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Mainstage/Kontakt disaster in front of sold out venue

1227 Views 12 Replies Latest reply: Dec 3, 2013 10:29 AM by shattre RSS
CommanderCool Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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Nov 26, 2013 3:03 AM

Hi. I played a fairly huge sold out debut show for a new act I'm working with last saturday and halfway through the last song, the samples I was triggering in kontakt within mainstage started to act very strangely. They basically started to get glitchy and play out of time, so that a sample from previous bars was still playing a few bars later, out of time. They were also strangely slowing down and speeding up.

 

Luckliy I've set up my controller keyboard to have a panic/all notes off button so I was able to put a stop to the terrible sound pretty fast, but after a few attempts at continuing I eventually had to stop and let the band finish without me.

 

Its an act that I'm the producer for, and as such, a huge ammount of the music was coming from my laptop. The track in which this happened was one with loud drums, bass etc. so it could have been a lot worse. For example, some of the earlier tracks in the set that are slow, electronic, production heavy ballads, where the singer would have been left pretty much on her own. No one likes an angry singer.

 

We're debuting this act in another city this weekend and I have to figure out how I can guarantee this will not happen again. However I'm finding it difficult to replicate the problem, which makes it very difficult to diagnose or fix.

 

The only other time it has happened was an hour or so before the gig, but I had no choice at the time but to hope for the best as I was unable to provide any other solution under the circumstances.

 

Today I've been trying to replicate the problem by pushing my computer to the limit and replaying the songs in my studio. I've currently got 23 applications running in the background (including things like photoshop and final cut). I thought that if it was a cpu or memory problem then surely this would recreate the issue -  on the gig I had nothing else running. So far, mainstage is struggling a bit and some of the samples are cutting out prematurely, but there is not the same slow down, speed up warped sound - which is much worse than samples just cutting out.

 

My setup is as follows:

     MacBook Pro 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 with 8GB 1600 MHz DDR3 (purchased late 2012)

     OSX 10.8.5  (I've created an extra startup partition to test Mavericks with my live setup but don't feel ready yet to use it live)  

     Mainstage 3.0.1

     Kontakt 5.2.0.6361

     Not many plugins - mostly logic.

  ...Triggered by an Akai MPK61 midi keyboard/pads

.....Going out through a Native Instruments Audio4 DJ interface.

 

     Within mainstage I have only 5 songs, most of which have 2 instances of Kontakt - 1 running "Piano in Blue" and one with multiple production samples stacked (on separate kontakt "instruments") which are triggered sometimes quite a few at the same time. I would have thought this wasn't a problem as 1 x kontakt playing 10 or so audio samples at the same time is no where near as complicated as a seriously multisampled instrument like "Piano In Blue". Theres also one track using Arturia Prophet V2 and also 2 instances of the TAL U-NO synth on a song that we didn't play.

 

Also, I've used mainstage with a number of other bands over the last few years with HEAPS more stuff going on and haven't encounted this problem.... This is probably only my 2nd or 3rd gig with version 3 however....

 

So I'm looking for suggestions of things I can do before this weekend to make sure mainstage doesn't make me look like a ******** again in front of thousands of people (thanks mainstage).

 

A few ideas I have are:

     Try to replicate the issue by loading my cpu to the max (doing this currently)

     Reinstall Mainstage

     Clean install operating system

     Delete pref database files (?)

     Repair permisions

     Put samples on dedicated partition (?)

     Turn off airport (I seem to recall this may cause issues with MS)

     Use a simpler, logic piano sound

     Simplify samples so theres only one or two playing at any one time...

 

If anyone can help me out with suggestions/solutions I'd be very grateful!!

 

Thanks!

MacBook Pro, OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.5), 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7, 8GB
  • cronbg Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    If your MacBook doesn't have an SSD but a regular hard disk, the problem could very well be related to physical vibration / loudness. The MacBook does have a "sudden motion sensor" which is intended to detect if the device is accellerating suddenly (as in falling), so it can park the drive's read/write head before it hits the ground.

    It is a known issue, that this sensor can also be triggered by the kind of vibrations which can occur on a loud stage. This would explain why you can't replicate the problem in your studio. It also would explain why it happened during a song which featured loud drums and bass.

     

    There is a way to disable the sudden motion sensor via the terminal. You might want to read this:

    http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1935

     

    Hope this helps.

  • Landrix Level 1 Level 1 (25 points)

    I have not, but I can give you some advice based on testing that made me a nervous wreck.

     

    Put your samples on a dedicated partition, or find a utility program that rearranges your hard drive's actual files into consecutive strips on the media.  This is the equivalent of "defrag" and many people HATE the mention of it.  However, I can tell you that no only did my session loads "feel" faster, it shaved a WHOE TWELVE SECONDS of the boot time of my MBP.

     

    Turn off wifi. Turn off time machine,  turn for EVERYTHING you aren't using.  Learn how to use Activity Monitor.  KILL processes that aren't required.  Go to your user' slogan items, delete iTunes helper.  DELETE EVERYTHING!

     

    In fact, for playing live, I have an entirely separate boot partition of OSX that has NOTHING installed except my performance software.  No printer drivers (my awesome canon multi has software that CONSTANTLY runs).  NOTHING but the essentials of what I'm doing on that stage.  You can just open your projects from the drive that you built them while using--the user account where you also use safari and whatever else you like to do.

