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UA Apollo (Quad, 8) Large Session, HDX-Type Workflow
Old 10th June 2015
  #1
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UA Apollo (Quad, 8) Large Session, HDX-Type Workflow

With the heated topics all over GS right now about Native vs DSP, a lot of questions were asked about how Apollo tackles a larger scale tracking session with a full band.

Alright, hypothetical session, the client is a six person band wanting to record a cover song. You have a drummer, bass guitarist, violinist, keyboardist, pianist and a singer.


Equipment:

For this scenario I will use a 2011 macbook pro, one Apollo Quad, a 16 channel digital mixer, a 6 channel headphone amp and various headphones and mics. Apollos can be daisy chained, up to four units, for combined I/O but I'm going to attempt this using as little gear as possible.


Software:

Again using as little as possible I will use UA Console 8.1.3 and Pro Tools 10 (native). Session settings will be 512 sample buffer, 24bit @ 96kHz.


Inputs:



ADAT 1: kick
ADAT 2: snare
ADAT 3: high hat
ADAT 4: tom 1
ADAT 5: tom 2
ADAT 6: tom 3
ADAT 7: overhead L
ADAT 8: overhead R
HI-Z 1: bass guitar DI
Mic 2: violin
Mic 3: singer vox
Mic 4: control room talkback (optional)
Line 5-6: synth keyboard
Line 7-8: piano

The drummer will be mic'd up via a digital mixer through the Apollo's ADAT optical in. The input gains will be set as uniform as possible so that the actual levels will be done in the software.

Bass guitar will come in the front through a DI box in the HI-Z 1 input of the Apollo.

The violin, singer and talkback mics will come straight into the apollo via XLR in mic's 2-4. Most facilities have a dedicated monitoring system for talkback but for fun, we'll assume there isn't one.

The keyboard with come straight in 1/4" on lines 5-6 and the piano will go through a couple of lunchbox pre's and get patched into lines 7-8 of the apollo.

Outputs:

Mon L/R: control room monitors
HP 1: headphone amp channel 1
HP 2: headphone amp channel 2
Line 1-2: headphone amp channel 3
Line 3-4: headphone amp channel 4
Line 5-6: headphone amp channel 5
Line 7-8: headphone amp channel 6

Straight forward connections here for playback, mixing and talent cans.


UA Console:

The Console itself only handles the inputs of the unit. Since we are going to monitor inside Pro Tools, the first thing I'm going to do is label my inputs and turn all the faders down once we get good input levels.



This is where we add plugins we want coming in. I'm not afraid to print some mild EQ and compression so on the violin, vox and talkback mic I added a UA 610 pre amp, EQ and an 1176.





Bass guitar gets a guitar amp plugin and a compressor. Keyboard and piano each get EQ and a compressor and each drum track gets an EQ. This session can be saved for backup but we will be loading this automatically in Pro Tools later.


Pro Tools:

Session will be in sections as follows: audio tracks, mix auxs, monitor tracks, COM auxs and headphone out auxs.

There will be an audio track for each input to record to. I like to make a selection memory location for easy arming.



There will be six main aux tracks for each member of the band per se. Drums, bass, violin and so on. Additionally I will make a reverb, delay and click track auxs. The inserts for the aux tracks will be light because we did most of the processing in the UA console but I'll add an SSL channel strip to our six main aux's, auto tune live for the vox and UA plugins for reverb and delay.



The monitor tracks, I like to make a Master aux and an Out master fader. Everything mix wise goes through the Master aux where as things like click tracks, reference mixes, booth talkbacks, will get routed directly Out. The Out master fader is where I like to put the UA console recall plugin that loads the UA Console automatically with the session when we enable the sync button. My metering plugins also go here.



COM tracks, as I like to call them, give me control over how the booth and the control room communicate to each other. Two aux tracks will get fed the mic signals from the singer and violin and a third for the control room mic connected to Mic 4 of the Apollo. The first two get an L1 and gate so the other talent in the room can be heard without huge audio spikes and the control room talkback gets a L1 and a compressor side chained to a tone track (hidden) to mute it during playback. It also gets an EQ plugin to mute the signal if enabled.



Last we have our headphone out auxs. There are six of these and will feed our various outputs to the headphone amps.




Routing:

Audio tracks are routed out to their matching auxs. All 8 drum tracks to drums, bass to bass, etc. Once there, all six mains, reverb and delay auxs get sent to the Master aux. Here is where the headphone mix comes in.

