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Mix/Balance/Production help!

Discussion in 'Member's Compositions' started by jamieboo, Nov 29, 2017.

  1. jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

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    Hello folks

    Just wanting some pointers on a work in progress...
    This is a kind of old-school, swashbuckly thing I'm writing just now using Hollywood Orchestra.



    As it's very much a work in progress there's no real dynamic shaping yet and, being incomplete, it just fizzles at the end, but I'm trying to think of ways I can improve clarity a bit.
    Some of the orchestrations are quite dense, but I think they're reasonably ok, I'm looking more towards the production side of things.
    I'm pretty bad at mixing, don't know much about how best to apply reverb, and I know nothing about EQing.
    Here I'm using the appropriate section reverb in Spaces at the default levels.
    It being Hollywood Orchestra which is all apparently panned correctly, I haven't touched panning at all. But I was reading about using Combined Panner in Cubase to narrow instruments stereo field to help improve clarity. Is that something that could help here?

    Any help on this side of things would be most appreciated!

    Thanks
     
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  2. ScoringFilm

    ScoringFilm Senior Member

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    Actually the overall sound is pretty good already, perhaps increase the balance of the strings a little. It's a little too wet (reverb) for my liking and I would possibly add a little more low-mid end EQ, however that's personal taste and I don't think there's anything drastically wrong with this at all.
     
  3. OP
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    jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

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    Thanks so much ScoringFilm!
    I just want to clarify a couple of the things you said...
    When you say increase the balance of the strings do you mean make them a bit louder in the mix, or something else?
    Is it just the strings that are a bit too wet for your liking, or everything?
    You think I should boost the low-mid EQ a bit? I haven't touched EQ yet, but I always thought that the low-mids was where mud could build up and therefore if anything that area should be reduced a little.
    What do you reckon?

    Thanks
     
  4. ScoringFilm

    ScoringFilm Senior Member

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    The strings needs to be a bit louder in the mix as they are getting lost; this is probably the dense scoring and would happen in reality, however it's the 'perception of reality' that you are aiming for (i.e. what it would sound like on a commercial recording). The reverb 'sound' is great, I would just back off from the wet output a little i.e. a little more dry signal. EQ is very subjective and a personal preference; experiment around 80hz (boost) and 200hz (cut) to your own taste. The mid to high EQ range is fine.
     
  5. OP
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    jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

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    Great, ScoringFilm - these pointers are hugely appreciated!
    I'll bring the strings up a bit. I find balancing the orchestra really difficult with Hollywood (which sometimes has inconsistent volume levels between different articulations of the same instrument!).
    What about the other idea I mentioned: using the Combined Panner in Cubase to narrow the stereo field of certain instruments to bring greater clarity to the orchestral-stereo spread? Is that something you or anyone else has any experience of?
    Thanks.
     
  6. ScoringFilm

    ScoringFilm Senior Member

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    Narrowing/widening is indeed useful but I don't think it needs it. It's all pretty clean and clear as far as audio is concerned; it is probably the orchestration that needs to be thinned in places. If you have too many sampled instruments playing in the same range you can get a build up of certain frequencies which causes mud/boom.
     
  7. bozmillar

    bozmillar Senior Member

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    I'll second the reverb. I'm really only noticing it in the strings, and only on certain parts, but it sounds like the way I used to apply reverb trying to cover up fakeness. I don't think you really have anything to cover up here. It sounds good, so you can let those strings shine on their own a bit more.
     
  8. OP
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    jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

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    Thanks very much for the help ScoringFilm and bozmillar!
    I really am a massive idiot when it comes to these more technical aspects of production, so tips like this are extremely helpful!
     
    ScoringFilm likes this.
  9. Jerry Growl

    Jerry Growl Senior Member

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    Really like your score! Perhaps it could breathe more in and out tempo to sound less mechanical, but it doesn't sound all that robotic either. Perhaps it's the percussion that gives that nerving mechanical tightness. It totally lacks a bit of healthy sloppiness there.

