Why is digital recording so complicated?

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by Tobacco Worm, Nov 30, 2012.

  1. martin H

    martin H Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,945
    Likes Received:
    6,718
    Joined:
    May 16, 2012
    I used to do some "fixing" but primarily to save a take with otherwise great mojo from being re-done because of a slipped bend or a garbled word. I have noticed working with younger musicians however, that the ability to play a clean single take seems to be declining a bit. A lot of sloppy playing goes on in the belief that (1) whatever I'm doing can be replaced later, and (2) we can always "edit the good bits together" later. I do draw the line at "we like the first two bars of take one, but then the next six of take two, then back to take one, then there's this really great note on take three at 2.05......."
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,360
    Likes Received:
    3,169
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Fixing things has been going on forever, but back in the analog days it took "real men" to do the fixing because one screwup and the damage was permanent, no undo button. I remember a friend of mine telling me about the time he engineered a night session with Steve Cropper producing. All they did was vocal punch-ins, for hours on end, nerve wracking stuff.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. jrm

    jrm Member

    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    21
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2012
    I love the Joe Walsh video. Been a big fan of Joe for many years.

    I have seen a few different clips of Walsh saying pretty much the same thing lately. I think the subject matter has a lot to do with his new release "Analog Man."

    With all respect, you do have to consider the source. Joe is an "old school" musician who has become very famous and respected for playing/recording/producing in a particular way. I am not sure what reason or incentive someone like that would have to learn a completely new musical workflow at this stage of his career. I for one, would be more than intimidated if going up against the "new kid in town" (pun intended) who knows the digital workflow inside and out.

    At the same time, there is definitely something to what he says (or at least what I took away) when talking about "mojo."

    Put a group of creative and talented musicians into a room and you will get a result that is going to be different than one guy building individual tracks on a computer.

    Whether different translates to "better" will depend on the musicians, the individual with the computer and other factors. I would still lean towards the "group" usually delivering a better musical product. If that's the way Joe Walsh "gets his mojo on" then I am sure he will deliver better music with the old school approach. Just like he can probably play better guitar with an instrument he is comfortable with as opposed to one he is not.


    Regarding the digital vs. analogue debate... I am wondering about something.

    Unless you are restricting your "delivery medium" to vinyl, isn't is all going to end up digital anyway? You can record to tape or disc, but it is still going to end up on a CD (digital) or worse yet, as an MP3 file.

    If it still ends up as a digital track, don't you lose the [place favorite term here] of that analog recording? If you can keep that "analog thing" through the downstream digital conversion, you can surely keep it at the initial recording phase.

    If not, any perceived advantage or analog is lost unless you stay analog all the way through to the final listening medium.

    Or am I missing something?
     
  4. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,360
    Likes Received:
    3,169
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    The recording/ reproduction chain has analog components on both sides so nothing's really going to end up digitally anyway, it all ends up analog anyway.
    Mics and preamps (even the digital mics/ USB mics need preamps) and maybe some EQ's/compressors, etc. on one end of the chain and speakers on the other. If you convert after the analog signal is linelevel you should be able to model any desirable artifacts (or lack thereof) that would occur on subsequent analog recorders, mixers, compressors, EQ,s, etc in the digital domain and then hear it on the analog way out. If the converters, mix-engine and plug-ins are good then the results should be comparable or maybe even better than remaining in the analog domain longer (mixing OTB for example). Even analog summing can be modeled very well these days.
    However, digital is not free of it's own signal degradation, from improper cabling, poor quality master clocks and poor sync distribution, digital format converters, error correction and the likes to codecs and even DAC problems, mainly Inter-sample peaks. The belief that "once it's digital it's not going to change"is a myth, both for PCM audio as well as filebased audio. So it is conceivable that analog components at certain stages in the chain can perform better than digital gear, and those benefits can improve the final digital outcome that's then converted back to analog.
    One story that comes to mind while on this subject is something that I have experienced several times. As part of my dayjob I work on OB-trucks with highend digital audioconsoles, AES routers, digital DA's, audio embedders/ disembedders etc. and every once in a while I'll find that while the Mix sounds good, the return from my transmission processor (all AES signal paths) sounds totally phasey, thin, almost mono. I have described this to maintenance engineers, other audio engineers as well as factory reps and integrators, everybody just shakes their head and smiles at me with that look, you know the one, "suuure it did happen, I believe you..." I even told them how I can fix that problem, it works every time... to no avail, until one day it happened and I had enough witnesses. Turns out that it really did happen as I had described and all it took to fix it was a patchcable to jam into the normal on the patchbay a few times with a twisting motion, voila, the return now sounded great, as it should. Nobody can explain why this happens, in digital it supposedly either works or it doesn't, but within a complex infrastructure (like a recording studio) one bad connection can totally alter the outcome, even when it's just zeros and ones.
     
