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HOWTO Pro AV Vlog

[Vlog] HOWTO Connect a MOTU AVB Device to the Avid S3L

TL;DR I’ve you’ve ever wanted to connect a MOTU AVB device to your Avid S3L, then I’ve got the video for you.

In the video I demonstrate connecting a MOTU Stage-B16 to expand both the input and output signal count, as well as how to record from the MOTU in addition to other stage boxes.

The process requires changing an internal configuration of the Avid S3L, but this is a simple one-time process that is reversible if needed. Once the change is made, it should be possible to connect practically any AVB device to the S3L. The process required some trial and error, and some help from the Avid forums, but it works consistently and I’ve used it for a while now.

Please watch the video, and let me know in the video comments what you think, and what other kinds of videos you’d like to see.

Categories
HOWTO Pro AV Vlog

[Vlog] Redundant Recording With the Avid S3L

TL;DR I’ve you’ve ever wanted to make a redundant recording of an Avid S3L (i.e., record on two computers simultaneously), then I’ve got the video for you.

I’ve played around quite a bit with the S3L and found that it has capabilities beyond those mentioned by Avid. Specifically, the AVB protocol allows for much more, but for simplicity sake, the S3L does not expose anything other than that which is needed to meet common customer needs.

One common need that isn’t addressed though is making a redundant recording, like when one is recording a live performance and wants to insure against a computer crashing or something. As this requires extra hardware, it isn’t something supported “by default”, but with the purchase of an AVB Switch (e.g., the PreSonus SW5E, or the Netgear GS724Tv4 with additional AVB license), this becomes easily possible.

Please watch the video, and let me know in the comments what you think, and what other kinds of videos like this you might like to see.

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Experience HOWTO Pro AV

Using a MOTU 828mk3 for Better Video Conferencing Sound

TL;DR I wanted great sound from Apple Music, and I wanted to add an EQ for better video conferencing sound. I didn’t want to change the EQ all the time. Configuring my Mac to use separate outputs of my MOTU 828mk3 was the solution.

I’m the manager of a globally distributed team, and I work with many other teams who are also globally distributed. For me, this means I practically live in video conferences – especially now as I’ve been stuck in home office for the last 9 months! Some of the VCs I connect to sound horrible due to low quality laptop microphones or reverberant rooms, which I find annoying as someone who enjoys good audio.

I use a MOTU 828mk3 Hybrid (connected via USB) as the primary audio interface on my work computer. The default L/R channels route out the Main Outs to a Mackie 802VLZ4, which drive my M-Audio BX5 D2 studio monitors and SBX10 sub. I also have a microphone conned to Mic 1. Despite being 9.5y+ old, the MOTU works flawless for me, even under macOS Big Sur!

Two MOTU audio interfaces
My MOTU 16A (for personal) and MOTU 828mk3 Hybrid (for work) audio interfaces.

Lately, I became annoyed enough with having the EQ / de-EQ / EQ / de-EQ process as I would go back-and-forth between music and VCs that I decided to do something about it. I had a “duh” moment, and decided to route additional outputs from the MOTU to the Mackie so I could have a dedicated channel for VC.

Steps to achieve my setup

Create an aggregate audio device. macOS has the wonderful feature of Aggregate audio devices, which I normally use to combine multiple audio interfaces into a single audio device. I started by creating a “MOTU for VC” aggregate audio device using only the MOTU 828mk3 as the subdevice. As I’ll be sending the VC audio out Analog 3-4 (output channels 5-6 on this device), I named them L and R so I’d have those names for references in the future.

By default, the device uses channels 1-2 for signal output, which route to the Main Outs. To change that, click “Configure Speakers…” to bring up the speaker configuration window. Select the “Analog” stream which supports the desired channels 5-6, and then choose the correct channels for the Left and Right speakers at the bottom.

NOTE: As I named channels 5-6 as L and R earlier, those channel names showed up here as well.

The final software step is configure Google Meet to use the “MOTU for VC (Aggregate)” device for Microphone and Speakers. This step also works for Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype too.

