The new EQ is here -- Meh, maybe Freddy would care...

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by John Scrip, May 23, 2017.

  1. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    For me stems are a good thing. When I'm close to being done with a mix I like to break it down into a few basic stems. I find it kind of clears my mind (especially if it is a complicated mix) because now my hands are tied a lot more than if I had the entire mix open and am able to adjust anything I want. No...I have committed to a few blocks and it's kind of liberating to think "well, here's the drum mix, I can't change anything within it, but I can process the whole thing....let's see how that sits with the entire mix"
    So it's usually very slight changes that I will make...a db boost or cut on EQ or maybe just changing the level of the entire stem by a slight amount.

    You could argue that I could do all that in the mix without having to make stems. But for me, making stems is about committing! It reduces my choices of what I can alter down to a minimum, so I don't have the distraction of every element available. Does that make any sense?

    Yeti, I produce stems that are identical to an ITB mix. I can mix the stems to a stereo file and then test that file using the reverse polarity nulling technique against the mix and it proves to be the same. Of course you can't have any processing on the stereo bus when rendering stems or that will affect the sum.
     
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  2. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    Thanks for the reply Freddy
    I'm not sure that I understand you correctly but here's my problem with understanding that workflow. If I want my stems lined up at unity to sum to the equivalent of a full stereo mix I have several choices.
    1:If I use a hardware bus processor I'll have to include whatever said HW proc imparts onto the summed signal into each stem because the mastering guy will not have the same HW proc. I find that very hard to approximate.
    2: if I use a software bus processor I still want to deliver the stems so they sum to the full mix w/o any bus processing so I'll have to include whatever the SW proc imparts onto the full mix into each stem, again, difficult to do IMHO
    OR
    3: I assume that the mastering engineer has access to the same bus processing and I'll export the settings to him so he can line up stems that hit the stereo bus and gets the same treatment as your stem 2 stereo mix does.
    In my work the stems are supposed to line up to represent the full mix (unless it's undipped music, etc) without any further bus processing applied and I wonder if the same isn't true for the workflow being discussed here, so it seems to follow that you'd have to include whatever color and dynamics control your bus processing will create into each stem. That's the part I find difficult.
    If, on the other hand all your doing to simplify your mix is to bounce all the drums or keys or guitars to new stereo stems that then get routed and processed in the stereo sum the same way each individual track would be, then I can see how that works. You're just printing your sub-masters, correct?
    But to me a stem delivery excludes the need for any further processing (except loudness compliance, something that I get to specs so when the audio gets to coding the QC software just passes it anyway)
    So do I understand correctly that you leave at least a portion of the bus processing to the ME in the hope that he'll apply a similar aesthetic than what you had in mind?
     
  3. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    I should say that for me in my work bus processing serves a different role as for you music guys. While during the peak normalized days of old I'd use Bus processing to maintain my peak ceiling, now that we normalize loudness I don't use much of it anymore, just a -2 dB true peak ceiling, thats it. But in music bus processing is such an integral part of the desired sound that i have difficulty understanding how the Mix engineer can maintaining his sonic vision and deliver stems that require no further mix processing. I hope this makes sense.
     
  4. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    I think what I should have been more clear about is that the only bus processing I use during a mix is an L2 limiter on the stereo mix bus. And that is just to give me the sense of the pressure a bus limiter will give in the end after it's mastered....I find it changes the way I mix. When I render stems, I just shut the bus limiter off first...or if I send a mix for mastering I shut the bus limiter off as well. So I will just let the ME know that I shut it off but here's the settings I used when it was on.

    Having said that, it's different than the processing I will have on just a drum subgroup in the mix. That, I will not shut off when I render a stem or a mix. Because it only affects the drums. The stereo bus processing affects everything.

    It sound to me yeti, that in your work bus processing is very integral to the final outcome.
     
