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Sound Decisions Return to Bruce Hornsby:
Students Produce Concert DVD
and DIRECTV Programs
From the PowerBook generating the tones of a Wurlitzer electric piano to the PARIS Pro workstation recording the concert and the Pro Tools system mixing the audio for the DIRECTV special, the Mac was involved in every step of creating, capturing and finessing the sounds of Bruce Hornsby's appearance at Villa Montalvo.

"We have Macs everywhere," says Wayne Pooley, Hornsby's chief audio engineer and technical director. "Macs are the greatest. They're so easy to use and so easy to configure any way you want."

"I think there are nine PowerBooks and iBooks on this tour, between the musicians and our monitor engineer and our tour manager and me," says Pooley. "Bruce has a PowerBook onstage, I travel with a Pro Tools MIXplus system on my Titanium PowerBook, and we have another Pro Tools system on a desktop Mac at Bruce's studio."

At Villa Montalvo, Hornsby's rig included a PowerBook running Logic Audio Platinum and Emagic EVP88 Electric Piano software synthesizer. "With the PowerBook and Logic Audio, we've found a way to integrate a very expressive and authentic version of the classic Wurlitzer electric piano of the 60's into the palette of sounds that Bruce uses onstage," says Pooley. 

Wayne Pooley and his PowerBook G4

 
The PowerBook shares the stage with Bruce."Having used two Wurlitzers extensively on the production of Bruce's latest studio release, it became important to try to match the vibe of the Wurlitzer sound on the stage--without being concerned with carrying around a very fragile and finicky vintage instrument," he continues. "Basically, we've made it available to Bruce as a sound that he can play from a Korg M1 sitting on top of the acoustic piano or from a separate weighted keyboard off to the side, which fits in with his very improvisational approach to performing."

Hornsby's PowerBook also is host to some drum loops that use Ableton Live sampling/sequencing software. "The loops are triggered by drummer Sonny Emory, who has the ability to tap in a new tempo and "fly" loops in using pads or foot pedals," says Pooley. "Live's extremely good time compression/expansion means the loops will maintain their distinctive sound over a broad range of tempos. The band will be rolling along on one song and out of nowhere, Sonny will lay in a loop from some other song--but at the current song's tempo."

In The MIX
Pooley relies on a Titanium PowerBook G4 to run his Digidesign Pro Tools /24 MIXplus system, using a Magma two-slot PCI expansion chassis to house its dedicated MIX core and MIX farm boards. At Villa Montalvo, Pooley's Pro Tools system did double-duty, recording eight tracks with the sounds of audience members and providing 16 channel inserts to the Yamaha front-of-house console.

Pro Tools TDM and RTAS plug-ins handled signal processing tasks like compression, equalization and de-essing of vocals. Pooley's favorite plug-ins for live mixing include McDSP FilterBank and CompressorBank, the DeEsser in Waves Renaissance, and Metric Halo ChannelStrip, plus Metric Halo SpectraFoo metering software.

"Bruce's music doesn't rely on special effects, so I'm really focusing on tonal control and EQ," says Pooley. "I put a de-esser on the vocals, dedicate a compressor for bass guitar, and dedicate gates and compressors for drums. I'll put instruments like sax and keyboards in a group and use a group compressor on them."

"With Pro Tools on my PowerBook, I don't have to rely on the local sound system to have good compressors, and I don't have to carry racks of outboard gear," he continues. "It's pretty cool to get to a venue and be able to bring up 10 or 12 or 16 channels right away, complete with all my settings."


 
Back of the house consoleFor The Record
On both nights at Villa Montalvo, the concert audio was recorded to hard disk on the Mac-based E-MU/Ensoniq PARIS Pro workstation, with simultaneous recording to digital tape on five Tascam DA-88 recorders. During the performances, PARIS Pro audio engineers David Goldwag and Kevin Monahan captured the post-fader output from the venue's Yamaha front-of-house console to the PARIS Pro system, which was running on a Power Mac G4 with a 13-slot Magma external PCI chassis.

