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What do you big mixers hate?
Old 29th January 2007
  #1
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What do you big mixers hate?

I'm based in St. Louis... and sadly not a whole lot of large projects happen here. I do work on some bigger things, but usually send them off for other people to mix before the release.

So my question for you guys is...

What do you hate?

I know when I get things from guys to mix, I usually have a few things that I wish would have been done differently. No matter how small or large, I'd like to know what things you wish people would do differently.

I guess I'm just trying to better myself and improve the things I send away to other mixers.
Old 29th January 2007
  #2
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mtstudios@charter's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew.sawicki View Post
I'm based in St. Louis... and sadly not a whole lot of large projects happen here. I do work on some bigger things, but usually send them off for other people to mix before the release.

So my question for you guys is...

What do you hate?

I know when I get things from guys to mix, I usually have a few things that I wish would have been done differently. No matter how small or large, I'd like to know what things you wish people would do differently.

I guess I'm just trying to better myself and improve the things I send away to other mixers.

HERE ARE SOME GUIDELINES THAT I EXPECT!

*These instructions MUST be followed exactly

*Matt mixes from Pro Tools HD 7.X 24 Bit


{General Guidelines}


1. I will accept SCSI External, Firewire hard drives & CDRs/DVDRs. I do not accept 24 track analog or 48 track digital tapes. If your project is one of these formats, YOU MUST DO THE TRANSFER.
2. To help insure no delays on the scheduled mix day or days, it is essential that the Pro Tools files are received 24 hours prior to the mixing session. If they are not at MT Studios 24 hours in advance, the songs or songs will not be mixed and you will be charged for that day.
3. An audio CD of the latest “Rough Mix” must be sent along with the Pro Tools files. If the “Rough Mix” and the Pro Tools files don’t match exactly, a brief note should be sent along explaining the difference (i.e. “The song was re-sung” or “We redid drums”); if this is the case, please make a new “Rough Mix” CD. The reason for this is if the arrangement is different and no explanation is given, I start to question whether or not I have the correct session.

The following instructions are to be passed along to your Pro Tools engineer.

{Tech guidelines}

1. Managing a session: Only one session should be sent for each title. It should be labeled as “(Song title) For MT. No other sessions should be included. It should be notated clearly and correctly so there is no misunderstanding what a part is. PARTS THAT ARE NOT USED SHOULD BE DELETED. Not hidden, but deleted. Hidden tracks will be deleted by me. This also includes play lists not being used. DELETE THEM (The number one reason for HUGE files is all the unused play lists). It is very easy to clean out a session and then “Save Session Copy In” checking the “All Audio Files” box to save a new session and audio files. Make sure you “Delete Unused Regions” from the session first so they don’t take up disk space in the new session. Make sure that you open up this session and that there are no missing audio files (If audio files are missing, whether they are being used or not, I will question the validity of the entire session).
2. Automation & Plug INS: Record any effects that are part of the songs integrity. For example, a guitar going through “Amp Farm” or a Telephone Vox” Efx. Label it then save the original and make sure you CLEARLY LABEL that it was unaffected sound in the note page. Once this has been done REMOVE ALL PLUG INS.

All automation should be removed from the session. Disabling the master automation is not what we mean. Delete any and all volume moves, mutes, automated plug INS, and act. From the individual channels.

3. Track Labeling: Since there is no standard for this, I ask you to spend some time and label the instruments so that there is no guessing what they are. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten tracks labeled in “hieroglyphics”.

Vocals- Lead Vocal should be marked as such: “Ld Vx” not “John Vocal 2”. The same for vocal doubles- “Ld Vx Dbl”.

Instruments- Notate the main instruments as such: i.e. “Main Gtr”, not “Joey SG6” (add the suffix “L” or “R” if there is a pair of them). Including the section that they play is also helpful, i.e. “Brdg Pad”, not “Virus” (This is the pad that ONLY play in the bridge).

Drums- Unless there are more than one mic on any drum or room, I don’t need to know what the mic is, rather what the sound is (If you must leave the mic info, put it on the note page).

