Frequently Asked Questions to an ABEdit Expert
Compiled by David Hudgins
The following suggestions are based on the ideas of Lucas Cooper from the user group that Charlie Richmond has at Yahoo, which I have remixed into a list of Frequently Asked Questions for all users, especially those using the AudioBox for live entertainment. Mr. Cooper is the Sound Engineer and Operator at the Vancouver Playhouse, one of the largest theatres in Western Canada.
Q: What are the basic terms I need to remember?
Project – the main directory (folder) for a collection of sub directories. A Project can hold any number of Shows.
Show(s) – the first sub-directory or sub-folder of a Project. A Show is further expanded into more sub-directories called Lists.
List(s) - A Show can have a maximum of 127 Lists.
Path(s) – A List can be further expanded into 999 paths. Actually there are 2048 paths available to the box but only the first 999 are accessed through ABEdit.
Cues are placed in the path. MIDI Show Commands (MSC) are the building blocks of Cues. There is a data limit within a path. A path can hold a total of 32Kilobytes of MSC commands.
Cue numbers start as an integer, but not a zero. The insert cues are also integers, but not zeros. Each of the insert numbers can be from 1 to 255. Therefore, 220.127.116.11 is a valid cue but 18.104.22.168 is not.
Each path may start with Cue number 1 as each path is a discrete sub-directory.
Q: How do I save and recall useful AB configurations ("looks") for general use?
In hopes of not re-inventing the wheel, you may find it useful to end up with a library of "looks" (ie. set configurations of the internal console) for one-off events, whether they are lectures, slide presentations, panel groups, concerts,etc.
Create a Show that will serve as a library. Each time a useful "live" configuration occurs, snapshot the setup (with EQs and delays) into the library. Call the Show "OneOffs". Give the sub-folder list/path or list/path/cue combination the name of the look you want to archive (for example "NoisesOff_1" or "Banjo Concert").
Once you have a library of "looks", you can then recall them by copying the list/path/cues which has the look you choose from the library and pasting the list/path/ques into your current Project/Show .
Q: Regarding playback, how do I decide what selections to run from the AudioBox and what to run from an external source?
As a general rule of thumb, if the show you are running is going to be continuing for more than a couple of days, try to get the AudioBox to do the controlling. That is, either triggering the external minidisks/CD players or playing the tracks from inside the box. Otherwise, it’s probably less time-consuming not to load selections into the AudioBox, but to simply run the tracks through the box from their original medium.
Q: How do I best manage my Project folders?
There are two ways to look at the "Project. In choosing a method, you must assess how much space it will take to manage your projects, bearing in mind the model of AudioBox you are using, the number of selections you will use, and the number of selections you’ll be saving to the box.
1. One is to call Projects by season, say "Plays 2001-2002", and then break that down into the various presentations. If you have six or seven presentations for the season, then you can have all the works in one folder or project.
2. The other way (the way Lucas prefers) is to name the Project the same as the show. That way, there is only the one item to the project. If you need to pull material from other projects, you can call them up in the editor window and copy the list, paths, cues or whatever you need. This method has the advantage of keeping a show self-contained and defined.
Q: How do I standardize my programming practices to make things easier?
In order to keep things simple when programming a show, start with some standard conventions.
1. Major outputs are a fixed value and are not changed.
2. Crosspoints are either at 0 or 127.
3. Similar style cues appear on the same fader groups.
By starting out with this convention, a lot of brain damage can be avoided. As well, when you move away from this 'standard', get back to it as soon as you can.
For most shows, this layout will work fine for 99% of the cues. Also, the actual cues become smaller and tighter. When crosspoints and outputs are standardized, the actual cue becomes a set of input fader levels, a track selection load and go, and a possible input fader move.
Q: What is good procedure for programming playback for live theatre?
The following is Lucas Cooper’s personal method for setting up a show for playback. "Although it may seem convoluted", he writes, "it takes longer to read this than to actually do the tasks."
a. Beginning a Sample Show
Lets put together a sample show. The project is the "A Show" project and the show we are going be working on is that famous rep piece "New Show".
