Power Tools: Yamaha PM1D Digital ConsoleTEACHING A NEW BOARD NEW TRICKS 9/01/2004 8:00 AM Eastern
The Yamaha PM1D is the most flexible, powerful and reliable large-format digital console for live production available today. Having said that, I'm sure a line is already forming to dispute that claim, but as the head audio engineer at the Cerritos Center (Cerritos, Calif.), as well as working as an independent mixer, I've been using the PM1D since its prototype days and have never experienced even a hiccup from the console. Also, the Center offers six different seating and stage configurations, ranging from a 1,800-seat arena theater to a 900-seat recital hall setting for plays, concerts and dance performance, so flexibility in the sound system is essential and the PM1D fills the bill.
I/OS: EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE
About half of my time is spent setting up and patching the board for visiting mixers, so if they've never mixed on a PM1D before, I quickly get them up to speed. Our original console was a PM4000, so we have a custom microphone splitter that has its direct side permanently terminated at the front-of-house mix position. As the existing analog snaking was in-place, I decided to locate the engine, six AI8 mic/line input frames, an AO8 line output frame, two power supplies and a single-rackspace amp for near-fields at FOH. To hold all of the parts, we built a custom four-bay (nine spaces in each) rack. It's a perfect fit and a very good alternative to “remoting” the racks, but it's nice that the PM1D allows such options.
THE AUTO-ASSISTANT ENGINEER
I like starting my day having all my gain settings set to 12:00 noon and all the phantom power switches on, so I programmed a scene with this preset. While I'm doing a continuity check of the splitter, I'm not wasting time moving knobs and pushing buttons. When the check is over, I just recall my last scene and I'm back to where I left off.
TEMPLATES FOR ALL
You can never have too many templates. The console comes with a handful of templates, but I found them a bit too general so I customized six of them. Within these templates, I have programmed several settings to make things quicker at the start of a normal day. When I turn the console on and recall a template scene, the entire console snaps to a starting point. I have the whole board pre-patched and labeled for the start of a general day. Examples of some of the preset programming I have in my templates include graphic EQ patching and naming, reverb patches and settings, and compressor threshold/ratio on all channels — the list goes on, and they're all no more than a fingertip away.
KEEPING EQ IN-LINE
The PM1D has 24 channels of 31-band graphic equalization. The EQs can be patched to any output and/or any input. To keep myself from becoming confused and to speed things up when I need to get to them quickly, I assign user keys 7 and 8 to display GEQ tabs 2 and 3, respectively, on the center screen. There are three tabs in the software under the console's GEQ button. The first tab is the full view of the selected EQ with a spectrum analyzer, and tabs 2 and 3 are indexes of all the EQs in groups of 12.
I use the first 12 for my system outputs. One through 8 are dedicated for the house feeds. Numbers 1 through 6 are patched to matrixes 1 through 6 and are laid out as follows: 1, left flown; 2, right flown; 3, center cluster; 4, front of stage; 5, delay; and 6 to the side box fills. EQ number 8 is assigned for the subs, which I run from an aux bus, and 9 through 12 are on open auxes that show up on the patchbay. This way, if we are doing something small and mixing monitors from FOH, then these sends are already patched and ready to go.
GRAPHICS ON INPUTS?
EQs 13 through 24 are left unassigned for patching to input channels. Yes — input channels! I love the smooth sound of these EQs and having the spectrum analyzer function available for viewing while equalizing a specific instrument or vocal is very helpful. Yamaha's engineers came up with a brilliant idea for tactile control for the graphic EQs: Pressing and holding the Shift key and then pressing any one of the first three Mix Select buttons in the DCA section will bring the selected graphic EQ up on these faders. There are 12 faders, so the engineers broke them down into three bandwidths: low (20 Hz to 250 kHz), mid (200 Hz to 2.5 kHz) and high (1.6k to 20k Hz).
DON'T FORGET THE SOFTWARE!
Another advantage of the PM1D is the ability to connect a computer to the system and remote control of all the console's functions. Using Yamaha's PM1D Manager software, you can access all of the console's parameters and simultaneously make changes to a mix while someone else is mixing on the control surface. I have a laptop connected to the system at all times and I have now grown accustomed to making most of my changes there.
Jack Hayback is a live sound engineer based in Southern California.