  5. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    Thanks, Freddy
    I know I did say initially that there's something missing when stems are summed w/o stereo bus compression vs everything getting processed together at the stereo bus but it's not nearly as important in my field as I imagine it to be in music mixing which I also sometimes get to do as part of my job. I also said that in my work bus processing used to be only employed for peak ceiling management (hopefully without audible artifacts, L1 set to -10 ceiling and -10.2 threshold, 1-3 db of gain reduction maximum, making the waveform look a bit clipped but it sounded decent) and without any aesthetic intend whatsoever. But even though we don't try to affect the impact of a mix with bus processing like the music guys do there's nevertheless something going on regarding the relationships between different elements of the mix when stereo bus processing is applied. So while we're trying not to use it as a sonic shaping tools it still will have that effect to varying degrees depending on the mixing engineer and the content . However, now that loudness normalization is here it's become even less relevant, just keep a ceiling of -2 True peak, mix by using your ears alone and be done. So I'd say that in my work bus processing was necessary only to meet specs, not to achieve aesthetic goals and under the loudness normalization regime (which does affect music delivery more and more as well) it has become even LESS important.
    But when I deliver stems it is expected that they do faithfully recreate the full mix when set to unity gain (except undipped stems) and so the stems had to hit some limiting under the old regime (peak normalization) to stay within specs when added on top of each other w/o stereo bus limiting. That was a difficult thing to do because just using the L1 set at -10/-10.2 on every stem will yield different results summed vs all tracks hitting the L1 set at -10/-10.2 in the stereo bus.
    Anyway, going back to music guys and how to deliver mixes for mastering, I always thought that music mixes rely very heavily on stereo bus processing for their sonic profile. I mean, yes, there's tons of subgroup compression and individual track compression, parallel compression and whatnot but in the stereo sum they like to use the bus compressor in a musical (or unmusical, depending on your viewpoint:cool2:) way.
    That is what I imagine difficult to replicate in a stem based delivery to mastering. It sounds like you're fairly conservative in that respect and do your processing closer to the source (submix, individual track or even printing the compression and eq at tracking, which is great) so I can see how it works for you but aren't a great many mixing engineers "guilty" of leaving all their options open until they get to the mix and then, in order to "get everything to sit right in the mix" they apply "pre-mastering" in the stereo bus with these toys that basically make it much harder for the ME to do his job and isn't it exactly what they feel their mixes should sound like in terms of impact, only to be made "better" by the ME?
    Stem based delivery is IMO in it's essence an "unmixed" delivery workflow as it allows the next person in line to rebalance the mix as opposed to just manipulate the flattened stereo file. There's definitely a need for delivering "unmixed mixes" (sounds weird, I know)for certain formats. I attended a seminar at this years AES conference in Berlin where Mastering Engineer Mandy Parnell of Black Saloon Studios talked about her work with Bjork, mastering her immersive VR music (virtual reality, 3D spatial audio) and she spoke of the need to master an "unmixed" product since in VR the mix happens in real time at playout/ render. So Bjork likes her mixes really loud as she's very much a part of that generation of musicians who crave the "impact" of what aggressive mastering does. Now imaging having to do that in an environment where the rendered "mix" at playout is different every time. For that, and the sheer number of spatial cues she needed stems (and objects) vs a full mix from what I understood. But going back to same old stereo, why would one want to deliver "unmixed" audio to the mastering engineer if stereo bus compression is , in many cases, the glue that holds the mix together?
    I hope this makes sense.
    Cheers.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2017
  6. LPSGME

    LPSGME Senior Member

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    As Fred said, the availability of stems, whose components have some commonality, can provide a useful tool when it comes to mixing. But, besides that, there is also the notion that OTB 'summing' improves, albeit subtlety, the sound; and having several stems provides at least some ability to do that short of sending every track to a mixer. But just taking stems and loading them back into a DAW is not necessarily doing anything for the person next in line unless they are prepared to use them to some added advantage.

