2020 has been a year like none other that most of us can remember in our lifetimes. But, we managed to see another Halloween weekend come and go… and true to my own annual tradition, I busted out the Oingo Boingo playlist to honor the songwriting/compositional mastery of Mr. Danny Elfman, along with one of my all-time favorite drummers, Mr. Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez and his quirky approach to propelling all those amazing songs they created in the 80’s.
So, I had the honor of spending time this past NAMM 2020 in Anaheim at our PreSonus Booth with Mr. Bill Jackson, who I discovered was Oingo Boingo’s recording engineer on one of the songs to a hit movie I used to watch ad infinitum back in my youth, Weird Science and all subsequent album releases as well as my go-to end of year holiday film (to this day), Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. We spoke at length about how he’s been using our Faderport line of control surfaces to craft his mixing with total human organic interactivity.
Here then, is what he had to say and much more!
During college, I played guitar in bands and also recorded them, as well as other local artists, with a Teac A3340-S. I had no EQ on my Tascam mixer, but I had a Tapco spring reverb.
My career started at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. I started as the runner, but I was always going in early and staying late. Sunset has 3 rooms, and I would go to each room, before the session started and look at every mic, then follow the path through the console and all the outboard gear. These were great engineers, working on projects like Van Halen, Doobie Brothers, Toto, etc. Eventually, I was able to hang out during some of the sessions and the clients got to know me. That led to me getting thrown into a lot of sessions, including some for a solid month of engineering for Prince, Sheila E., and The Time.
I randomly was selected to be the assistant engineer on “Weird Science” by Oingo Boingo. When they came back the next week, to record the Dead Man’s Party album, the engineer could not commit to it, so he told Danny Elfman to use me. I recorded every album after that, including the final Live Farewell album.
Danny had also started scoring music for films, and I recorded music for about 12 films with Danny, including recording all of the singing voices for Nightmare Before Christmas.
Around the same time that I started working with Oingo Boingo, I had been recording demos with this producer, Howard Benson. That eventually led to recording and mixing about six major-label albums with Howard, including Bang Tango’s Psycho Café. Howard continues to make records that achieve gold, platinum, and #1 status.
I have probably worked on about 200 albums, in some capacity.
Now, I mix a lot of prime-time network television and a lot of documentaries and have created a space at my house for mixing all of that, as well as recording and mixing albums and singles for independent artists.
So, my PreSonus journey actually started with a music editor, Micha, that I was working with. I noticed that he (and other music editors), would bring in a little box, that sat beside their computer. It had one fader, cool transport control buttons, lots of function buttons and a big blue knob. I asked him about it, and he showed me what it could do. (Music editors, as part of their job, have to present Quicktime mixes to the producers, using the music score from the composer, the way it should sound in the finished mix. This helps the producers decide if they want to keep the music, or make changes to it).
NAMM was just a few weeks away, and by chance, I walked in to the entrance where PreSonus was set up. I was immediately drawn over to what turned out to be an 8-fader version of the single-channel FaderPort that the editors were using. I played around with it and asked a few questions, and when I got home, I ordered one of the first ones available.
What drew me to the FaderPort 8 was the small footprint and low profile. I like having it right in front of my timeline monitor, and it doesn’t block my view, as some new controllers can, and its depth is shallow enough that my monitor can stay completely behind it, but still be close to me. I also loved the price. I don’t think there is anything out there that compares with the FaderPort 8 and FaderPort 16, for the price.
What I like the most about the FaderPort series has to start with the amazing transport controls. Whomever designed this transport is a genius. I am all about minimal movement and conservation of energy. My setup has four monitors, and I divide my movements fairly evenly between my right and left hands.
The tactile feel of the buttons, and the precise layout, which matches where my fingers naturally fall, is awesome. Especially if I am recording overdubs and constantly using the transport controls… I don’t have to move the position of my hand or even look at the controls. It is very ergonomic and natural.
