How would/do you use SAC?

My SAC Workflow


The purpose of this page is not to teach how to use SAC. My intention is to detail my workflow in SAC. There are several ways to do nearly anything that you need to do in SAC. In some cases workflow will depend on the situation. I have developed ways that work for me in various situations. Your mileage may vary, but don't be locked in to the default settings or recommended ways to do things within SAC. Experiment with other ideas. Keep those that work for you and discard those in which you see no advantage.

Those new to SAC may learn of ways that things can be done in SAC. Experienced users may find options of which they have not thought or have forgotten exist. I visit the SAC forum regularly and have been reminded of other ways to do things on several occasions. If you are not familiar with SAC it may be worthwhile to download the demo to follow along with what I am saying. I keep a copy of SAC on my home computer for reference should I see something on the forum with which I am not totally familiar.

I have put a good bit of thought into this overview but it is likely that I will think of other things that I should mention. I may update this page as I think of more that should be said, but I may just add a comment in the comment section below the article. I suggest that you scroll on down at the end of the article to see if there are any updates there. If you are a SAC user I would welcome your comments about the workflow that you use. If anyone, weather an experienced user or new to SAC, has any questions I will do my best to answer any comments.

My Virtual Setup

SAC screen layout

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Through my years of using the SAC rig I have found ways to set up the system that work well for me in the workflow that I use. Some of the layout and settings that I use are not exactly the default settings. I am still experimenting with various options as far as my default view is concerned but some things I have been using for quite some time. For a listing of the hardware and plugs that I use see my page about my SAC 2.0 system (Note: That page is not yet live - when it is live I will link out to it).

I set my host system up on or beside the stage and use a remote for FOH. Since I use semi-permanent channel assignments I find very little need to tweak the gain settings on the preamps. The notable exceptions are bass and keyboard channels and sometimes an acoustic guitar channel. I use the digital gain control in SAC if I need a bit more (or less) signal to the mixer. As long as the pres are not overloading this works well for me. Most often I go wireless with the remote but have carried cat5 in case I need to go wired. I recently added powerline networking adapters to the kit and they have worked well for me.

I have a starter mix template set up and saved in the mix template folder. This mix starter includes channel labels and order as well as some basic Eq settings and the plugins that I normally use. It is set up with four monitor mixes as that is my most common configuration. If I use less mixes it is no problem and setting up additional mixes is quick and painless when needed. I use the same channel order in most situations so pre-labeling works fine for me most of the time.

I do my system control onboard using the Dual Linkwitz-Riley filters. My system is a three way active system so I use three output channels for low, mids, and highs. I drop a seven band eq on each of these outputs. Setting up in this way allows me to assign to subs only those inputs that I want in subs. When I use my SAC rig to drive a house rig I still use my band pass filters but assign all to one set of outputs. This allows me to still use the sub assignments and gives me a quick balance for lows, mids and highs if I don't like the way that the house system is set up. I move these outputs to be on screen with the F mixer or just off screen to the right if screen real estate is a problem (think netbook).

Because I have used the netbook for my primary remote I do not use F-Key views extensively (tiny keys and big fingers combined with poor lighting). I like the wide mixer for parameter adjustments so I keep it open at all times. Because it is on top only when in focus most of the time much of it is hidden behind the F-mixer view but can be pulled to the foreground with a quick mouse click. Even when in the background the Eq settings are visible, and that is the portion in which I am most often interested. With the W view readily available (and my habits) I do not need the Z mixer or the jump buttons. I have resized/repositioned my default F views so I have more screen real estate available for other things and a few more channels visible on the F mixer view.

The scene feature in SAC is a strong feature, but I mostly only use it for mixer snapshots these days. I initially set up a board mute and effects on and off scenes. Then it occurred to me that I could give myself a one button solution that also provided an additional feature. I assign all channels that I want to mute to one of the many output groups above O-8 and then move that down to my active work area on the F mixer. The one button to which the vocal effects are assigned allows me to mute the effects between songs and the control allows me to adjust the overall effects output level. The master mute group allows for a board mute with one button, but if you use this option be sure to keep the control above zero so that if you inadvertently snap to zero on the channel the effect of the embarrassing moment will be minimized. This also gives you a way to adjust the overall volume level with one fader. With multi-band events I often also use a group to which all instrument channels are assigned (also kept near the top of the fader). This provides a way to drop the instrument channels between bands to reduce the surprise factor of different stage volumes.

