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Thread: Mixtravaganza Spring '09 Mixes!

  1. #31
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    Default Jim's Thoughts

    To complement Lynn's comments, I'll try and think through what I did as well, sans the specific settings. This is worth what it costs you.

    First of all, this is an enormously difficult song to mix, and in my opinion the challenge comes from the incredble range of textures the mix requires to sit together and the rather discontinuous tracking/sources. It's not easy, and there's that huge "oh great wall of sound" trap that's really easy to fall into throughout the piece.

    When I first got the tracks, I realized the challenge. The focus was changing a lot in the tune, and there was an enormous amount of editing and cleanup going to be required, the drums were junk, and nothing was recorded in the same place. If I were producing this mix for a client, I would have spent 6+ hours in editing alone, mostly cleaning up trails and making space, but here stopped at just a couple. The main edits were to clean up some tails where the tracking had click bleedthrough and to make the edits and the benginning and end that I felt added drama to the piece, in particular the end.

    First efforts went into the drum sound. I've heard a couple of the mixes now to know they are using the cymbals tracks. Well, I whacked those instantly. I'm using a mix of the ovh, pzm and room mics. Those cymbal tracks sounded horrible, and aren't what cymbals above a kit sound like anyway. On the snare I added some UAD-1176, and probably a little pultec on the kit over all, not sure of the specifics though.

    Next, a lot of focus went into making everything sound like it was recorded together. Waves IR-1 with a plate impulse was used throughout and judiciously, often times just tenths of a percent wet, but enough that it's there. Mine is probably the driest mix here, and I don't apolgize for one second for that. For me, a lot of verb just ends up being "racket", and it tires me, so I tend to mix without it.

    While I'm on my soapbox about racket, the other thing I do in a mix like this is starting asking "where do my ears get to rest"? I go digging for little micro-second spots all over the song where I can deliver a moment -- however brief -- of digital black. Give the listener a chance to rest, and promote a dramatic dynamic range by having some nothing every so often in the mix.

    There's a ton of pad tracks in this piece, and finding a place for them wasn't easy either. Ultimately, I did submixes of chior, strings, etc., and then folded those in. That came at a cost going into one of the climaxes where in David's mix you can really hear some interesting string work that just doesn't come out in my at all, but it's the only way I could really get my head around all the tracks and start piecing them together.

    You will hear lots of hard panning in my mixes in general. it's my way of making space for things. I will generally use either hard L, R or center, and rarely do I put much stuff "mid way" because I find it just causes clutter and doesn't really open the mix up much. But, in this case, I had to, and there's lots of stuff all over the place, and I even resorted to a little EQ to get some things to fit in -- something I rarely do! (To me EQ fixes problems -- I don't generally like the way it sounds.)

    On both duets there's a fair amount of level automation, but nothing like what Lynn's mix is doing. I panned each singer slightly left or right, and intentionally left them at relative parity for the harmony effect. During the climax into the bridge, I panned the females way out to get that effect, and on re-listening compared to others, I remain pleased in how it avoids the conflict and build up in the center of the mix's image. Here, unlike Lynn's mix, I deliberately wanted that change of focus and "twin lights" on the stage.

    I'm also noticing my average level is rather low compared to others, and this is again something I'm not even remotely apologetic about. I used compression quite a bit through the mix -- plenty of UAD LA2A on the vocals and Ren Comp almost everywhere else -- and only had a couple of peaks that were reduced by L2 at the 2-bus by a couple of DB. Seriuosly. I don't buy into the relative loudness thing, and I really don't like CDs that wear my ears out listening to them, so I'm pretty unapologetic about a mix averaging even -18dbfs.

    It's really interesting to me to see just HOW DIFFERENT the mixes are given the source material. This was a fantastic excercise, and a great production with a lot of possible interpretations...
    Jim Dugger
    Poorhouse Productions

    At 20 bits, you are on the verge of dynamic range covering fly-farts-at-20-feet to untolerable pain. Really, what more could we need?

  2. #32
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    Dang.

    Great mix, Lynn.

    And here I was gonna submit another one with the spotlight/choir/leads balance changes you pointed out.

    All I can say is, you work with what you've got. You guys who have been doing this for a while do have some resources I don't have (tracking rooms, etc), so that automatically divides the amatuers from the pros. Like I said earlier on in this exercise, ideally, I much rather would have had all live instruments, experienced choir, better everything, but I did my best with what was given. Maybe someday I'll be able to submit something recorded professionally for everyone to take a crack at. Here's what I used to produce all of this a year ago:

    - Cubase SE 1 + basic Steinberg plugins & some Sony plugins
    - Sony ACID Pro 6 (for sequencing the drums, strings, piano, writing vocal/choir parts, etc)
    - Garritan Personal Orchestra (strings)
    - BFD (drums)
    - POD 2.0
    - Schecter 6-string bass
    - ADAM A7 monitors
    - dbx 166XL
    - Pentium D 2.6Ghz w/2G DDR2 running XP

    ...and worst of all... (I know this is probably gonna give you guys a stroke)

    - Presonus FireStudio Project

    I guess it's a miracle I do any work at all. I'm glad people are learning how to mix "junk" material together and see what we project studios work with. Thanks for the pointers, everyone!