    About the sound: I had a feeling of sitting really really far from the stage. Too much bass roll-off does that.
    I also miss a center to the stereo image. Could be solved with some mastering perhaps.
     
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    jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

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    Thanks Jerry

    Could you explain your last two points in embarrassingly rudimentary terms please!

    What do you mean exactly by too much bass roll-off? Do you mean to much reverb? Or is it an EQ thing? What can I do about it?
    Also, what can I do about the stereo image point that you mention?
    As I said earlier I use Hollywood Orchestra and everything is already panned correctly - so I haven't felt the urge to tinker with that. Or is your point associated with the narrowing/widening of the stereo image I enquired about earlier in the thread.
    I've just been reading about EQ matching. Maybe I should match EQ with the Star Wars theme or something.
    I just don't know! :)
     
  11. Jerry Growl

    Jerry Growl Senior Member

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    I'l try. I'm guessing you may have inserted a reverb on the master bus or something. The ratio direct sound / reverb doesn't seem right. (Don't shoot me if I'm wrong) Many reverb plugins have a built-in eq with high-pass filter. Or perhaps you created this effect by using too much reverb and EQ. The result either way feels like I'm standing at the back of a large (but descent sounding) hall. The portion of direct sound is too low.

    Perhaps if you could tell us exactly what (plugins?) you used in your mix to influence the sound coming out of Hollywood Orchestra? And the reverb, did you use it on an Aux bus? (I hope so)

    Usually I find using less EQ/compression or none at all (unless to solve problems) generally sounds best.
    Perhaps a very good master compression/limiter but mostly I end up liking it better without it.
     
  12. OP
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    jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

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    I used QL Spaces for reverb.
    I have separate Woods, Brass, Percussion and Strings buses and I have inserted on each of these an instance of Spaces. I use the So. Cal. instrument section presets appropriate to each orchestral section and I turn down the Wet Signal knob a little bit for each.
    Then on the master bus I have another Spaces insert using the So. Cal. full orchestra preset, and again turn down the Wet Knob a bit. (This instance is probably unnecessary, I can't really notice what it brings)
    I filter out the low end EQ in each instance of Spaces as I've read that's a good thing to do to get rid of mud.
    I don't do any other EQ tinkering.
    I don't use any compression/limiting.
     
  13. Jerry Growl

    Jerry Growl Senior Member

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    Hi,

    Happy that I guessed right then.

    Reverb is usually best applied as Send/return (sending it to an AUX bus, FX track, or whatever your DAW calls it).
    Unless you need the reverb to really dress your sound for the effect of it (some samples are recorded really dry).

    If you really want to do things right you should insert the Quantum Spaces plugin only to aux busses (or FX tracks in Cubase). If you want to split up per section that's ok, you can make as many aux/FX busses and send the audio coming from Hollywood orchestra accordingly. And of course each Quantum Spaces instance is to be set as 100% wet.

    The reason why you want to do this (and why audio engineers do it this way) is that you can control the reverb level much better with the aux volume faders, while the direct signal stays unaffected. And secondly, if you want to eq / compress the reverb sound, you can do so without changing the dry sound.

    I can hear your low end EQ being cut out by the reverb plugins. It's ok that you don't want reverb to add extra mud in the low end. But you also don't want to loose realism and proximity.

    If I were you I would save each preset of your Spaces per section and insert them to Aux busses, then send the Hollywood Instruments sections' audio accordingly. I would probably have the Hollywood Instruments output set to a bus first. One per each section. And then I would send reverb from that bus (unless you want to tweak reverb sends per instrument).

    As a result your dry signals are coming from the Busses. The reverb wet signals will come from the Aux busses (faders set between -12dB to -24dB) Now you can EQ, compress, and balance them independantly and exactly how you want it.