For the hardware step, I now routed cables from Analog 3-4 to channel 3-4 on the Mackie. (Channels 5-6 are the Main Outs from the MOTU 828mk3, and 7-8 are from the MOTU 16A.)

Mackie 802VLZ4

With everything wired, I can now set custom EQ and level values on 3-4 for VC meetings, and still have a clean signal on 5-6 for music. Problem solved!

Categories
Experience HOWTO Pro AV

Impact of Display Resolution on Lightroom Performance on macOS

TL;DR The display resolution on macOS can also impact Lightroom performance. For best results, leave it to the “Default” resolution (especially on 4K monitors), or change it to Scaled / More Space to use the maximum resolution of the screen. Any scaled resolution between the default and max can impact performance.

[Update 2020-08-25] In my testing, Lightroom Classic 9.4 appears to fix the issues described in this post.

[Update 2020-11-10] The newest release of Lightroom Classic 10.0 seems to be even worse than 9.3, despite its many “performance improvements”. Sigh.

[Update 2021-01-17] Lightroom Classic 10.1 is back to the performance levels like 9.4, but overall I still consider it meh.

I’m an avid user of Adobe Lightroom since version 1.0, and have used it on tens of thousands of photos. I’ve tried other software in the meantime, but always came back to Lightroom.

Starting a few years ago, the newest versions of Lightroom felt slower than previous versions, a complaint that many people on the internets have had. I too have had slowness, especially on my 2013 Mac Pro, and this became especially true once I upgraded to a 4K monitor. After a recent Fstoppers article entitled Dramatically Speed up Lightroom Performance, I decided to dig into the problem.

Unfortunately in my case, I’d already tried all of the tricks in the Fstoppers article, as well as those from the linked Adobe article on how to Optimize performance of Lightroom. No matter what I tried, nothing worked. I’ve found one trick though that I’ve never seen mentioned, so I’m sharing it in hopes that it helps somebody else.

Make sure your display resolution is set at “Default for display” or “Scaled / More Space”. Anything else can cause performance problems.

On retina and 4K screens, macOS doubles the screen resolution chosen behind the scenes, and then scales it down by 50% so that text appears extremely clear. The only exception is Scaled / More Space which uses the native screen resolution.

In my case, I normally run my screen at the non-default resolution of 3008 x 1692, which means Lightroom is rendering to an actual display resolution of 6016 x 3384. If I change back to the Default or Scaled / More Space resolution, the actual resolution drops to 3840 x 2160, which is 64% smaller. That difference enables Lightroom to render the UI elements much faster, probably because my graphics cards can handle that better.

  • software: Lightroom Classic 9.3
  • os: macOS Catalina 10.15.6
  • hardware: Mac Pro (Late 2013)
  • processor: 2.7 GHz 12-Core Intel Xeon E5
  • memory: 128 GB DDR3
  • graphics: AMD FirePro D500 3 GB
Categories
HOWTO Vlog

Changing the macOS Swoosh Automation

macOS Spaces are a productivity tool that allows users to have multiple virtual desktops that allow for focused work per screen. Anyone who has used Spaces has probably noticed the swoosh animation when changing between spaces. I use Spaces a lot in my daily work, and I find the default swoosh animation quite distracting whenever I change Spaces.

I put together a short video that reduces the distraction of the swoosh automation by enabling “Reduced motion” in the Accessibility settings.

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HOWTO Pro AV

Upgrading TC Electronic DBMax firmware

This post provides steps for updating TC Electronic DBMax firmware.

The latest firmware (v2.90) along with installation instructions are available from the tc electronic Music Tribe site. The instructions only describe using a M5000, which I don’t have, so I needed another solution.

[Update 2020-05-31] The firmware link no longer seems to work, so I’ve uploaded the dbmv290.zip firmware to this site.

The DBMax has a built-in PCMCIA card reader for storing settings, and which can be used to upgrade the firmware. According to the manual, the DBMax supports Type 1 PCMCIA cards with a minimum of 64KB SRAM and a maximum of 2 MB. Although settings can also be stored and recalled via MIDI, the firmware can only be updated via PCMCIA.

