How I Enhance Cinematic Studio Strings For A Closer, Crisper Sound (It's Not Eq, Compression, etc)

Horacio

New Member
Hey guys,

Long time lurker on this forum and love CSS (cinematic studio strings) and have noticed it's popularity in this forum. But I see a lot of common complaints about it being "too dark" or "too reverby." I've made this short youtube video to show you how I've tweaked the strings to be closer, clearer, crisper, and better, in my opinion than simply using close mics for a closer sound.


Let me know your thoughts. I also have an additional, creative way to enhance them too, if you all end up liking this.

Also sorry about it saying "Demo Mode" on the video, I have to purchase the software still LOL. :P
 

Fab

protect your ears!
Nice, I'm going to use that idea on some other stuff. Another thing you might find useful is using transient shaping tools. They are good at removing the room sound too!
 
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Horacio

Horacio

New Member
Nice, I'm going to use that idea on some other stuff. Another thing you might find useful is using transient shaping tools. They are good at removing the room sound too!
Glad it helped. What transient shaping tools do you use and how? Sounds interesting, I thought transient tools were for just for percussive type stuff wouldn’t mind experimenting it on strings!
 

Henu

Senior Member
He makes it more wider and "lush" using psychoacoustics.

First he centers the panning in the Kontakt instance first, so that the close mics aren't so much leaning to the left. Then he uses a stereo widener for the now-centered sound to enhance the stereo image, adds some Haas delaying on top of it and finally pans the instrument back to it's position in the mixer channel.

So basically,

1. Center the panning of the close mic in Kontakt.
2. Widen the stereo image of the now-centered sound in your mixer.
3. Delay the other channel (right in this example) according to taste to make it more wider.
4. Pan the mixer to the position the close mic originally was.

(5. Add reverb, EQ, compression to taste)

This is actually a neat trick, which should suit to many other libraries as well. I use it myself with Spitfire stuff when I want to use the close mics only- just need to be careful with the widening so there will be no phase issues and mono incompability. Thanks for sharing this, @Horacio !
 

vicontrolu

Senior Member
Thanks for this. So you have some quick audio examples before and after? The dark sound is precisely what i dont like abour this lib.
 

Consona

Senior Member
@Henu Thank you. That's really interesting, it sounds so cleaner but only via stereo imaging, wow.

If anyone else tries this, please post demos of some other articulations, shorts, pizz, col, bartok, you know... :)
 

Mister Jös

New Member
Great tip, thank you! :) Do you think that trick would work for OT libraries as well? I'm a bit worried that those are a bit to wet for my taste and even the close mics sound a bit roomy...
 
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Horacio

Horacio

New Member
So this short example is Violins 1 of CSS. I centered the audio, and also wanted it wider / sweeter so I took the direction mix to 200 and also used the 10ms delay on the right side, like I showed in the video.

The cellos are the soft sustains of the Trailer Strings Cellos.

Also I used absolutely no eq, reverb, or anything else.

I can do more articulations if you guys want.

[AUDIOPLUS=https://vi-control.net/community/attachments/violins-mp3.16928/][/AUDIOPLUS]
 

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Horacio

Horacio

New Member
Thanks for this. So you have some quick audio examples before and after? The dark sound is precisely what i dont like abour this lib.
Yeah I agree about the dark sound, and in the past I would try eqing it to make it brighter but ended up usually getting a unnaturally brittle sound in the process.
 
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shawnsingh

Active Member
Nice trick, @Horacio =)

Yeah I agree about the dark sound, and in the past I would try eqing it to make it brighter but ended up usually getting a unnaturally brittle sound in the process.
You can also try an exciter or parallel distortion of high frequencies. EQ can only bring up the frequencies that already exist - and it's impossible to get right if there are bad resonant frequencies in the same frequency regions that would be boosted for clarity. Instead, a distortion or exciter can add more harmonic content, and you can sculpt it in ways that you cannot for EQ - trying different distortion types, pre-filter/EQ of the signal before distortion, post-filter/EQ of the signal after distortion.

But it's also extremely easy to make it sound too bright it without realizing, so it's important to mix reference and bias towards using less of the effect.
 

muk

Senior Member
So why exactly does altering the stereo image make it sound brighter? I understand what you are doing, but I don't get what part of it affects the timbre of the sound.
 

leon chevalier

Piano roll musician
So why exactly does altering the stereo image make it sound brighter? I understand what you are doing, but I don't get what part of it affects the timbre of the sound.
I was wondering the same, it sound like a "de-reverb" traitment. That could add brightness and definition.

I would be curious to compare this processing with a de-reverb traitment but I don't own one. Anybody ?

But I don't deny that it sound nice.
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
My understanding was that the additional clarity/brightness would come from using the close mic instead of the room or mix, and the panning/delay tricks just helped make the close mic sound more like a room mic?
 

NoamL

Winter <3
Yes I think you're right Shawn.

Horacio's technique appears to be, use only the close mic, but then widen the image and add a delay to make it sound more like a Decca tree capturing the full section. It sounds brighter and more precise because of the different character of sound captured by the close mics.

I like the sound but I worry that with this technique it's cutting down the apparent ensemble size. This technique seems to be close to what EastWest did when "simulating" divisi in Hollywood Strings by pointing a mic directly at half the musicians in the section. CSS is 35 musicians (including the CSSS solos) and I generally try to get it to sound more like 50 or 60 by layering in SSS or HWS behind it. With this technique I'd worry about CSS starting to sound like 20 or 25 musicians.

It's true that you can't completely authentically brighten up the sound with EQ, but a combination of EQ and close-biased (but not close-solo) mix can do OK.

The out of the box mix for CSS is iirc -1.5, 0, -1 or something like that. I like -0, -1.5, -4.5, as you can see it's close-biased but still with some room sound. Then add a little 5-10k for presence and it sounds nice.