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheMusicFactory View Post
    I'm glad people are learning how to mix "junk" material together and see what we project studios work with. Thanks for the pointers, everyone!
    The material isn't junk. Just the BFD
    Jim Dugger
    Poorhouse Productions

    At 20 bits, you are on the verge of dynamic range covering fly-farts-at-20-feet to untolerable pain. Really, what more could we need?

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheMusicFactory View Post
    Dang.

    Great mix, Lynn.

    And here I was gonna submit another one with the spotlight/choir/leads balance changes you pointed out.
    I would strongly encourage you to do so. If you want the vocal tracks with the changes I made (cleaning up cutoffs, etc.), let me know.

    All I can say is, you work with what you've got.
    This is the most important thing. When I started out I had access to an upright piano, three mics and two stereo open reel recorders. Imagine there was any room for improvement?

    The other most important thing is to not get discouraged and keep moving ahead. Take these comments and view them as a challenge to grow. They may pinpoint things that you didn't notice before.

    Here are some examples of things that you could glean from my comments. I'm going to be very specific because many of these are extraordinarily easy to fix.

    1. You may or may not have noticed the 156 Hz room tone. Look around the recording room and try to find the source. Things that might do that are refrigerators, air conditioners, anything mechanical. You can look around and try to find that so that you can turn it off when recording.

    2. Uniform Cutoffs by the singers. This is extremely easy to fix. I don't know if there was a conductor/director when you recorded the choir, which was obviously done in sections because there is no bleed. A director who could hear the other parts in his phones could tell where the cutoffs should be and make them consistent. Even without a conductor, you can have the singers listen carefully to the previous parts and cut off at the same place. No additional technology required, just an instruction to the singers. The engineer or producer needs to be aware of this and make that call during recording. The one tenor that was late on all the S's? If you hear that during the session, you just say on the talkback "Someone is hanging on too long on the end of the word 'praise.' Make sure you cut off with the other singers."

    3. Other phrasing by the singers. This was less problematic but some times the tenors were decrescendoing with the other singers were holding on strong. Another easy fix. Just listen very carefully or enlist a director/producer who can listen for those type things if you are completely engrossed in the technical details. I don't need to tell you that if you're producing and engineering at the same time, something's going to fall through the cracks. That's not just true of amateurs, it happens to professionals as well.

    4. Don't believe what you read about "taking full advantage of all 24-bits" when recording. Even with samples. There's really no reason for the kick drum to have peaks of 0 dBFS on the recording.

    5. Get a better click. I can provide that if you need a sample.

    6. Is there a reason that all the solos can't be recorded where Solo 3 was? What was the difference between the two spaces?


    You guys who have been doing this for a while do have some resources I don't have....
    Notice that there is nothing on the list above that has anything to do with professionalism or extra gear or spending any money at all. There's nothing on the list that can't be implemented and used TODAY at absolutely NO COST. Yet all of them will result in better recordings immediately.


    ....(tracking rooms, etc), so that automatically divides the amatuers from the pros. Like I said earlier on in this exercise, ideally, I much rather would have had all live instruments, experienced choir, better everything, but I did my best with what was given. Maybe someday I'll be able to submit something recorded professionally for everyone to take a crack at. Here's what I used to produce all of this a year ago:

    - Cubase SE 1 + basic Steinberg plugins & some Sony plugins
    - Sony ACID Pro 6 (for sequencing the drums, strings, piano, writing vocal/choir parts, etc)
    - Garritan Personal Orchestra (strings)
    - BFD (drums)
    - POD 2.0
    - Schecter 6-string bass
    - ADAM A7 monitors
    - dbx 166XL
    - Pentium D 2.6Ghz w/2G DDR2 running XP

    ...and worst of all... (I know this is probably gonna give you guys a stroke)

    - Presonus FireStudio Project
    Honestly, I didn't hear shortcomings in this that I would directly attribute to gear, much less the converters.

    I guess it's a miracle I do any work at all. I'm glad people are learning how to mix "junk" material together and see what we project studios work with. Thanks for the pointers, everyone!
    I don't think it's a miracle. Obviously you are doing well with what you have. That's where we all start. If you weren't doing well, you wouldn't be getting any work. I don't recall saying anything was junk. I just commented that it was challenging to mix.