Bass Drum- “Kik” add the suffix “Inside” or “Outside” if applicable.
Snare Drum- “Snr” add the suffix “Top” or “Btm” if applicable.

Alternate Instrumentation

I know that it is impossible to make ALL the decisions before the mix, so if there are questionable parts that you may or may not want to use, these should have “?” in front of them i.e. “Brdg Gtr Line”. I will use my discretion on whether these will be used.

With all instruments, any note in the comment boxes is helpful.

www.bluethumbproductions.com
Old 30th January 2007
  #3
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew.sawicki View Post
What do you hate?
.
People who have not finished the editing and cannot follow simple export instructions, so that EVERY other rig can import all files.
Old 30th January 2007
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Byre View Post
People who have not finished the editing and cannot follow simple export instructions, so that EVERY other rig can import all files.
Editing like what? Drum edits? Other stuff?
Old 30th January 2007
  #5
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MX582's Avatar
 

this might be a stupid question but say theres amp noise on a guitar track when the guitars not playing or like in between notes in a break down or something. do you guys expect that to be cut out prior to receiving the session?
Old 30th January 2007
  #6
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paterno's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MX582 View Post
this might be a stupid question but say theres amp noise on a guitar track when the guitars not playing or like in between notes in a break down or something. do you guys expect that to be cut out prior to receiving the session?
I don't. It's a guitar amp -- they're noisy, right?

My biggest issue is regions not being crossfaded, or even worse un-crossfaded tracks that have been consolidated. I don't understand how that kind of stuff doesn't get taken care of... CROSSFADE YOUR REGIONS

For me, I want only the necessary tracks when i open the session. I don't want to have to 'pick the best vocal/guitar/bass take' or whatever. Know what is supposed to be used for the mix and make it obvious for the person you are handing it off to, by having it available in the edit window, with a voice assigned and the track enabled. Disable the voice and hide any track that is not to be used in the mix.

Label it how you want, but labels that are 'cute' are just plain annoying to look at. The joke just doesn't translate. Be a pro about it.

If there is some plug in or effects or an automated thing that are essential to a track, buss them out,assign them to a couple of tracks, and print them!!!!! Do not assume that the mixer has your plug ins. I always begin a mix by removing all the plug ins, and the automation data. If it is that important, print it.

Bonus points for printing a mix back into the session, so it is available for reference.
Old 30th January 2007
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew.sawicki View Post
What do you hate?
People who ask questions about what I hate.

Seriously though, my pet peeves are these:

1) Getting millions of tiny track bits instead of consolidated tracks.

2) Bad punches that I have to go in and fix. That's called tracking, not mixing. If you can't punch well, then at least set up a default cross fade.

3) Distorted tracks.

4) Too many options. If you can't decide which vocal take is better, then how do you expect me to? That's called comping, not mixing.

5) Perc loops that run the entire length of the song and don't even stop when the song is over. Loops are fine but rarely do they need to appear throughout the whole song. If you printed a perc loop with claps in it, then at least mute it (not automated mute) during the breakdown section.

6) Bad tuning. It's almost worse than out of tune vocals. If you can't tune the vocals without butchering them, then find someone else who can, or be prepared to pay the mix engineer to do it without carving into their mix time.

Those are a few that I run across frequently.
Old 30th January 2007
  #8
mds
Lives for gear
 

Caveat: I'm not a 'big' mixer...but I do get hired to mix...

Mixing tracks with bad edits printed in them is really frustrating. Especially if someone did a loop and you have to fix a billion bad punch outs. Clicks in the audio is a problem too...time consuming fixing it all. No biggie if you're doing an hourly mix, but if its a flat rate for the record or per song it eats into your income/time ratio a lot.

I don't like it when tracks have fades built in...let me do the fade...or even the mastering engineer...

...and of course just general bad tracking issues: plosive ridden vocal tracks, clipping, etc...

Mixing is really fun, but it is a whole lot more fun if the tracks you're dealing with were recorded properly...

Mike
Old 30th January 2007
  #9
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monrock halo's Avatar
 

In addition to the previous posts :

Tracks all recorded just at or under digital clipping, or normized to peak at 0 dBFS.

