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History of console automation? Can you live without automation? Dynamics Plugins
Old 24th February 2009
  #1
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666666's Avatar
History of console automation? Can you live without automation?

Just wondering about the history of console automation. Not necessarily recall ability, but actual real-time level / mute automation during mixing. When did such automation first come into being?

Can anyone list some excellent complex classic albums (complex meaning lots of tracks) that had been mixed without automation?

I cut my teeth mixing without any automation, sometimes having two people / four hands on the faders, riding things all over the place. Always a challenge, but when you got it right, the end result was just so happening.

Haven't had to do any ultra complex fader riding in a while, but may have to do it again soon. I'm wondering if my memories of not having automation are a bit distorted. After messing with DAWs for a long time now, staring at computer screens and moving a mouse around, the concept of riding faders SEEMS so appealing... but I am wondering if the thrill will get old fast as I know not having automation CAN potentially be extremely challenging to the point of frustration.

Would love to hear comments from people who either have or still mix complex stuff without automation. Love it? Hate it?

Old 24th February 2009
  #2
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666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by 666666 View Post

...When did such automation first come into being?...
This may be an answer to part of my question.... found this at the API website:

<<...1973: The first computerized console automation system for the control of fader levels... 1974, Developed and manufactured the first computer programmable console with automation of EQ, Sends, Pans and Faders (Total Recall)...>>

So if the first console automation came into existence in say 1974, I wonder when it finally became "mainstream". I suspect that if it was first offered in 1974, it was likely very expensive at that point and likely not many studios had it until years later.

Wonder at what point console automation was to be found in most decent studios... and wonder when it finally became an industry "requirement".

Still would love to obtain even a short list of "classic" albums that had lots of tracks that were mixed WITHOUT automation.

Old 25th February 2009
  #3
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Geoff_T's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 666666 View Post
Just wondering about the history of console automation. Not necessarily recall ability, but actual real-time level / mute automation during mixing. When did such automation first come into being?

Can anyone list some excellent complex classic albums (complex meaning lots of tracks) that had been mixed without automation?

I cut my teeth mixing without any automation, sometimes having two people / four hands on the faders, riding things all over the place. Always a challenge, but when you got it right, the end result was just so happening.

Haven't had to do any ultra complex fader riding in a while, but may have to do it again soon. I'm wondering if my memories of not having automation are a bit distorted. After messing with DAWs for a long time now, staring at computer screens and moving a mouse around, the concept of riding faders SEEMS so appealing... but I am wondering if the thrill will get old fast as I know not having automation CAN potentially be extremely challenging to the point of frustration.

Would love to hear comments from people who either have or still mix complex stuff without automation. Love it? Hate it?

Hi

Neve developed Necam motorised faders and automated mutes in 1976.

In 1974 they developed a microprocessor based assign system (long before the 8108)

Old 25th February 2009
  #4
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Rick Sutton's Avatar
 

I believe Allison automation was available before 1973. I used to get dB magazine in 70-72 and remember it being advertised. Also the Olive console was a very early attempt that was apparently before it's time.
Edit: After a little Google research it appears that the Allison and API were related?
Old 25th February 2009
  #5
You probably have to look at records made between 1968(Ampex releases the first 16 track Ampex 1100) and maybe 1972-3?

I think it was 1973 when the first 24 track was released? Even though the AES paper in April of 1968 speaks of both the need for machines that can record 16 & 24 tracks on 2 inch tape.

But i am pretty sure it was the 24 track machine that really ushered the need for automation. I remember reading something by Quincy Jones who said that it was the 24 track that allowed guys to track the individual drum pieces on its own track and the need for automation to mix it back together as one sound.

By the way here is the AES link of a paper that chronicles the history of automation on consoles:

http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=6208
Old 27th February 2009
  #6
History of automation other than that the first I heard of was the Allison, I don't know.
Before automation you either got everyone around the console and everyone grabbed a fader or you mixed in pieces and edited it together. I'll take an automated analog console anyday
Old 27th February 2009
  #7
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I believe on those early Allison systems you had to dedicate two of the tape tracks to the automation. The fader moves were read off of them, and I don't quite remember how updating the mix went down, but that is where the 'second' track came into use.

I just have simple VCA fader/mute auto and what I like best is being to listen from various locations with my mutes and faders doing their thing before I print the mix. It also allows me to listen to the repro head of the 2-track while I print the mix and I can hear if the effect of the tape requires further tweakage.
Old 27th February 2009
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 666666 View Post
Can anyone list some excellent complex classic albums (complex meaning lots of tracks) that had been mixed without automation?
Based on what Alan Parsons and David Gilmour had to say on the Classic Albums: Dark Side of the Moon doco, that album probably counts as an example. From what I could gather they were still running at 16 tracks, but 'all hands were on the board' (4-6 people at the desk?) and 'back then a mix was really a performance'.

God, I remember doing 8 track mixdowns of a Fostex A80 at college in the late 90s and wishing I had automation!
Old 27th February 2009
  #9
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vernier's Avatar
All the best albums are manual ..nobody liked the Necam and avoided it.

'
Old 27th February 2009
  #10
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Chaellus's Avatar
automation...heh who needs it..... (Evil Grin)
Old 27th February 2009
  #11
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robot gigante's Avatar
I could never live without automation. Gotta get those faders dancin'!
Old 27th February 2009
  #12
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oooh man i remember having to use Necam1 in like 91 92 because the DeMideo API had it still installed from way back in the day. That sucked !!!! i cant believe it still kinda worked. You would have to put "points" in the mix and then mix between those points, then "merge" the points if i remember correctly. The thing would read back mutes late, faders would not come back to the right spot after a move...