TC Electronic devices interact with the PCMCIA card as a raw storage device, and do not utilize a filesystem such as FAT. This means that the firmware must be copied as raw data to the device using software capable of doing so.

The solution I’ve found for copying the firmware to a PCMCIA card with a CSM OmniDrive USB2 Professional PCMCIA card reader. Unfortunately, PCMCIA cards are no longer common as they once were, and finding a drive proved to be both difficult, and expensive ($350 on eBay), but it works. Alternatively, an old laptop with a PCMCIA card reader should work, or with a TC Electronic M5000 (not the M5000X) and a 3.5″ floppy drive.

OmniDrive USB LF SD
OmniDrive USB LF SD

The OmniDrive site provides downloads for Windows which include a Software Driver (v3.3.4) that enables reading/writing of a PCMCIA card as a normal drive, and PC Card Manager (PCM) (v3.1.1) which enables reading/writing of a PCMCIA card as a raw storage device. The PC Card Manager is required for updating firmware.

To copy the firmware to the PCMCIA card…

  1. Unzip the dbmv290.zip file, which should provide a dbmv290.wiz file.
  2. Open the PC Card Manager software.
  3. Click the “Copy file(s) to a PC Card” icon.
  4. Select “New” to start a new Copy Job.
  5. Choose the dbmv290.wiz file as the Source File, and click “OK”. If the file isn’t listed, make sure file dialog is showing “All files”, not just “Images (*.PCC;*.PCA)” files.
  6. Click “Copy”. This should take <1 second.

To copy the firmware to the DBMax…

  1. Insert the PCMCIA card into the DBMax.
  2. Power the DBMax on while holding the “Help” button.
  3. Press the “OK” button to initiate the firmware upgrade. This should take <10 seconds.
  4. Power cycle the device.

That’s it!

Categories
HOWTO Pro AV

Testing Phantom Power

I’m the proud owner of an Earthworks M30 30kHz measurement microphone, which I use it to measure and calibrate sound systems using Smaart v8 from Rational Acoustics, along with a MOTU UltraLite mk3 audio interface.

Background

A few of years ago, I was attempting to measure a system, but had the strange behavior that after 15s or so, the signal from the microphone faded away completely, making it impossible to calibrate the system. I eventually realized that by swapping the 10m XLR cable I was using for a 3m cable, the problem went away.

As I’d used the setup without issue in the past, I assumed the issue was the with the particular XLR cable itself, but eventually realized that the longer cables produced hit-and-miss results, and that I needed to dig deeper into the problem. I also realized that I had always connected the mic through the console of the system I was measuring (to ensure I was calibrating the full path), but on this occasion I was calibrating directly with the interface as customers were expected to provide their own console, and only the system was a fixed installation.

As my father has decades of experience in audio, he was my first source for troubleshooting. He suggested that the mic had a high impedance, and that the 10m cable would cause issues with such a high impedance. Contacting MOTU, they also suggested that the mic might be the issue. The M30 model I own is a 600Ω impedance model which I’ve owned for 7y+.

With this information, I contacted Earthworks directly. After some discussion of the issue via email, Earthworks suggested that the impedance of the older M30 models might only be part of the issue, and that my audio interface might not be capable of maintaining 48V phantom with the longer cables. They provided me with a test procedure which I could use to verify my setup experimentally.

Testing

Phantom power test procedure

To perform the tests, I needed to build a cable. As I didn’t have a 47Ω resistor, I used a 50Ω resistor instead as it was close enough.

Rather than only check my UltraLite mk3, I set about testing the phantom power every XLR mic inputs that I had available to me at home at the time. I studied Physics in university, and doing experiments like this interest me!

The results below are based on the various document sections of the test procedure.
1.A. Measure voltage between pins 1 (neg) and 2 (pos). Expect 48V DC (±1V).
1.B. Measure voltage between pins 1 (neg) and 3 (pos). Expect 48V DC (±1V).
2.B. Measure current between resistor and pin 2. (47Ω resistor across pins 1 & 3; 47Ω resistor from pin 1). Expect >= 6.2 mA.
2.C. Measure voltage from above. Expect close to 48V DC.

