Anyone who has ever had any association with the world of Audio will have at some point come across something similar to one of these:
No that's not the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, but our new Mixing Desk and a staple in Recording Studios around the world. We have just upgraded our studio desk (to the above) to allow us to more effectively and efficiently record our Voiceovers. I thought now would be a good time to speak about approaching new mixing desks for the first time and facing any anxiety that they may conjure up.
The most common phrase I hear when people are first confronted with a mixing desk is usually:
"How do you remember what all of those Dials, Buttons, and Faders do!?"
In actual fact there are only a few features on all desks that you need to remember, regardless of how big or small they are. Once you understand these you will be able to apply them to most of the desks you come across.
Our desk, the Soundcraft Signature 22 has 22 Channels, as its name implies. This means that the desk has just 18 Channel Strips (given that four of the 22 are Stereo Channels). While you may be thinking that I am making this sound even more daunting, the number of Channel Strips is in fact completely uncorrelated to the complexity of understanding the Desk.
In the above picture highlighted in yellow is a single Channel Strip and as you'll notice, all of the Channel Strips around it are identical (the different coloured Knobs & Faders are there simply for our own ease of use and all serve the same purpose). This is why understanding mixing desks is a great deal less daunting than it first appears; Once you understand one... You understand the rest!
Starting from the bottom of the Channel Strip you have the Fader. These control level of the source (Playback or Recording depending on your routing). At the top of the Fader you will notice three buttons; these determine where the output of the Fader goes. For example we have ours setup to route to Headphones, Speakers & our DAW to record. The Mute button, Mutes the output of the Fader (which we use frequently in a more complex Minus Mix scenario that I will refrain from delving into) and above that we have a pan knob.
The next block of Knobs are known as Aux Sends, and on our desk we have 5 per channel. These allow us to send audio from one channel to another. This is particularly useful in our setup as our sessions often involve a number of different sources of Voiceovers and Clients. For example, we have an Aux dedicated to our Booth, ISDN, ipDTL, Skype and the Telephone so that we are able to send the VO and Clients to and from each other at varying levels depending on their location, so that they can communicate as if they were in the same room.
Above the Aux's are an EQ section which allow us to balance frequencies when necessary, and lastly there is a Gain trim, which means we are able to make fine adjustment to the recording level of our Voiceovers.
And that's it... That's how we remember what all those Dials, Buttons and Faders do!