The Importance of Fader Layout

The Importance of Fader Layout

One thing that I’ve found to have a disproportionately large effect on how smoothly my mix goes is where the faders fall under my fingers. I feel strongly that time spent banking / paging through a desk to find the right inputs is not time well spent in a performance environment.

Case in point: this weekend I mixed a show that, according to the rider, was a 5-input show featuring seated, stationary performers reading from scripts. The theater had an LS9-32 as a house console, and also an X32 Producer hidden away somewhere. I thought I’d stick with the venerable LS9 as 5 inputs seems like a straightforward mix, not something screaming for the use of VCAs (which the LS9 lacks). 

Downside: running analog copper. The venue has a few limited snake lines in the walls, most of which work, but they only go from backstage to the booth. The mix position in the audience is an island. So out came the copper. At this point I considered either hauling in one of my own consoles (but…5 inputs) or using the house’s Producer and just bringing my own S16 box from home to avoid running the copper.

The problem is that, of course, shows grow. I tossed up some front fills to fill some coverage gaps (more on that in a future post / article) and drove those off LR summed into a matrix. Because I’m an old school fan of the Euro layout, I added the FF drive to my custom fader layer, right next to the sub and L/R faders. Fast forward to after we’ve added an additional foldback wedge for the SM to call from backstage, a reverb return, a pair of inputs for Qlab, and a pair of RF handhelds for the post-show question and answer, and we end up with this:

Now I’ll readily admit that this is a crazy layout. I started with the main show inputs (Vox 1-5 and Qlab) in the center of the desk, and once I found out that the show had several cues where all the mics were taken out, I sent them to a group and added that fader on the far left (VOX). Out of the way but accessible. The RF talks are down at the end, faders 1 and 2. 

It’s a fine balance for me of having the important stuff readily accessible, while maintaining logical groupings and also making sure not to lay things out in a way that I’ll accidentally nudge the wrong thing.

A strict “euro” layout would place the VOX bus master over towards the right along with the output drives, but it made more sense to me to stick it on the left in its own little world. 

This is why I find the “fader fluid” approach taken by the Midas Pro series to be so attractive. When you’re stuck with a single fader layer on the LS9 – and one that’s not able to be changed per scene with automation, you have to plan ahead a bit more. And I’m glad I didn’t go with the Producer. Once you get into a three-tiered output structure (ins to buses to mains to matrices) the lack of scribble strips seems to unnecessarily complicate the situation.

I’d recently done a re-tune on the house system to bring it a bit more in line with speech reinforcement applications, and that clearly went well because I needed little more than high-pass filters on the nice vocal condensers (Shure Microflex MX418).


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