1.A (V)1.B (V)2.B (mA)2.C (V)
Avid S3L-X E3 Engine48.2548.28747.59
M-Audio ProFire 610 (FireWire)49.4849.49748.17
Mackie 802VLZ447.3347.34746.8
MotU 828mk348.0148.01541.8
MotU UltraLite mk3 (FireWire)48.348.31541.5
MotU UltraLite mk3 (external)48.348.31542.16
MotU UltraLite AVB4949.05631.8

Results

The clear result was that none of my MotU devices were not capable of providing phantom power necessary to drive my Earthworks M30 mic.

After presenting the results to Earthworks, they informed me that they offer replacement circuity for the M30 to convert it from 600Ω to 150Ω. I chose to keep the microphone in its original state, and I instead purchased the ART Phantom II Pro that was recommended in the testing document. With the inclusion of that device, I have had no further problems with my setup, and I continue to use the MOTU UltraLite mk3 successfully for measurement and calibration.

As a follow-up, I contacted MOTU with the results of my tests. It turns out that all of the devices are somewhat older, and that their newer devices apparently have fixes for this particular issue. I haven’t had a chance to verify the results experimentally though.

Categories
HOWTO Pro AV

Avid S3L Remote Power On

The ICF recording studio where I do mixing for live video and internet broadcasts for is, shall we say, small. Due to its small size and the presence of multiple large screens, it can become quite warm, despite fans to help cool it.

ICF Recording Booth

To remove a source of heat generation, I moved the Avid E3 Engine outside and on top of the booth, a change that both made it quieter and much cooler. (Note, we use a separate console for recording our bands in the studio, so the E3 fan noise doesn’t cause any problems as it is normally powered off.)

Placing the device outside though means I cannot as easily flip the power switch to power it on. To get around this limitation, I did some research and found that I can power the device on using the Ethernet Wake-on-LAN protocol.

Avid E3 Engine

To remotely wake the E3 engine, you need three things:

  1. A computer that is connected to the same Ethernet network as the E3 engine. If VLANs are in use, they must be on the same VLAN.
  2. The MAC address for the engine. The MAC address is available under the Options > Devices tab and right-clicking on the E3 engine image.
  3. The IP subnet address of the network. (Optional,  depending on the software used.)

Software for remotely waking the E3 engine.

There are several software packages available to send the special Wake-on-LAN Magic Packet.

Mac

  • Wake On Lan by Depicus (Mac App Store, $1.99)
  • Remote Desktop  (Apple, $79.99) – Also useful for controlling the S3L-X remotely.

Windows

Command-line

For those comfortable with the command-line, a short Python script will also do the job. Save this script somewhere as wakeonlan.py and make it executable with chmod +x. Myself, I keep a copy of the script in my ~/usr/bin directory.

#!/usr/bin/env python
# https://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/95246/wake-other-computers-from-mac-osx

import socket
import sys

if len(sys.argv) < 3:
    print "Usage: wakeonlan.py <ADR> <MAC>     (example: 192.168.1.255 00:11:22:33:44:55)"
    sys.exit(1)

mac = sys.argv[2]
data = ''.join(['FF' * 6, mac.replace(':', '') * 16])
sock = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_DGRAM)
sock.setsockopt(socket.SOL_SOCKET, socket.SO_BROADCAST, 1)
sock.sendto(data.decode("hex"), (sys.argv[1], 9))

To wake my system, I call the  script like below, where 172.16.0.255 is the subnet of my network, and 00:90:fb:4a:13:9e the MAC address of my E3 engine.

~/usr/bin/wakeonlan.py 172.16.0.255 00:90:fb:4a:13:9e

Avid Stage 16

Unfortunately, the Stage 16 Box cannot be remotely power cycled without additional equipment. I haven’t set this up yet, but my plan would be to use one of the devices below to enable remote power on/off of the device.