Remote Rack Design 101 - Gearspace.com
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Remote Rack Design 101
Old 28th March 2003
Gear Maniac
🎧 15 years
Remote Rack Design 101

Chances are if you are here you are doing remote recordings, some of us more frequently than others.

When our Forum Moderator talks about the will being more important than the way, it makes sense. Remote rigs may be a simple setup used to meet a specified requirement, or they can be larger more intricate racks that can "do-it-all" within their own limitations.

I'm sure you have all seen the mega DAW racks that some rental companies have created. These are more so the racks that I speak of. These cases were bought (at a decently high) expense to make a "system" completly organized, accesable, and literlally plug-n-play.

If you have made a rack for your DAW rig, or if you rack your gear to do remote recordings - take a picture of your rig and post it up on here, then you can tell us what to do, (and not to do) when building it!

It becomes a question of the gear you have in your rack and the necessary cabling. Going into detail with features such as rear rack mounted multi-pin connectors is the really only true pimp way to go. Steve, could you throw up a picture of some of your racks that employ rear mounted pannels & ELCOs?

Designing your rack can be a hard process, since I have sat down and broken my rig down on paper, I now most likely need a new rac, and to buy and sell a few things that will suit the "rack" better.

Show me your rack!
Old 29th March 2003
Lives for gear
hollywood_steve's Avatar
🎧 15 years
gonna stray OT..... and ramble....

I never thought about my "remote rack" before, but I guess I'll have to now. Until this point, my remote rack has consisted of whatever I happened to grab out of my studio's rack and dragged to the gig. But my location recording has quickly grown busier than my studio work and the live work is only going to grab a larger and larger share of my overall recording work.

(and with 2" or ProTools studio time commonly available in LA for $19 to $25 per hour, I'm not the only guy who sees live recording as a good way to earn a respectable wage.)

Lets focus on the business side here for a minute. Its kind of bizarre that a low budget location rig (SV3800, pair of KM184s and 2ch mic preamp) can command at least double the rates charged for studio 2" time. And while there are dozens of high end studios in LA that charge a LOT more than $19 to $25 hour, there are literally hundreds of studios that are fighting it out in that price range. While many may consist of little more than a G4 running Pro Tools, there are countless rooms with very respectable gear collections who are forced to compete at those rates.

I guess that its just a situation of less competition in the live/location side of the business. And I just lucked out that I'm only interested in recording live bands (either on location or in the studio). I just can't get excited about cutting rhythm tracks and then wiping out everything but the drums and then building the song track by track - it seems like a job.

The point behind all this rambling is that economic realities and my personal preferences have combined to send me down the live/location recording road. And to seriously play this game I will need to admit that I have a location rack and that it needs work. The SV3800, KM184s and Vintech 1272 haven't let me down, but they are not the optimal tools for the job. Purchasing dedicated location gear (damn, it will be great to not have to tear my gear out of the studio racks while rushing to get to the location gig!) brings up a major decision - whether to purchase what are basically small versions of studio gear (what most music recording guys choose), or go with the high end stuff used by the film/video sound guys?

The biggest difference between these two camps seems to be battery power: the film/video sound guys require it while the music recording guys seem to ignore it. I don't see myself doing much work beyond the reach of an outlet and a 25ft extension cord. But many of the products made for the film/video sound guys seem to be much better suited for location work than the gear the music guys carry around. But you don't see much of it at music recording location gigs.

Is it because the cool toys from companies like Cooper, PSC, Sound Devices, etc. offer lot of features in very cool packaging, but suffer in audio quality when compared to gear from the pro audio companies? Or is there some other reason? Or is it a familiarity issue? Guys who spend most of their lives surrounded by gear from UA, API, Millennia, Manley, etc. just want the same gear with them on location, even if more suitable gear exists for location work? The flip side of this is: why don't you see Millennia , Manley, API, etc gear in the film/video guys racks? Other than the battery power issue, why don't the two sides share more gear? Good quality audio gear is good quality audio gear; what keeps the two groups from using more of each other's gear|?

(I just want to know if there are good reasons for not considering the Cooper, PSC, Sound Devices stuff when designing my first purpose-built location rack?)


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Old 7th April 2003
Lives for gear
🎧 15 years
I've chosen a more modular (and much easier schlep) approach. I use SKB cases for everything and I keep mics and cables in tubs or milk-crates.

Often, I have bad locations for setting up and monitoring so the ability to stack everything and often go vertical is essential. I end up humping all of my gear so having a case that isn't as strong isn't an issue. I've also perfected the art of packing things into my car. I used to drive a Toyota Corolla and could fit enough gear to record a big band in my card. Now, I have a small SUV and when I stuff it to the roof, I can fit a lot more in.

As for the LA rate thing... While you can earn more doing location work, people still hate paying the bills. I deal with a lot of acoustic musicians (especially classical and jazz) and those folks don't want to pay for anything. Then they turn around and expect extreme fidelity. It just can't work both ways. Thank goodness for the occasional high-budget gig to keep my gear lust in check.

As for the film stuff you mentioned... Some is really good and some isn't as good. What sounds great for dialog isn't always the best thing for a music gig. I find that with the exception of the Grace Lunatec stuff, the film gear tends to have a much more "biting" sound. Transparency isn't necessarily the goal. Having speech that cuts is.

Also, just about all the film gear out there has to be able to run on DC. When you are out on the set, sometimes power can be strange. You can get rid of a lot of hum issues when all of you gear is running DC. If the power goes, you also still have a battery backup. To see a "real" sound cart on a shoot is quite an experience. The amount of stuff they can fit on that thing is amazing.

I just worked doing multi-track audio and music recording consulting on some Television commercials. Our lead mixer had his PSC board, a HHB Portadat (with TC), wireless monitoring for the producers, cables, wireless mics, a massive battery... We split to me where I had all AC based stuff- a Mackie 1604 VLZ Pro, Tascam 2424, headphone amp... I could have rented anything I wanted for this gig, but this is what seemed to make the most sense given the space and production time constraints.

Things were built in such a way that between the 3 of us (Lead mixer, myself, and the boom op) , we'd be up and running inside of 45 minutes.

Enough rambling.... :-)

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