Overkill? (STEMS)

Discussion in 'Mixing, Post-Production, and Effects' started by BenG, May 16, 2018.

  1. BenG

    BenG Senior Member

    Just started rebuilding my template to make exporting/deliverables easier and was wondering how many STEMS I should be creating. Clients usually ask for a split of the Hi/Lo and the Short/Long. Would this be overkill....?

    1. Winds Hi Long
    2. Winds Hi Short
    3. Winds Lo Long
    4. Winds Lo Short
    5. Winds Ens Long
    6. Winds Ens Short
    7. Winds Runs/FX
    8. Brass Hi Long
    9. Brass Hi Short
    10. Brass Lo Long
    11. Brass Lo Short
    12. Brass Ens Long
    13. Brass Ens Short
    14. Brass FX
    15. Strings Hi Long
    16. Strings Hi Short
    17. Strings Lo Long
    18. Strings Lo Short
    19. Strings Ens Long
    20. Strings Ens Short
    21. Strings Runs/FX
    22. Piano
    23. Harp
    24. Mallets
    25. Percussion Hi
    26. Percussion Lo
    27. Choir Hi Long
    28. Choir Hi Short
    29. Choir Lo Long
    30. Choir Lo Short

    - Can Piano + Harp + Harp Gliss be combined?
    - Should Metals be separated? (Cymbals, Triangle, Chimes)
  2. Scoremixer

    Scoremixer Senior Member

    Apr 22, 2017
    IMO yes that's overkill in terms of stems from a client side perspective (assuming these are going straight to libraries, music sups etc and no intermediate mixing stage).

    Depending very much on the style of music you're doing, I think there's too much split in the orch and possibly not enough in the rest... I'd be more inclined to go for something like:

    Strings Long
    Strings Short
    Strings Feature/FX - harmonics, solos, risers etc
    Brass Feature/FX - solos, fx, heroic themes etc
    WW Feature/FX - see above

    Doing split hi/low stems is prone to complication as you've factored in, due to ensemble patches that play everything... So I wouldn't bother, otherwise it just generates too many options for people.

    In terms of perc I'd do something like (v dependent on what style you're making obviously):

    Perc Booms - one off subby hits
    Perc Lo - Low rhythmic stuff
    Perc Hi - Hi rhythmic stuff
    Metals - Cymbals etc
    Loops - Programmed electronics, ethnic stuff that doesn't fit nicely into Lo or Hi stems, Kit etc
    nas likes this.
  3. OP

    BenG Senior Member

    Thank you for chiming in and what you outline makes sense! I should probably give a but more information as well.

    The style is Orchestral-only and this delivery is all for for trailer music albums. Also, I believe the music will be mastered by their engineer. The client had asked I split Hi/Lo and Short/Long, so the music editors can splice up the music any which way they please.
  4. Scoremixer

    Scoremixer Senior Member

    Apr 22, 2017
    In that case the split you've outlined will fulfil their requirements!

    Still think it's overkill, but at least it's something they've asked for and it'll be going via editors making cut downs etc before being unleashed on the wider world.

    Would still definitely do metals separate though.
  5. tmhuud

    tmhuud Brown Belt

    Nov 19, 2006
    Yeah, thats way overkill. The important thing is OVERLAPPING sounds. I usually get asked to break out my synth and musical sound design elements further and further. If you have two synth elements that overlap and can not be isolated then you lose. i. e., they will just duck that element so low you wont hear it anymore. So look at your piece and decide which sounds may get in the way of THEIR sound design and give them those separately. Sometimes you just can't guess right, but a conscientious sound mixer will usually contact you and give you the option of further breakouts (assuming he has the time)
  6. TimCox

    TimCox Senior Member

    Oct 14, 2013
    Dang...I always supply them with


    But I mostly provide stems for film work so I don't know the extent of stuff outside of that.
  7. benmrx

    benmrx Senior Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    I’m just curious, are you using discreet verbs for each stem? So 30 instances of your chosen reverb plugin?
  8. OP

    BenG Senior Member

    Yup, seems like there is no way around it and I'll have to build my template around it.
  9. OP

    BenG Senior Member

    Ah, didn't think about this but can definitely understand. Basically, they are looking for flexibility for exactly the reason you mention; 'getting in the way of their sound design'. Splitting assured that the whole track won't be brought down, just the elements interfering.
    tmhuud likes this.
  10. OP

    BenG Senior Member

    This is my first foray into production music and I'm used to giving the same specs as you.
    TimCox likes this.
  11. OP

    BenG Senior Member

    Well, I'm currently in the process of building my new template now (planning stage) but will likely set-up section stems as FX sends for and route each Group channel to their appropriate section.


