Brit Floyd 2019 Tour - RX100iii First [Concert] Use

After a shooting a couple of concerts with my Fuji X10 last year, I decided that I would like to get something a little bit better for that kind of work. These would be shows that I wanted to be able to get good shots, but I’d be shooting from the audience. And, the camera had to meet a few criteria and restrictions that would certainly introduce compromise. Long story short, the Sony RX100iii was the closest camera to the mark, so that’s what I bought.

Early this month, I finally got the chance to actually shoot a concert with the camera. The show was Brit Floyd’s 2019 US tour, and the location was Baltimore’s Lyric Opera House. I had good seats (though not quite as good as last year) in about the 15th row, over towards house right.

The resulting pictures are below. Some, I really, really like. Others are meh at best. The object of this gallery is to show what the camera could do with minimal post processing. Images were shot as the best quality JPEGs available and what little editing there is was done using Google Photos on line. As usual, clicking the thumbnail will open the viewer.

While I’m generally okay with the results, I don’t think I enjoyed using the Sony as much as I like my little Fujijilm X10. The Sony’s 1-inch 20MP sensor does capture more information than the 2/3” 12.1MP sensor in the Fuji, but the shorter zoom means more image cropping, and I honestly don’t think the autofocus system is as good. To be fair, though, I’ve been using the little Fuji for years, and I’ve only owned the Sony a few months.

Suzanne Cianni at the Los Angeles Public Library

I’m sometimes asked what, or who, got my interested in musical synthesizers, and I usually answer with Wendy Carlos or Dick Hyman or Andrew Kazdin and Thomas Z. Shepard. These folks were primarily known for using synths, mostly Moog modulars, to record reasonably well know classics or popular music. But, there’s also a fascinating (and sometimes disturbing) world of sounds that can be made with these machines.

Another artist I’ve followed who has been experimenting with electronic music and sonic design for many years is Suzanne Ciani. Her work varies, from very traditional melodic song to much more abstract sonic construction, and following her recordings and appearances can be fascinating. Very recently, she was featured in a series at the Los Angeles Public Library, using a Buchla 200e modular synthesizer, which was streamed live, and also made available on their YouTube channel. I hope you enjoy it!

Modular synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani presents a live quadraphonic performance with a Buchla 200e modular electronic music instrument.

It’s good to see that she’s still quite active, and quite excited, by creating synthetic soundscapes and music. Here, she describes her relationship with the instrument she’s made her own, and become best known for working with.

What got me started down this path today was stumbling across this wonderfully giddy appearance on David Letterman’s old late night show, back in 1980.

Here's my nine minutes of late-night (I meant early-morning) fame on the David Letterman Show when originally broadcasted on NBC. It was produced on August 14, 1980.

More YouTube videos can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=suzanne+ciani

Her official web site is here: https://www.sevwave.com/

And, of course, she has her own YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC34xeP4NggoqBPMYFEIJ5dQ

Honey, I Rebuilt the PA

Yeah, I know. I said I was retiring. But, 7Souls is being pretty successful, and I’ve been doing some “walk-in” mixing jobs of late, so I figured, “What the hell!” And, truth be told, I wanted something for the that would be easier to set up and improve on a few of the shortcomings of the current PA.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE OLD GEAR?
(asked my wife)

Those of you who have heard my PA are probably wondering what the shortcomings were. It sounds pretty darned good (if I do say so myself) in small and medium rooms, and I can usually go from walking in the door to having a band on stage playing in two hours or less. Well, here’s a list things that could have been better, in no particular order:

  • Power - I really could use more!

  • Inputs - I really could use more! We’re mumbing about adding more instruments to 7Souls (though no more people), and I’m already using all my channels.

  • Outputs - I really could use more! The XR18 mixer is limited to a maximum of 8 outputs, 2 “main” and 6 “auxes”.

  • Monitors - The little wedges I have aren’t bad, but since they’re passive, and I only have a two-channel amp for monitors, I can’t give everyone their own mix.

  • Inconsistent user interfaces - The software for operating the mixer varies depending on the device being used. The two computer-based “consoles” use a different program from the app on an iPad, and Android devices need yet a third app.

  • Digital Recording - in order to do multitrack recording, an external computer is required.

Soundcraft Ui24R digital mixer

NEW MIXER: SOUNDCRAFT UI24R

The first part of the system redesign addresses the issues with the mixer — increased inputs and outputs and a consistent user interface across platforms. After looking at everything, and having an opportunity to use almost everything, there was basically one choice that “ticked all the boxes”: Soundcraft’s Ui24R. So, I found a good deal, and ordered one.

The Ui24R has 20 “real” inputs, as well as two RCA line-level inputs and a stereo USB playback port, which is how Soundcraft comes up with this being a 24-channel mixer. So, I consider it as a 20-channel board, and I’m happy. I do like that I can stick in a USB “thumb drive” loaded with MP3s for break tunes or backing/effect tracks and not waste a pair of inputs. And, I can also do a quick “board mix” recording to the same USB port (as long as I’m not playing back from that port). In addition, there’s a second USB port dedicated for use as a 24-track recorder/player by simply connecting and appropriate USB 3 thumb drive or SSD.

