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How do you get that orchestral film score sound?

dman007

Active Member
How do you get that orchestral film score sound?

What are the key mixing elements to achieving that sound?

It always seems "set back" and has a unique sound quality.

Where do you aim to have peak dBFS and LUFS for the loudest part of a piece (in mixing and/or mastering)

Do you apply any EQ to sections or the overall orchestra?

How do you arrange your reverbs for mockups?

I'm not just wondering about which reverb types, but also things like:

* How many reverbs do you use for a mockup?

* Do you use a large hall or a medium hall?

* What pre-delay and reverb times do you use for the different orchestral sections?

* Do you apply EQ settings to obtain that orchestral film score sound?

* Do you apply any low-end or high-end cuts in your reverb - and if so, where in the freq range do you set them?

* If you have in situ, wet libraries (Spitfire etc), do you pan sends to your reverbs? (e.g. pan hardish left for 1st violins etc)
 
Last edited:

ZenBYD

New Member
This is a big question! I've done a few, worked on a lot...

There's a huge difference of course to working with samples vs a live orchestra. For a live orchestra, it's all about the players and the room. You'd be amazed at how much work the decca tree does... there's not a lot of work for all the close mics and outriggers to do if the tree is well setup, the room sounds good and the players are:emoji_fire: -- I'd say 90% of the sound of those 90s hollywood scores are the tree mics. The secret - as so often is the case - is to not do very much to it (which actually takes a lot of experience to do).

For mockups... it's all about your combination of libraries or whether you use an "all-in-one" like BBCSO or a singular "box title" like the Hollywood Series, or the Berlin Series etc, but the overall concept of "not doing too much" is still front n' center here.

If I'm mixing mockups/sample productions, I like to split the sections of the orchestra into separate submix groups, then also buss that to a main "hall" group. On the main hall group, I'll always use an instance of QL Spaces to give a bit of added depth, but on a very short/dry room - this is to get the early reflections and give a sense of space.

Then, I'll use a send - probably a Bricasti M7 (or the Seventh Heaven version is great). I personally like the Medium Hall & Near preset with a few tweaks, and that becomes the main "hall reverb". If you want splashier 90s... then a Lexicon with the Large Hall preset is the standard.

Then I'd EQ each submix group (i.e winds, brass, perc, strings, keys etc) - but only with a bit of subtractive EQ to fix any major issues. Btw a top tip here is if you need to smooth out some mids - often the case with samples - use a multiband compressor, set to a very light ratio and very deep threshold... this way you're gently compressing the mid-bands when it gets louder which can help a lot with harshness, and also get you that "sheen" that you might be hearing in a lot of film scores.

I'd also EQ the reverb send a bit to take out some bass (after it hits the unit). Not a kill-all shelf, but a gentle sweep in the low to lo-mids... just take out some boxyness.

Lastly, on the master buss - output - I'd use some light stereo width enhancement, a very very small amount of "sheen" like an SPL Vitalizer - and then some very light compression. as I said here before... the trick is to just use very very light touches.

HTH
 
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dman007

dman007

Active Member
Thread starter
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This is a big question! I've done a few, worked on a lot...

There's a huge difference of course to working with samples vs a live orchestra. For a live orchestra, it's all about the players and the room. You'd be amazed at how much work the decca tree does... there's not a lot of work for all the close mics and outriggers to do if the tree is well setup, the room sounds good and the players are:emoji_fire: -- I'd say 90% of the sound of those 90s hollywood scores are the tree mics. The secret - as so often is the case - is to not do very much to it (which actually takes a lot of experience to do).

For mockups... it's all about your combination of libraries or whether you use an "all-in-one" like BBCSO or a singular "box title" like the Hollywood Series, or the Berlin Series etc, but the overall concept of "not doing too much" is still front n' center here.

If I'm mixing mockups/sample productions, I like to split the sections of the orchestra into separate submix groups, then also buss that to a main "hall" group. On the main hall group, I'll always use an instance of QL Spaces to give a bit of added depth, but on a very short/dry room - this is to get the early reflections and give a sense of space.

Then, I'll use a send - probably a Bricasti M7 (or the Seventh Heaven version is great). I personally like the Medium Hall & Near preset with a few tweaks, and that becomes the main "hall reverb". If you want splashier 90s... then a Lexicon with the Large Hall preset is the standard.