I do often use the various latch features. For toms or a B-3 I often set a latch so that the over all volume can be controlled with a single fader. For vocal ensembles I usually use a reverse latch allowing for easy individual adjustment but the alt key allows a quick mute or all channel level adjustment. I use temporary latches when they make sense, often if there is a stereo guitar rig during a multi-band event or various other situations. I also use the temporary latch feature if I am setting up a spare monitor channel or want to make the same changes to several channels.

Using SAC for FOH

If the situation allows I usually set up a house mix location. I prefer to have a larger monitor and full keyboard available. When the netbook was my primary front of house appliance I still plugged in a monitor and keyboard when I could. Last summer I decided that it was time to get a dedicated FOH station together. I built a low end computer and intended to build a custom case to house the whole thing. Before I got it all together NewEgg ran a sale on a very small (NUC format) Asus computer. It is basically a laptop without a screen or laptop keyboard. I bought the little computer and an SSD and have been using it for front of house when I set up a mix location. Building it into a super-laptop (a briefcase computer) may be a winter project.

I am comfortable mixing on the netbook but the techniques used are different. I purchased a numeric keypad and usually plug that into the netbook even if I am wondering the venue with it. The numeric keypad gives me the arrow keys and a home and end key as well as access to the monitor mixers through keypad entries. If wandering the venue with the netbook I run the mouse on my leg if no other surface is available.

I very seldom grab a fader with the mouse except to make course adjustments. When mixing with the mouse I pop up the Z mixer and use the bump buttons. If I have my front of house setup I mix largely with the arrow keys. The arrow keys allow either a bump or a scroll on the volume control, but once a mix is set it is usually just a bump or two to pop something out front in the mix. I use the left/right arrows to change hot channels and can go through a mix for levels quite quickly when there is a band change.

In many places throughout the software there are flyout menus listing the available options for the adjustments related to the menu. I make nearly all Eq adjustments on the flyout menus and most other adjustments where the flyout menu is available. I like the precision of the menu driven options and find it faster for me than using the other options. The popup faders were a nice addition when they came along but in most cases the menus are still my 'go to' method for making adjustments where they are available.

Using SAC for Monitors

When setting up my monitor consoles I always use the SCR preA option. I set up monitor mix one as monitor master and do any need Eq or dynamics on mix one. I initially set all faders on M-1 to '0' and seldom change them there. The additional mixers are set up using the post faderM option.

When using SAC for monitors the arrow keys gain even greater importance. Using the arrow keys allows volume changes to be made while keeping eye contact with the artist. When giving someone the 5 minute overview for monitors I don't even mention the mouse as an available input device except for adjusting Eqs or selecting a hot channel.

When I first started using SAC the capability to switch mixers via the numeric keypad was not available. It was recommended to set up F-key views of the monitor mixers in use. This gave quick easy access to the various mixers and was functional. The major drawback to using F-keys was that the hot channel was reset with each mixer recall. (Note: I don't recall if it has always been this way, but in researching for my F Key Views page I found that the hot channel is one of the properties selectable at the time the workspace view is saved.)

When the numeric keypad feature was introduced I embraced it immediately. In my workflow there is less of a focus change from the arrow keys to the keypad next to it than there is in finding the right F-key (particularly on that tiny netbook keyboard). A bonus is that the hot channel is unchanged when the mixer is changed. If you are running through monitors with a band stage manager you often put something in all the mixes where it is needed. A simple change of mixers with the number keys does not require reselecting the hot channel when the mixer is changed as it did using the F-key shortcuts (As noted not necessarily the case now).

When working bigger stages I generally use my old active wedges. The racks had (and still have) an Ashley 31 band Eq and a Crown MacroTech 36X12 per mix. I drive from the output of SAC through the Eq and to the amp. On smaller stages I generally use powered wedges and add the 7 band SAC Eq if necessary.

Do you use other techniques or have questions?

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