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Van Control Room
Old 27th April 2019
  #1
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DaveyJones's Avatar
 

Van Control Room

Hi guys,



I do a lot of location recording, from solo recitals to full orchestral/scoring recordings.

I drive all my gear around in a medium sized van and having done some recordings recently where the turnaround to get in, setup and the concert starting is all very tight, it has lead me to thinking about how I can streamline that process without compromising on the quality of the service.

One idea I had was to be able to run the control room from inside my van. It has more than enough space for my small rack of gear, laptop and headphones and I think installing a foldout table and putting in a small chair/stall wouldn't be too troubling but I wanted to see if there were any nuggets of wisdom the folks on here had to offer.

So what I'm specifically wondering is:
1. If only monitoring on headphones during the recording process, would you guys see any issues with having a control space inside the payload area of a parked van?

2. Cabling. Do any of you have any specific ideas around patching a multi-core AND a power extension reel through into the inside of the van while being able to keep all the doors closed.

3. Keeping warm? England is quite cold and the van's heating is only really effective when the engine is on and is restricted to the space in front of the bulk-head, not behind it where I'd be. Any ideas on that other than a simple plug-in heater?

Any feedback welcome. Thanks a lot guys and girls.


Dave
Old 27th April 2019
  #2
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
Hey Dave!

Steve tuning in...

I do a fair amount of location recording. I have used various types of portable rigs and mobile studios from stereo to dual 256 track captures.

Some of my rigs are setup as an all in one (rack) packages. My mobile units are setup as turnkey operations, yet they can take a bit more time to setup due to their park, power and setup needs.

1. Even with my portable rigs, I still like to monitor on my Neumann KH120A speakers. I also have a pair of headphones during the recording process. Regarding setup in a van, there's a fair amount of issues to consider. Acoustics, isolation from outside sounds, environmental control are a few things to consider.

2. It's all about the channel count. If you're talking about 20 channels or less you could keep it as an analog workflow by running copper snakes. Since I do large channel count dates, we usually run fiber optic or coaxial cables for MADI or Cat5 or Cat6 cables for MADI or Dante systems. We either grab shore power from the venue or use a generator near the mobile unit. I have installed various "mouse holes" around the vehicles to facilitate interfacing with the outside world.

3. A simple plug-in electrical radiator style heater works best for us. We also have HVAC systems on board the mobile units for environmental control for all seasons.







Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveyJones View Post
Hi guys,



I do a lot of location recording, from solo recitals to full orchestral/scoring recordings.

I drive all my gear around in a medium sized van and having done some recordings recently where the turnaround to get in, setup and the concert starting is all very tight, it has lead me to thinking about how I can streamline that process without compromising on the quality of the service.

One idea I had was to be able to run the control room from inside my van. It has more than enough space for my small rack of gear, laptop and headphones and I think installing a foldout table and putting in a small chair/stall wouldn't be too troubling but I wanted to see if there were any nuggets of wisdom the folks on here had to offer.

So what I'm specifically wondering is:
1. If only monitoring on headphones during the recording process, would you guys see any issues with having a control space inside the payload area of a parked van?

2. Cabling. Do any of you have any specific ideas around patching a multi-core AND a power extension reel through into the inside of the van while being able to keep all the doors closed.

3. Keeping warm? England is quite cold and the van's heating is only really effective when the engine is on and is restricted to the space in front of the bulk-head, not behind it where I'd be. Any ideas on that other than a simple plug-in heater?

Any feedback welcome. Thanks a lot guys and girls.


Dave
Attached Thumbnails
Van Control Room-big-bertha-allaire.jpg   Van Control Room-capture-_2018-12-21-22-15-59-01.jpg   Van Control Room-0617171246-01-01.jpg   Van Control Room-05-hasc-30-20u-rec-rack-01.jpg   Van Control Room-0727181001a_hdr-01.jpg  

Van Control Room-fb_img_1499283721720.jpg   Van Control Room-fb_img_1519851119435.jpg   Van Control Room-0728171853b-01-01.jpg  
Old 27th April 2019
  #3
0VU
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveyJones View Post
I do a lot of location recording, from solo recitals to full orchestral/scoring recordings.

I drive all my gear around in a medium sized van and having done some recordings recently where the turnaround to get in, setup and the concert starting is all very tight, it has lead me to thinking about how I can streamline that process without compromising on the quality of the service.

One idea I had was to be able to run the control room from inside my van. It has more than enough space for my small rack of gear, laptop and headphones and I think installing a foldout table and putting in a small chair/stall wouldn't be too troubling but I wanted to see if there were any nuggets of wisdom the folks on here had to offer.
I do much the same, though perhaps more of the latter, larger gigs than smaller recitals.

