London's Regent Street Apple Store uses iPad to control acoustics for live performances

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 21
Apple turns to existing solutions for many of the challenges it faces in retail. AppleInsider has learned that the London Regent Street Apple Store uses MOTU software to control the audio environment, both for technical reasons, as well as as a practical demonstration for store-goers.




Classically, when running live sound, the sound engineer runs a mixing board that is located in a fixed position, sometimes in the middle of the audience, sometimes off on the side the room in smaller clubs. For live performances in the Apple Retail flagship stores, that won't do.

AppleInsider editor-in-chief Neil Hughes was in the Apple Store as artist Saint Raymond began performing. Hughes noticed an Apple retail employee managing the live sound using an iPad Pro and an app the employee called "Motu."

Check out the Stage-B12 being controlled by the app here
Check out the Stage-B12 being controlled by the app here


With a little bit of detective work, it appears the app is MOTU AVB Discover which works with MOTU AVB hardware. The MOTU AVB hardware provides multi-channel mixing with networking, allowing the mixer to be controlled over the Wi-Fi network by the app or a web browser.




A large production might require hardware with more inputs, like a Stage B16 connected to a power amplifier for house audio, connected to a router so that the iPad's Wi-Fi can control it. It appears the Apple Store is using either Stage B16 or something equally as powerful, given that the store employee's iPad shows the interface at the top as Stage-B16 at a 10.200.xxx.xxx address.

As long as the app is in the same network as the hardware, the Apple retail employee can check the sound from a range of locations in the venue just by walking around. Sound engineers never had that much freedom in years past.




MOTU, or Mark of the Unicorn, has a long history, beginning in 1984 when they launched Professional Composer for Macintosh. In 1985, they launched Performer, whose legacy as a sequencing tool lives on today in Digital Performer 9.5. Artists like Pat Metheny, Geddy Lee, They Might Be Giants, and Suzanne Ciani are Digital Performer users.

Given the long history working with Apple and making the right hardware for the job, it's no surprise Apple is choosing MOTU for their in-store live audio.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,296member
    As an ex-recording engineer, I don't think someone walking around a venue, constantly fiddling with the sound is the best idea and given the chance to constantly change things, they will.   That's why the sound levels in concerts always get higher in the second half of a show:  the mixer wants to feel like they're doing something AND they're deaf from the high levels, so they turn it up even more. 

    In fixed venues, what one would normally do is send white or pink noise through the system and then equalize to the house.   This is what the calibration modes in A/V pre-pros and receivers attempt to do.   Once you do that, you should not be playing with the overall frequency response (as opposed to the frequency response of a single instrument or mic input).   

    Due to no soft surfaces at all, the Apple stores that I've been in would actually be great for acoustic performances, but they would be terrible for amplified performances as the sound just bounces around endlessly.   Back in the days before amplification, concert halls were designed to have long reverberation times and since amplification, they've largely been designed to have very low reverberation times (except for Classical/Opera music venues).   Likewise with movie theaters.   And the Apple stores have very long reverberation times.  

    I've told this before, but when Siri was first released, I went to the Lincoln Square store in NYC to try it out.  That store has stone or concrete floors, stone walls, the usual hardwood tables and glass ceilings.    Siri wouldn't work because there was so much noise in the store, it didn't understand what I was saying.   Then I heard what I thought was a live band coming from the lower level.   I went down there and it was just one of those boom boxes to use with an iPhone or iPod Touch, but it was loud and reverberating due to all those hard surfaces.   If I were designing those stores, I'd put in random, sound absorbing cloth panels on the walls.    And while carpeting would be hell to maintain, it would really quiet those places down.   
     
    When I read the headline, what I thought this was going to be about was Apple using electronic environmental noise reduction.   Those are systems which input the environmental sound with a microphone and then send out an out of phase signal to counteract it, much the same way as noise reducing headphones work.  
    dacharbaconstangarthurbachiadysamoriapscooter63
  • Reply 2 of 23
    A pedant writes: a) it's Soho, not SoHo; and b) neither of Apple's central London stores is in Soho: they neatly bracket it to east and west by being in Covent Garden and Mayfair (late location of the US embassy) respectively.
    chia
  • Reply 3 of 23
    I wish MOTO were defined at the beginning of the article instead of at the very end. I kept thinking:


  • Reply 4 of 23
    Man, I used Mark of the Unicorn MIDI software decades ago to record music. Amazing it's now running on an iPad.

    CORRECTION: This is really just MIDI control software, not music creation software.
    edited January 20
  • Reply 5 of 23
    bb-15bb-15 Posts: 187member
    Man, I used Mark of the Unicorn MIDI software decades ago to record music. Amazing it's now running on an iPad.

    CORRECTION: This is really just MIDI control software, not music creation software.
    Also an old time Mark of the Unicorn customer. 
    I did check out current iPad music creation software and was surprised at how many options there are. 

    http://www.musicradar.com/news/tech/14-of-the-best-ipad-iphone-ios-daws-and-workspaces-574065

    http://musicappblog.com/genome-review/

    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 6 of 23
    bb-15 said:
    Man, I used Mark of the Unicorn MIDI software decades ago to record music. Amazing it's now running on an iPad.

