Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dave Rat Porta-Blog Dec 29 2011

Well alright, I guess I've been mostly offline for a while. I took a bit of a social network and thought sharing break to acclimate and get my head around the realities of this 18 to 24 month jaunt
Touring is a quandary for me and also like many things, I am really good at figuring out the exact same thing, over and over again. I love the travel and unfolding adventures yet I struggle with being trapped in a schedule written for me. I find it exhilarating to mix sound for the shows while the other 22 hours a day can be a challenging to fill with a level of usefulness that is remotely inspiring. The easy path is to dumb down reckless and robotically follow the itinerary. The magic goal is to find something passionately attractive enugh that does nt involve swimming upstream the whole time.
Anyway, I am finally feeling stable and clear enough into this tour adventure to start unraveling a few projects in the large scale audio realm.
First, I would like to make some headway on getting a grasp on the real world sonic effects of speaker cable length on a large scale sound systems. We know shorter speaker cables are better but how audible is excess length? How long is too long?
To tackle this, Rat Sound will be flying the main PA amp racks powering the K1 system this tour. This will allow us to reduce the main speaker cable lengths from the 150 feet I had in Europe to 50 feet. I expect to hear a noticeable improvement in dynamics. I have not fully sorted it all yet but hope to do some A/B comparative testing at some point as well where I add back in extra length to one side.
The second project is similar but will be a comparison between running analog signal the now 500' from FOH to the flown amps and then converting to digital via the L-Acoustics LA-8 internal A/D's. Versus converting the console outputs to digital at FOH, running digital signal the 500' and using the AES inputs on the LA-8s.
Since the LA-8 amps auto switch from AES to analog when AES is lost, the comparison should be fairly simple by just killing the AES outs.
In the meantime, I am mid plane flight to St. Barths for a gig in the tropical laps of luxury. Not my style and though these types of gigs are nearly always cumbersome at best for the us hired helpers, I do hope to get some surfing in. Oh, plus having low expectations allows the oppertunity for pleasant surprises to occur. I will send pics.
I have not forgotten about posting more info on my current sub setup, I will get to it soon

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dave Rat Porta-Blog Distilling Clarity

Hmmmm, well I came up with a very simple subjective method of comparing digi to analog based on what I once learned from asking a jeweler questions.

"How do you know a good diamond from a bad one?"

Well he showed me the x10 magnifier and went on to show me flaws in various diamonds not apparent to the untrained naked eye that we clearly visible magnified.

Hmmm, how can I apply this to audio? So I daiisy chained 10 analog console channels and 10 digi console chanels converting back and forth D to A ech time.

Basically a X10 multiplier of a common singular audio path. I found the subjective results interesting and confirming of my analog preference.

Being that my perception is subjective and we each tune in to differing flaw sets and we appropriate differing levels of importance to them I will recommend using this method to increase your awareness to the digital issues rather attempt to personally describe them.

Using this method to train our ears to pick out those flaws, the ones you can't quite identify but annoy, can assist in making improved equipment decisions for the application.

An experienced jeweler can spot a high quality diamond without the magnifier but first he/she had to know what to look for using tools that allow actual human eyes to see.

As we all know by now, the best specs in the world fail to trly tell us what something will actually sound like. For that we use our human ears hear.

Ok its' 5:45 am, I can hear the waves so I must hurry to catch daybreak surf. Wetsuit is still damp I am sure because I did not get it hanging up till 7pm or so. Not fond of putting on the cold wet wetsuit.

Weds morn and been home since Saturday, friday I'm off to Germany for another 3 weeks of Peppers. Gonna miss this bed and am really going to miss my gals and Rat family.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dave Rat Porta-Blog Belfast to Glasgow

Well alright! The MTV club show in Belfast went well, as expected. Enthusiastic audience plus Peppers in small room always equals a great time. Back to the hotel by 8:30 and can't get in, hmmmm. Wristbands to get into the lobby? Really? Yes, I have room key, whatever, got a wristband and off to find dinner. Awesome tapas, wine and some acoustIc guitar guys rocking, perfect eve and back to get some sleep before the chipper 6:45 lobby call, flIght to London.
Oh my, its party night and the hotel's five ballrooms blasting music till 6am on floor 2 and I'm on floor 3. Hmmmm. Ha, sleep is over rated! I can remember a time when I would have been more excited about this.