If the reason for wanting to work in the back of the van is to speed up the get-in/get-out, then (with a few caveats) don't bother. Having done this for many years now, all over the UK and other parts of the world, owning and using using de-rig setups which are carried in, the same set-ups assembled in the backs of an an ordinary car/van/truck/boat/train, and purpose built mobiles ranging from Land Rovers to 17T trucks (including various levels of semi-permanently rigged vehicles through to fully fitted OB trucks), the time taken to set up a derig kit in the back of a van, and pack it down afterwards, plus the time taken to run cables into the venue for audio and power frequently will take longer than simply carrying in and setting up a well designed rig inside the venue.

On the other hand, if you're talking about permanently/semi-permanently setting up the rig in the van so you have the control room set up, ready to go when you arrive, and you just turn up, run in the power, multi and maybe video cables, switch on and the van is ready to go, leaving only the stage end to be carried in and rigged then, afterwards, you pack down the stage end stuff, wind out the multi/power/video cables to the van, shut the doors and you're ready to go without needing to pack away the control room before you can drive off, then fine, that can make more sense. Though still not always. In some venues in the UK a van (of the arrive power up and it's ready rather than the build your de-rig kit in the back instead of a room in the building) can be a boon but in others it can be an irritation, and in some it's a serious impediment.

A lot depends on how much kit you usually need to use and how you've packed it/set it up to make rigging as efficient as possible.

Working from a van can be a great way to work but it does open a can of worms that you need to be aware of, which doesn't affect you when running inside a building and sometimes it's more trouble than it's worth. I've often found that it's far from the time saver one imagines it would be. Apart from anything else, moving between the van and stage end when rigging is time consuming at best and in some venues can be a real pain! Especially in venues which aren't used to people working like that so they helpfully lock you out or make it hard for you quickly to get between the van and stage. On small channel count stuff (<16-24 channels) in most of the UK venues I've been to, I'd expect to be able to set up in a building more quickly than working from a van.

However, some venues are really well set up for OB vehicles, with designated parking which sometimes comes with dedicated, usefully positioned, power supplies (carry a selection of suitable adapters as this is often on 16A/32A/64A or even 125A Cee-Form (occasionaly things like Cam-lock) and 13A isn't always available in the handiest position.) and many halls have tie lines from the parking either direct to stage/roof or, more commonly, patchable via a facilities rack somewhere (though the number of times you'll waste hours chasing out the buggy tielines often makes it easier to simply run your own cables! For which, again, some venues have sensible, neat, quick cable runs with traps, pipes and hangers. Others don't! (If you plan to use installed tielines, it's often worth a pre-visit to venues you haven't been to in a while to establish which lines still work!). Also worth carrying adapters to and from a few of the more common cable standards if you want to be lazy and use installed lines as in lots of places these terminate at the truck end on multipins.)

Quote:
So what I'm specifically wondering is:
1. If only monitoring on headphones during the recording process, would you guys see any issues with having a control space inside the payload area of a parked van?

2. Cabling. Do any of you have any specific ideas around patching a multi-core AND a power extension reel through into the inside of the van while being able to keep all the doors closed.

3. Keeping warm? England is quite cold and the van's heating is only really effective when the engine is on and is restricted to the space in front of the bulk-head, not behind it where I'd be. Any ideas on that other than a simple plug-in heater?
1. It's perfectly practical - been there and done it many times. Though see the comments above about permanent/semi-permanent built-in kit vs a bare van with gear set up in the back. Either can work but one is a lot more efficient than the other to the point that the 'other' can be more hassle and time consuming than simply carrying everything in.

2. Loads of ways to do this. Though which works best depends what kinds of multicore you use. (And, slightly, on the type of van.) Thin stuff like optical or even coaxial MADI cables or Cat5 type things and something like a 2.5 or 4 sqmm rubber jacketed mains cable might well fit though the bottom of the closed back doors (where they meet) on your van without modification. Alternatively, perhaps run them through the bulkhead into the cab (cut a little trap if necessary) and out of the window left open a crack (though cables dangling from a slightly open window are lot less discreet than the back doors and best not done anywhere that it'll draw attention to the van or compromise its security - ok in a quiet country churchyard or somwhere with secure/out of sight parking but definitely not one for where the van is on the road or in public areas.