After a couple of sessions of having to deal with that i would tell the clients i dont care what the owner said the automation doesnt work. If I needed to automate the mix i would mix in sections to the 1/2" and then just cut the the tape together... much simpler.

There was one cool thing with Necam, its mutes where done with a toggle switch so you could do studder mutes like transforming.


louie
Old 27th February 2009
  #13
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lucey's Avatar
This would be a nice thread for Bob O to recount his experiences testing auto vs. freehand at Motown.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/667155-post38.html
Old 27th February 2009
  #14
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RCM - Ronan's Avatar
Its funny, I use automation all the time, but I think some of the best records I have ever made, I did without it. There really is something beautiful about a few folks in a room making a commitment to a moment in time.
Old 27th February 2009
  #15
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The first "production" fader automation I ever saw was from Paul Buff (Allison Research). It wasn't a moving fader, it was just a linear motion encoder.

I worked on Flickinger consoles back in early 70's and came across schematics for one of the boards. Dan Flickinger had worked out some basic automation functions for a console in his early designs.
Old 27th February 2009
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 666666 View Post
Just wondering about the history of console automation. Not necessarily recall ability, but actual real-time level / mute automation during mixing. When did such automation first come into being?

Can anyone list some excellent complex classic albums (complex meaning lots of tracks) that had been mixed without automation?

I cut my teeth mixing without any automation, sometimes having two people / four hands on the faders, riding things all over the place. Always a challenge, but when you got it right, the end result was just so happening.

Haven't had to do any ultra complex fader riding in a while, but may have to do it again soon. I'm wondering if my memories of not having automation are a bit distorted. After messing with DAWs for a long time now, staring at computer screens and moving a mouse around, the concept of riding faders SEEMS so appealing... but I am wondering if the thrill will get old fast as I know not having automation CAN potentially be extremely challenging to the point of frustration.

Would love to hear comments from people who either have or still mix complex stuff without automation. Love it? Hate it?

The truly classic albums were all recorded before "a lot" of tracks. Best example I can think of is Dark Side of The Moon.
Old 27th February 2009
  #17
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rouslan's Avatar
 

Was that 8 or 16 tracks? I know it was 2 or 3 years before Abbey Road upgraded their boards to 24 tracks. I ask because I've seen flac multitracks of DSM floating around the internet, and it was 6 tracks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheArchitect View Post
The truly classic albums were all recorded before "a lot" of tracks. Best example I can think of is Dark Side of The Moon.
Old 27th February 2009
  #18
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i don't see what the big deal is today about "moving fader" console automation, really ? with a PT mix 5 rig, and 32 DAW outs to my Trident series 80 I've got all the automation I need. if I want a sound to pan from left to right, i just assign it to a stereo out into 2 channels on the Trident.

i know you have the issue of your volume automation being "pre-fader" on the console this way, so it can really screw up your insert comp. threshold settings. but i believe in using a combo of both PT and as many hands on the console as possible for automation.

keep in mind that the power of PT DAW automation would have cost a fortune in the days when SSL and flying fader automation were the big thing.

i think today it's more of a luxury than a necessity. and if you really have the time to perfect and work on a mix, you'd be amazed at just how many knob and fader moves one brain and pair of hands can remember and apply live during mixdown -- kind of like playing a Chopin piece, and doing it perfectly!
Old 27th February 2009
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rouslan View Post
Was that 8 or 16 tracks? I know it was 2 or 3 years before Abbey Road upgraded their boards to 24 tracks. I ask because I've seen flac multitracks of DSM floating around the internet, and it was 6 tracks.
The track sheets in the "Classic Album" piece on that album were 16
Old 27th February 2009
  #20
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analogtodd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rouslan View Post
Was that 8 or 16 tracks? I know it was 2 or 3 years before Abbey Road upgraded their boards to 24 tracks. I ask because I've seen flac multitracks of DSM floating around the internet, and it was 6 tracks.
Those aren't "multitracks"
Old 27th February 2009
  #21
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Denny McNerney's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by headwerkn View Post
Based on what Alan Parsons and David Gilmour had to say on the Classic Albums: Dark Side of the Moon doco, that album probably counts as an example. From what I could gather they were still running at 16 tracks, but 'all hands were on the board' (4-6 people at the desk?) and 'back then a mix was really a performance'.
that's exactly how i remember doing mixes w/o automation.
it was a performance in real time, with a sense of satisfaction if you made it to the other side.
or... lots of edits like Lou said...
Old 28th February 2009
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyt View Post
Those aren't "multitracks"

more like stems
Old 3rd October 2016
  #23
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chambinator's Avatar
 

A link to a page that retraces the history of the Olive console

PME Records - The Olive 2000 Console

Heaps of cool brochure scans, and pics too!!
Old 3rd October 2016
  #24
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I remember making mix's w/ three people as the wheel.
1 for faders
1 for EQ's
1 for outboard effects

And sometimes you would have a 4th to ride two or three specific faders.

Was fun creating a cool mix.

Then I had an O2R.....was nice to automate everything, but that board sounded like crap. Only one thing could be adjusted at a time aside from faders.
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