Overcompressed tracks, especially vocals.

Vocals (the money track) recorded with a nasty-sounding converter or cheap-sounding processing or a poor choice of mic...unless it's a wanted effect.

Toms tracks with all the audio between the tom hits removed.

Overhead tracks recorded with the kick waay left and the snare waay right, and/or with lots of cymbals and no skins or bottom.

Drums tracks with loud hihat leak everywhere, esp. in the snare top track.

Vocal tracks or drums recorded in a really bad room.

Getting five different takes of every lead vocal line and every harmony vocal and being requested to use them all...with no mention of which is the best take to shine a light on.

The artist deciding he absolutely needs to re-record the 2nd verse, when the mix is almost done.
Old 30th January 2007
  #10
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stevep's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MX582 View Post
this might be a stupid question but say theres amp noise on a guitar track when the guitars not playing or like in between notes in a break down or something. do you guys expect that to be cut out prior to receiving the session?
That doesn't bother me, as well as talking, coughing, HVAC ect.....

the track gets muted when its not playing anyway




Old 30th January 2007
  #11
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djui5's Avatar
 

I don't really hate anything, but here are some things that make my life a little less pleasant (btw, I'm not really a "big mixer" I guess, depends on who you ask)

Mis-labeled tracks/regions
Pops/clicks due to edits that were NOT cross-faded properly
Tracks recorded too loud
Clients who don't know what they want, or want me to endless tweak
****ty performances
Over compressed tracks, especially the snare
Cheap mics on important tracks
Tracks that are too bright with brittle top end
Sessions that are a mess

But most of all, my ****ty mixes bother me most...
Old 30th January 2007
  #12
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espasonico's Avatar
 

What I hate most is when missing audiofiles because af a dick allocation problem.

I can deal with nearly everything but I can´t mix files that I don´t have
Old 30th January 2007
  #13
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valverec's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by monrock halo View Post

The artist deciding he absolutely needs to re-record the 2nd verse, when the mix is almost done.
Ahhh oh hell yes, that's the WORST!
Old 30th January 2007
  #14
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picksail's Avatar
 

To echo what John Paterno mentioned-actually taking it a step further- is receiving a session with lackluster editing. The absolute worst!!!

If you can't edit, then please leave it alone. It's so much harder to correct shoddy work then to actually edit it myself. I cannot tolerate having to repair bad fades. Uuuugghh!!!!

I received a session a couple months ago that was a little peculiar. The grid was set to an 8th note triplet. The guy that edited the drums neglected to notice that he'd checked the 'triplet' option.

Needless to say I was a little sea-sick after hearing it.
Old 30th January 2007
  #15
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Being given sessions with crappy editing, vocal comping, tuning, etc. things to do and the artist/management crying poverty. It would take me longer to fix all this crap than you have in your budget to pay me for the entire song mix. Spec requirements are great and all, but when the band (who of course have taken over for the engineer to save money) can't even tie their shoes let alone understand what you mean, they go out the window. You try to get firm with them but then you fold like the pussy you are (OK, I am). "Come on, can't you give me the buddy rate?" they say. "We figured that YOU knew how to do that stuff better. You're probably faster at it anyway." You can't really fault their logic on that one.......


So now given that their budget is so low, I can't even have an assistant prep anything for me. They don't send the drive in advance. The guitarist arrives with the firewire drive. He's 2.5 hours late. I plug in the drive. It's one of the oldest firewire drives I've ever seen. Turning it on makes a sound somwhat reminiscent of a yak having sex with a hurricane. There are 70 folders on it. "Oh it's in crap/music/new recordings/demos2/roger/june/feb04newmixes/newsong/," he says. "Which session?" I ask. There are 18 protools sessions in this folder. After 5 minutes the guitar player determines that it's "newsong v5 new brg git vox change edit". Of course it is! Duh (not the last one modified either, strange....)! The session begins to open. Do I want to use the new playback engine? The last one was "mbox". Sigh. High fidelity, here we come.........The session opens. Immediately the window opens alerting me that there are 27 files missing. I ask guitar-god where these files are but I already know the answer. I'm met with a look of complete bewilderment. I look at the missing file locations in the re-link window. "Yngwie Ray Satriani's System drive/newsong/". Crap. "The files are on your system drive," I say. After 10 minutes of repeatedly banging my head against the wall trying to explain the concept of disk allocation to this guy I tell him that I can't really work without these files. He rants and raves about how it's not his fault and that the session opened perfectly on his computer......"OK, let's just start going through some of this stuff. I can mix this one tomorrow when you bring me the files." I want to stab myself at this point just for saying that. Tomorrow?!! With any luck, my car will get towed and there will be a general transit strike..... Here's a typical conversation excerpt from what follows:


