A Day in the City
This morning I mixed at Buckhead Church. Buckhead Church is one of our three campuses and is located in the heart of Buckhead in downtown Atlanta about 20 miles south of North Point. It’s a multistory building sitting on top of a three story underground parking garage. It really is something you just have to see because it’s this cool, big, unchurch-looking church in the middle of the city; although, I think it looks small compared to all the other buildings around it. You can get a look at what it’s like by following this link to a video at Buckhead’s website. There are also some other videos there of some of their other environments for your viewing pleasure.
The main auditorium seats about 3300 and feels pretty big. You walk in and the room is sort of a roundish room with the stage towards one side and a new carpet smell. The seating is fan shaped, but to me it feels almost like someone dropped this enormous canister in the building. Think lots of open air. When I walked the room this morning during my pre-flight checks, my feeling was the balcony might be a very cool place to be. For the height of the stage, the front of the balcony doesn’t feel that much higher than the stage and the slope of the seats isn’t severe. I couldn’t get up there during the service, but I got the impression you wouldn’t feel overly disconnected with the folks on the main floor, but you get slightly better sightlines since the main floor is flat. I had a couple of tall folks in front of me this morning during one of the services which made it difficult to see one of the guitarists. I think it’s a pretty cool room. There are definitely some challenges that I’ll talk about in a bit, but it’s definitely cool. It was interesting for me to mix there this morning because when I was originally interviewing for the gig down here, I was interviewing to be at Buckhead so this was almost my room.
The PA is all Meyer Sound loudspeakers with two Galileo’s for system processing. The main arrays are MICA’s(11 boxes per hang, I believe) with DF4 downfills. I believe the subs are 600HP’s arrayed across the front of the stage; I don’t remember how many there are, but there were enough that I had to turn them down this morning because I was shaking the camera platforms, too much. There are some M1D’s down in front for front fills. Digidesign Venue’s at FOH and MONitors.
The PA has had a lot of tweaky work done since the room opened earlier this year, but I think they’ve got it in a really good place right now. The main arrays were originally much longer, but when the builders put in the catwalk they put it in the wrong place so it was shading the balconies. A few weeks ago they pulled some of the top boxes out of the arrays and rigged them behind the catwalk as delay speakers to help with this. I was a bit skeptical of this, but when I walked the balcony this morning it seemed like it was working and the coverage seemed a lot smoother than on my previous visits. Like I said, I’d gladly sit in the balcony.
It was a pretty straight ahead morning, and I was sort of satisfied with the results. The PA gets pretty loud if you want it to which was a switch from my main rig in my room. I think I had my sends from the console pulled back about 10 dB for average SPL in the upper nineties. And like my previous experience with Meyer stuff, this was just where it was starting to get warmed up. There was also a level of detail in the rig that I’m just not used to. It was a lot easier to pick out the little arpeggios guitar players were playing, and the ghost note stuff on the snare was actually there if you wanted it.
There were definitely some challenges for me this morning, though. The biggest thing for me on the music side was the low end. It’s a big room, and the low end feels very loose to me. I was not happy with the bass or the kick. It was very hard to get any note definition; the kick and the bass just sort of rolled around. Another problem area was feedback. It’s been a long time since I’ve dealt with the amount of feedback I had this morning in the actual service. It was just one of those weird things because I thought I had it all dialed out from rehearsals, but in the 11 am service I was getting a lot of high end stuff of the lead vocal mic which really bummed me out. It just knocked me out of my zone.
Another big challenge area was with the Countryman for spoken word. I just couldn’t get it to do what I wanted it to do this morning. This is one of those areas where an assistant comes in very handy, and I was missing Luke big time this morning. When it comes to spoken word stuff, I like to stick a mic on my assistant, put him on stage, and get him talking to me. I like to send all my “lav” mics through a group. I realize they aren’t really “lav” mics, but the Countryman E6 capsule is the same as their lavaliere B6; plus if I had real lavs, I would be doing the same thing, but I digress. I stick an EQ on the group and ring out the mic there. It’s rare that I’m mixing lav mic types, and typically ringing one out tends to work for them all. The advantage I’ve found in doing this is that the “lavs” sound much more consistent from person to person, and I then have my channel EQ for any tone stuff I need to do. I’ve been doing this with the Venue graphic EQ for a while, but Buckhead has the Serato Rane series Parametric EQ plugin so I was excited to try that. I thought I had it roughed in after Wednesday, but this morning it was just a mess for me. This was the most disappointing thing for me this morning. I got lucky since the message was on video, but if we had had a live speaker this morning beyond announcements I would’ve been in a lot of trouble.
While I did have challenges this morning, I think they were more from being in an unfamiliar room with a new PA. These were things that I probably would have felt a lot better about if I had had another 2-3 hours to spend on last week. This morning was a great reminder to me for how much respect I have for touring guys mixing in a different basketball stadium or hockey arena every night.
Beyond the audio side of things, it was definitely a nice switch to only have to worry about one room this morning. It was also good to work in a different space for a change. New challenges are the best way to build your skills, and today was a reminder that it’s time to brush up on my feedback killing skills again because I’ve gotten too comfortable with the same ones ringing in my rooms. I hope this wasn’t an isolated weekend for me, because it was a lot of fun working with a different crew and group of musicians. But at the same time I’m looking forward to being back in my room next weekend.