User Story: Alan Elliot's Experiences Using the Avid S3 - Part 1

02-05-2015 02:01 PM

We have talked about the pros and cons of the Avid S3 system. As a result community member Alan Elliot reached out to us and offered to share his experiences of using the Avid S3 system.
Alan has been an Audio Engineer for over 20 years, working in both live sound and recording studios. As a live sound engineer, he has mixed over 2000 shows with acts including Ed Sheeran, Leona Lewis and Hedley. A Pro Tools user since 1997, he has engineered in recording studios across many countries, including the acclaimed Metalworks Studios in Canada. Several recordings he has worked on have charted internationally.

Originally from Scotland, he moved to Canada in 2004. In addition to working in Audio at Rogers and teaching Sound Design at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, he provides freelance recording, mixing, mastering and audio restoration services. Alan’s own musical compositions have achieved UK national radio play and European release. In a newly built home studio, he is currently producing original music as “The Eye”. Over the next 3 episodies Alan is going to share his experiences, over to you Alan…
Alan’s Environment

I work in a private 225 seat concert and conference Theatre located in Toronto, Canada. The Theatre has held performances and events by numerous artists ranging from Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding to Michael Bublé and Harry Connick Jr. In addition to the Theatre performance space, there is a separate Control Room that handles broadcast mixes and Pro Tools multitrack recordings. Typically, musical performances are broadcast live on radio or multitrack recorded in Pro Tools to be mixed and broadcast at a later date. For several years, the Control Room housed a 32 channel Soundcraft Series 5 console.
A New System Was Needed

In early 2013, the time came to replace the Soundcraft console with a digital console. There were a bewildering array of choices from the likes of Avid, Yamaha, DigiCo. A respectable budget of $30,000 helped narrow the choices to a select few.
High on the list of requirements was Pro Tools integration. The existing Pro Tools system was based around a Digi 003 Rack+ and a Presonus Digimax D8, together providing 16 simultaneous mic inputs. As live shows in the venue were growing in scale, this system was being pushed to the limits. As such, replacing this system was becoming a priority.
How About An Avid S3?

In May of 2013, the Avid S3L system was announced. It seemed like the perfect choice for our venue and I was keen to try one out. Later in 2013, Avid held an event in Toronto to introduce the S3L system and some colleagues and I attended the event. I was blown away by the potential of the system and was intrigued with the relatively new Audio Video Bridging (AVB) technology it employed. Other manufacturers use audio networks such as Dante and Cobranet, but AVB distinguished itself by being an open standard.
Not unsurprisingly, being from Avid, the system was tightly integrated with Pro Tools, which was a huge plus. A few days later, we placed an order for a 64 channel system. This consisted of an S3 control surface, E3 Engine processor, and four Stage 16 Remote I/O stage boxes. We added a 24” ELO touchscreen monitor to complete the system. This allowed us to dedicate two Stage 16 Remote I/O stage boxes with 32 channels in a fixed installation, directly replacing our Soundcraft console in the broadcast control room. The other two Stage 16 Remote I/O stage boxes were used to provide 32 stage inputs for our live performances and Pro Tools multitrack recordings in the Theatre itself.
Connecting Up The Avid S3L System

Connecting the S3L system together is straightforward using etherCON or standard shielded Cat 5e or better Ethernet cables. Starting from the S3 surface, Network port A is connected to Network port A on the E3 Engine. Network port B on the E3 Engine is connected to Network port A on the first Stage 16 Remote I/O. Network port B on the first Stage 16 Remote I/O is connected to Network port A on the next Stage 16 Remote I/O. The connections are continued in this way through all the Stage 16 boxes.
A Redundant Network

By connecting Network port B on the last Stage 16 Remote I/O to Network port C on the E3 Engine, a redundant network is created. Using this method, the network is maintained if a connection breaks e.g. a cable is accidentally cut or unplugged. To use a Pro Tools computer for recording and playback, a supported Ethernet cable is connected from Network port B on the S3 control surface to an available AVB compatible Ethernet port on the computer (An adapter will be required if the computer does not have the required Ethernet port, eg. a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter for a Mac laptop.
Connect To A Computer

A port labelled ECx on the E3 Engine allows a computer or router to be connected for ECx Ethernet control. No network knowledge is required as the system configures itself automatically. Once the system is powered on and booted up, all connected devices are shown on the Options > Devices section of the Venue software. On first power up, the Stage 16 Remote I/O boxes will appear Unassigned. In “Config” mode, Stage 16 boxes can be assigned by dragging the device icon to the Stage section on the same page. This way the user can assign the Stage 16 boxes in the order required regardless of how they are physically connected.
The First Live Show…

In the next part Alan shares how he got on with his first live concert using the Avid S3L system.