Mixdown Presents Isolate and Innovate: Using Audio Gear From Home

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Mixdown Presents Isolate and Innovate: Using Audio Gear From Home

Explore part four of our team-up with Collarts.

Creating a faithful representation of the campus learning experience for online is no easy feat, even at the best of times.

When it’s something as traditionally hands-on as audio engineering and that said institution is Collarts, with its peerless reputation for world class gear and on campus facilities, the technical considerations become numerous and the logistics dense.

Simple things that we take for granted in the physical world – moving faders by hand, having our meters react in a timely manner and so much more – these things all serve as opportunities for innovation as we take the broader audio curriculum and student/teacher collaboration and push it into largely uncharted territory.

Thankfully, us audio types have always been a nifty bunch, and nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Audio Production Program Coordinator Dylan Mitrovich, a jack-of-all audio trades and one of the key architects behind Collarts’ groundbreaking new remote learning program, a bar-raiser in regards to what can be achieved in the remote learning space for audio education.

We recently sat down with Dylan, to talk control protocol, ‘Eureka’ moments and the logistics of streaming the audio production experience to students worldwide.

I have it under good authority that you are the resident ‘Mr. Fix it’ around Collarts, especially when it comes to the control protocol/IT side of the equation. How did you get so handy with systems? What’s your audio background?

Dylan Mitrovich: I come from a mostly live sound/tour managerial type background, with some studio and corporate A/V/broadcast thrown in. In this industry you always find yourself working across so many different areas and you pick up all kinds of different skills. That’s something I definitely try and hammer home to the students: the importance of versatility and flexibility in audio. The more you can do, the better!

Collarts is renowned for its excellent campus facilities and mouth-watering collection of gear. What were some of the key logistical challenges in translating this smorgasbord of gear into the remote learning space?

The awesome gear is definitely one of our drawcards: between the Atmos Studio and the various recording and performance spaces, the gear we have on site here at Collarts is truly world class, and we are spoiled in that regard, but it’s a nice problem to have!

The biggest challenge facing us was this question of control. Yes, we have this incredible gear, so let’s take stock and figure out exactly how much of it can be controlled remotely and how far we can push the capabilities of the control protocol, then work our way back from there.

One of the advantages of having such a high standard of equipment on site, especially with this move to remote learning, is that so much of it ships with its own software remote applications, which we have had to learn and eventually find the limitations of.

In the case of the live sound units, that protocol was already in use with our Digico and Behringer X32 consoles, so it was up to us to really master this control protocol and find where the limitations exist and from there, figure out solutions to take us along to the next link in the signal chain.

We tried to squeeze every bit of control out of the equipment as we could and then combine technologies or workflows to make it as streamline as possible.

With so much awesome gear on hand (not to mention the complexities and sophistication of the average audio signal chain), where does one even begin figuring out how to replicate this in an online working environment?

So much of it starts with just knowing where to look. Our campus teaching, especially in regards to live sound units etc., is about recreating a simulation of the working environment. This is the platform from which we are able to teach the technical concepts and have them stick.

I think one of the reasons that we have been able to integrate all of these new remote learning tools so effectively, is because as a staff, we have a really good understanding of the curriculum and the key areas of focus and we are able to see the blueprint of how to translate that into engaging and effective remote learning experiences for our students.

It’s about figuring out what the technology affords us and figuring out how best to recreate that in a different environment, but the first part is being able to identify those key areas and what it takes to teach audio effectively.

Was there a Eureka moment for the audio staff, where you felt like you’d struck on something important? 

This will probably differ depending on which staff member you talk too, but for me, it was definitely Audiomovers and getting our monitoring and playback right from a streaming perspective. That was a massive breakthrough. Being able to hear the audio back as close to real time as possible and in the highest quality—and synchronised!

Having the visual meters as closely synched to the audio as possible, to the point where it was a matter of milliseconds, and was genuinely useable; I instantly knew that was a big moment not just for us, but for the students as well.

It’s such an important part of the whole experience, especially when we talk about critical listening from a learning perspective. It’s something you take for granted when you are on campus, but the logistics of being able to deliver a legitimate monitoring experience remotely, it opens up so many possibilities of what we are now able to do as a school.

What does innovation mean to you? Especially in light of everything that’s transpired this year and all the progress you have made in the remote learning space through 2020?

I think innovation is about seeing a problem or set of circumstances and applying creativity and inventiveness to move the situation forward. What is amazing is the kind of progress that can happen along the way and what that progress means in the grand scheme.

When the lockdowns first started and we were integrating Audiomovers into our workflow, I distinctly remember thinking how remarkable it was; just how perfectly suited it was for remote audio education in a lockdown type situation.

The fact that such a platform was sitting there, waiting for us to stumble across it and integrate it into our curriculum, the benefits that these kinds of workflows will bring, long after the lockdowns pass, that’s pretty cool and something that we may have never stumbled upon if we weren’t put into a position where we had to put in the research and discover it for ourselves. There is an innovation in that. It’s these situations that us tech-y types live for!

Find out more over at Collarts today.