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Is it advantageous to print each stem through the SSL summing bus? Mixers (Analog)
Old 22nd July 2012
  #1
Is it advantageous to print each stem through the SSL summing bus?

I've recently had the privilege to get inside a REAL studio and get my eyes and hands on some REAL gear. I don't have any formal audio engineer training but I do know how to mix. Where I lack experience and knowledge is operating a console.

Anyway, I see that at this studio the engineer will route tracks from pro tools into the SSL and start mixing. After the desired outboard processing is done he will then print each stem from the SSL back into pro tools, which obviously can take a long. I was wondering why you couldn't just re-route the individual SSL channels back into PT into new channels and record them all in one pass? The engineer said bc if you do it that way then you bypass the SSL summing bus, which is a big advantage of the SSL sound.

My question is this, do you get the benefit of the summing bus if you are just running one sound through it at a time? Or is it only advantageous if you run the whole mix through there? I originally assumed that there is a "colour" that the summing bus added to audio, but wouldn't that "colour" happen just from running it through the channel?

I'm a very logical person and HAVE to know how things work lol. I just figure why not save yourself a couple hours by routing the SSL channel outs back into PT and recording all at once... or at least multiple tracks at once. What I would like to do is an experiment, where we record a track through the summing bus and one just from the channel and see if there is a noticeable difference. Actually I would probably do that for all the tracks to even see if there was difference with all the sounds playing at once that were run through the summing bus and ones that were just run through the channel.

Your thoughts?
Old 22nd July 2012
  #2
Reasons your idea doesn't work for most people:

- shared FX

- "sound" of the summing bus

- effect of mixbuss compressor (which won't be exactly the same as if all tracks were hitting it, but is usually close enough).

- subgrouping.

At the end of the day, for stem prints to be useful for most purposes, you have to get them very close to the actual mix. Unless you're willing to severely adjust your mixing tactics to make the sort of stem printing you talk of worthwhile (and it is possible, just not particularly fun), you might as well spend an extra hour getting things right.
Old 22nd July 2012
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Reasons your idea doesn't work for most people:

- shared FX

- "sound" of the summing bus

- effect of mixbuss compressor (which won't be exactly the same as if all tracks were hitting it, but is usually close enough).

- subgrouping.

At the end of the day, for stem prints to be useful for most purposes, you have to get them very close to the actual mix. Unless you're willing to severely adjust your mixing tactics to make the sort of stem printing you talk of worthwhile (and it is possible, just not particularly fun), you might as well spend an extra hour getting things right.
Well the way he prints them anyway the FX are on a separate bus anyway.. so he just prints the fx as a stem.

As far as the mix bus, he bypasses the compressor. And I will have to disagree that compression will be close... I mean the purpose of mixbus compression is to glue the track together, and the settings are only useful with all the signals coming into the bus. I mean heck if the threshold is set at -2db or something, some sounds wont even trigger the compressor, however that one sound that wont trigger it individually will add to the total level going into the compressor which is what the setting was based on.

Subgrouping.. I'm not sure I understand why you couldn't do that without the summing bus. I mean he actually does his subgrouping going into the ssl.. like he will put all the vocals on one bus, hence the subgroup. He can still route the channel the vocal subgroup is on back into protools and print it.

The only thing I can think is that there is a special sound it gives audio by passing through the summing bus. Maybe the stereo field is wider through the summing bus I don't know. I'm going to try and experiment with it whenever I get a chance to. Thanks for the reply.
Old 22nd July 2012
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Andrew Kinsey's Avatar
 

The summing bus on most consoles provides some makeup gain, and possibly some nice transformer saturation depending on what console your using.

Also there are other little tricks in the analog domain, like parallel processing which can be used on individual sounds, and their respective groups. If you just bypass the buss and recorded in everything directly you would potentially loose the effect and by recording both in seperately could end up with phassing issues instead.

Not only that but in alot mixes group compression and effects are used to gel things together.

It would make more sense to record your groups, than to re-record every channel seperately after it has already been mixed analog.

Old 22nd July 2012
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Obe1 View Post
Well the way he prints them anyway the FX are on a separate bus anyway.. so he just prints the fx as a stem.

As far as the mix bus, he bypasses the compressor. And I will have to disagree that compression will be close... I mean the purpose of mixbus compression is to glue the track together, and the settings are only useful with all the signals coming into the bus. I mean heck if the threshold is set at -2db or something, some sounds wont even trigger the compressor, however that one sound that wont trigger it individually will add to the total level going into the compressor which is what the setting was based on.

Subgrouping.. I'm not sure I understand why you couldn't do that without the summing bus. I mean he actually does his subgrouping going into the ssl.. like he will put all the vocals on one bus, hence the subgroup. He can still route the channel the vocal subgroup is on back into protools and print it.

The only thing I can think is that there is a special sound it gives audio by passing through the summing bus. Maybe the stereo field is wider through the summing bus I don't know. I'm going to try and experiment with it whenever I get a chance to. Thanks for the reply.
...well, you must know better than me then!

For me, a "stem" includes the send fx. If it doesn't, then it's not much use. I can't give someone an a Capella if the vocal reverb is mixed in with everything else as fx. I've never seen the point of printing fx separately but all together, and for most purposes, the way your engineer is doing it is pointless. He might as well not bother printing stems at all.