Three PARIS Interface MEC expansion chasses delivered 48 digital I/Os, which were used to record audio into the system continuously for almost three hours each night. A pair of 22-inch Apple Cinema Display monitors enabled Goldwag and Monahan to view all of the tracks simultaneously as they were recorded to a pair of 120GB IBM DeskStar hard drives.

"We burned 60 gigs of drive space each night, recording 48 tracks at 24-bit continuously for more than two-and-a-half hours," says Goldwag. "A computer that really belongs in an air-conditioned studio was sitting outside in 100-degree weather, recording all these tracks, and it really came through, which is a testament to the robustness of the Mac."

With Goldwag and Monahan taking charge of disk-based recording, Pooley handled setup and recording of the concert on five Tascam DA-88s tape machines. The eight-track machines recorded pre-fader audio of the band's performances directly from the mic pre-amp.

"On both nights, the PARIS system recorded all my EQ from the front-of-house console, and pre-fader audio went to tape," says Pooley. "In the mixing process later, I could choose between the PARIS audio, which had all the processing from my live mix, and the clean signal from the DA-88 recording, which went from mics to mic pre-amp right to tape. During the concert, I was also recording eight audience tracks to my PowerBook, to provide the SFSU students with audio for crossfades between numbers."

After Macs
With the Villa Montalvo shoot behind him, audio engineer Goldwag headed for Music Power in Santa Cruz, where he used a PARIS Pro workstation to break down the concert's continuous tracks into individual songs. Goldwag recorded his tracks to a 120GB FireWire external drive, which he shipped to road warrior Pooley, who was charged with mixing the concert audio for the DIRECTV special while on tour with Hornsby.

PowerBook G4 with Pro Tools"I needed to quickly produce some rough mixes for the SFSU students to edit to, working on the road with screaming deadlines to meet," says Pooley. "On a day off, I took my PowerBook and a pair of powered speakers, and I set-up in my hotel room and mixed 40-plus tracks."

"I didn't have any outboard gear, so I used a ton of plug-ins, like Analog Channel from McDSP, which models the sound of Class A vintage mixing consoles and analog tape recorders," he says. "My goal was to get the rough mixes pretty close sonically, so that I'd just be making minor adjustments to the faders when we got back to the studio. I saved the Pro Tools session to an EZQuest external FireWire drive that I could plug in to our studio system, and I transferred everything to Bruce's iPod, so he could listen to the rough mixes and figure out what he wanted to change."

Hornsby's studio in Williamsburg is equipped with a Pro Tools MIX3 system that's enhanced with one additional MIX Farm card, running on a Power Mac G4. The Pro Tools MIX3+ is outfitted with a Digidesign Pro Tools Control 24 console, which puts control of 24 faders at Pooley's fingertips.

"You've got a serious workstation when you combine a super-fast Mac with the three dedicated DSP cards in the MIX3," says Pooley. "The Control 24 is great because each of the channels has a knob at the tip, and when you switch to plug-ins, the knobs become the first 24 parameters of the plug-in. So for some plug-ins, you can get all of their parameters right there on the knobs, which is really cool."

Pooley plugged the 80GB EZQuest external drive with his rough mixes into his desktop Pro Tools system, and he and Hornsby got to work. "We've had a lot of experience with live stuff, so we can go through it pretty quickly," says Pooley. "We recorded and mixed a double live CD, "Here Come The Noise Makers," which came out in 2000."

"We rolled the Villa Montalvo concert down and made changes on the fly, tweaking and blending things a little differently," he says. "We spent a few hours making minor adjustments to faders, and then I saved the session to a 120 GB external FireWire drive, along with the audience tracks, and sent them to SFSU. It was a challenge to meet the DIRECTV deadline while we were spending so much time on the road, but the Pro Tools system made the job easier."

Return to Bruce Hornsby:
Students Produce Concert DVD and DIRECTV Programs

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