Then I'd EQ each submix group (i.e winds, brass, perc, strings, keys etc) - but only with a bit of subtractive EQ to fix any major issues. Btw a top tip here is if you need to smooth out some mids - often the case with samples - use a multiband compressor, set to a very light ratio and very deep threshold... this way you're gently compressing the mid-bands when it gets louder which can help a lot with harshness, and also get you that "sheen" that you might be hearing in a lot of film scores.

I'd also EQ the reverb send a bit to take out some bass (after it hits the unit). Not a kill-all shelf, but a gentle sweep in the low to lo-mids... just take out some boxyness.

Lastly, on the master buss - output - I'd use some light stereo width enhancement, a very very small amount of "sheen" like an SPL Vitalizer - and then some very light compression. as I said here before... the trick is to just use very very light touches.

HTH

How short on the QL Spaces one?

How long on the Bricasti?

How much do you send to each?

Are you sending from the submix groups to reverbs? (so no pannng on the sends?)

Thanks.
 

ZenBYD

New Member
It's so specific to each mix - style, mood, character etc etc... so there's no definitive answer of course.

The QL Spaces is using a studio room - but it's early reflections mostly - 1.5s or so, and dialled into taste. The point of this is not to add a long reverb tail, but to "fill out" the sound and help things blend together. This is where you have to be very careful not to add boxyness or ringing -- convolution reverb can sound really horrible so be careful not to apply too much.

Bricasti is Large & Near or Medium & Near - again, they're not hugely long tails... 2.2 or 2.4 seconds or so. I think the reason a lot of engineers love the M7 is that the early reflections engine is very clean (which again helps with this sort of full and 3D sound)

I'd generally use Spaces as an insert on the hall group, but probably set the mix slider to something like 30% - to me it's a little different to using it as a send.

The Bricasti is used as a send again on the hall group - the idea is that this group is your decca tree mics, and again you just wet it to taste... 20% or so.

The individual groups, e.g woodwinds - I'd probably send a little more of this to the Bricasti from the group itself. This way, the woods are a little wetter than the strings, which helps them sit back a bit further etc.

You wouldn't pan the submix groups really - I'd do that on the individual instrument tracks so that it's going into Spaces and the Bricasti correctly positioned.

A good thing to try is to mockup a score that you feel is mixed really well, and just try and match it... then dial it all back a bit :)
 

EricValette

Member
Hi,


I'm trying myself to improve my mixing skills when it comes to orchestral music and have found Joel Dollié's mixing courses (he regularly visits this forum) to be a great starting point. I highly recommend. He has a youtube channel with a lot of interesting stuff.

Here is a very short excerpt from a theme taken from the LOTR symphony: the 1st excerpt is the version without any effect applied, it sounds flat and lifeless, not necessarily aggressive because I spent a while playing on the balance of the sections (the volumes are the first and perhaps the most important of mixing tools). The 2nd extract is identical, with different effects applied: the mix immediately gains life. You have to constantly deal with harshness, however. The last link goes to the reference track, see at 2:09 sec. I very quickly realized these examples, so it would be necessary to humanize the tempo more, add a few instruments that are currently missing, but that gives an interesting general idea.

If you are interested in this particular type of sound, I can detail more in another post.

Nevertheless, for the reverbs setup, there is here a sub mixing bus for each section of the orchestra (strings - brass - woodwinds - percussions - harps - keys - etc.) which go to a general mix bus (not the stereo out) on which I have 2 send reverbs :
- 7th heaven - preset "North Church", tail 3.20 sec, 100% wet mix, 18ms predelay, tail only, no ER because I only use libraries positioned which integrate these ERs, send set to -18 in the mix bus)
- VSS3 for TC6000 emulation ("Large Warm Hall" preset, tail 2.50 sec, pre delay 14 ms, no ER, send set to -12 in the mix bus).

For these two reverbs, I have a substractive EQ that follows immediately to cut the lower frequencies, around 120-130 hertz, and sometimes a bit of low mid (500-700 hertz area, with a relatively large Q, generally between 0.750 and 1.00, and -1.5 to -3db).

Note : when I use a reverb directly as an insert on a mix bus, mix slider rarely exceed 25-30%.



Reference track, 2.09 sec
 
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