Me: What is this track here labeled "Audio 9"?

Guitarist who "engineered" it: I don't know. What's on it?

Me: Here, listen. (I play back that track in solo. It's a clean guitar melody line of some sort. Recorded with reverb from a crappy digitech THI-SUX45 processor. Wet/Dry has to be 95%. The track has the "over" lights on the meters flashing red pretty much constantly).

DSG: Oh. Those were just some ideas. Maybe a few bars of that are good.

Me: OK, is there another take(s) that we can listen to and comp something together?

DSG: Yeah, but it's a completely different sound. Will that matter?

Me: You want me to cut together takes with completely different guitar sounds?

DSG: Can't you match them?

Me: Maybe, but I wouldn't count on it. Where's the other take?

DSG: I don't know. I think I put it on a playlist (Crap! This guy knows about playlists?!! I'm doomed. Maybe I should pull the fire alarm......)


Me: On which track? It's not linked on "Audio 9". (after 5 minutes I find the "other" take. Sure enough. Totally different sound. Completely fuzz distorted with an octave pedal effect). No, I can't put it together (not entirely true, but why would I admit that I could possibly spend my whole entire day polishing this turd which steps all over the lead vocal anyway?). I'll just "deal" with it in the mix (it's called the mute button).

Me: OK. What's on "Audio 10"?

DSG: I don't know. What's on it?

Me: siiiiigggghhhhhh.........

DSG: You know I was going to pay you today, but for some reason my I didn't get my last paycheck got screwed up. I told payroll in advance I was going to be out that week! I don't understand why they screwed up. Can I pay you next month?




Ya know. None if this is their fault. It's mine. I subject my own self to this. Thankfully not so much anymore since I've been blessed with some success and remain fairly busy. I still get the odd one though. It's still the "friend" gigs that can suck the worst in this manner.
Old 30th January 2007
  #16
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paterno's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
People who ask questions about what I hate.

Seriously though, my pet peeves are these:

1) Getting millions of tiny track bits instead of consolidated tracks.
Call me crazy, but I prefer the sound of tiny bits to a consolidated track. Plus, it's easier to touch up bad edits and crossfades...

JP
Old 30th January 2007
  #17
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nlc201's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by monrock halo View Post
The artist deciding he absolutely needs to re-record the 2nd verse, when the mix is almost done.


"My microphones are all ummmmm......broken. Sorry."



In all seriousness I had something like this happen once. Except replace the word "mix" with "mastering". The mastering engineer trying to explain why doing this was impossible while still trying to be cool was priceless. This was for a major label client who does not know the meaning of the word "no". I just thanked the good lord it wasn't me in the mastering engineer's shoes......
Old 30th January 2007
  #18
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RCM - Ronan's Avatar
I am not sure if I am big enough answer the question, but ....

1) the producer not having final decisions made about what takes and tracks will be used.

2) Really hot/clipped levels

3) guitars recorded with amp modelers (especially without a clean track that I can re-amp)

4) Really Ringy snare drums
Old 30th January 2007
  #19
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picksail's Avatar
 

I had an artist explain to me how averse he was to all things digital. ProTools included.

He went on to give me his entire 'analog/vintage vs digital' schpeel. You guys know what I mean. (of course, he's approached me to mix it) You can, picture me rolling my eyes.

I open the session to discover all the electric guitars were cut direct with AmpFarm inserted on the corresponding track.