O2 arena in London, three nights of grandiose rock and I really need to start pondering a tour project of some sort. Something to come back with other than a wad o cash, ringing ears and a bunch o new stories and friends. Not that I don't enjoy those, I just want a grander story.
I love the shows, from set change till after show dinner, I am all good, its the other 20 hours a day I find challenge with.
Challenge lull. The tour has reached a smooth roll, most of the rough edges ironed out so the overall mood shifts from the thrill of creating, learning and refining into focusing on consistency and repeating. Solutions and exploration have been traded for problem prevention. The production humans begin to hit stride with their goals of trimming costs and shaving every minute off load outs. Creativity still flows on the band side and the light and video show remains in a state of adding unique looks to the nearly endless list off songs. Meanwhile the rest of the machine settles into that confidence and comfort zone of predictability that I enjoy about as much as watching paint dry. Oh how I crave some chaos and not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
And once again I look to grab a perspective as to not spiral off, "where am I at in the cycle?" ah yes, ny tattoos remind me: monkey phase transitions to rat phase. Again.

And hello Glasgow! Gonna get my winter shorts on and going to head out and about for a bit of a wander.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dave Rat Porta-Blog Belfast - Smooth Running

One of the the things I strive for is sonic consistency from show to show, worldwide. To achieve this it is critical to work with the backline techs to assure a consistent volume and tone. Once they find a good sound, I have them mark the settings, take photos and I photo as well. Then if we drift, we have a reference point. Furthermore I ask them to let me know whenever changes need to be made on their end like new guiitars, new pedals or any other factor that can affect the sound I get.

Next I lock in my console settings. I avoid any gain amp changes any major eq changes. That way I can look at my input meters and know if things changed from the stage end.

So, if all works as planned, the only changes I make from show to show are my system EQ stting to tune the room.

And today is a great example of things working as planned. I went from an arena rig with 32 box K1 rig plus side hangs, rear hangs and 32 SB28s last show to 12 dV-dosc and 8 SB218 a side in a club. A few minor tweaks to tune out the higher room resonance and all good.

The way I see it, the closer I get things to autopilot, the less I do, the better job I am doing and the leass to go wrong. Now if I can just keep this pile. Knobs locked in for the next 18 months or so, all good.

Oh, and this hour long MTV club show in Belfast is going to go off, I can just feel the excitement in the crowd and band. I remember playing this place back on I believe the very first Peppers overseas tour I did with them over 2 decades ago. Back when armored personnel carriers patrolled the streets here with machine gun weilding cops walking back to back. Oh how its changed and great to be back.

