RECODING TECH­NIQUES WITH CAT COLE­MAN

WE TAKE A LOOK BE­HIND THE SCENES AT MU­SIC FEEDS’ LIVE STU­DIO SES­SIONS.

Australian Guitar - - Producer Profile - BY PETER ZALUZNY

Since 2013, Mu­sic Feeds’ stu­dio in Syd­ney has been a hub for live ses­sions. Some are recorded, mixed and shared around the world, but a whole lot more have been streamed as the band plays, un­der the at­ten­tive ear of free­lance pro­ducer and en­gi­neer Cat Cole­man. Ghost, Josh Pyke, Gang of Youths, Gary Clark Jr. and Franz Fer­di­nand; they’ve all passed through Mu­sic Feeds with Cole­man at the helm. The fact that th­ese ses­sions com­bine el­e­ments of front of house [FOH] mix­ing and stan­dard stu­dio work makes them in­ter­est­ing from a tech­ni­cal stand­point, but also some­what com­pli­cated. A lot of work goes into grab­bing the gig as it un­folds, while mak­ing sure that the au­dio and video streams suc­cess­fully reach your smart­phone.

How would you pre­pare for a ses­sion that com­bines el­e­ments of both FOH work and a typ­i­cal stu­dio record­ing?

I usu­ally leave a three hour win­dow. That in­cludes an hour for me to get in be­fore the band ar­rives and set ev­ery­thing up, half an hour for the band to set their stuff up, half an hour for sound­check, half an hour for them to play, and then half an hour to pack down. I also talk to their peo­ple to get a tech run­down, in­put lists, stage plot and all of those sorts of things, so in the hour that I have be­fore they turn up, I can set up most of the mics, lines and in­stru­ments.

They’re prob­a­bly closer to FOH, just hav­ing ev­ery­thing ready to go so you can drop things in when they need to be there, but util­is­ing all of the stu­dio gear, tricks and out­board tools. I have a re­verb send and a de­lay send set up so I can use them when I need to, I’ve got a lim­iter over the mas­ter bus as well, and I use bits of com­pres­sion on a lot of things – you’re out­putting to the in­ter­net, essen­tially, so you need to make sure you’re nowhere near that clip level. I usu­ally mul­ti­track ev­ery­thing to ProTools as well as send it out to a stereo mixer for YouTube or Face­book, so later on, if we wanted to mix a playlist of the best Mu­sic Feeds live ses­sions, I’ve got ev­ery­thing ready.

Is there a go-to setup for live stu­dio ses­sions?

Most of the first hour is used for set­ting up, so you end up mix­ing on the fly. When we stream live to Face­book, I’m re­ally mix­ing blind be­cause most of the time, I can’t ac­tu­ally see the band in the room. They might be set up in a cor­ner away from the win­dow, for ex­am­ple, so I’m just mix­ing what I hear. You can’t solo any­thing ei­ther, be­cause the stereo out­put of the desk is go­ing di­rectly to the live feed. But it’s fun, and I’ve been pretty happy with my live mixes.

What kind of gear chain is used to stream the au­dio and video?

I nor­mally go from the mi­cro­phones to the preamps, into ProTools to mul­ti­track it all, then I out­put each mul­ti­track into our 40-chan­nel Raindirk con­sole. After that, I take a stereo feed off the con­sole, which goes out to the in­ter­net and syncs up with the video through a video mixer and a Wire­cast sys­tem, which is the soft­ware we use to stream it out live. We’ve got some re­ally nice preamps in the stu­dio, some APIs, and Shad­owhills which are all out­board and stand­alone units.

Stream­ing sites can put some pretty heavy com­pres­sion on dig­i­tal au­dio. How do you make sure the qual­ity holds up?

All of my live ses­sions are recorded at 48kHz, and be­fore the stereo feed goes out to the in­ter­net, it runs through a lim­iter which gives me over­all con­trol. There’s usu­ally a fair bit of head­room be­fore it goes to YouTube or Face­book, too, just be­cause it’s bet­ter to be safe than sorry. But we did a lot of test­ing, es­pe­cially when Face­book Live was in­tro­duced. Most of the tests at the begin­ning sounded ter­ri­ble be­cause we couldn’t re­ally con­trol the au­dio [from their end], so we didn’t stream live to Face­book for quite a long time. But even­tu­ally some­thing changed on their end, and all of a sud­den, the au­dio sounded clean.

What other bits of gear go into mak­ing a live stu­dio record­ing sound good?

The mic col­lec­tion. We’ve got the stan­dard stu­dio range, some nice Neu­manns and some new Au­dio Tech­ni­cas. That range is a big plus. You also need good mon­i­tors – we’ve got th­ese great Fo­cal Twin mon­i­tors, and ever since we put them in, my mixes have im­proved 100 per­cent. But I think the best thing at this stu­dio is the room: it sounds fan­tas­tic, es­pe­cially for drums. There aren’t many stu­dios around with a big, great sound­ing room like that.

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