition of the operator, Digidesign went completely the other way. Digi’s system is slick, polished, and very computer-oriented. If you have spent any time at all using a program like Digidesign’s ProTools, then you will appreciate the layout and function of the Venue consoles.
In essence, this console is one huge mouse or keyboard. There is no audio going through what we would traditionally call the “desk”. All the Audio I/O, processing, storage, and plug-ins exist in the rack underneath the desk. The desk simply gives you tactile knobs and faders which control the “real” console down in the rack. The Venue system is completely compatible with ProTools. With a single firewire cable, you can connect the Venue rack to any laptop equipped with ProTools and instantly record or playback the first 18 channels/tracks. (the 18 track limitation is a function of Firewire, not the console). For a little more money, you can buy an additional rack piece and record all 48 tracks live to ProTools on a desktop machine. Sweet!
The other big thing that the Digidesign platform offers, that some of the others don’t, is the ability to use industry-standard TDM plug-ins. This means that you can use models of classic tube compressors, vintage EQ’s, popular reverbs, special effects like amp and mic modeling, distortions, moogerfoogers, and even auto-tune (if you’re into that sort of Kanye West / T-Pain kind of thing).
I had an awesome time and it was such a generous thing for T.C. and the guys to put together for us. I am truly blessed to have these kinds of relationships with vendors whom I can truly call friends.