Or you could get a decent body shop to cut a lockable cable entry flap and drop step into one of the back doors (nearside is usually best). Then you open the door(s), run the cable and then shut the doors again and can lock them with the cables still hanging out of the flap. Has the advantage that the cable drums can live in the back of the van and stay dry and out of sight of passing idiots. Or cut a hole in the floor, fitting a brush seal and a trap door somewhere where you can reach under the van to get your hand to the cable hole (common on older BBC transit sized vans). Though that does mean leaving the cable drum next to/under the vehicle and running a tail inside. (This all goes for any cable - audio, power, video, etc..) Or again, get a body shop to cut a small lockable hatch into the side of the van, big enough for you to poke your connectors and cables through. Or other options like fitting connectors into a suitable water-tight box outside the van with links through to inside. Etc..

It's worth knowing that in the UK there are regs covering types of mains cable deemed suitable for outdoor use so make sure you don't fall foul of those. Also some regs about running electrical stuff outdoors linked to a building's mains supply.

3. Given that the space you're working in will be quite small in cubic footage, it doesn't take much to heat it. An electric powered oil filled radiator works fine. It's probably the best way as it's generally all but silent and fairly energy efficient. Fan heaters are ok if you don't mind the burning dust smell and propensity for them to be dangerous if anything falls and covers them when you're outside the van. A separate diesel powered heater run off an auxilliary tank - or the main tank - can be good but isn;t completely silent. Roof mounted air-con is nice and if you want to use your van like this in the summer, you'll be very very glad of it! I've only rarely had trouble keeping the inside of a van sized mobile warm but it can be hideous in the summer without aircon.

Couple of other things - spend some time and a bit of money insulating at least the sides and roof of the van. It's not hard, just takes some time - iirr there are lots of things online in various forums, including this one about how to do it. You're not trying to build the DSV but some basic insulation will help keep it warm in winter, a little cooler in summer and (done the right way) will help enormously with noise from outside, which, in some locations can be enough to make even headphone monitoring almost unworkable. And wait until you've tried to mix in an uninsulated van in a hailsorm!

And make some provision for lighting which doesn't run off the van battery. (Though LED lights are pretty good these days.) Especially if you're doing a setup which needs to be packed down for transit. Doing that in the back of a dimly lit van interior is no fun when the building caretaker insisted that you disconnect and pull out your mains cables immediately after the gig and you still have everything to pack away in the dark. And rain/snow. (Those pull out awning things that fit to the side of vans can be useful there and you can get some types that fit above the back doors too - some even inside so you don't see them when they're packed away so the van looks more van and less 'interesting' when parked up unattended - and pull out to cover the space between the open doors or behind the van so you have a bit more space to work in under cover.)

And carry some kind of matting/doormat or steeldeck to put outside the door you use to come and go. In wet weather, if you're parked on grass or soft ground, it doesn't take long for a muddy patch to develop if you're in and out of the van a lot and you'll end up slipping about and getting mud all over your clothes and the inside of your van and tracking it into the venue.

You'll also need to consider how you get the cables from the van to the building - they need to be protected from the public and the public from them. Some venues will want it done a certain way, others won't care but either way, you're responsible for it. And never under estimate the resourcefullness of morons when it comes to making trouble for themselves and you where cables are concerned!


Oh and I don't know what kind of van you use, but working in the back of a van in which you can't stand up gets boring really, really quickly!


If you want to go into any detail that might be too boring for public consumption about any of this just drop me a line - heck, if you get the van right I could even book it!

Last edited by 0VU; 27th April 2019 at 05:58 PM.. Reason: De-typoing!
Old 27th April 2019
  #4
There's a lot to be said for being inside the venue (especially if you're a one-person operation). Being able to run back and forth from "control room" to stage without having to remember to lock up the van is just one issue that comes up immediately. I wouldn't want to be that far away from my microphones in a live setting.

A well designed and pre-racked kit (turn-key, as per remoteness) goes a long way to streamline set-up and strike times. For example, I have 16 mic-input system based around an RME UFXii in a 3U rack that feeds a Sequoia on a laptop. All I have to do is find a flat surface (or another chair) near an A/C outlet, open the lids, patch in the snake, plug in the USB and headphones and I'm on my way. I figure that would take less time than finding the right parking spot that gets me close enough to the venue to run my snake. For chamber music, I have a battery powered, 8-channel bag system with SoundDevices 744ts and Nagra Seven that are also pre-wired and just waiting for mic-inputs. (I've no idea why the image of the UFX kit is upside-down)
Attached Thumbnails
Van Control Room-img_0586.jpg   Van Control Room-57565157281__f9032c24-5f9e-4703-916f-ceeea61ca498.jpg  
Old 29th April 2019
  #5
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JCBigler's Avatar
Steve, I don't know how you do it, but you always manage to have such cool lighting on your gig pics. Mine always just look drag and normal.
Old 29th April 2019
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBigler View Post
Steve, I don't know how you do it, but you always manage to have such cool lighting on your gig pics. Mine always just look drag and normal.
It's probably simply the sort of aura you're bathed in when you work his kind of gigs ....!
Old 30th April 2019
  #7
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
More times than not, I visually massage the images I capture before they are published.



Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBigler View Post
Steve, I don't know how you do it, but you always manage to have such cool lighting on your gig pics. Mine always just look drag and normal.
Old 1st May 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
 

I did van-records for many years, small to medium music with and without film or video. My advice to the OP is go big or go home: if you do this follow Steve Remote's example and have the work professionally done. Otherwise what you'll have is still going to be some form of a big metal box with some gear in it. The other, possibly first thing to consider is do you get or are you likely to start getting the sort of work that happens in venues that are outside-truck-friendly? With clients who see that value in paying for that service vs working out of a corner of the venue itself? In my town virtually all of the real recording trucks are GONE, out of biz, sold off. That kind of sealed the deal for me, finally, since all those guys were crackerjack mixers with good credits and great gear...and they couldn't make it in our market anymore...?
Old 1st May 2019
  #9
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a bit different situation around here:
i cannot compete with the large broadcasting companies funded with public money but need to stay way above those folks walking to a venue with two softbags full of equipment - found my niche by offering a very flexible service with high quality gear, mobile but not built into a truck: there are too many medium sized trucks/vans within a rather small area.
at times, i wish though i had my gear installed in a small vehicle so i'm seriously thinking about using a very small car which i can park literally everywhere - would need to shrink/replace my desk though...
Old 1st May 2019
  #10
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by philper View Post
I did van-records for many years, small to medium music with and without film or video. My advice to the OP is go big or go home: if you do this follow Steve Remote's example and have the work professionally done. Otherwise what you'll have is still going to be some form of a big metal box with some gear in it. The other, possibly first thing to consider is do you get or are you likely to start getting the sort of work that happens in venues that are outside-truck-friendly? With clients who see that value in paying for that service vs working out of a corner of the venue itself? In my town virtually all of the real recording trucks are GONE, out of biz, sold off. That kind of sealed the deal for me, finally, since all those guys were crackerjack mixers with good credits and great gear...and they couldn't make it in our market anymore...?
It probably has to keep returning to the basic question of whether you are : A. harvesting multiple isolated tracks for mixing back at home or in the studio or B. doing a live recording AND mix on location (say for live radio broadcast, streaming live, or simply because you believe in the virtue of live to 2 track ?)

If it's A. you may have noticed the channel count for decreasingly small size SD and Zoom Fx recorders is growing by the year....so simple multiple track harvesting is getting easier all the time, and for that you could pretty much do so with sealed earcup headphones in the concert room itself. So forget the van....

If it's B. you pretty much need a dedicated control room (or van outside) in the concert room to be able to pull off a well-considered live to stereo mix (unless like Rolo46 you're a master with the MKH30 pair !)

The answer to this question will significantly inform your 'stay in the hall or stay in the van' decision making. A lot of people are opting for multi-track (SD/Zoom) harvesting these days....and into that basket also belongs the standalone mic-pre>interface> DAW people, those brave enough to risk the laptop computer on location vs dedicated recorder divide
Old 1st May 2019
  #11
Lives for gear
 

This is really a key factor once you've decided to do the truck thing. The successful folks in this world are multitracking for sure but might be making a live mix for broadcast etc at the same time, and that's the top priority. Then you do need a bonafide control room, and not be working on headphones. Anymore most of my work is directly for the people making the music, so multitracking is essential since I may not have heard much of their music (if any) beforehand and don't know their tastes. Almost always my live mix is for a quick demo of the performance, the audio tweakage comes later when the players can be involved.
Old 2nd May 2019
  #12
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hbphotoav's Avatar
 

I've found that, as 80% of my work is live reinforcement, my Midas M32 desk has become a really decent "center" for providing tracks (up to 32, via the KT USB interface and a Logic Pro X session in a MacBook Pro), a rough "house" 2-mix (onboard USB), and, several times a year, a "webcast mix" (usually incorporating house radio mics) from a stereo matrix out. Next weekend is an annual outdoor jazz band concert that will be primarily PA reinforcement, with a USB 2-mix for the director and a final mix a week or so later. I'm considering grabbing an additional M32R for backup, for use with a DL16 stage box for a more compact form factor, and occasionally for a dedicated stage monitor desk. At choral/organ/orchestra gigs, my primo channels still run in at line level through a D.A.V. BG8... but there have been no complaints about the quality of the onboard mic amps.

Works for me, with a couple of 2x4' folding tables and a pair of Equator D5s, in my little patch.

HB
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