Mixing Consoles are never thirsty

2 weeks ago - Rotterdam
A large plastic cup following airborne liquid traversing what seemed to be a slow motion high arc through the air comes crashing down dead center on the console and the cool liquid splashes across my chest. Beer bombs away and instantly the full sound system mutes. Silence in a world dependent on sound. Red and yellow lights scatter across the channels as a spontaneous roar of 'boo' erupts from the audience. Bummer.
Hmmm, and after an instant of contemplation, I start chasing unmute buttons around the console just long enough to get drums, bass, guit, vox back online for a huge goose bump spontaneous cheer when a secondary failure then takes out the Midas H3000 computer crashing the VCA's.
Boooooo! Almost like it has turned into a sporting event.
Aaaarg! Towels are useless to the liquid disappearing down every swItch and fader crevice it can find. What now? Oh wait, the "mute - fdr - auto" bypass buttons. I shout to Jim, help me punch these three on every channel and 150 buttons later a soccer goal Yaaaaaay erupts.
Crunch crunch, crackle, ah man. I had sent for a can of air and between chasing the randomly lighting mutes and PFL's, I was using the compressed air to blow residual beer through to at least get the bummout to stabilize sooner. Crunch crackle and next up is bye bye subgroups, running the channels direct to left/right keeps the crackle at bay to a reasonably inaudible background noise. And then the song ends. How funny was it that they were playing "Can't Stop" as the band blazes on through the chaos.
So what now, we are up and running future stability unknown, no groups, no comps, no VCA's but its making sound and though raw, I still have a usable mix.
Ok, keep rolling. The band hasn't missed a beat, heck I don't thing they even know. Now I just need a back up plan. Tim has has no spare mixes on the monitor console but we could pull a feed from the recording desk, will need wires, humans and time though. If the console keeps running all good, don't stop the band.
With no new traumas arising I refocus on getting the mix refined, without compressors I am chasing volumes on every song. When in doubt, turn it up. Pushing hotter volumes leves gets me into the system limiters and at least I get some level buffering on the raw dynamics.
And all in all, the issues were contained to a couple of songs and considering worst case scenarios, we faired fairly well. The massive enthusiasm of the Dutch fans most likely is what inspired the spontaneous beer tossing as well as carries the momentum of the show thrugh the issues created by the unfortunate landing zone.
The Fallout
The next show production had another console on site for me as we had no idea how usable the wet board would be. Plan of action was to pull all the known bad group strips, wipe them down, fire up the board and replace them on at a time, test, repeat. Since the board dried out, and after cleaning, only two channels were faulty.
Next we robbed channels from the spare desk to make sure the issue was channel related and not from the beer drenched motherboard below. Usually liquid issues will make themselves visible by creating white powdery corrosion between traces or compinents on the circuIt board. I faound a few more, wiped them down with isopropyl alcohol and got all but one strip up and running. The last strip refused to stop crackling though.
Last resort, the alcohol wash. I dumped a quater bottle of alcohol saturating both sides of the circuit board and scrubbed it down with what was my toothbrush. Next we got to dry it out. Shake it and swinging it in a big arc gets most of the liquid off. I had ordered 6 cans of compressed air and JIm and I sprayed each can till it froze up and grabbed new cans. it is surprisingly tough to dry off a wet circuit board.
Finally, in it goes, power up and Yay! We got ourselves a working console and a big smile because Jim and I were not looking forward to re patching my kluge of looms and copying the 500 or so knob setting over to a temporary console.
If only I had my mixing tigers, they would have defended the board from the attacking beer. As much as I want to avaoid issues, I must say I do appreciate the challenges and love it when life is not boring!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dave Rat Blog - Getting Stepped On!

Well we had great time on the first tour leg.
I was way busier than expected so lagged a bit blogging, though I do keep up on facebook and twitter posts. Will try and focus more on mini blog posts and see how that works for me.
So as we start up leg two and looking at my notes, thought I'd share how we handled a wireless reception issue for the band in-ears we encountered.
It first showed up at the prouction rehearsals and we dived in to solving it in Cologne early October.
Turns out that video stages with LED video embedded, make RF noise. Lots of noise. So much noise that if you do an in-ear belt pack scan while standing on the stage while is powered on, there are 0 frequencies open, power down the stage and we get tons of open frequencies. Plus the artists are standing on the video screen so they are way closer to it than they are to the transmission antenna's.
We were able to make the jump from total bummer to pretty good and here is what we did:
Switched from 500mhz 25mw transmitter Senn G3 units to 700mhz 50mw 2000 series units - we measures the RF from the stage and is a bit worse at lower frequencies, the higher frequency units run at a higher power helps a bit.
Moved the transmitter antenna closer to the stage as every bit of distance reduction helps.
We scan for clear frequencies from the middle of the venue, away from the stage, so the units can actually see give us more than 0 open channels.
Swapped out to a lower loss cable between the transmitters and antenna
What is still on the list if issues recur:
Obtain the shortest possible 50ohm super low loss cable that will reach.
Eliminate the BNC to Coax adapter we now need to hit the antenna by getting cables with the proper ends. Every connection has loss we can not afford to have.
Add a higher power 100mw antenna power booster in line
Possibly put an antenna o the far side of stage dedicated to Flea.
When we get to the US, we will re address but for not we seem to be stable.
The pic of the spikey antenna is from when Tait Towers send a tech (other pic) out to analyze and help address the issues. Thank you Tait! Its cool to see the company that makes the stage interested in tackling the issue and helping.
Oh, and hello Dublin tonigh, the shows here always rock!
Dave Rat

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dave Rat Blog - Patience and Smiles

Fell asleep on the plane as it pulls away from the gate only to wake up two hours later freezing cold. Shit, why are the doors open? Why are we so close to the ground? Why is the airport still hanging out under the plane?

