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Using A Digital Console as a Controller

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by soapfloats, Nov 7, 2011.

  1. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    I am wondering how common this is?

    I recently got a hold of a Tascam DM24 on the cheap, and we are using it as a midi controller w/ Nuendo 4.
    I'm tired of doing fader and panning automation w/ a mouse - in general, tired of using a mouse unless absolutely necessary.

    For me, it's about a better workflow more than anything.

    However, like any studio addition that makes major changes, this has opened a whole new world of both possibilities and problems.

    A few basic insights:
    1. Programming the DAW and controller is hard>easy>hard, in that order. Once I understood the syntax, I felt pretty good - until I tried to add extras to the mix
    2. We had thought of using this both for a controller of the VST mixer, as well as cue mixes/routing. Starts to get tricky here... (esp since we use a FF800 and TotalMix!)
    3. When I can get it to do what I want, I already notice the advantages from a workflow perspective. The trick seems to be getting it to do what I want consistently on any project.

    I'll save the gritty details until I'm sure someone else actually wants to talk about this.

    Any general thoughts?
    Anyone interested in delving into the specifics of this topic?
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Prince George, BC
    Home Page:
    I bought a Yamaha O3D years ago for this very purpose, to control Pro Tools faders via midi. The moto faders were cool to impress clients back then. Pro Tools midi was really bad so it wore off after a few months. Someday I will get a nice controller that is dedicated for my DAW.

    I've thought about using it for total mix but ... I keep thinking I should sell that O3D because it never got used. Its been years since I tried it again. Good to learn you are being innovative!
  3. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    Well, it's me and one other guy (my tech guy). We're obsessed w/ what we do, and obsessed w/ making it profitable.
    We've done a lot of problem solving, building our own stuff, and many other things I never thought I'd do, much less thought I'd need to know.

    I'm just glad there's a place like this that has people of a similar mindset to help out.

    I'm thinking that w/ Nuendo and the FF800, I should be okay with midi (excepting the DM24).
    My issues seem to be more about the protocol between the DM24 and Nuendo, since some of the non-functioning elements once worked (panning and record enable).
    And I still need to try another midi cable, try a different reset/reinstall, etc...

    Anyways, just curious if anyone else was doing this, and might be able to provide some basic insight into uses.

    I'll problem-solve this one elsewhere for now, but I'd still like to hear more thoughts on using a digital mixer as a controller.

  4. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

    Mar 18, 2001
    Sunny & warm NC
    Home Page:
    Egad... I'm quite in the "Chatty Cathy" mode this morning with all the interesting topics of the day....

    What you're experiencing is precisely why I stepped into the "worksurface" realm of the Icon with SloStools. A fully integrated worksurface made/makes much more sense in the long run for not having to deal with stuff working/not working/working. But you're in the middle of issues, so it makes no sense to dwell on the "woulda', shoulda', coulda'" and get to the task of solving your issues, right?

    Not being familiar with the DM24 or the FF800, much less Nuendo, I can only offer some potential paths to look at... and you're free to ignore me as well! But in the PT realm, there are I/O settings as well as controller settings. These settings can be saved as either defaults or you can create specific set-ups based upon preferences for individual jobs/tasks. Obviously, there is likely to be a corresponding set of settings with the DM and with Nuendo.

    In earlier versions of PT, these settings were individualized for input, output, inserts, buses and latency. Is there a possibility that some of your issues could be coming from having to save individual settings in a similar manner for each of the components... e.g. the DM24, FF800 and Nuendo?

    Also, I found that sych (wordclock) routing also make a lot of difference in system action/performance... as well as the order in which I turned units on. (I'm not using an entirely Digi/Avid hardware solution.) IOW, if I turn on everything in the correct sequence, I have no issues, but if I turn things on out of order, I get things goin' wonk.

    In the world of emulators and software controlled hardware, it's become painfully obvious to avoid doing updates and upgrades until they've been out for awhile and any/all the bugs get sussed. Any chance that this too could be a culprit?
  5. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    Thanks, Max.

    Wordclock is in order. FF800 master, everything slaved, closed loop.
    I think you may be right about turning everything on in the correct order. It's a procedure I need to refine for every piece of gear.

    You also have a good point about the templates/settings/snapshots. I'll have to do this for different applications: mixing, tracking and cue mixes. I hope to combine the latter two, if possible. Haven't gotten to tackling that yet, as I'm trying to make as many operations as possible be handled by the Tascam for mixing mode.
    Then there's the issue of making the fader mix control TotalMix, and then having it return to the FF800 via ADAT.

    Finally, the unit has been phased out, and all of my software/firmware is older except for the FF800.

    Anyways, good looking out!

    Looks like I have some homework to do. Once I figure out a few critical things, I'll report back.
    I'm thinking the FF800-DM24-TotalMix dilemma might be illuminating...
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Okay so I have a DM 24 also. Unfortunately, it blew up. While I've considered the thought of getting a control surface, I'd want a comprehensive one. Unfortunately the more comprehensive they get, the more costly they are. If I'm going to use a control surface, I want it to function like an analog console. I want to be able to grab at what I need, when I need it, without having to step through menus or having to play with a mouse a lot. Conversely, a good friend of mine sold his Sunset Sound API console for a Avid C 24. Now while it isn't exactly a digital console, it does have microphone preamps. What I found rather amazing is that Bruce won't use those awful sounding Avid microphone preamps, at all. Instead, he utilizes API 3124's for all of his tracking and recording purposes. So I asked Bruce, " so you use the C. 24 as a control surface for Pro Tools right?" " No" he said, "I use the mouse I don't use the C. 24." If I was going to have a control surface, it better control everything, all at the same time. Digital mixer? Most of these control surfaces are digital mixers and most digital mixers are control surfaces. Does every piece of software talk to every digital console? Of course not.

    I did get a good laugh out of you guys talking about turning things on the right order. So, while I was working at NBC TV back in 1996, we got this brand-new digital board I had recommended I saw at the AES. The SSL ASIS air digital console which was similar at that time to their Axiom MT. OS version 1.0 and as you can imagine, the board locked up on me during the 6 PM news, during sweeps week (ratings week). The electronics are now in the basement of the building and I have to call maintenance to tell them to switch off and reboot the console. I remind them they have to switch it on in the proper sequence. It still takes the console 4.5 minutes to boot up into proper operational capabilities. Commercial breaks are usually only 2 minutes long during the news. And of course, the maintenance guys did not switch everything on in the right order. So 4.5 minutes into commercials, the console boots up, fully dead! I have to scream at maintenance again on the ICOM. Nine minutes later, we can go back to doing the news again. Do you suppose we lost our audience in those nine minutes of commercials? After that episode, they installed an analog Mackie 1604 in the back of NBC O & O WRC TV 4 to cover for the $150,000 automated SSL we had. And that was a nerve-racking and terrifying nine minutes to deal with in the middle of 6 PM news on the #1 flagship NBC television station in Washington DC. I should also mention that last year, that board was trashed and replaced with a Digital Calrec that still takes over 2.5 minutes to boot up. So after that kind of experience, it really makes you appreciate analog technology.

    Go get'em tiger
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    Soap, the RME FF800 can also receive/be controlled by a control surface. Are you having issues because the DAW is trying to intercept midi commands or conversely because the FF800 is intercepting DAW communication? I have one of the Mackie Control Universal Pro surfaces. It has been good to me when I bother to use it-read I don't do enough jazz/rock/blues to bother. Euphonix is probably the more often used option.

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