On each aux, there will be six sends, one for each headphone aux. These are set to pre fader and -6db so that they retain the mix from the audio faders and aux plugins, while at the same time giving enough head room to adjust levels individually.



The Master aux is routed to the main output of the DAW. I have mine setup to the Apollo's virtual tracks 3-4 and renamed "Pro Tools", which is output through the control room monitors. I have OS X on virtual tracks 1-2 so I can easily mute during sessions so I don't hear email and system sounds. The master fader is set to "Pro Tools".





The COM aux's are routed out to "Pro Tools" because the talent doesn't need to hear themselves and the control room talkback gets the same six headphone sends and the fader turned down because I don't need to hear myself.



The headphone aux's are just there to send the signals to their rightful recipient. You can route directly to the Apollo's two headphone ports on the front individually as well as the line outs, effectively feeding six different headphone amp channels. You can then choose to keep the levels uniform in Pro Tools and adjust their volumes on the headphone amp, or uniform them on the headphone amp and adjust volumes in Pro Tools. I prefer to hide these aux's and adjust on the headphone amp.




Workflow:

Arm your audio tracks, get levels and go! Using light native plugins, you can monitor natively at very low latencies. My reverb and delay auxs are about 500 samples behind with delay compensation turned off but during tracking, I'm not worried about those numbers.



The talent will hear themselves change while you mix as long as the audio tracks are armed. Since the signal getting fed to the headphones is at the aux level, their real time playing and the recorded audio mix will be exactly the same.

Using Pro Tools transport keystrokes while on the UA Console... still triggers Pro Tools. There are times early in the session where I can have the band practice, starting and stopping recording and playback, all from the Console screen.

I keep the booth COM auxs muted unless the talent needs to talk to me during mix down or other instances where the audio tracks aren't armed. If that's the case, i just copy over the compressor from the control room talkback for the auto muting feature. The control room talkback can be ignored since it gets auto muted during playback, unless you want to disable the compressor and talk during record/playback.

The headphone auxs can be ignored as well unless you decide to make volume changes here instead of the headphone amp. If talent wants special plugins or a totally different sound than the main mix, the plugins can be applied there.

Once the session chugs along, you'll spend about 95% of the time on a Pro Tools screen and alt tabbing (or dual screening) over to the UA Console for minor input tweaks.

Saving a template of the mix auxs, monitor tracks, COM auxs and headphone auxs means you only have to set up audio tracks for a new band, re-label things and tweak EQ. Takes less time to do that than for the drummer to setup his kit. The same band moving from song to song is almost no setup time as you can just import session data from the previous song minus the actual audio.



As far as recall goes, everything is stored within the single Pro Tools session file. The UA Console is saved via the console recall plugin. Headphone mixes are saved. Song mix is saved. Only thing you'd have to remember is the gain level you set things on the digital mixer if you had to re-mic the drums.
before...

after..


Takes me about 10 minutes from a blank template to a 15 mic setup dialed in ready to record.


Conclusion:

To sum it up, I'm recording a full drum set, bass guitar, violin, piano, keyboard and a singer each with their own cue mix, that's 15 inputs at 24bit @ 96kHz, all monitored at low latency, talkback for the booth and the control room with auto mutes, EQs, compression, reverb, delay, auto tune, all recallable from one session file... and I'm only at 15% native CPU usage and 90% DSP usage on a 2011 macbook pro with Pro Tools 10 (native) and one Apollo Quad.



Plenty of room for more native plugins as the session goes or rearrange things to free up DSP. I for one never use 96kHz so that alone would free up resources running a session at 44.1 or 48kHz. Having the Apollo take the brunt of the the plugin duties frees up the native CPU to be able to run at low buffers to monitor with low latency. Adding more Apollos or using a desktop computer will only increase power and flexibility even further.