Just because they can't find source of a burning wire smell, we gotta switch planes? Whatever. Well, at least it so far looks like they are gonna get us out of here. Not that I don't love Frankfurt, only that spending a chunk o time in holding pattern awaiting a 'whenever' to leave is not high on my list of happy thoughts right now.

Last show of the first of 8 three week full production tour legs was yesterday in Frankfurt at the notorious Festhalle. The shows have been great and even losing a 1/2 song to a flying beer in Rotterdam could not quell the momentum. I am carrying a big and beautiful K1 system from High Lite sound in Czech Republic, that truly is a dream

Home. 12 days off hurray. See the girls, surf and all of my Rat family! It's official, Rat now owns the building in which it wiill reside! Hey, this is a major milestone for tiny little rebellious punk rock sound company from Hermosa Beach.

But wait, I'm not going home, at least yet, by some odd luck of fate, two Soundgarden shows fit perfectly in the tour break gap. So instead it's off to Dallas for me. Or at least that is what I thought when I closed my eyes on a plane 2 hours ago.
Dave Rat

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dave Rat Porta-Blog Driven or be Driven

Rock in Rio mix came in hot and solid. I stalled back at the hotel and skipped the 7:30 am lobby call near 18 tour-bus-less hours before the 1am show time. Sharp, fresh and clear versus loads of time to sort things perfectly., its a bit of a quandary as both sides have their challenges. Having my console and Jim FOH teching out here gave me the confidence to know I can do the rig tuning during set change and hit the opening song dialed.
The double hung Vertec added another fun level of complexity to mixing as well. I truly enjoy keeping things interesting. The only real issue I had was the Vertec did not sound quite like the my expectations. Softer and squishier, the low end punch was diminished and though I usually high pass most of it out of the flown rig anyways, what flown low end I was seeking, wasn't there.
I had Jim double check that all was in order, no system EQ on the vendor end and using all factory presets. It was not till I woke this morning that the cause dawned upon me. When have I heard this before? What is the variable? What could be slipping under the web of assumptions of a rig well tested?
I had a much smaller Vertec rig two shows ago and it really pushed well, I even kept my system EQ intact and laid into a spare graph so I had a starting point. Wait, aha, of course, this massive equipment outlay, the giant stage, pulled me out of 3 hours of hazy sleep. I think I know, I will bet that it's cable length! The low end punch is the first thing to go, squishy is exactly what 70 volt systems sound like as they are the extremes of long thin wires. Its pretty common to see large gigs where cables just keep getting extended and without the ability to A/B compare, vendors rarely notice or realize the issue.
As a vendor, the comparative reference is tough, but as an engineer, it's clear. Yet as an engineer it's tough to quantify the vendor perspectives and challenges that create these dynamics. And I know that back home at Rat, though we strive for short cable lengths, there are events where concessions are made.
All that said, at least I got a good grab at trying to compensate when I played my two songs to tune rig during set change and now that I have a solid theory on it, I look forward to doing a real world test fairly soon and see if I can distinctly recreate the scenario and gain more confidence that theory is correct. Fun, a project!
Cool cool, delay off today in Rio with a 1:30 am flight home to a whole different reality. My heart hurts to see me daughters as I begin to let myself feel again.
Oh, and tour surf trip #4 Rio was yet another success! And a bit about the pics above:
May I never forget the absoulute best night sand tumbling, MC, so great to see you and I miss the textabuse! How do they make eggs that don't need refrigeration over here? Chickens 2.0? Does Apple make chickens now? And finally, ok, I have an idea, gonna start beach hut and will name it.....
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dave Rat non-porta blog Rememories

I'll start with a shout out to our Peruvian surf friends Thank you and cant wait to see ya next time!

So I started thinking. Wow, have I been with Peppers a long time. Maybe 21 years and I still enjoy it. And then I started thinking, Hey, what was I doing 20 years ago this month? And then I realized that one of the things I was not doing was taking pictures but.... 10 years ago I was so, here is quick run down of this month a decade ago:

My shorties, Sammy and Maddie were 5, both playing on the same soccer team and both blond at the same time.

I stayed at that darn frogger hotel in London and walked over to Princess Di's memorial

I was in London mixing sound for the Bangles, whom I really enjoyed hanging out with

And they played the now defunct Top of the Pops show

And finally, my sister Tiffany took Jen and I rock climbing and as usual, she put me on something way more advanced than my skill level, and as usual, I used pure fear and hardheadedness to scramble up and try and not look scared or hardheaded.

