AMS-Neve Capricorn Digital Mixing Console (part 3)
The benefit of having a reasonable amount of knobs, buttons and faders is that nothing is more than a couple of key presses away. Maybe we should award some kind of booby prize for the piece of equipment that has the function requiring the most key presses to access. Any nominations? Looking at this from the opposite angle, I know its considered very macho to operate a console with thousands of knobs and switches, but is it really the best way of working? In my alter ego as an explorer of all things video I see equipment which is both compact and easy for the operators to work. I really think that the day has come when if an engineer wants to control something large and ostentatiously powerful then he should buy a Harley Davidson. As you would expect of a digital console, the works are all in a rack that can be hidden in a cupboard somewhere. A well air conditioned cupboard that is, since the system may draw around 5kW! A side effect of having the electronics somewhere else is that the control surface is cool running. No longer do you literally have to sweat over your hot mix. I noticed, as I also noticed in the case of the Yamaha DMC1000 I looked at last month, that although the console looks modular at a first glance, it isnt modular on a channel by channel basis, but only in groups of twenty-four channels. Once again, I dont know whether it is possible or likely for a single channel to fail, as it certainly is with analogue consoles. I suspect this is just one more difference between analogue and digital that we will have to get used to. If youre in the mood for speculation, let me throw you the idea that someday we might not think about everything in terms of channels as we do now. Already, hard disk recorders are blurring the distinction between channels and events and perhaps in the future we might think more about instruments and what they are playing, or characters and what they are saying, rather than on constraints imposed by the equipment.
With any assignable console, there is always likely to be the problem that some of the settings you have made are currently hidden since you are now using the assignable controls for something else. Preferably there would be some attempt to show you, in abbreviated form, the most important ones. Capricorn has a function indicator at the top of each strip which shows the functions you have assigned. These include, as I mentioned earlier, expander gate, compressor, limiter, filter, EQ and of course the movable insert point. Its almost a whole effects rack and patchbay in its own right. You can see from here whether a function has been assigned, and then switch it into the audio path. Phase, stereo mode and 48V phantom power are selectable here too. Operation of the console is spread between the AFU and the strips. you will notice from the photos a number of knobs on the strips. Oops, did I say knobs? Of course I meant Function Assignable Controls, or FACs as AMS Neve describe them. The FAC does look pretty much like a conventional knob but it doesnt have any endstops so it goes round and round, if you want it to. The position of the knob is shown by a ring of LEDs which can illuminate individually to show position or en masse to indicate something like stereo width. Mostly you might like to use these for gain, aux sends and pan or width, but you can assign EQ functions to these as an alternative. One point that is worth a mention is that certain of the FACs have click stops and others operate smoothly. Clicks, or detents if that is your preferred word, are great for gain setting but they dont seem too good for EQ. I found that when I was trying to adjust EQ precisely, judging by what I was hearing from the monitors, the additional sensory input from the clicking knob put me off just a fraction. I dont mean to say that the knob clicks audibly, but the feel just doesnt seem right. Perhaps AMS Neve can devise some kind of electromagnetic clutch so that you can have clicks when they are appropriate and smooth action when that would be preferable.