    It's only a suggestion based on personal opinion... feel free to experiment.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
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  14. OP
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    jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

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    Excellent - thank you so much Jerry.
    Even though this is hyper-rudimentary stuff, and there are a million guides online, the fact that you're clearly describing a process relating to my specific setup makes me want to try it.
    One thing, when you talk about levels set to between -12db and -24db do you mean the little horizontal level 'fader' in the sending tracks, or the actual faders in the FX tracks?
    I guess you mean the FX faders. In which case should I keep the little horizontal level slider at 0.0?
    Thanks.
     
  15. Jerry Growl

    Jerry Growl Senior Member

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    Yes, the Fx/Aux bus 'actual' fader. When set at 0dBFS your music will really drown in reverb. To find the perfect reverb balance, it's helpful to start with this fader all the way down and then slowly rise it upwards untill you start to hear it, then stop when your ears really like it, and then lower it again just a few dB again (because you shouldn't trust your ears that much, or maybe that's just me not trusting mine).

    With the 'the little horizontal fader', I think you mean the 'send level'. This will affect the amount that is sent towards the reverb. By default it stays at 0dBFS, unless you have really loud instruments, and you might overload the reverb input. You will also want to lower the send levels for instruments or instrument groups that don't need as much reverb as the rest.

    And finally to create more depth, you might want to put some instruments 'far at the back of the room/stage/hall'. This can be done exactly as your last mix sounded: more reverb then dry, plus eq. When working with an Aux bus you will want to send your audio 'pre-fader' towards the reverb, then lower the volume fader of that instrument. Add EQ if the reverb doesn't already do it for you to take some low end and upper end away.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2018
  16. OP
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    jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

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    Ok, I'll have a tinker - thanks Jerry!
    A question about EQ, yes, I'll take away some of the extreme low end, but what about ScoringFilm's comment earlier in this thread about boosting around 80hz and cutting around 200hz?
     
  17. Jerry Growl

    Jerry Growl Senior Member

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    Yes, well when you re-route your reverb and the dry signal cuts through nicely as supposed, there will be a whole new mix. Don't forget Rule No.1 "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".
     
  18. OP
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    jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

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    Thanks Jerry!
    Another question - sorry!
    I see many people have different reverbs for long and short articulations.
    Is that a good idea?
    I can see the sense of it, but with my current template I'm not sure how I can do that.
    I have an instance of PLAY for each 'instrument' - eg, one for 1st Violins, one for 2nd Violins, etc. And into that instance I have all the articulations I want for that instrument - both long and short - and I switch between them using Expression Maps tied to midi channels in Cubase.
    So each midi track in my project could be, at any given time, performing either short or long articulations.
    I can't think of any way that I can route/send different articulations within a PLAY to different reverbs.
    Can anyone think of a way round this without having to completely rebuild my template structure?
    Thanks
     
  19. Jerry Growl

    Jerry Growl Senior Member

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    You're welcome! Though I have mixed post-production for several years, I don't think I'm the expert here...
    I have never tried a seperate reverb for short articulations in the same template. It doesn't sound logical to me. Of course I would adjust the sends for short articulations so that they don't drown. Curious to hear how and why others would do it.
    I suppose you coud start within the onboard convolution reverb in the Play engine and set up individual reverb settings per loaded instrument. You might want to save hall type of reverbs for the Quantum Spaces plugin on your AUX/FX Reverb Bus(ses). But you can apply small variations per instrument for 'early reverb' types on the built-in convolution reverb in Play.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
  20. Harry

    Harry Senior Member

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    I have to disagree here. When controlling reverb using Sends, the amount of reverb for each instrument is controlled using those "little horizontal faders", whilst keeping the Reverb fader at 0. Your music will not "drown in reverb" when you have control over each individual track. Moving the Reverb fader the way you describe will affect ALL the tracks which are being sent there, at the same time.

    This is the way I do it. You can see this process in action in this Jake Jackson video at 3:39 you get a screen shot showing all his aux tracks at 0, and on the left you can see some instrument tracks with the send levels adjusted.

     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2018

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