Other features that make my life easier, are the big blue knob that allows me to quickly spin to the next bank of tracks, or move 1 channel at a time. I am always spinning that knob to get the channels that I want to be on the surface. In addition to a Solo Clear button, there is also a Mute Clear button, which will clear the solos and mutes showing on the surface in Pro Tools.
I like that the Audio and Virtual Instrument buttons can be used to switch between the Mix and Edit windows in Pro Tools.
Very convenient are the Latch, Trim, Touch, Write, Off and Read buttons, to change the automation setting of highlighted tracks.
Something that definitely should be mentioned, is that I can choose between Studio One, MCU, HUI, and MIDI Mode, when I set it up to use with my DAW.
I also love that I can adjust the fader sensitivity. I have always had issues with moving faders knowing that I am touching them. The Faderport gives me 7 levels of sensitivity to choose from. Level 6 works perfectly for my fingers.
I can also easily adjust the contrast and brightness of the display to work with my viewing angle.
It comes in handy for recording music, especially how the large Select buttons can become the Arm buttons, in bright red. My average tracking session is about 12-14 tracks of drums and the other live musicians (usually playing along as guide tracks for the drummer). Boingo always recorded that way, with everyone playing live, even if we were only going to keep the drums. I still record like that. It helps the band realize that the tempo and drum parts are right.
The Faderport 16 especially shines when it comes to mixing for Television. Here’s the workflow/process:
For each episode, my mix tech, Christina, at Sony, sends me the Pro Tools session, which is made from a combination of my template and my FX editor, Mike’s session, and the audio files folder that goes with it. They both have my template, so this is an easy collaboration. Mike has cut in all of the FX and BG tracks, from scratch, but also includes some pre-mixed 5.1 sounds, that I have made from previous episodes, that I sometimes blend into similar scenes in the new episodes. It ends up being a combination of my pre-mix and his new tracks, for these particular scenes. Mike also includes the Foley, which is performed by Robin and Sarah, the Foley walkers that I love at Sony. I asked for them to be on Madam Secretary, and they also created the Foley for other shows I worked on, such as The Goldbergs, and now The Resident.
What is great about the Faderport 16, is that I can easily grab the eight or so background tracks for a scene, and get a quick balance, then I press the Sends button, and (in this case, select Send C) and grab those same faders to add the ambiance reverb to the BGs that I have selected for that scene.
I then press the Pan button, which turns those same faders into left and right panners, that I use to pan the more specific tracks of the BGs, such as typing, paper shuffling, cars, and sirens. If I am just panning a single track, I may grab the blue pan knob to do a traditional knob pan. Any surround panning is accomplished with a touch screen I have, which mimics the surround panner in Pro Tools. I also use the Sends button to send FX to the subchannel, and any of the other 3 reverbs that I use. Even though I am using HUI control, I am able to do all of this. I also have the input meter turned on, as well as the ability to see the fader dB levels in the scribble strip. I also use the VCA button to show and hide my EQ plug-in. The Shift-Track buttons allow me to display the SMPTE (or BPM) onto the strip.
When I started mixing episodic television at my place, I need to be able to work efficiently and fast. I had used other small format controllers, but wanted something different in price and also features.
Having 16 faders available on the surface. I really mean this, when I am mixing backgrounds, it is nice to have the faders spaced relatively close together. I can work faster, grabbing 8-10 faders, and then switching to Sends mode and grabbing the same faders to add ambiance. This works very efficiently for me.
Seeing the track input levels on the FaderPort, as well as the level of the fader, really help during a mix, as well as the other features that I mentioned.
I would love to have a single button for saving. I am saving my session all the time, and it would be great if I could just double-tap on the big blue knob to save my work.
All in all, I love how you guys took a console for everyone and made it work so well with HUI in Pro Tools.
An added bonus of mixing at Jacksonland (my home studio) with the FaderPort 16, is that I already had a personal mix workflow in place when COVID-19 appeared, and have been able to continue working on The Resident, every week while all of us are sequestering ourselves from each other, since I was already mixing in this manner.