*BTW, I'm not that big. I've actually resigned myself to a daily dietary/workout regimen in an attempt to avoid "bigness".
Old 30th January 2007
  #20
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turk sanchez's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MX582 View Post
this might be a stupid question but say theres amp noise on a guitar track when the guitars not playing or like in between notes in a break down or something. do you guys expect that to be cut out prior to receiving the session?
I am not big...but I engineer fulltime and mix outside sessions here and there...

In regard to your question I would say it depends...if there is 30 seconds of noise because the track is only in the choruses for example then cut out the junk and do fades...just don't cut too tight...leave some air and all the decay. But if it's short pauses no way...leave the noise.

I got a session once where they cut out all the breaths on a vocal...this is the worst!

+1 for levels that are too hot and clip...leave headroom.

Name the audio files to match the track
Old 30th January 2007
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew.sawicki View Post
So my question for you guys is...

What do you hate?.
NOT GETTING MY COFFE IN THE MORNING!
Old 30th January 2007
  #22
oh yeah, and un-consildated tracks. And plugins on tracks with the wrong settings
Old 30th January 2007
  #23
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jfw3's Avatar
 

Almost all of these problems that have been addressed here can be taken care of with communication. When you have a new client, simply send them a PDF file that has your mix guidelines. Be specific, but polite. Letting a client know what is expected from them will make the day easier for EVERYONE. It will save you time and frustration and it will do the same for them.

I make it very clear that I will not tune vocals or do beat detective on drums during a mix session. I do them when I produce, but that is when they need to be done. They are PRODUCTION decisions, that need to be made by the producer, artist, A&R, management etc. They are not mix decisions.

- Print your tuned vocals
- If there is an essential effect, print it and save it as a playlist and make note of it
- Use the comments area rather paper. Paper gets lost. Track notes do not.
- Make your crossfades correctly. Once this is done, it cannot be undone
- Consolidate audio files
- Delete all unused playlists
- Delete all unused tracks
- Delete all unused regions AND files from the Audio Files folder
- Remove all automation. If a region is supposed to be muted, then delete it or at least mute it so it is grayed out
- If the guitar track doesn't play on the verse, delete the audio. I don't want 16 bars of amp noise

ESSENTIAL
If you are sending audio files from a program other than Pro Tools:
• All files must start at the beginning of the song even if there is no audio from the beginning of the song. Bar 1 Beat 1
• Include the song BPM

SESSIONS COMING IN PRO TOOLS
• Do "SAVE SESSION COPY AS" and call the sesson "(Name of the song) – jFW mix prep"
- Be sure to check the box "COPY ALL AUDIO FILES"
- Include a ref mix in an uncompressed format NO MP3's!

IF SESSION IS DELIVERED ON A DVD
• Check your media to make sure it works and make sure all the files are there

IF SESSION IS COMING ON A HARD DRIVE
• Save all sessions in a new folder called "JFW Mix Prep" so it is obvious which sessions are to be used
• LaCie Porsche drives are NOT recommended. Bottom line, they are crap and your data is at risk anytime it resides on one of these drives. (personel favorites: LaCie D2 drives, Quantegy Black Diamond, Rockstor and Glyph)

MIXES SEND OUT FOR APPROVAL
• Mixes will be sent out for approval as MP4 (AAC) files which can be played in iTunes.
• I will not send out MP3's so don't even ask.

Don't assume if you are working with an established producer or artist for the first time that they will know these things. Some will, and some will not. It has nothing to intelligence, incompetence, or being lazy. Many times producers and artists are focused on different things than housekeeping when it comes to sessions. Remember to communicate. 99% of your issues will be taken care if you do.

Hope this helps out.
Old 30th January 2007
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by paterno View Post
Call me crazy, but I prefer the sound of tiny bits to a consolidated track. Plus, it's easier to touch up bad edits and crossfades...

JP
I agree in many cases. There are times where consolidation is necessary and helpful, and times when it is not. Unfortunately, a person needs to have some experience and good judgement to decide which is which, and there's no guarantee that your clients will posess such treasures.

One necessary time for consolidation is when you will be dragging raw files into pro tools from another daw. They should all be the exact same length and contiguous. If it's a pro tools session to begin with, clean it up best you can, consolidate things that don't have tricky edits and fades, and leave some of the other tracks as-is so that the mixer indeed does have the ability to fix problems.

