Improved record status indicators

When recording “punch and roll”, or just “punch-in” as some would say – the artist needs a visual cue for when you drop into record from play.  These are the punch-and-roll record status indicators.

The only manufacturer making products which integrate with Pro Tools is Punchlight, who have a range of recording indicators and interfaces to provide automated status indication.

Since the studio opened, we’ve been using the “Punchlight USB RGB” – a self-contained multi-colour indicator connecting directly via USB.  This has not been reliable… the device just doesn’t like working a long way from the computer, even using the most expensive active USB extenders available.

So I decided to change to the “Punchlight  Relay Switchbox“, which offers two programmable SPCO relays, and build my own lamp unit.  I used this model at Temple Music to control an existing single lamp mounted over the studio door.  In that case, it was programmed to flash when Pro Tools is record-armed, be on when in record, and off otherwise.

I have always felt it’s a good courtesy to have an indication of record-armed status – so the artist knows there’s a ‘hot mic’ and whatever they say can be heard in the control room.   At Landen Park however, all our work tends to be punch-in – so I decided showing Play and Record were most important, and the ‘hot mic’ issue could be dealt with manually by switching the indicator’s power feed on and off from the control room.

I had space in the headphone distribution box, so I fitted the indicators into a 1U rack strip.  The socket you can see on the left is for a repeater unit – which will be a tiny box that can be clipped to the side of a music stand.  (I’ll be building that soon.)

The Punchlight unit itself is next to the computer of course, so I had to run a four-core cable into the studio to run the unit.  The Punchlight configuration looks like this:

and relay 1 switches between the ‘stop’ light and relay 2 – with relay 2 switching between the ‘play’ and ‘record’ lights.  The whole thing runs on a 12V DC power supply nicked from a hard drive enclosure.  Here are the punch-and-roll record status indicators in action:

Finally, you may be wondering what the level controls are and yes, they are brightness controls.  Extremely indulgent I know – but there’s a story behind that…

I ordered the indicators from RS originally.  They supplied completely the wrong thing, apologised for a stock-numbering mix-up, and then told me they didn’t have what I wanted in stock.  So I went to Farnell… and had almost the same experience.  I ended up with three LED indicators that didn’t match cosmetically – or more importantly, in luminosity.  So I had to put voltage regulators in to get the brightness to match!  Actually, it’s a useful feature because depending on the ambient light in the room, sometimes you need them brighter and sometimes dimmer.

The key thing is the lights have to be in the artist’s peripheral vision, noticeable but not so bright as to be distracting.  As it is, the amber ‘Play’ light is much brighter than the other two.

The main thing is it works and it’s reliable.  Another job I can tick off in the maintenance book.

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