Most of us who work here at PreSonus are musicians 🎤🎹🎸🎺🎷🎻🥁or audio engineers 🎧.
And some of us are also gamers 🎮in addition to that.
For those of you who can relate, check out this interesting and fun video that PreSonus Artist/Endorser Nik Jeremić just created and shared with us recently. He’s using an Xbox One game controller to trigger samples in Studio One:
For those of you who are not familiar with Nikola (Nik) Jeremić’s work on the previous iteration of the Starpoint Gemini videogame soundtrack, you can find out about that here.
This will be a “deep dive” into how Nik used Studio One Professional along with the ATOM and our Studio 1824c interface to route audio and MIDI data to and from external hardware synths… his own words!
The most important thing about ATOM in this production is that it is used both as a playable instrument, as well as editing and mixing controller.
The layout was very simple in terms that it already integrates itself perfectly with Studio One, and I didn’t have to do much with tweaking it.
So far it completely replaced my old Classic FaderPort (which I still own and use it from time to time) in regards to transport commands, writing automation for track levels, panning, and the amount of signal being sent to FX tracks. I will surely upgrade myself with the current FaderPort pretty soon because I have worn out the buttons on the old one from years of usage.
After the transport tab buttons, the ones I used the most are Song Setup, Editor and instrument Show/Hide. It really speeds up my workflow, and it was especially helpful on this game. Since 80% of the game’s soundtrack was done in the box, browsing through instruments and editing their MIDI data was really easy and fast.
One of the things that really amazed me regarding ATOM was the fact that every pad is labeled with the corresponding default control in Studio One Editor. I rarely touched my computer keyboard for editing.
Whenever I wanted to make a quick edit of my parameters in Impact, or any other instrument that matter, I just hit that Show/Hide instrument button, and… voila! Everything is right there at my fingertips! I will talk more about ATOM and Impact XT later.
Studio 1824c Interface
I used FireStudio Project for over eight years, and it has been a solid workhorse of an interface for me throughout my career. It worked flawlessly until I had a power surge at my home, which fried some of my gear, including the interface, so THAT was the only reason I had to replace it.
It actually happened in the middle of my work on Starpoint Gemini 3, so I researched a little and decided to go with Studio 1824c as an upgrade. To be honest, it’s as if I never replaced my old interface, because PreSonus hardware is really great when it comes to communication with Studio One, so the only thing I had to do was to plug it in my PC and install the latest drivers, and that was it. My production of this soundtrack hasn’t stopped at all, because everything was so compatible, so I just had to re-connect a few audio cables. It took me only minutes and I was back on track.
Since 20% of the soundtrack to Starpoint Gemini 3 is done on hardware synths and instruments, Studio 1824C is a Godsend for connecting all four of my hardware synths:
My Yamaha DX7 was connected via splitter cable as a stereo unit to my inputs 5 and 6.
I also used my three analogue KORG synths: (Volca Bass, Volca Keys, Volca Kick) in stereo via another splitter cable which was connected to inputs 1 and 2, because these Volcas were used the most for this soundtrack.
All of the synths received their MIDI data via MIDI In/Out from Studio 1824c, and I am really happy I didn’t have to buy an external MIDI interface for this. The only thing I had to do was to plug and unplug the midi cables from one synth to another, depending which one I was using at that time, but it’s not a mood killer.
My inputs 3 and 4 were set up as mono. Input 3 has an external 1073 clone mic preamp attached to it, and Input 4 has an external DI for recording and re-amping guitars and bass.
Inputs 7&8 together with Outputs 7&8 were used as stereo FX loop send/return for my FX pedal chain with Pipeline Stereo plugin:
I also used sticky tags to label my front panel of Studio 1824C, and I mapped out my ins and outs inside song setup window, so I could save it as a default setting for all of my tracks for this game.