There are dual stereo main outputs (XLR and TRS), and eight AUX outputs. Internally, there are four effects busses and a couple of additional virtual AUX busses.

But wait, there’s more! A USB-B port does allow connection of a computer, so the mixer can be used as an interface for a DAW like Cubase, Sonar, or Logic Pro in a studio environment. There’s a built-in HDMI port and an additional pair of USB ports so a monitor (or touchscreen), keyboard and mouse can be directly connected. And, there is a pair of ethernet ports for network connections and “future expansion” (we’ll touch on that later), and an assignable footswitch jack. Close inspection of the side view also reveals a removable panel.

The mixer has excellent Lexicon and dbx internal effects processors. Each channel sports parametric EQ with RTA, a gate, and compression. Each output also has compression, graphic EQ, as well as dbx feedback suppression.

Soundcraft Ui web interface on Acer Chromebook R11

No special software, past a modern web browser, is required to control the mixer. Here, it’s running on an Acer Chromebook R11, and while the screen is small, the UI is quite usable. In fact, when we debuted the mixer at a show a couple of weeks back, I handled monitor mixing for myself and the drummer with this little machine in “presentation” mode, while the FOH engineer used one of my 19.5” touchscreen “consoles” for the main mix and front-line monitor chores.

I’m working in what is referred to as “Big D” mode (for “big display”). Soundcraft says that this requires a 1920x1080 display to work correctly, but I’ve found that the Chrome browser can be scaled so that the presentation fits on lower resolution displays. It’s definitely a “your mileage may vary” kind of thing, but it works quite well for me.

I did find that the Raspberry Pi does not play well with the Ui’s web interface. Firefox crashed repeatedly, and Chromium just plain failed to load, so I’ve upgraded the computers behind the larger consoles to Asus Chromebox 3s. They fully support the Asus VT207n monitors, which the Pis did not, so there’s now full multitouch control — helpful when setting up the parametric EQ or trying to move more than one fader at once.

All of the screens are pretty well thought out and easy to use. I felt comfortable with the layout in minutes. At the debut gig with 7Souls, although the FOH engineer was familiar with the Ui mixers, he’d never used on “in the wild”. He took to it very quickly, and was almost an expert by the end of the first set.

As you can see, there’s a lot of depth to this mixer. I’ve only shown some of the functionality here.

I mentioned that there is a second ethernet port for “future expansion”. Apparently, the future is now, and there’s a new version of firmware to load to the mixer that will allow these ports to be used to link a pair of Ui24R mixers together, making a single 48-channel mixer. Beyond being told by some of the beta testers that it works, and works well, I don’t yet know any details.

In my ideal world, this linking would also extend to the smaller Ui mixers, but I doubt this works as they only have a single ethernet port. It would be pretty neat, though, to be able to link a Ui12 to the Ui24R. The Ui24R would be placed on stage, and be the primary I/O device, while the Ui12 would be placed at the FOH position, and allow for better placement of wireless mic receivers, IEM transmitters, and give the FOH engineer a facility for talkback and headphones.

Hey, a guy can hope!

NEW SPEAKERS: TURBOSOUND IQ

I probably should have bought these a long time ago, because they would have overcome one of the shortcomings of the Behringer mixer — the lack of sufficient AUX outputs. I opted for a pair of iQ15b subwoofers, a pair of iQ12 powered speakers for “mains”, and four iQ10 powered speakers to replace my existing passive wedge monitors. Two of the EV ZLX12ps will be retained for stage monitors as well.

One of my reps has been trying to get me to switch to Turbosound for a couple of years now, and a quick audition was all it took for me to commit. They sound amazing. The tops are plenty loud, and the subs provide plenty of thump, and it all sounds incredibly musical. The Turbosound speakers and inbuilt amps are coupled to a bunch of Klark Teknik DSP technology so that everything just works together pretty much seamlessly.

With a Behringer X or XR mixer (or Midas M or MR), you can feed all of the speakers via Cat5e daisy-chained network cables (they call this Ultranet), if you want, or simply run XLRs out, as your see fit. Soundcraft can do something similar with JBL speakers, but from what I’ve seen, the integration isn’t as tight. Part of me wants to keep the Behringer XR18 to use as an interface to bring the Ui24R outputs out to Ultranet, though Behringer does have a purpose-built device for this that would take up less rack space.

The new speakers will be arriving sometime this week, and they’ll probably debut at 7Souls’ gig in late February.

BACK IN BUSINESS?

Yes, this “investment” does mean that I’ll be accepting gigs again, but the terms of the deal are going to be a lot different. In the past, my rates were extremely low for full PA jobs. Going forward, my pricing will reflect the “going rate” charged by most of my friends/competition.

National Museum of the US Air Force

I finally got to do some serious low-light picture taking with the little Sony RX100 mk III at the National Museum of the US Air Force. I’m pretty tickled with the results, and I also look forward to getting back out and strolling around this amazing museum some more.

We only had a short time to spend, so we wanted to see some particular things. Even so, we didn’t get anywhere near seeing everything. The place is enormous! If your interest in US (and some other) military aircraft is casual, plan on at least a couple of days. If you’re like us, plan on at least four!