There are cases where a crossfade is terrible and could be easily improved given the option, or where bad editing cut off a transient or a decay, and if it was not consolidated, you could easily just drag out the fade and the desired audio will still be there.

The other thing that really rings true for me is the crossfade comment. Some people just don't crossfade any edits and there are clicks and pops all over the damned place. If you punch or comp a vocal and there are a million little pieces, make sure there are no clicks at the edits.

That brings up another point. Comped or punched vocal takes are better left unconsolidated not only for reasons referenced above, including clicks on edits and clipped syllables, but also because breaths in between can be hacked to hell. Removing all breaths sounds unnatural, but having half breaths cut off at punches or edits, or double breaths from multiple takes, can be a real problem with a featured vocal part. It's nice to have the flexibility to clean things like that if the editor did not do a great job of it.

Oh, and to continue the theme of the thread by offering the caveat of big or not big, though I have many recognizable names on my credit list, some are mastering credits, and of the mixes I've done for big names, they are usually for live concert DVDs or cable on-demand etc, and a few people seem not to consider that "real" work for some reason. Actually it's more work, but it's true, you get recycled hits, and the stuff is lower profile. Still, it's a boatload of fun to mix something like "Man in the Box" regardless! So, label me as you see fit...
Old 30th January 2007
  #25
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If you experience some clicks and the regions are not faded, what I use is the "Automatic fade in out region" option in PT preferences. Many people use it instead of doing 1000s fades. I also use it in most cases set at 1ms and works great if you are not working with regions with beats ( kicks and that stuff )
Old 30th January 2007
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by espasonico View Post
If you experience some clicks and the regions are not faded, what I use is the "Automatic fade in out region" option in PT preferences. Many people use it instead of doing 1000s fades. I also use it in most cases set at 1ms and works great if you are not working with regions with beats ( kicks and that stuff )
Coming primarily from the mastering point of view, I'm used to this in Sonic as it's the standard way things are done. It's a good way to go if you ask me. You can also (in pro tools) drag across a large group of edits, hit CMD-F, and it will ask you for a duration for the fade, which it will then apply to all edits selected.
Old 30th January 2007
  #27
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Igotsoul4u's Avatar
My problems are always with the recording quality. Nothing worse then ground hum, or over compressed and distorted vocals. I also really hate when people do not split out every track. For example, I just got a session where the kick and snare are together and all the backing vocals are on one stereo track. The last thing I hate is when someone tracks a synth with reverb and stops recording the second after the loop ends. Let the verb die out on its own!!
Old 30th January 2007
  #28
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Barilla's Avatar
 

i'm not a big time mixer at all, by any means - but still a lot of what is being said here rings true.

the worst things are getting stuff to work on that is a complete headache because of crappy 'file management' - for pete's sake, keep it tidy! there is nothing worse than finding a load of stuff missing / badly labelled / surplus to requirements / sprayed everywhere.

one of the other bugbears is finding out some track uses some stupid plugin you don't have on your system, then be expected to install a shady copy on your nice clean system, just to get it working - hasn't anyone heard of bouncing tracks?

another one is getting dvd's with the audio files on that are either a) cheap and nasty and therefore won't read on my drive or b) badly handled and therefore scratched.

Old 30th January 2007
  #29
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Kris's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by espasonico View Post
If you experience some clicks and the regions are not faded, what I use is the "Automatic fade in out region" option in PT preferences. Many people use it instead of doing 1000s fades. I also use it in most cases set at 1ms and works great if you are not working with regions with beats ( kicks and that stuff )
If I'm not mistaken the problem can arise when you consolidate that track... The auto Fade in/outs don't consolidate... therefore the new track can be full of pops/clicks... If it's not consolidated, no problemo.
Old 30th January 2007
  #30
pan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nlc201 View Post
...Spec requirements are great and all, but when the band (who of course have taken over for the engineer to save money) can't even tie their shoes let alone understand what you mean, they go out the window. ...
... It's still the "friend" gigs that can suck the worst in this manner.


wonderful post!
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