Regarding my FX chain loop, I used delay, chorus and shimmer reverb pedals in series, and I set them up to be used with Pipeline XT stereo plugin (which comes bundled with Studio One Pro) on an FX track. The reason I opted for this approach instead of connecting my synth output directly to pedals, is because I wanted to have an overall control of the amount of synth signal I am sending to any FX chain. Sometimes I wanted to automate the amount of signal being sent, and that is where those mapped knobs from ATOM came in handy.
I am pretty amazed by the build quality of Studio 1824c, having in mind the price of the unit. I absolutely love the front panel metering and big level knob for main out. Having two headphone outputs is really handy when I invite a session musician to record, because I don’t have a booth, then we both use headphones in the same room. Studio 1824c is a workhorse of an interface and it has improved my workflow ten times better than before.
I amhave yet to build my own Eurorack modular synth, so I can send CV signals via Studio 1824c outs to my synth. That is an AMAZING feature, and I am really looking forward to using it in the future.
Impact XT was an essential part of my beats and percussive materials for both action and exploration tracks, and the way ATOM integrates with Impact XT has been really helpful to my workflow throughout the course of this entire soundtrack.
One was for triggering 80s synth drums and transition fills that you can hear in synthwave all the time. The first bank (BLUE) was for elements of the drum kit, and the second bank (GREEN) was for triggering drum fills for transitions between parts.
I love the fact I can trigger loops and audio clips inside Impact XT and sync them to the BPM of my track. All you have to do is to quantize each trigger pad to Follow Tempo and Beats, and no matter what tempo you’re in, it will work flawlessly.
One more thing I like about Impact XT and ATOM is that all the pads can be color-coded the way you like for each bank, because it really helps during the performance to know which pad corresponds to which sound or loop. The bank button on the ATOM itself responds to the bank color of Impact XT, which is really cool.
My second instance of Impact XT was for deep ambient hits and various atonal noises and synth FX for background. I mean, you can’t have a space exploration soundtrack without some weird alien sounds in the background, right?😊
I love the option of multiple stereo and mono outputs in Impact, so that was really helpful for me to have different FX chains for various drum sounds.
SampleOne XT is featuring my main piano sounds for the entire Starpoint Gemini 3 soundtrack. I haven’t recorded actual piano samples, instead I re-sampled a piano VST I am using most of the time for my work. The thing is that this sampled piano uses up a lot of RAM and CPU, so I couldn’t use it in real-time with my other instruments inside my template, because the piano was processed with a lot of plugins, and then it was introducing latency after I had to increase the buffer size.
In order to use the sounds that I wanted, I re-sampled this piano in two octaves note by note with the processing included. It was more convenient for me, and it saved me a lot of loading time of the template itself.
SampleOne XT proved to be a great choice because it’s really user-friendly and convenient.
First, I had to edit and cut all of the individual notes and label them. That is the only tedious work I had to do here.
Basically what I did was to place all of the samples on the grid, select the audio input inside Sample One XT, choose the starting note and Play, Stop, and Record buttons in order to tell the engine to separate notes. After that, I only renamed the files, and that was it.
After that was done, I was able to play my piano instantly. I saved the patch as a preset, so I could recall it any time.
It doesn’t get any simpler than that, and this is the reason I love Studio One.
As I said, ATOM and Impact XT are all over my percussive tracks and beats on this soundtrack, but I also used another drum VST plug-in here in order to make things sound a little bit organic, and I used my 80s synth drum kit as a layer on top of those organic drum parts. Call it some sort of a kick and snare drum sample trigger like you have in metal production.
The option that really inspired me and got my creative juices flowing is the pattern editor in Studio One 4.6.
The way I sequenced my drums and percussion was to play them in at first, and get the most humanization out of them based on velocity, sample offset etc… But then I took those performances and improved them inside Pattern Editor, changed a hit here and there, modify the rhythm, etc…
Basically, I had a drum performance on a midi piano roll with all the notes labeled properly, and then I right-clicked on the midi clip to select the option to convert it to drum pattern for editing.