     

    I would be loathe to tell you that you should switch to ESX sampler sounds, because you built your performance with a specific sound and you shouldn't have to change it!!

     

    However, why do you have that esoteric synth loaded that you said you didn't play?  Do you have multiple setups you load/change out during a set?

     

    It may be my paranoia, but I always feel like a rig that just loaded is MORE RELIABLE right now, than a rig I loaded six hours ago.  I'd load initial during sound check, and then I swap on the fly.

     

    Your post described my WORST NIGHTMARE, and may keep me up tonight.  But I hope my ideas give you ideas that lead to confidence.

     

    One last bit--start transitioning to Mavericks, Mac OS 10.9. It has features that kill background processes to save energy--but they do so by managing CPU use to give you more juice all around.  And when you are load testing, even in ML 10.8, it is useless to open apps and let them sit.  Try playing while FCP is RENDERING A VIDEO, or injesting from FireWire.  At least make the apps work!

  • aerol Level 3 Level 3 (500 points)

    One of your screen shots shows that you only have 137MB of free memory... that's tight with (presumably) all those samples flying around. Made me think about Kontakt memory management, which brings up this page: http://www.native-instruments.com/knowledge/questions/56/Optimizing+the+performa nce+of+KONTAKT+5

     

    Might be worth checking out the advise on there.

  • Landrix Level 1 Level 1 (25 points)

    Wow. Congrats on doing your due diligence, but wow that is a world of strain.

     

    It will depend on your audio interface, and to you ears, but from what I see, you have a couple options here.

     

    I wasn't keen on the bitrate mismatch being the issue, and since it was holidays here I held back on responding.  I say that, because regardless of the bitrate of the instrument's samples, everything gets mathematically mixed up again to create the final product.  Plugs are made to fix this on the fly, and the engine ( logic ) forces everything to play nice.  What you've got is technically a dropout style glitch due to CPU loading, and the fact that the other instruments and presets are able to keep going is both remarkable and gives you some play options if this patch fails, and it also demonstrates just now power hungry this particular setup is.

     

    Three things...

     

    Option one: I don't recall if this is a Kontakt library patch, but almost all NI patches come with multiple versions (small medium large) that exist for flexibility and usability in systems where you don't just need that one thing running but also other instruments and effects (small and medium) and the large instrument sets are for when NOTHING else is running and for maximum fidelity for mix down or track freeze only.  If you have the option, you really need to load the lighter version. 

     

    Honestly, with numbers like these, I'm absolutely shocked that you didn't get sudden silence, and that the rig continued to make sound at all.  Earlier versions of this software don't fare so well.

     

    Option two: I don't know this to really solve your particular issue, but it's worth a shot.  Your mate above mentioned the Kontakt settings.  There are specific settings in Kontakt itself for sample preload, CPU and memory footprint characteristics.  These appear in the plug-in as well as the standalone, accessible in the setup pane.  Fiddle with them in an effort to limit CPU max load to somewhere in the 90s, because mainstage can use the overhead.

     

    Option three: this involves a bit of two, but consider divorcing Kontakt from the host entirely.  If you truly cannot reduce the demands of that specific piano in blue patch by choosing a lighter sample set, this may be your only hope to salvage that patch.   I don't know if resources allow it but you could run Kontakt on another machine if you have to, and I'm afraid something has to give. If you can't access the limiting settings within the. Kontakt plugin, you could run it separately.  And one last thing, I know it's great to play all this live, but if you are dead set on this sound, you can mix it down to an audio track .wav or .aiff and trigger it.  I know it' snot glamorous, and you may feel like a tool miming along, but don't tell anyone. And for that matter, don't tell them I told you to do it!  :P

     

    Hope this continues to give you ideas.  Keep it up...you're going great!

  • aerol Level 3 Level 3 (500 points)

    And... look at all the instances, treads and memory used by that Chrome helper process. I understand that you may have Chrome launched to be making these posts, but if all those are running even when Chrome isn't launched it might be worth killing them just to clean things up.

  • Blueberry Level 4 Level 4 (2,825 points)

    It might be also worth finding out what "memtest" is, because it uses one full core of the CPU.

  • shattre Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    All these suggestions are good, but I'm going to suggest something entirely different on top of this that needs to be said: have a plan for what to do when things go wrong, and accept the fact that someday, sometime things will. Guitar strings break, drum sticks snap, and computers crash, it's just one of those things. It's great when musicians can work together well enough that they can instantly change their parts to fill other rolls or improvise a bit to compansate for equipment failiour. I know it's not a nice thing to say, but it does happen and it will happen. The only absolutely 100% fix for this is to be able to cover for it when it does.

     

    Maybe it even involves turning it into a joke for the audience... a technical bobble can make for a great stage joke and get the audience laughing more than they ever would. I recently watched a Devin Townsend video in which he screwed up a tune, and then went on to highlite and lampoon himself doing it and talk about what was going through his head at the time, and you can just hear the audience doubled over laughing.

     

    Turn the accident into an unforgetable magical moment if you can, either have the band create an interesting new "sans-keyboard" arrangement on the fly, or get your audience involved. Being a truly great performer isn't just about perfection, it's about how to deal with the unexpected.

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