  5. Username1

    Username1 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Likes Received:
    4,491
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    Question for the analog experienced-- how does one punch in/ edit on tape? I'm assuming it's with the use of the timecode-- how difficult is this to do?
     
  6. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,360
    Likes Received:
    3,169
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    No Timecode needed at all, timecode is used to synchronize a tapemachine to other tapemachines (in order to increase track count or lay tracks across) or to slave to VTR's, do laybacks and stuff like that.

    Tape based editing is done with razorblades, a white marker and a splicing block. You listen to the spot where you want to edit, take the tape out from between the capstan and pinchroller, rock the reels back and forth against the playhead or the sync head, find the attack of the inpoint of whatever it is you want to edit, find the outpoint the same way, mark the spots on the back of the tape and cut'n'splice. The angle of the splice depends on lots of factors, 45degrees is the most common for 1/4" tape. Editing 1" or 2" tape can be pretty daunting, edits across shallow angles, for example in classical music can be even more difficult.

    Punch ins are done by playing back the armed track and pushing record at the punch-in point and play again at the punch out point. This can be automated but doesn't have to be. Punch in and out times as well as the quality of the punch-in/out vary between different types of recorders. You're not allowed to show any fear or hesitation when doing this.:D It can be pretty tricky.

    Another editing technique is the "spot erase" to remove unwanted sounds from an otherwise good track. take the tape out from between the capstan and pinchroller, find the area to be erased by listening and rocking back and forth, mark the area's boundaries and guide the tape across the erase head in that area.
    Have fun, I never did.
     
    2 people like this.
  7. Username1

    Username1 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Likes Received:
    4,491
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    Thank you for the reply Yeti, this sounds incredibly difficult compared to using the selector tool and tempo grid in PT-- i would still like to learn how to do it though, especially since i am going to do some recording to 2 inch tape this spring.

    I was thinking about the history of recording, how it went from phonographic cylinders to what we have today, i'm only 23 but my favorite records where done on tape, so i *prefer* it to the sound of modern music tracked in DAW's, that being said this is more than likely due to the loud mastering rather than the actual digital medium. I feel like maybe i'm fighting the future wanting to still record on tape, i wonder if someone who thought magnetic wire sounded better to tape just continued to use it because they liked it better-- kind of like battling windmills?

    These are the things i think about :laugh2:
     
  8. Blues Rocker

    Blues Rocker Senior Member

    Messages:
    177
    Likes Received:
    14
    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    I feel your pain, brother. I'm 60 and my most all of my sessions in the '60's and later were with 2" tape in Studio City or Burbank, CA. Then I did the home 1/4" 8-track Teac 3340 Simulsync demos...then ADAT...and now I'm looking at my first (daunting) DAW software, after buying a new 15" Macbook Pro Retina Display. I'm considering Apple Logic Pro, but the thought of learning it makes me want to hire a therapist at the same time. We weren't raised with video games and computers from birth like some of these young, smart whippersnappers here on the forum and so it's just not second nature as it seems to be with them. I wish you well as you learn the best way for you!
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. Username1

    Username1 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Likes Received:
    4,491
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    If i where you i'd get Pro Tools instead, Logic was designed as a MIDI sequencer and in my opinion has an annoying workflow, people keep saying that PT is supposed to mimic the work/signal flow of tape consoles, but for me (owning both programs) having only two windows in PT is a lot easier to navigate.

    Just my .02$ for whatever it may be worth
     
    2 people like this.
  10. babatube

    babatube Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,620
    Likes Received:
    4,302
    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2010
    +1
    protools is alot easier to operate.
    logic audio is the hardest DAE to handle.
    it is also the best one:)
     
    1 person likes this.
  11. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,695
    Likes Received:
    18,459
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007

    Just because you want to use tape for that sound, why would you want to be stuck with the PITA that comes with working with tape? Why not use the best of both worlds? I would track through tape and dump it into a DAW to edit...I've done that and it works very nicely....you can even choose some instruments or tracks that you don't want the tape sound for and just record them digitally. A kind of mix and match!
     