I could easily replace notes, create new performances, shift the beats and add some swing to them in order to make them sound more natural. The option for half-lane resolution is a really cool feature to add triplets and some odd hits, but it allows me to follow the pattern with precision. This is just one example of a pre-chorus pattern inside the action track, and you can clearly see the name of all the notes properly, and I love the way it integrates properly with third party drum VSTs.
It really is a beatmaking workhorse for electronic music. I have yet to test in on cinematic percussion with big drums and more elements.
MIDI FX in Studio One (the arpeggiator especially) can come in handy if you don’t like the fuss of setting up some complex sequences.
I used arpeggiator mostly on action cues where I wanted to create running sequences in order to have that sense of tension going on during combat. It was mostly set up in 8th or 16th notes, and then I played wide chords on percussive synths in order to get them running and the results were stunning! The arpeggiator is really easy to use, and it was my go-to MIDI effect on this soundtrack.
Repeater is a whole different beast, and this one is for people who actually like working with complex sequences of scales and melodies. I used Repeater also mostly on action cues for the same reason as the Arpeggiator, but I programmed it to play some aggressive melodies that would counter the chords of the Arpeggiator. I actually have a hardware analogue sequencer, but this was easier and faster to use.
The real fun starts when you place a Chorder in front of Repeater!
What I did with Chorder was to make it play intervals like fifths or octaves, and then sequence those with either Repeater or Arpeggiator.
The results I got were some really complex action sequences which made the game developers smile from ear to ear! I highly recommend trying this approach.
👀☝️Faderport 16 as a centerpiece of Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo’s studio setup
PreSonus: For those who don’t know already, please tell us about yourself and what you’ve been up to?
Sir Bob: Been in the music business since 2006, worked with a lot of artists from Paul McCartney to Tommy Lee, going to Jason Aalon Butler, to Zhu.
I’ve played all the major festivals of the world, multiple times; Coachella, Lollapalooza, Primavera Sound, Rock im Ring, Rock imPark, Sziget, EDC, Summer Sonic, Fuji Rock… I could go forever.
I’m a musician, producer, and photographer—and I go crazy for motors!
PreSonus: So, tell us… how did the Faderport 16 and you become involved?
Sir Bob: I fell in love with the original Faderport almost four years ago and now got crazy with FaderPort 16. I needed a simple and solid machine. This fit the bill nicely!
Long story short—I love mixing and having control of the faders under my fingers. Nothing can replace the human touch and the Faderport 16 somehow returns it back.
PreSonus: What DAW do you use with the Faderport 16?
Sir Bob: Ableton Live 10.
PreSonus: What would you say you like most about PreSonus?
Sir Bob: Your customer service, peripheral installation speed, and ease of product use.
PreSonus: Any tips or tricks with our products you’d like to share?
Sir Bob: As you can imagine, I’m not new to DAW controllers. I’ve played with a lot of them, and I’ve bought many during the years from Mackie to SSL. This is the only one that has never given me any problems… which should be a priority for all controllers out there, just saying.
PreSonus: In closing… what would be on your “wish list” from us in the future?
Sir Bob: I’m dreaming about the Faderport 24. MAKE IT REAL!!!
ioStation24c: The collaborative partner for the solo artist.
When you’re a solo artist, you have to be more than just creative to realize your vision—you must also be a producer and an audio engineer. The ioStation 24c audio interface and production controller provides the tools needed for all of these diverse roles in a compact, ergonomic desktop design that will fit into any home studio.
[This just in from Charlie Bauerfeind, producer for genre-defining power metal pioneers, Helloween! In his search for the perfect DAW Controller for his ultra-compact-but-complex, MacBook Pro-based, live-broadcast setup for Helloween’s Rock in Rio Show on October 4th, he turned to Presonus’s Faderport 16.]
I was blown away by the ease of use in the FaderPort 16’s setup, and the incredible versatility in this most compact DAW controller. It was truly a plug-and-play experience, and made my job in Rio go perfectly smooth… My Pro Tools-based setup is comprised of several session-based pre-programmed automation parts… but the much bigger dynamic automation part needs to be handled flawlessly during the live performance. I’ve owned a FaderPort Classic for a long time, but the FaderPort 16 allowed me to deliver a great broadcast result for one of the biggest Rock festivals on this planet.