On a side note, I much rather this hybrid approach. I can technically run this same setup with any DAW with close to the same performance. Oh, and it's rock solid. Not a single crash, not even going to knock on wood!
Old 10th June 2015
  #2
Gear Guru
 
jwh1192's Avatar
dude, you had some serious free time .. thank you for posting this workflow .. i will share it will a friend that has 2 apollo's .. cheers john
Old 10th June 2015
  #3
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Brian Campbell's Avatar
 

@ Claborn

Nice work and great effort to show your Apollo setup. Straight forward makes sense. Thanks for posting.
I'm curious about latency. In that example you posted the buffer is at 512. What's the latency at 96k?
How low can you get your rig running at 48k? How many tracks can you setup before the system cannot run reliably at a buffer of say 64?
I run an RME UFX with PT10 and track at a buffer of 64 at 48k monitoring through Pro Tools. I don't have the luxury of being able to print DSP based plugs like the UAD but I use hardware EQ/Comps on the front end. However there is a point where high track counts make it impossible to run at low buffers and monitor through the rig so work-arounds come into play.
Old 10th June 2015
  #4
Lives for gear
Claborn - what a GREAT post! I am studying it so I can also post how i would do the same thing using SG.

In the meantime I have a question:
I believe you are doing all the mixing and HP sends in PT so the DAW buffer is fully in play (right?). If so, at 512 buffer 96kHz we are talking A/D + D/A times + any Firewire or Thunderbolt transport times + 2*512/96kHz + any plugin delays (L1 is 128 samples at 96kHz). This looks like 12ms for just the Buffer and L1. I am sure you could run lower buffers but still - it appears you aren't using any of the low latency features of the Apollo. Am I missing something?

(I was writing this while the post above went up :-)
Old 10th June 2015
  #5
mpr
Lives for gear
 

Excellent post Claborn - one for the ages!

Unfortunately I'm camping in the mountains with my son so won't be able to fully digest it for a few more days.

I'll read it over again soon, searching for holes in my understanding and then I'll reply when I have more time.

Thanks again for the education. You've set the clarity bar up HIGH!
Old 12th June 2015
  #6
I've stickied this for now - it's certainly useful info. (I'm not sure I'd call it "HDX-type" workflow though!)

I've got a few comments and questions, which I'll post when I have the time to do it justice and not from a phone - but I'd also like to thank you for taking the time to post in this much detail.
Old 16th June 2015
  #7
Gear Guru
 
monkeyxx's Avatar
I do not think it's possible to record at 96 kHz over ADAT on a single optical cable. 44.1 or 48 K sample rates are your options here. I assume you are referring to S/MUX, but I am not clear if that is a separate format than ADAT or merely a modifying term. To be clear you are talking about ADAT S/MUX using two optical cables and both optical ports on the Apollo for this higher sample rate. The digital mixer would have to have the ADAT S/MUX capability as well.

Also you would never run a direct box into the Hi-Z input on the front of Apollo, that's two direct boxes in a row effectively. The direct box would run into the mic preamp input, rather than the Hi-Z input on that channel.

Just some technical corrections on an otherwise great post.
Old 16th June 2015
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
I do not think it's possible to record at 96 kHz over ADAT on a single optical cable. 44.1 or 48 K sample rates are your options here. I assume you are referring to S/MUX, but I am not clear if that is a separate format than ADAT or merely a modifying term. To be clear you are talking about ADAT S/MUX using two optical cables and both optical ports on the Apollo for this higher sample rate. The digital mixer would have to have the ADAT S/MUX capability as well.
thanks, yes, its adat s/mux
Old 16th June 2015
  #9
Gear Addict
 
plunderpot's Avatar
This is a great layout and info - thanks for the time and work @ Claborn !
Old 17th June 2015
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
OwDU7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
I've stickied this for now - it's certainly useful info. (I'm not sure I'd call it "HDX-type" workflow though!)

I've got a few comments and questions, which I'll post when I have the time to do it justice and not from a phone - but I'd also like to thank you for taking the time to post in this much detail.
Thank you both!
Old 27th June 2015
  #11
Gear Nut
 

Just to be clear, are you using Thunderbolt or Firewire?
Old 27th June 2015
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frantz View Post
Just to be clear, are you using Thunderbolt or Firewire?
Thunderbolt
Old 7th July 2015
  #13
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79_Limited's Avatar
 

Great post! Question are those headphone mixes mono or stereo for the band members?

I am looking at a similar setup but just need three stereo headphone mixes for the band members. Ideally the setup can used for both portable recording and for live shows.
Old 8th July 2015
  #14
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 79_Limited View Post
Great post! Question are those headphone mixes mono or stereo for the band members?

I am looking at a similar setup but just need three stereo headphone mixes for the band members. Ideally the setup can used for both portable recording and for live shows.
All six are in stereo and one unit can actually handle up to 4 stereo mixes from the UA console alone. But yes, this can be used in studio, live and it's a quiet setup when it comes to fan noise and thinking about using the apollo on film sets too.
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