I tend to work with standard list numbers:
Start at List 2. This becomes the "main" show list. This list will contain the cue sequence.
List 50 is the "loop" list for ambience loops or other items that are program stubs.
List 100 becomes the "cue snapshot" list. This list is setup after to the show has been roughed in - each path in this list is a cue number and contains a complete snapshot of all the input, crosspoint, and output screens. During tech, this list allows me to jump from major cue to major cue (say q50.1 to q75.6 to q8) without having to step through the intervening cues.
List 127 is the last list - here I carry all my speaker/channel checks, various public address announcements, lobby calls and so forth. This is the List I copy from show to show because it is a 'toolbox' of things I do for each performance and/or prior to each performance of each show.
b. Creating the basic "New Show" layout
List 2 - Main Show List
The first thing we will do is label some paths, without creating any cues at this point.There is a 32K limit on data contained within a path. This is roughly the equivalent of 2 complete snapshots of all the settings for the inputs, outputs and crosspoints.
Bearing this in mind, I tend to look at shows in terms of Acts and Scenes. If there are many scenes then the first path used will be Path 5 and will be called "Preshow". I start here because I may need to do some things before we get going and this will give me the space - I won't need to rewrite jumps (and list/path openings)
The next path used will be 10 and will be called "Act1, Scene1"; path 15 will "Act1,Scene2:, and so forth. There are a lot a paths available in this list, so you don't have to crowd yourself. It is much easier to add a path 14 and call it "Act1,Scene 2, part1" than it is to have to add a path after path 15 and then have to start cutting and pasting cues in order to free up space.
Path20 - "Act1,Scene3"
This particular path is going to be busy. Lots of music and effects. The Sound designer hasn't really figured out what is going on here so there are going to be lots of changes, particularly in the music selections. Cue numbers in this example path are going to start at 70 and the last will be 110.
To cope with auditioning of pieces, I would make the last cue for this path Cue110.250.250 This big number stands out to the eye when scanning the Cue List in the ShowControl window. Set it up as an autofollow of 110. This cue will open the next path (25) and put the path's first cue (111.5) into standby.
Cue 75 is a music selection. However, this being the third time it has been changed, I copy 75 as 1075- making a paper note of the name and number. Then I can change 75 to another selection. If there is yet another change, Cue 75 will be copied as 2075 and so on. By making the cue number higher than the open and jump-to cue (110.250.250), you still have the item close by within the path and it can be exchanged back and forth, but it won't interfere with the operation of the path.
This becomes very handy where a complex cue has a lot of internal movement, panning, volume changes etc and has taken quite a bit of time to get right. As you know so well, as soon as you throw it away, someone will be sure to ask to hear that first thing again. So, don't throw it away, move it to the end of the path. Items held here can be discarded after the show opens.
List50/Path10/Cue10 - Ambience
Also in this seqeuence there is going to be a cricket loop, and a wind ambience.
Call out to List 50/path 10/Cue 10 and start the cricket loop. The cricket material is only 45 seconds, but it has been decided that you need minimum 8 minutes. This cricket loop will consist of series of cues, each of which a start with a fade in and a fade out. Each subsequent cue in the list will be an autofollow. Make enough of these autofollows to cover the maximum length of required ambience. Finish with the ambience by constructing a cue in the Main Cue list (List 2) that either fades out the sending outputs (if going outboard to the mixing console) or fading the crosspoints to 0 (if going into the assigned speakers for surround/stage), and then stopping playback and closing Path/List50. This will kill the list clock.
There are couple advantages to doing this call-out procedure. First, once the loop exists, it can be called at any time from the main Cue List. That means that you only have to put together the loop once. Second, if the loop is embedded inside the main Cue list, you may not be able to advance down the cue list while the loop is running, or perhaps the embedded cue keeps restarting even though it was thought to be stopped (the internal looping clock may still be running).
Remember to build each ambient loop as a cue in its own path. In other words, the crickets could be List 50/Path 10/Cue 10, and the wind would likely be List 50/Path 20/Cue 20. If you don't build them under separate paths, as you fire cues in your Main Cue List, you may accidentally trigger the next Cue in your Loop list, giving you ambient wind when you want the sound of crickets to continue. List 50 should open with the "Last Cue Gone" lit up at the bottom, to ensure safety.