    As far as the mix bus goes, sometimes I find myself with a load of plugins there and other times not. Last year I worked on an album where there were no mix bus plugins, because the plethora that were on the tracks sufficed. Although in retrospect I would have liked to have processed the mix with some hardware.
     
  7. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    @LPSGME- What you're summarizing is in essence related to mixing and ways to make the process more economical. I have zero questions regarding the benefits of stems, outboard summing workflow included. that's mixing though. It's your next paragraph "But just taking stems and loading them back into a DAW is not necessarily doing anything for the person next in line unless they are prepared to use them to some added advantage." that highlights my question. What does it mean to "use them to some added advantage"?
    In Audio post for broadcast I deliver stems for 2 reasons, first to provide mixed tracks of common elements (Narration, Dialog, Music, FX, foley, etc.) that can be re-edited without audio processing by any editor around the world. Those editors don't have to re-create 90% of my work or guess how to EQ a piece of audio because it's in the flattened file. These stems are the basis for programs being dubbed into foreign language, etc. or for re-edited versions of the program. Secondly, stems make for a very economical and future proof archive. An archived Protools session isn't nearly as likely to be opened successfully 10 years from now as a couple of stereo Wave files. also there are many stem based production music beds where the editor can create his own musical arrangements without being a musician versed in Midi, etc.
    Those are real advantages that I find fairly obvious and they come almost without drawbacks now that loudness normalization has replaced peak normalization.


    I wonder what the advantages of a Music stem-delivery to mastering are, I'm not saying they don't exist, I even pointed out a scenario where stems are a must, but for a regular stereo music release I just don't fully comprehend the benefits of that approach, unless, as John alluded to, it's to pass the buck (failure to commit) or give full control over the mix to someone else. I'm not saying that's good or bad, I'm just wondering about the advantages. Is it the ability to re-edit stems to re-arrange a song? Is it to have a deliverable that can be remastered in 5.1 or some immersive format in the future? Does it strike the perfect balance between flexibility and printed signal processing in order to avoid future compatibility issues when re-opening a project? I do believe that there are possible drawbacks related to bus processing, as I explained before, so the benefits must be substantial and I want to understand them. Thanks for tolerating my longwinded ways, it's in my DNA.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2017
  8. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    I can only tell you my experience with stems. I have a colleague who runs a small commercial studio in Toronto....he regularly sends me stuff to master. Stems. From my point of view it's much easier and faster for me to master stems compared to a stereo file. He mixes on Yamaha NS-10s and so every mix he sends me usually has the same familiar sonic issues. So when I listen to the entire mix I might say to myself "oh that 200hz is a bit ugly" but when I solo the different stems I find that that ugly 200hz is coming from just one element. I don't have to dip it out of the entire mix that way. Another example might be vocal sibilance problems...why affect the whole mix with the fix? Make any sense?

    Yes I know you could say, "well, the mixer should have addressed those issues in the mix" but that's reality.
     
  9. John Scrip

    John Scrip Senior Member

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    That's about it there... On problematic mixes, it can come in handy. And obviously when they need instrumental versions and what not.
     