    CORRECTION: This is really just MIDI control software, not music creation software.
    Also an old time Mark of the Unicorn customer. 
    I did check out current iPad music creation software and was surprised at how many options there are. 

    http://www.musicradar.com/news/tech/14-of-the-best-ipad-iphone-ios-daws-and-workspaces-574065

    http://musicappblog.com/genome-review/

    That's a great link (MusicRadar.com). Thanks.
  • Reply 7 of 23
    As a working professional musician most every venue where I perform these days has some kind of iPad controlling the house system. It is pretty much a standard. 
    sphericchiaracerhomie3pscooter63dtb200
  • Reply 8 of 23
    Sound engineers never had that much freedom in years past.”

    I’ve been doing this for years. On my Soundcraft console I use ViSi for iPad. I can control all the major functions directly from my iPad(s).

    Now I wouldn’t actually run a live show from an iPad - for that I’d be sitting at the console. But during setup it’s invaluable. I can move around the stage checking mics and other inputs or setting up monitor mixes. I can also move to different audience locations and make adjustments to try and get the best sound overall.

    Even better I can let musicians control things with their own iPad. And no, they don’t get control over the whole console (disaster in the making). I can lock them out from all but some specific settings they are allowed to control (like settings for their personal monitor). Musicians love this (as opposed to yelling out to the engineer or using hand signals to get their monitor turned up).

    Several high-end console makers have Apps that perform very similar functions.
    MisterKitGG1sphericwatto_cobradtb200fastasleep
  • Reply 9 of 23
    zoetmb said:
    As an ex-recording engineer, I don't think someone walking around a venue, constantly fiddling with the sound is the best idea and given the chance to constantly change things, they will.   That's why the sound levels in concerts always get higher in the second half of a show:  the mixer wants to feel like they're doing something AND they're deaf from the high levels, so they turn it up even more. 

    In fixed venues, what one would normally do is send white or pink noise through the system and then equalize to the house.   This is what the calibration modes in A/V pre-pros and receivers attempt to do.   Once you do that, you should not be playing with the overall frequency response (as opposed to the frequency response of a single instrument or mic input).   


    As someone who does live sound reinforcement I find these comments a bit offensive and stereotypical.

    I’m hardly deaf and I don’t “fiddle” with things just so I can feel like I’m doing something. I don’t crank the levels as the show progresses either.

    Equalizing “to the house” using pink/white noise only gets you part of the way there. When a venue is filled the frequency response changes because human bodies are actually pretty good at absorbing sound. Then you have environmental changes (temperature/humidity) which also alter the sound (esp outdoors for an all-day-evening show). This often requires changes to be made as a show progresses. And these are only a couple things that might require fine tuning during a show (there are so many I don’t have time to list them all).

    I find playing reference songs I’m familiar with through the system as one of the best ways to determine how a venue sounds. Pink noise/room analysis software and a spectrum analyzer follow
    edited January 20 GG1chiawatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    Real acoustic tool: Meyer Sound Constellation
    welshdog
  • Reply 11 of 23
    We've been doing this at my church campus for years now. 
    In our high school, children's ministry jr. high, coffee house, and even our outreaches when we pack up our sound system and go beyond the church campus. It's really liberating and even fun. 

    Technically you can use just just about any tablet as their are not only apps, but network web interfaces. It's amazing at how much better the setup is with an iPad and compatible audio mixer. 
  • Reply 12 of 23
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,550member
    robintosh said:
    Real acoustic tool: Meyer Sound Constellation
    If you have the Meyer hardware. 

    Smaart and Spectrafoo if you don’t. Won’t run on an iPad, though. 
  • Reply 13 of 23
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,550member
    As a gigging musician, it’s been amazing to watch how quickly iPad control via WiFi has become bog-standard for live consoles. 

    The first time I saw an FoH engineer walk around the venue with his iPad, talking to the musicians directly on stage as he edited their monitor mix, was pretty rad. This was about six years ago, and the iPad was fairly new - but the industry was already embracing it. 

    Today, it’s almost rare NOT to have iPad support. 
    MisterKitchiadtb200
  • Reply 14 of 23
    zoetmb said:
    As an ex-recording engineer, I don't think someone walking around a venue, constantly fiddling with the sound is the best idea and given the chance to constantly change things, they will.   That's why the sound levels in concerts always get higher in the second half of a show:  the mixer wants to feel like they're doing something AND they're deaf from the high levels, so they turn it up even more. 

    In fixed venues, what one would normally do is send white or pink noise through the system and then equalize to the house.   This is what the calibration modes in A/V pre-pros and receivers attempt to do.   Once you do that, you should not be playing with the overall frequency response (as opposed to the frequency response of a single instrument or mic input).   


    As someone who does live sound reinforcement I find these comments a bit offensive and stereotypical.

    I’m hardly deaf and I don’t “fiddle” with things just so I can feel like I’m doing something. I don’t crank the levels as the show progresses either.