    Again, let me emphasize that there are two ways to interpret and proceed based on the comments I have offered here.

    1) Get frustrated. Angry. Defensive.

    2) Get encouraged. Motivated. Resolve to take these comments and fix what you can and work through the rest.

    On a positive note, I didn't have any problems with the choir recording at all. The only issues I had were performance related. I was delighted that the vocals weren't overcompressed. The bass recording was fine. The guitar recording was fine. The lead vocal recording was fine and thankfully not smashed. On balance, there was a lot more good than bad.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3daudioinc View Post
    On balance, there was a lot more good than bad.
    +1

    My comments might seem "direct", too, but I can promise you I'd be absolutely thrilled if I only worked on recordings "at least this good". You can send any more of this stuff you want mixed to me and I'll do it with a smile Ya just better want it dry

    The tracking stuff is just practice. It might seem odd, but it was learning to mix my own crap that made me start looking further back in the chain more often. My focus on tracking today really comes out of experience of having to deal in post production with the messes I'd made in earlier in the chain in projects.

    It really also helps to have an idea in your head for what the final sound will be before you connect the first mic cable. That will cause you to track with mic positions, techniques and so on in mind of your final mix -- leaving you with "raw" sounds that are closer to your finished intention before you even touch the first fader in post.
    Jim Dugger
    Poorhouse Productions

    At 20 bits, you are on the verge of dynamic range covering fly-farts-at-20-feet to untolerable pain. Really, what more could we need?

  6. #36
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    Okay, I'll stop being a crybaby now. Thicker Skin, GROW!

    Seriously though, I was being a dumb last night in my last post... I have a history that God is breaking me of in which I get defensive when I receive correction. MAN is it hard to do ("My son, attend unto my wisdom and bow thine ear to my understanding," Proverbs 5:1).

    Sorry, Lynn, Jim and everyone else who read my whining. This thread is flagged and its contents will be a guidebook for my future mixes. Please, let's keep posting remixes and comments- I'm the rookie here, so it's time for school.


  7. #37
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    I had a blast with this and am learning from this, too! I used Sonar and my first course of action was to clean up the heads and tails of the tracks. Then after a fader up listen I inserted compressors on what I thought needed them. Next came the drums. I had no intention of replacing them so I EQed , compressed and panned as I saw fit. I bussed the strings, Lvox and choir. The choir buss was it's only compression but, the lead vocals got compressed individually and on the buss. I burned a mix and lived with it for a day. I heard lots of breaths and other artifacts fron the lead vocal so back to the drawing board. After some volume automation I came to the mix I presented here.
    I would love to learn the pencil tool tricks. I never thought of that for the tongue/lip noises as well as the timing/tuning of the phrases.
    As far as verbs go I like them drier, too! A few percent at most.
    Michael Rogers
    (3D VIP Member)
    DeskTop Productions

  8. #38
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    i did everythink with my macbook + mbox + logic+ headphones(no speaker) i was at home last night no n the studio....i have used just logic's plugin anythink else

    any comment?

  9. #39
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    I have submitted a rev 2 mix to Jim. Hopefully, he will have time to post it soon.

    First, let me say that I did not take the time to do any significant editing. I think Lynn covered the appropriate editing details thoroughly. Thanks Lynn. Also, I did not spend any more time with the drums. In my humble opinion, for me to make the drums sit the way I would prefer, I would have to replace the drums with drier kit and I just don't have that kind of time right now.

    For me, I am interested in feedback about the frequency balance, how you think the instruments support one another and the vocals, the production choices I made and if you think they are appropriate. I would also like to know how my mix translates to your listening environment, etc.

    My rev 2 differs from my rev 1 in that rev 2 is an mp3 (not a .wav) and is submitted at a mix level rather than a master level. (I did do some mastering on rev 1 and the level was just way too high, K-14 range, for this exercise.) I also dropped the cymbals track as I forgot to do this on rev 1 so I apologise for any ear shattering and discomfort I may have caused you. I made some minor adjustments to the lead guitar volume automation toward the end of the song and left the song to end with vocals only (but I cut off the verb tail too soon).

    Again, I have a hard time envisioning this song anywhere but a church or some other large space that would have some degree of reverberation so I did not mix it nearly as dry as most anything else I would currently mix.

    David, I really like this composition and I listen to it every day - just because I like it that much. Nice work.

    Thanks,
    Greg

  10. #40
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    I posted up a couple of new mixes... see the first post in the thread.
    Jim Dugger
    Poorhouse Productions

    At 20 bits, you are on the verge of dynamic range covering fly-farts-at-20-feet to untolerable pain. Really, what more could we need?

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