  10. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    Thanks, Freddy
    What you say makes sense to me so, good example. If you don't mind I'd like to take the discussion even further off track to sort out a few things in my head as it relates to how I choose to work when I pursue my hobby of recording music at home vs how someone else chooses to work in either a pro or hobby setting. My question for you is if you work as the recording engineer and are somewhat invested artistically, do you hand full control to another mixing engineer or do you commit certain elements so they can't be changed by "the next guy in line"?
    I have over the years participated as musician/ engineer on a few album projects out of my modest basement studio (when I say modest I mean modest in terms of gear, about 70% of what little money I spent on the place went into room treatment, the rest went for a copy of Logic 8 , a Euphonix Control surface and a Motu 8pre plus a few basic mics.). It's been like that since 2008 and it'll stay that way until it dies, no upgrades for me.
    When I deliver tracks to another mixing engineer I have made it standard practice to flatten the tracks I deliver, as oposed to just exporting the entire project. This involves certain parts of my pre-mix that I consider essential in a musical sense. It might be a reverb or delay, it almost always is a flattened edit/ comp and fadermoves that enhance or sometimes even make the performance or cover for weaknesses of the performance (we're not always talking studio level musicianship here, if you know what I mean). Since I'm usually involved as a musician (sort of anyway) I want full control over the performance and the comps and fadermoves are a part of that. Those pre-mixes develop organically during the tracking/ arranging phase, they build on decisions made that shouldn't be undone and I will not touch them during mixing and I don't want them touched/ changed when someone else is mixing. I do the same thing when I record guitars for friend's projects. I can't overstate how important this is to my way of thinking (in my spare time, @ my day job different rules apply) because failure to do so will always result in mixes that sound musically wrong to me, be it how they mixed my tracks or how they used my guitar tracks in their mix. They might be good mixes where they fixed what needed fixing from their vantage point but the result usually doesn't work on a musical level for me. So when it comes to working with music I lean towards limiting choices for "the next guy in line" if there is one. This has served me reasonably well in my musical endeavors which are a hobby of mine, not my gainful employment. I know it's weird and In the real world this approach wouldn't fly but that's not a concern.

    Anyway, this it what had me wonder about this topic of stem based delivery and the flexibility you give or receive in this workflow. Fascinating to hear real world viewpoints on this.
    Thanks again.
     
  11. John Scrip

    John Scrip Senior Member

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    Coming from a "I used to do a boatload of mixing and now I hardly ever mix anymore" standpoint, I don't see any reason to stop what you're doing and that's basically exactly what I used to do if I was tracking and sending somewhere else for mixing. I'd take care of heads & tails, basic volume adjustments, etc. Usually along with a rough mix that was used during tracking if the band was diggin' it so the mix engineer knew the "vibe" we were under.

    Didn't think of it as "limiting their choices" but more of "guiding them in a particular direction" -- Especially if these were *my* band's recordings -- the best mixes of *my* stuff were almost always done by someone else. But I made sure that those tracks were as "ready to go" as possible... Clean, gross adjustments (balances between instruments, and HP or LP stuff, basic EQ adjustments if needed, etc.), kind of "put everything at -6" and it's listenable already.

    Nothing that would stop the next guy from bringing his talents to it -- But little to distract him from doing so.
     
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  12. John Scrip

    John Scrip Senior Member

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    OH - EQ UPDATE:

    The hum has been found and is now in the capable hands of a tech at a damn-near legendary local place. *The receptionist* called it -- "Oh, it's probably a filter cap or something..." And yeah, it's an open filter cap. I'll have it back soon in all it's ridiculous glory.
     
  13. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    And I laughed! I want a receptionist like that! Huge kudos!
     
  14. LPSGME

    LPSGME Senior Member

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    So... an open filter cap. I though maybe it just hummed because it didn't know the words... ba da boom!

    This reminds me of when a guitar store, I did amp repair work for, replaced me with some guy who had learned his electronic skills in the Navy.

    Later that year I applied for a job at an international corporation and the choice came down to me and... yup, that same guy.

    The person in charge of hiring said they were going to go with that guy because... he learned his electronics in the Navy and he was also married.

    A short time later I inquired about an opening as equipment tech in the Physics department of a nearby state college, but guess who got there first... the same guy.

    So I went back to the guitar store and they asked me to start doing amp repairs again. On the work bench were several amplifiers with notes on them left by the... same guy. One said: "blowing fuses, needs new filter caps". The only problem was that the capacitors were all good and all that was needed was a new rectifier.

    I'd bet that receptionist was never in the Navy.
     
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  15. John Scrip

    John Scrip Senior Member

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    The tech ripped into it -- She just guessed. :acoustic:
     

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