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AMS-Neve Capricorn Digital Mixing Console (part 5)

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There are some controls on the strips, but you must have at least one AFU
(Assignable Facilities Unit) and this looks pretty much like what you would
find on any assignable console. The AFU has a physical control for each parameter
you can adjust in the strip path, sometimes duplicating controls. Of course,
not all mixing applications can be managed by just one operator (certainly not
with a 240 path system), so it is possible to have multiple AFUs and each can
be associated with its own strip section. Something you can only have one of
in your Capricorn is a Monitor section. This isn’t used for multitrack
monitoring since that is handled by the strips. Just so you know, here’s
a list of what you control from here:

  • Control room sources
  • Loudspeaker controls
  • Master solo controls
  • Main console output controls
  • Global automation controls
  • Main aux/cue controls
  • Machine transport controls
  • Track enable/record controls
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Talkback
  • Oscillator
  • Track ball

If anything has attracted your attention from this list it’s probably
the machine transport controls and record enable facility. Hidden away in the
rack is an Adams Smith Zeta 3 synchroniser which can handle up to six machines
and provide enable and record functions for up to 144 tracks (3 x 48) plus twelve
ancillary tracks. Surely this will be enough! The other item which will have
caught your eye is the track ball. Many people hate track balls, but having
seen the system and played with it I can assure you firstly that it’s necessary
and secondly that it’s very comfortable to use. Of course, if a track ball
is necessary then there must be a monitor somewhere. Yes there is, and this
high resolution colour monitor is central to the operation of the whole system,
not just for the automation. It would be nice if it were tastefully finished
in the AMS Neve colours rather than Taiwan beige seeing as it is so important,
but I’m sure that’s a detail that will be attended to soon. The monitor,
by the way has a posh name – the Graphics Display System or GDS as AMS Neve
put it. In conjunction with the track ball you can direct a screen cursor for
pointing and selecting, modify parameter values, and to move and configure audio
processing components in the signal path. This last point is really interesting
and throws the difference between analogue and digital mixing sharply into focus.


Figure 1 shows the Path Configuration screen where you might spend a lot of
your thinking time during recording and mixing. To give you an idea of the power
of this concept let me mention a couple of points you might ponder over in an
analogue console: should the insert point be pre or post EQ? Should the dynamics
section be pre or post EQ? Would it be a good idea to send a clean signal to
the tape recorder and only monitor the EQed and compressed version? Where should
the meter be in the signal path? I don’t suppose you have spent all that
much time on these matters, probably because with an analogue console you are
stuck with what you are given and there are few options. On the Capricorn there
are many options, not too many – I would say just enough. Looking more closely
at Figure 1 you will see on the left the source supplying the signal path. Next
along is the track send point. If the positioning of this is not to your liking,
just grab it using the track ball and move it along to a more appropriate position.
Fancy a filter? Just click on the filter box and move the jack plug to where
you would like the filter inserted. The same applies to EQ, insert point, limiter,
compressor and expander gate. You will notice system resources graphics further
down the screen. Obviously it would be overkill to supply enough processing
power to enable absolutely every type of processing to be carried out on every
signal path. It would make the console more expensive to no good purpose (and
this is what has to happen in an analogue console). The three horizontal rectangles
are the Capricorn’s ‘fuel gauges’ showing you how much processing
power you have in reserve. This may be a limitation in extreme cases but it
is totally insignificant compared to the way in-line analogue consoles force
you to share valuable resources between the channel and monitor paths.

David Mellor

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David Mellor