    Equalizing “to the house” using pink/white noise only gets you part of the way there. When a venue is filled the frequency response changes because human bodies are actually pretty good at absorbing sound. Then you have environmental changes (temperature/humidity) which also alter the sound (esp outdoors for an all-day-evening show). This often requires changes to be made as a show progresses. And these are only a couple things that might require fine tuning during a show (there are so many I don’t have time to list them all).

    I find playing reference songs I’m familiar with through the system as one of the best ways to determine how a venue sounds. Pink noise/room analysis software and a spectrum analyzer follow
    Well Said. 

    During setup, it's invaluable. 

    Live, it is nice to have physical controls, but even then, an iPad on a stand works just as well. 

    We also fill fill our rooms with noise and go until we get feedback and dial it in from there. 

    I dont know what it is about folks folks that make them think if they hear one thing, they must then know everything and feel compelled to respond in kind. Indicative of our culture at the moment I'm afraid. 

    Weve got three amazing sound techs. Two of them are audio engineers with band and concert backgrounds and one of them works for a rather large venue which hosts major productions throughout the year. Then their is the all important "ear" which is basically a gift to know what sounds good and what doesn't - that's the most important part. You can teach most people to operate a "sound board" but when someone has an ear for it, there is a world of difference. Even in this amazing age of tech, the most important thing is people. 

    Theyre pretty much experts. And... they love mixing sound on the iPad. whether you're sitting at a console or using an iPad, you're doing the same thing - controlling the board. 

    And it it works great. 
    edited January 21
  • Reply 15 of 23
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,095administrator
    If you don't see your comment, go read the new commenting guidelines, please. There is a convenient link at the bottom of the page.
    dtb200
  • Reply 16 of 23
    9secondkox2 said:
    [...] whether you're sitting at a console or using an iPad, you're doing the same thing - controlling the board.
    Technically true, but I'd hate to have to mix a whole show on an iPad. Scrolling/banking back and forth between faders and calling up separate windows to adjust EQ and dynamics. It's a cool tool and I'm not denigrating it at all, I just prefer to have real knobs and faders under my fingers where I can feel them.

    Having the talent remotely adjust their own monitor mixes seems like a great idea though. What I wonder about, since mixing music is a whole different discipline than performing it, is does it work out well, or do the musicians just mix up a muddy mess that adversely affects their performance? I guess we'll never really know if it's less than ideal, because there isn't a musician in the world who's gonna admit that they messed up their own monitor mix and want someone else to do it for them! :)
  • Reply 17 of 23
    Same here. I’m a musician and have been using my iPad for years as a mixing console. I think Mackie was one of the first dedicated iPad mixers I ran into. Nowadays I have a small Behringer iPad mixer even for my duo gigs. It has a lot more control with the eq and effects than a small analog mixer. And these days they are very cheap. That is if you already have an iPad.

    Just have to remember to assing a password for the wifi or everyones phones will log on to the network and jam the whole thing. :smiley: Learned it the hard way when at the beginning of a gig we couldn’t connect to the mixer and unmute the channels because the thing was jammed by the 500 or so people at the venue. Had to unplug the mixer, take it to the backstage, connect to it and unmute and take it back to the stage. :smiley: 
    edited January 21
  • Reply 18 of 23
    I wish MOTO were defined at the beginning of the article instead of at the very end. I kept thinking:



    As a child of the 80s, that is the only thing I associate the acronym "MOTU" with!
  • Reply 19 of 23
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,550member
    I wish MOTO were defined at the beginning of the article instead of at the very end. I kept thinking:



    As a child of the 80s, that is the only thing I associate the acronym "MOTU" with!
    As a fellow child of the 80s, MotU has always been “Mark of the Unicorn” to me - I started recording on Mark of the Unicorn’s (MIDI-only) Performer and cassette tapes on a Mac SE. 
  • Reply 20 of 23
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,550member

    9secondkox2 said:
    [...] whether you're sitting at a console or using an iPad, you're doing the same thing - controlling the board.
    Technically true, but I'd hate to have to mix a whole show on an iPad. Scrolling/banking back and forth between faders and calling up separate windows to adjust EQ and dynamics. It's a cool tool and I'm not denigrating it at all, I just prefer to have real knobs and faders under my fingers where I can feel them.

    Having the talent remotely adjust their own monitor mixes seems like a great idea though. What I wonder about, since mixing music is a whole different discipline than performing it, is does it work out well, or do the musicians just mix up a muddy mess that adversely affects their performance? I guess we'll never really know if it's less than ideal, because there isn't a musician in the world who's gonna admit that they messed up their own monitor mix and want someone else to do it for them! :)
    The Qu-Pac series that we worked with has a limited monitor mix app for phones, where a qualified sound guy uses the full iPad app (Qu-Pad) to set up stems (e.g. keys, drums, backing vox, etc) that can be level-adjusted. I assume most others have a similar mode. 

    It’s rare for musicians to get access to the full individual channel strips. I usually have for the last few projects, but I know my way around a console. 
    edited January 22 lorin schultz
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