A big THANK YOU to the guys at PreSonus!
For a limited time, purchasers of a Quantum or Quantum 4848 interface will get a FREE FaderPort! All you need to do is make your purchase and fill out the rebate form linked below.
Sound on Sound called The Quantum “The Fastest Interface on the Planet,” which ranks among the highest praise we’ve ever received. Following up the Quantum is the incredible Quantum 4848, which serves as an exceptional bridge for bringing your boutique analog processing gear into a digital workflow.
“They’ve achieved low-latency performance that, with the exception of PCIe cards, is currently unrivaled by any interface I know of. “
-Sam Inglis, Sound on Sound
And the FaderPort… what more can be said? The FaderPort Classic was one of our most enduring products, and enjoyed nearly a ten-year manufacturing run. And its new younger brother is even better. With the compact, easy-to-use FaderPort, you’ll enjoy the fastest, most efficient workflow and the most session control you’ve ever experienced.
Quantum 4848 Overview:
This Instant Rebate is available now through the end of June and is offered WORLDWIDE!
This just in from Glenn Rosenstein, a three-time Grammy-winning mix engineer whose credits include U2, Madonna, Talking Heads, The Ramones, James Brown, Miles Davis and many others. His work in film and television has landed him both an Oscar and a Golden Globe while working on projects including The Sopranos, Celebrity Circus, The Last Emperor, Blown Away, Married To The Mob, Charmed, Beverly Hills 90210, All My Children and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. We recently got in touch with him to get his perspective on all things PreSonus.
Hey Glenn. Tell us about yourself!
I’ve had a fun career that’s led me to many musical adventures. I started early on at Power Station in NYC, then as a staff engineer at Sigma Sound Studio. I became an independent mixer, then producer, eventually winning some Grammys and selling a bunch of records, back when that was a possibility. I’m still producing both for my Sony labels, as well as independently. I partner in a number of project studios in Nashville, Muscle Shoals, and New York, as well as having a room at historic Fame Studios.
What PreSonus products have you used and which do you currently use?
I’ve always been a PreSonus user. As time goes on, PreSonus continues to release products that almost anticipate my needs. I started out with the ADL 600, a very tasty stereo mic pre from a few years back. I’ve put together a pretty cool room in my Muscle Shoals facility that’s centered around the StudioLive 64S, along with some great AVB powered PreSonus peripherals: The StudioLive 32R, the EarMix 16M, and the SW5E among them. Also to be found are the PreSonus R80 monitors and, of course, Studio One. And I always travel with my Faderport 16. Always.
For what applications are you using the products?
My PreSonus facility is very much a writing/production room that is easily convertible to a full-blown production studio. I like the creative ease and intuitive design that is integrated into all of the PreSonus cosmos of products. It’s simple to start off small—just creating some beats or a few phrases on guitar or a vocal idea—and easily push that to a bigger, more robust production without having to shift rigs.
What led you to choose these particular PreSonus products?
I had a pretty solid awareness of the PreSonus offerings for many years and was fortunate enough to meet and spend some time with Jim Odom. His backstory is steeped in music production and performance, and, ultimately, creating solutions that he wanted for himself. I liked that a lot. I still do. I totally get the narrative of PreSonus products, their evolution over the past few years, and their remarkable value. Jim and his team are always pushing the boundaries—they’re taking insane amounts of features and options and putting them in boxes that should cost five times what they’re asking. I have no idea how they get it done, but they do. And all that filters down into very usable tools that sound great and are fun to work with.
Having used the gear, what do you like most about the specific PreSonus products you use?
Let’s talk about the Faderport 16: A 16-channel control surface that fits under your arm—brilliant design and execution. Regardless of my preferred DAW, I always feel right at home. I’m in a hotel, it’s there. I’m in a rehearsal room, it’s there. Perfect combination of small footprint and functionality.