    2 people like this.
  12. peterp

    peterp Senior Member

    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    28
    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2010
    The mix and match approach Freddy suggests works well. We didn't do any punching in our analog recording. We took a couple takes each of vocals, lead, rhythm guitar, bass, and drums. Once the analog recording was done, everything was loaded into ProTools and we picked one take as the primary and then used the alternate to patch any section we didn't like. The tracks don't go very far -- with 6 mics for two drum takes, only 12 of the 24 tracks are available for everything else.

    We did the background vocals and I think a rhythm double in ProTools due to a shortage of analog tracks, but everything else was import of analog tape. We would have done much more punching if it was digital from the start, but it was interesting to be forced into straight takes. It was mixed on an analog board (SSL 4048 G+). Recording in analog was in some ways an overambitious approach for a first recording of a young musician, but the song we are recording now in digital is not going as smoothly because we have tended to do less prep and therefore are constantly fiddling with the song when we record (Joe Walsh would not be happy).

    [SC]https://soundcloud.com/michaelpsmusic/michael-p-wmd[/SC]

    The video below was compiled from the studio recordings (there is a glance of the tape machine used at the beginning):

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNl8rI7UOCQ]Michael P - WMD studio session - YouTube[/ame]
     
    1 person likes this.
  13. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,695
    Likes Received:
    18,459
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007

    I'd like to point out that if you are going through the tape to get to the DAW, there's no worry about track count because you don't need to keep anything on tape. I would have it getting passed to the DAW as you record...you just need to offset the time delay from the record head to the playback head once it's in the DAW. This also offers the advantage of not worrying about tape speed lock-up because it's going down in real time.
     
  14. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,360
    Likes Received:
    3,169
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    I am convinced that ..
    will sound incredibly complicated to someone in a similar discussion in the not so distant future. It's not more complicated , just different, not better or worse, not more or less conducive to great art, just different.
     
    1 person likes this.
  15. Username1

    Username1 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Likes Received:
    4,491
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    Because i want to be able to record without any computers involved
     
    2 people like this.
  16. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,695
    Likes Received:
    18,459
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    very commendable...does that go for mastering as well? and what format will the recording be released on....vinyl?
     
    1 person likes this.
  17. Username1

    Username1 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Likes Received:
    4,491
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    So in my hypothetical dream world i'd have access to a 24 track machine and a two track printing machine. I would probably send the 1/2 inch tape to a mastering house-- so it's up to them I suppose, i would just stick a note saying "dynamics not volume"

    CD, record, mp3, i don't care what format it goes out on i just really like the idea of using only tape during recording process. Kind of how i really like the way Tarantino films look, he still uses 35 mm film, even if i see it at a theater with a digital projector, the nuances translate.

    Plus i need to be less lazy of a musician :laugh2:
     
    1 person likes this.
  18. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,695
    Likes Received:
    18,459
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    If you are going to stay "out of the box" alltogether then I would suggest you also have a quality check all the way down the line. It's more than just tape, what desk will you mix it on? that will have as big an impact as tape...how about processing gear? If it were me, I'd take a good plugin processor over a pedestrian hardware processor (ART, Behringer, etc) any day. So you should be very aware of the equipment that will be available for mixdown.

    This is going to cost serious money....not trying to discourage!! just want to make sure you know that the chain is only going to be as good as it's weakest link. That's why old school quality recording costs so much.
     
    3 people like this.
  19. Username1

    Username1 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Likes Received:
    4,491
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2009
    For sure :thumb:

    This is like someone wanting a Ferrari in their middle age, i don't expect to own anything like this-- it's really dependent on 'if i make it' or not, which will more than likely be, not.

    If i where to do so however i'd rather just go to other studios with gear already in place, don't get me wrong i'd like a home rig too, but i really like just going to studios, there's something inspiring about that situation.

    Will look into all the outboard gear and desk when the time comes-- 20 years from now :laugh2:
     
  20. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,695
    Likes Received:
    18,459
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    I took it that you would be going into a recording studio and not doing a home studio project...as soon as you say 2" tape, it's understood!
    I was just saying to be careful and scope out what hardware (ie. desk, outboard processing) the studio you pick will offer.
    I was in a studio once doing a project on 2" tape, but I hated the console....just sounded bleh! So in that case the tape goodness was completely negated by the console.
     
    1 person likes this.

Share This Page