RUNNING WITH ORVILLE
It’s possible to figure out many of Orville’s operations without opening the manual. But even if you’re an experienced DSP4000 jockey, expect to spend some time poking buttons before you’ve got any sense of control. While there are buttons in the same places as on the 4000 series, they have different functions (and some vital functions aren’t obvious from the front panel labels).
The main operating cluster is in the middle of the front panel and consists of eight buttons. The top button, DSP A/B, determines which processing engine is controlled by the front panel and shows up on the LCD display. (The other engine still functions and can pass audio when it’s disconnected from the panel.) The next button, PROGRAM, controls the preset selection... but only for the engine activated by the top button. You have to check a single character on the LCD to know which engine this will be—there’s no LED indicator or large A/B readout on the screen—so it’s easy to install a preset into the wrong engine and blow away something else you’d taken a long time to fine-tune. I quickly got into the habit of checking the screen, and tapping the A/B button a few times to make sure, before loading any new preset.
Fortunately, you can save fine-tunings the same as on the 4000 (a soft-key in the PROGRAM screen lets you save it with a new name, or update one you’ve previously saved). This also became a habit very quickly. If you hold the PROGRAM button in for a few seconds, it brings up a screen for saving signal routings... but there’s nothing on the front panel to suggest this is so. You have to read the manual to discover this function. In fact, Orville comes with two manuals—one for getting a signal through the machine and another for programming presets. Unless you read them both, you’ll miss out on a lot.
PARAMETER and SELECT work the same way on both the 4000 and Orville. But the SETUP button has been moved to the right side of the panel. Instead, Eventide added new UP and DOWN arrow buttons (only LEFT and RIGHT appear on the 4000), making menus a little easier to navigate... unless you’ve also got the earlier model. If you have to switch between units, the difference in navigation styles can be very disconcerting.
PRESETS AND ROLLING YOUR OWN
Orville comes with enough presets to satisfy any production style. There are elegant reverbs and equalizers, old favorites like Timesqueeze(R) and the Paul Harvey simulator (speeds up and slows down at random), and new effects including formant-corrected pitch shifters and Doppler flybys. All you have to do is choose one and press Select to start using it.
This isn’t as easy at it seems, since there are maybe 800 factory presets (I didn’t count them all) and the possibility of a couple of hundred user ones. Fortunately, Eventide included a few features to simplify finding the one you want. Presets with similar functions are organized into banks, as they were in the 4000 and a lot of other multi-function boxes. The first preset in the first bank is a scrolling list of all the other banks, sort of a Table of Contents. Preset names now include an automatic three-digit code so you can see at a glance how many channels they process and if they’re useful at super-high sample rates. Best of all, recently loaded ones are automatically linked to a “Favorites” bank so you can find them again quickly. (A similar feature is built into Internet web browsers, but this is the first time I’ve seen anything like it in studio equipment.)
Of course, once you’ve loaded a preset you can fine-tune its parameters—some presets have many pages of settings; others have deliberately simplified user interfaces—and save your own versions for re-use. You can also save them to a PC card and move them from studio to studio (or remove the card to keep people from seeing your secret recipes), or upload them to a computer’s serial port for distribution on floppy disk or via e-mail. The PC card format is the same as the 4000 series, so you can migrate your favorites to Orville. But files are converted in the newer machine, so you can’t use a card to move presets back to a 4000.
While the selection of factory presets is exhaustive, it’s not my real reason for loving Orville or the DSP4000. The fun is creating your own presets. In an odd way, it takes me back to my earliest days in the business.
Back in those dark ages a studio was lucky to have a couple of equalizers, a spring reverb, and a single compressor. Things like gates and de-essers were unheard of, and a delay line was something you manufactured by looping a tape between the record head of one deck and the play head of another. If you needed a sophisticated effect, you grabbed patch cords and tried to cobble it together.
For example, a spot might call for a baseball stadium announcer. So you’d start with an HLF filter—the same thing you’d use to simulate telephone conversations—and adjust it for the approximate bandwidth of a PA system. Then you’d patch the filter’s output both to a board channel and to a tape recorder set up as a delay. The delay’s output would go to board and the spring, and the spring’s output would also go to the board. Then you’d adjust the three board inputs for a decent balance between “direct” sound, “slap” from the back wall of the stadium, and reverb. As soon as you’d mixed that effect, you’d pull the cords and use the processors for something else.