Ambience, such as rain, traffic, or a base drone can be handled in a similar manner or if the track is very long, rather than using up hard drive disk space, use an outboard Mini-disk, CD player. If you don't like starting these manually, get a MIDI controlled version or modify the device to accept a contact closure such as the MIDI SOLUTIONS contact closure box.
List 2/Path4/Cue10 – End of Show
Eventually you will get to the very last real cue of show. Recall that we originally started this exercise at Path 5. We will now add List2/Path4/Cue10 - this is a dummy cue which has no information but is a place holder and a target. Make up an additional cue below your last cue which jumps to List 2/Path 4/Cue10. This additional cue is a timed autofollow which returns the Cue-List to the top of the show after the walkout music or whatever has completed.
Path4/ Cue12 could be an immediate autofollow which calls out to List127/Path2/Cue10 which is the "clear everything" cue. Furthermore, contained within 127/2/10 could be a last MIDI command which closes the path and List127.
Path 4/Cue14 could also call List127/Path3/Cue10 which starts some music, does a check on all the output channels, and when this is completed, turns off the music and then, in turn, calls the "clear everything" cue.
Now we can add a Cue16 which is the "initialization" cue to setup the output levels as well as EQs and delays.
Finally we will add a Path 5/Cue 4.50 which is a dummy cue which gives us a "goto" point to standby for Cue 5. Cue 5 will be a jump to Cue 9.99 to get us setup for the first show cue which is Cue10. Cue 6 will be a jump to List 127/Path10/Cue10 which is the cameras and recording announcement ...which as its last action zeros anything that it has used and then closes the path/list combination. Cue6.5 will be an F12(GO) jump to Cue9.99 Cue7 will be a jump to List 127/Path11/Cue10 which is the 'following this performance there will be…' announcement which finally zeros anything that it has used and then closes.
If I only do a GO (F12) at Cue 5 then I go directly to the top of the show. Otherwise there are a couple of options (perhaps more) that are used before most performances. In order to use the options, I must deliberately F10 (advance to next standby cue) my way into them. At each point cue there is the jump to cue 9.99 unless I deliberately work (F10) to get into another cue.
As you can see by these examples, each list and even each path can contain a Cue 10. It is important to label clearly but concisely.
List 100 - SnapShots or "Jump to points"
In order to get around when doing rehearsals, I use a list in which the paths are labeled as Cue numbers. Of course there are Cues inside the paths, which also have the Cue numbers. I take complete snapshots of the ins/outs and crosspoint values either just before the Cue or at the Cue number. When we are working sequences, rather than having to step through from the top of the Act or show, I can jump to the setup of the sequnces or another major act or scene point. If there are changes to the various values, take another series of snapshots and replace the ones that already exist. This really speeds up Cue-ing sessions and 'bits and pieces' sessions. I see that Charlie has provided a folder for snapshot Cues. I haven't spent time looking at that feature, yet. But that folder feature may do a snapshot quicker than list/path and Cues.
c) Working with outboard gear
I take the 8 subgroups from the Series 5 and do a one-to-one patch to the 8 analogue inputs on the box. The minidisks, CDs, DATs, etc. that are into the Series 5 can be midi switched via the audio box.
I try to hold 2 to 4 outputs from the box for routing back to multi-splits for fanning the outputs into several channels on the Series 5. Then, using either the matrix, the aux busses or the direct outs, signal can be fed to the special speakers (the telephone, fireplace, grandfather clock). Again, the appropriate console channel(s) can be turned on/off with midi.
How do I find more information and FAQs about the AudioBox?
Richmond Sound Design has an extensive site at www.richmondsounddesign.com which has links to the AudioBox User Newsgroup.
Other questions or comments about this page can be sent via email to David Hudgins at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Lucas at email@example.com
"I think the AudioBox is a tremendous tool which is very powerful. I know I've never even begun to use the potential of this rig. Each show that I work on, I try to push farther - try new ways of using things. Its what makes being in the booth an enjoyable challenge.--- Regards, Lucas, Vancouver"