So on to sound world.  It is near 8 pm and getting ready to head over to the Rock in Rio gig in a few.  It is the last show of the South America tour and I am torn between not wanting the adventure to end and being very ready to get home and pretend i am a normal human for a few days.

Though I have not shared much outside of tour mode, I have had a lot going on, primarily, Rat Sound is finally purchasing a building just over 30 years since the company started. It is a 21,000 square foot industrial space in Camarillo and we should be moving over by mid November at the latest.  I'll take some pictures when I am back on the same continent.

Ok, off to the rock show! Fun fun fun!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Noise Makers

I remember being in high school with long hair and the joy of being able to hide behind it. Watching the world I felt so disconnected from without its ability to watch me.
I've learned since not to be uncomfortable feeling disconnected yet still enjoy the disconnection.
Day off in Sao Paulo, Peppers tour surf trip #3 and rolling large. I love simplicity and freedom and also have no problem embracing adventures I love to remember. So a helicopter ride to a surf spot was an easy yes. Too cool, too fun and now fast forward back to the practical world of proffesional speaker wiggling, I am going to take a stab at a budget opinion tour of the popular sound systems I run into.
How do I ike this or that system I am quite often asked. Well, they each have their assets and issues. So in the least technical word I can find:
Meyer's Milo sounds solid and the top end holds together well. It has a processed sound so transients sound subdued. I like the sonic consistency rig to rig and like that I know the sound I'll be getting. I guess it drives like compact town car, a bit corporate, soft-ish shocks, but not a full limo plush.
JBL Vertec is tough to get not to sound raw and boxy. Midrange resonance as you can hear the composite construction overlay a cardboard like sound with splashy HF, yet it gets loud and works. Though they vary from company to company sonically due to amp and processor variation, they are strong utility systems. Also being able to hang more boxes due to the light weight can be crucial in some scenarios. To me Vertec is the "Ford Explorer of sound systems" a roughish but toughish ride and they are everywhere.
Adamson Y10 gets loud too and has a solid and rigid push. I also find it a bit raw, unwieldy and unforgiving. I would say it could use a more refined processor but would rather see the finesse in the actual box and component designs. I find myself chasing EQ as it sort of handles like a stock muscle car. Neither is it small nor light and is a real watt guzzler.
And on that thought I have decided I really do not like 21" subs. They sound heavy, slow and boomy, take tons of power and seem to spend most of theiir effort just getting out of their own way.
21" subs are kind of like building a race car and startiing with a steel semi-truck frame. So big and heavy you need a giant motor just to hit the same volume as more finesse-fully built race cars, and when all is said and done, they just don't handle all that well at all.
D&B J rigs bump it all up a notch. Well behaved, powerful almost in an alien way compared to their size and weight competitors. Crisp top end yet edgy. The partially horn loaded design makes it jumpy, especially in the mids. If it was an eq thing, it would be easy to fix. If I wanted a more aggressive sound I could see that jumpiness as useful. When was 16, my dad bought a used Porsche 912 and he let me drive. I remember the lurching forward and touchiness of the clutch, stiff shocks and power. Mixing the J rig reminds me of driving that car. Fun for the driver but can be a bit tough on the passengers so ya really have to stay on your toes.
And then their are the brown boxes. Maybe just my exposure, time spent and familiarity or perhaps that same reason I bet the bank and future of Rat Sound on them, twice, based on what I heard in the way those L-Acoustics cabinets sound. Finesse. Tame emough to hold a tonal balance at lower and louder volumes, yet dynamic enough to sound natural. I don't find myself starving for compression like I often do on other systems. When pushing the rig, V-dosc tend to run out of juice in the mids at higher levels while the K1 deals quite well with volume abuse. Its not just being able to get a tonal balance, its being able to hold a tonal balance throughout the volume range that sets it apart. Ahh, its almost not fair and oh so much less work.
And on that note, oh! I can't wait for the cool K1/Kara rig I'll be seeing for the euro Peppers tour!
And all my system opinions aside, I really have enjoyed all the techs that have been doimg all they can to get things rocking. Thank you sound humans!
Oh, oit took me two days two peck this into my blackberry between adventures and rock shows, Sao Paulo show was a blast, hello Rio two days off!
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