    Winds Hi Short
    Winds Hi Long
    Winds Lo Short
    Winds Lo Long
    Winds Ens Short
    Winds Ens Long
    Winds Runs/FX

    All routed to 'Woodwinds Reverb Send' (Tail)
  12. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

    Nov 13, 2007
    Hi Ben,

    It depends on the purpose of your splits. If you're handing splits over to an engineer so that he can record an orchestra on top of what you wrote, with some of your electronic tracks staying and some being replaced, it's hard to have too many spits.

    If you're on a major budget picture, it's hard to have too many splits (but even then I don't split short and long for the dub stage, just for my engineer to mix).

    Lower Budgets

    But if you're delivering for TV or a small-budget movie you have way too many splits in your first post. Depending on the situation, they don't even always have enough tracks for that many splits!

    It usually is possible to ask the dubbing mixer what he wants -- I would get his phone number and ask if they have any standard splits they want.

    That said, here's how I think about it if it's a limited budget / short dub:

    1. Anything weird or really conspicuous should be split out -- anything that you know they will want to control. An example might be, "the dark spirit's signature sound" if you have created sound design for a horror movie.

    2. If there is a solo that's going to need work to fit with dialogue. Sometimes, for example, piano is hard to balance until they are on the stage.

    3. Solo vocalist Always a good idea to split this.

    Apart from that, too many splits can lead to problems. For smaller budget situations you could go with:

    a. Percussion
    b. Winds, brass, strings
    c. Choir
    d. Synths / Keys / Harp / Mallets
    e. Effects
    f. Weird / solo stuff

    Or you could even go with:
    a. Percussion
    b. Weird / solo stuff
    c. Everything else

    Charlie Clouser had a good comment recently on this subject. You might be able to search for it or maybe @charlieclouser will resurrect it for us.

    Good luck.

  13. benmrx

    benmrx Senior Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    So then where is the return of that reverb routed? Or do you print the ‘Woodwinds Reverb’ as it’s own stem? Or does the reverb return only go to your stereo master. In which case I guess you deliver dry stems?

    If you print the reverb as it’s own stem, and they/you wanted to mute ‘Winds Runs/FX’ you would still hear it’s reverb tail.

    Traditionally, stems are fully discreet. You want to be able to chop it up and mold it into the spot. They/you won’t be able to adjust the levels of the individual stems, without changing the balance of the reverb within each section/group.

    So, in your template you would need a dedicated reverb for ‘Winds Runs/FX’ routed to a Buss along with the actual tracks to create a true ‘Winds Runs/FX’ stem.

    ...., unless I’m misunderstanding your idea.
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
  14. OP

    BenG Senior Member

    @benmrx, yes, I will be delivering these STEMS without any additional reverb. That said, I always give the mixing/mastering engineer a 'Master' file with everything as I have it in my DAW (reverb sends and all) to give them an idea of what I had intended.

    Also, when necessary to print with FX on, I can solo each track and export 'manually' that way. (With the help of MEAP) I think 'render in place' may also work for this as well.
    benmrx likes this.
  15. Saxer

    Saxer Senior Member

    Mar 30, 2008
    Delivering Stems/Tracks to a mixer to mix the music is a different thing than delivering to the film mix.

    For the film mix the music has to be ready mixed if you have all music stems open. They only mix the music relative to dialog, foley, athmos, and sound design from the film. It's mainly how much of your music they want in the film.

    To mix the music itself you can't have enough stems. It's a different process. So your track list makes sense.
  16. gjelul

    gjelul Senior Member

    May 2, 2015
    Maybe add:



    Keyboards (Wurlies, el pnos, etc)
    Ac Guitars
    El Guitars
  17. OP

    BenG Senior Member

    Sorry for not clarifying this and that is good to hear!
  18. OP

    BenG Senior Member

    I don't have these elements in this particular template (orchestra. only) it is good to keep in mind for future ones!
    gjelul likes this.

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