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Help me optimize my project studio?

Discussion in 'Studio Techniques' started by disfrontman, Feb 6, 2011.

  1. disfrontman

    disfrontman New Member

    Dear Logic Experts,

    I would like advice with regard to how to configure my project studio. Software and hardware wise, this is what I am working with:

    2006 MacBook Pro 2.0 ghz Core Duo maxed out @ 2 GB RAM
    5400 rpm 320 GB internal HDD
    FW400 ExpressCard/34 Adapter (so I have two separate FW busses--internal and ExpressCard/34)
    Apogee Duet FW400 for live audio (on internal FW bus)
    NexStar 7200 rpm 500 GB FW400 External HDD

    OS X 10.6.6
    Logic 8 (soon will be upgrading to Logic 9)
    Guitar Rig 3 (soon will be upgrading to GR4)
    PSP VintageWarmer, LE, & MicroWarmer
    Superior Drummer 2 + Custom & Vintage SDX

    I am currently recording a classic rock/progressive rock project--a musical/motion picture soundtrack including incidental music and orchestration. For now I am doing the orchestral parts via Logic's EXS24 orchestra samples, but I might outsource that to someone with a more expensive library (VSL, EWQL, etc.). 80%+ of the recording, however, will be old-school classic rock production.

    Here are a few more important details:

    --I will be recording/mixing the project @ 48k/24 bit.
    --the external FW drive has both the Superior Drummer library and the project files on it
    --the Apogee Duet is on the MBP's built-in FW bus and the external HHD is on the ExpressCard/34 FW card
    --the OS and Logic are on the 5400rpm internal HDD

    Currently, I freeze files all the time and still get "system overload" dialogs.

    So.. I am wondering if the following steps might help to make my system faster and more stable:

    a) Should I put the Superior Drummer library on a separate FW drive on the ExpressCard/34 FW bus?
    b) Should I put my OS and Logic on a separate FW drive on the ExpressCard/34 FW bus?
    c) Both a & b?

    I figure there is no way I am really taxing the FW busses streaming audio, but it might help to have everything working from separate drives--OS/Logic, project files, and drum libraries--and it might help having the OS and Logic on a faster drive than the 5400 rpm internal drive.

    Is my thinking sound, or is using multiple drives not going to help? I cannot afford a new Mac right now so I have to make this system work, even if it means constant freezing and bouncing of tracks to free up CPU.

    Thank you for your informed opinions,
    Bart, a.k.a., disfrontman
  3. georgelegeriii

    georgelegeriii Senior member

    You need more ram... Superior drums are the worst ram hogs on the planet. 2 gig is not enough, period.
  4. disfrontman

    disfrontman New Member

    FWIW, in the writing/arrangement phase I only use the 16 bit samples. When I need better quality, I load in the 24 bit samples and then immediately freeze the tracks to free up CPU and RAM. I realize that I have to do that kind of juggling in order to work within the limitations of my set-up.

    I can't afford a new machine and my MBP is maxed out @ 2 GB RAM.

    Would separate HDDs help? I have noticed that I am not using all of my CPU power when I get the "system overload" dialog. Usually, its when one processor is maxed. Is there a reason threads aren't finding their way over to the other processor? Or is my problem strictly HDD lags?

    Also, I looked at the GeekBanch scores for my machine, and they aren't that bad compared with more recent systems (iMacs, Minis, MBPs).
  5. georgelegeriii

    georgelegeriii Senior member

    Get 20 hard drives in you want, it isn't going to help.

    You are trying to put 10 gallons of water in a 5 gallon tank... it just won't work.

    Drive access isn't the issue, nor is cpu (well, that might not be true if the drums have lots of built in FX). You don't have enough room to: load the system, Logic, any other samples or sounds that require ram, any apps you might be running that require ram, the the HUGE kits superior drum consist of. 16 bit are a bit more ram conservative, but in my limited experience ( ;-) ), Toontracks tend to create kits that use many layers, mics, and long decay times, which all make for a large ram requirement.

    Even if you solo a single note to play it, it doesn't decrease the ram amount, all the same samples are loaded regardless.

    I can't remember if there is a way to only load a single drum at a time... if there is, that might be the only way you are going to get this to work.

    The reality of Macs, ram, and speed: if you go above the amount of ram available, the computer starts to use a hard drive for ram. And THIS is the reason things get slow: it's impossible for any drive to be as fast as ram...

    So that is your dilemma. And I hate to say, but wishing or wanting it to change will not make a difference. A computer can't be bargained with when it comes to these types of issues. Ram is ram, and has a finite area to work with and store data.

  6. georgelegeriii

    georgelegeriii Senior member

    You asked: Would separate HDDs help? I have noticed that I am not using all of my CPU power when I get the "system overload" dialog. Usually, its when one processor is maxed. Is there a reason threads aren't finding their way over to the other processor? Or is my problem strictly HDD lags?"

    The way Logic works is this: one cpu is the maximum power a computer can use for a single instance of a live instrument. One thread, one cpu. When you are playing back a number of tracks, the cpu can share the load because you have many threads or processes at one time, but they are not live.

    This is the best description I can show you: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3161
  7. disfrontman

    disfrontman New Member

    Thank you for that link. I was wondering how I might influence sharing of threads across two cores more effectively, and that support page gives me some good ideas as to how to do that.

    As far as SD2 is concerned, I am doing my best not to overuse the "bleed" mic samples of everything, for two reasons: 1) to keep from bloating the processing of SD2 based drum sounds, and 2) because those bleeds, while impressive, also give away the fact that one is using SD2 instead of real drums, IMHO. The room and mic sounds are just too "signature".

    I am trying to keep the drums pretty dry and use the global verb to put them in the same sound stage as the rest of the instruments. Hopefully, between this, using 16 bit samples and cache mode, and freezing a lot of tracks, I'll be able to squeak by with what I have.
  8. georgelegeriii

    georgelegeriii Senior member

    Here's a thought: do you have or know someone who has a more powerful machine and SD2 drums? You could do the work on the one system, and bounce out the drums on another...
  9. disfrontman

    disfrontman New Member

    I don't have access to anyone else's computer for this project, at least during recording. I am mixing and mastering with a friend who has a decent iMac, so at the end of the project we can do some distributive computing via Ethernet, but for now I am pretty much on my own.

    To tell you the truth, I haven't had too many problems running SD2 alone on my machine. So long as I have a firm grasp of tempo and arrangement, I could always work out the parts on a separate file and use SD2's extensive bounce features to spit out the individual drum tracks for use in my main Logic tracking/mixing file for each song. Then, when mixing down, SD2 doesn't even have to appear as a plug-in at all. The files would just look like tracks from a live drum performance.

    Also, it is my understanding that when you use SD2 in cache mode, the program only loads in the samples that the midi performance track requires--if you never hit the china or the splash, for example, none of their samples are called up. This seems to help a lot.
  10. georgelegeriii

    georgelegeriii Senior member

    Yea, the cache thing can recover allot of ram... well, good luck.

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