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-   -   Thoughts on S6 Pec/Dir Metering (https://duc.avid.com/showthread.php?t=415256)

Gregor B. 05-05-2021 01:08 PM

Thoughts on S6 Pec/Dir Metering
Dear All,

We have been very happy with the push by Avid to venture into pec/dir metering!

The reason this is so important to us in film mixing:
We juggle with rough mixes, temp mixes, versions, often with months in between, premixing in one studio, continuing in the next, a vast array of player rigs (dialog, foley, fx1, fx2, backgrounds, music...) feeding into separate recorder rigs.
The prevailing question is usually: Do we pick up where we left off?

Things you instantly see on pec/dir metering: LFE channel missing on player 3 (routing error), dialog level was hotter last time, music surrounds missing (plugins inactive, missing, automation lost), player 5 comes in one frame late (clocking issues) ...
All of this is indispensable for film work and as more and more studios have transitioned to controller mixing solutions like S6 or other, most studios have kept their classic digital consoles like DFC, Harrison or even System 5 not only for mixing, but for their highly effective and reliable pec/dir monitors and meters.

No need to touch the philosophical question of whether one prefers classic consoles or controllers like S6, but without a doubt:
For theatric mix stages to rely solely on S6 architecture, a highly effective pec/dir module and metering is not just a feature, but a brutal necessity.
Having transitioned 100% to S6 and 4 installations of the console on our mix stages, we notice that this is the main thing that makes mixers hesitant about S6, when coming from classic consoles.

The new pec/dir display capabilities and post module are the beginning of a game changer, but it has to be taken further to be fully functional:

Gregor B. 05-05-2021 01:10 PM

Re: Thoughts on S6 Pec/Dir Metering
1. pec/dir meters visibility can be like night and day depending on whether both levels are in sync. Just a few ms delay will make it hard to compare them. While historically it wasn't always possible to sync both signals due to tape delay or other, a singular Pro Tools recorder rig should be at an advantage here: Since dir and pec would ideally represent the input of a rec track as well as its recorded signal, it should be possible to compensate for any existing delay between the two and visualise both levels in perfect sync. Currently the direct signal is slightly later than the pec signal (routing below).

2. I suspect the vast majority of use cases for the post module and master post display would be to control and display a number of record tracks (e.g. printmaster, dx stem, fx stem, mx stem...). Once these rec tracks are assigned to a layout via the post assign page, they are automatically assigned to their corresponding pec meters, as they should. Now the user setting "enable off-disk only meters (pec) for post module assignments" allow for the pec meters to visualize the actually recorded signal even if the rec track is set to "input" (--> game changer: third party solutions like Sonda couldn't do this).
However, instead of automatically assigning the rec track's inputs to the dir meter, the assign page asks for a separate PT track to serve as a direct signal. This is inconvenient, because naturally you would feed rec tracks directly from hardware inputs (originating from multiple PT player rigs) so in order to have dir metering, you will need to create an array of aux tracks and needlessly bloat the session. While the option to choose a separate dir source could potentially be handy, the default should be an all-in-one-rec-track approach, where pec/dir meters pickup on a rec track's input as well as its recorded material, visualizing both in sync

3. Colors: There are the ones who associate green with a tape or pec signal and there are the PT natives or PT naturals who will say green is "input", equivalent to a dir signal. Unfortunately neither folks are currently getting their way:
- Green is Pec folks will set their recorder PT preferences to "pec/dir style input monitoring" resulting in green "p" symbols in the PT window corresponding to the already green pec meters and paddles on the post module. Great. However, if they wish to move a small project all the way into-the-box, to playback and record in one singular PT rig, they will find that every audio track of the entire player session will now have green "p" symbols, which is rather confusing
- Green is Dir folks will be confused every time they look at post module or pec/dir meters as pec is always green in this universe and cannot be changed. They have the preference option to switch the dir color to red though :o The green confusion remains and causes mistakes on the way...
I think a solution would be nye if
a) the post module and master post display's color green would simply follow the overarching PT preference "pec/dir style input monitoring". This helps "green is dir" people.
b) improve the mentioned preference within Pro Tools, by showing the green "p"s only on actual recorder tracks (e.g. those that are rec enabled). This helps "green is pec" people.
Now to complicate things further: If red is reserved for „record“ and green is reserved for either pec or dir, then blue should be pec/dir’s corresponding counterpart. Currently this is already the case in terms of metering (blue represents "dir" signal by default), but the pedals switch from green to "no color" and not from green to blue --> acceptable. But the rec arm paddles blink in red and blue (nothing to do with dir), which is confusing if you stick to the meanings of colors. The bright blinking of rec/blue armed pattles is pretty stressful in general for something that is merely a "ready state", considering that this is in director's and mixer's direct view for 95% of the day.
A dimmed red blinking for rec enabled tracks paired with a solid bright red during rec passes would be better. Overall, adjustable color preferences similar to soft keys would make it much easier for everyone, the easiest solution to cater to both sides of the isle.

4. Size Matters: Unfortunately the S6 displays seem quite on the small side when displaying pec/dir meters for multiples of 7.1 or even 5.1 stems. Obviously it would be a dream to be able to attach an external display for that purpose... :) In the meanwhile, it would help to have more elaborate settings for how many rows and meters to display. While "2 rows of 5" was a significant improvement, I think we need to go even bigger and have "1 row of 4", "1 row of 5", "1 row of 6", "1 row of 7" and "1 row of 8". This might sound like overkill but depending on how many stems you're printing and given the small display (not to mention the $$$$ you pay for it) you really want to squeeze every possible cm out of it in order to be able to see what's going on.

Gregor B. 05-05-2021 01:11 PM

Re: Thoughts on S6 Pec/Dir Metering
5. Meter Names: Again this might be a film specific thing, but rec tracks are often labeled something like "filmtitle_ftr_reel1_en_dx-stem_71_24fps". While this naming is indispensable for the identification of recorded audio files, it’s a nightmare in terms of metering, resulting in displayed names like fitr1ds724 | fitr1fs724 | fitr1ms724 ...
It would be tremendously helpful to be able to enter names when creating the post layouts in the "post assign" section or even to be able to simply display the track comment field instead of the track name.

6. Post Layouts: After opening sessions, the post module (+ master post display) default to show nothing. As a result you end up with no pedals and no pec/dir meters after every reel change. While it might be reasonable for the S6 main channel strips to not open in layout mode, it seems illogical for the post module, which should simply default to open the last used post layout (or any really)

Again I applaud everyone involved in pushing for and designing these modules, which we were in dire need for.

In hopes for a fruitful exchange, I'd welcome any other insights, thoughts and suggestions.


basehead617 05-06-2021 09:42 AM

Re: Thoughts on S6 Pec/Dir Metering
Gregor - not speaking for Avid here but I think they may be planning to have a desktop metering app that could be dragged to its own large monitor for example. That should assist in your #4 issue. Hopefully they will follow up on your great thread.

Gregor B. 05-06-2021 10:20 AM

Re: Thoughts on S6 Pec/Dir Metering
Oh, thanks for info @basehead617. That would be superb!

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