You have a point about mix buss compression, but for remix/live use, it won't matter so much. If you're intending to use stems for rebalancing (I'd rather do a full recall) then it does make more sense to print without compression. It also depends on how hard you hit the mix buss comp.
Old 22nd July 2012
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
...well, you must know better than me then!

For me, a "stem" includes the send fx. If it doesn't, then it's not much use. I can't give someone an a Capella if the vocal reverb is mixed in with everything else as fx. I've never seen the point of printing fx separately but all together, and for most purposes, the way your engineer is doing it is pointless. He might as well not bother printing stems at all.

You have a point about mix buss compression, but for remix/live use, it won't matter so much. If you're intending to use stems for rebalancing (I'd rather do a full recall) then it does make more sense to print without compression. It also depends on how hard you hit the mix buss comp.
I hope I didn't come off that way, I'm positive you know more than me about console mixing seeing as how I've only moved one REAL fader in my whole life. And actually I was mistaken about the reverb. Obviously since he prints each stem through the summing bus the fx are being printed with it.. since they are on a send.

The point of printing the stems in his case is to give the mastering engineer more control. So once he prints, he basically has the mix where he wants it, so he wouldn't feel the need to go back for rebalancing. But why would one want to use the master bus compressor on just one sound? Why can't you just use the channel compressor? Or one of the many outboard units you have?

But actually now that I think about it, you wouldn't be able to print the way I am proposing and be able to have whatever send fx on the individual tracks.. I don't think anyway. The board is a SSL 48 ch duality. I'm still learning the manual and trying to get some hands on experience. I guess printing each stem is just something I'll have to accept!
Old 22nd July 2012
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Kinsey View Post
The summing bus on most consoles provides some makeup gain, and possibly some nice transformer saturation depending on what console your using.

Also there are other little tricks in the analog domain, like parallel processing which can be used on individual sounds, and their respective groups. If you just bypass the buss and recorded in everything directly you would potentially loose the effect and by recording both in seperately could end up with phassing issues instead.

Not only that but in alot mixes group compression and effects are used to gel things together.

It would make more sense to record your groups, than to re-record every channel seperately after it has already been mixed analog.

Makeup gain for what? Isn't that if you reduced the signal in some way? Like after compression? I mean I know there's a trim knob on the master bus, but you could just bring the faders up or down in pro tools after theyre printed couldn't you?

The transformer saturation is one of the only things I can think you would get out of running a signal through a summing bus with no compression.

As far as parallel compression, we actually did some of that on the last session I was in with him. I was the one who recommended it! I thought you only get phasing issues when there is some sort of delay between the two signals.. why would there be a delay by cutting out the summing bus? I mean I know you said there COULD be one, not that there WOULD be one, I'm just really trying to figure this out.

But like I said before, the master bus compressor is not being used, so there isn't any group compressing going on. And if he groups certain sounds, it happens on the way into the board, so whatever group processing he puts on it gets printed that way back into pro tools.

When I said rerecord the channels, I didn't mean the way they originally started out in pro tools, I just meant whatever groups he had on the board after he did his processing. So lets say he had 6 kicks from the original session into one channel on the board, and all the vocals on one channel on the board, and then lets say 5 other instruments separately on the board, instead of printing each one individually (which means you have to play the length of the song 7 times), route the output of each channel back into new audio tracks in pro tools and record them all at once and save the time of 6 playbacks. I just want to understand why the summing buss on the ssl is so important to run each sound through. I can see where it would be beneficial for a whole mix, but not if you have 25 stems to print.. Saturation is the only thing I can think of. Any maybe stereo field or something.
Old 23rd February 2015
  #8
Here for the gear
 

Hey there,
Last year, I had done a similar experiment with some stems, running them through an old 1974 Neve console. I had created a drum mix stem, bass Gtr stem, Gtr stem etc. In terms of the guitar tracks, I had printed stems compiling 2 gtr tracks per stem totaling 3 gtr stems. I had printed separate stems for fx as I still wanted the option of level control between dry/wet post this summing experiment. It was a costly experiment with marginal results. I believe had I isolated the tracks even more, individual stems per track, I may have achieved better results. It was my first experience with such a console. I intend to try Slate Digital VCC etc in hopes to achieve the desired results.
Old 23rd February 2015
  #9
Our SSL is set up so after a mix we can record every channel back into pro tools so most of the recall can be done from the stems. As someone pointed out, there are limitations, in particular grouped parrallel compression & shared fx returns. It all depends how much time you realy want to spend covering yourself and how much flexibility you want for subsequent tweaks. The main question you ask about the 'sound' - I'm not sure you'd benefit hugely on an individual track basis. The great sound of a big desk comes from driving all the channels into the 2-track mix down. If you mixed down your individual stems again in pro tools without going back out to the desk, it doesn't sound the same. We do stem mixes all the time, but any mix tweaks recreated from them have got to be summed back across the desk, and there's usually some level of hardware recall.
Old 24th February 2015
  #10
High End Moderator
 
mwagener's Avatar
It all depends "why" you are making the stems. If you make them so you can work on them further in the future, you can use any method you like, make your own rules. If you make stems for something like "RockBand", you have to follow their rules. Here is what I was asked to do for a RockBand release. I have been using the same setup ever since. I run 12 stereo submixes out of Nuendo into my SSL and go to my "Mastering chain" from the stereo buss of the SSL back into Nuendo for my main stereo mix, I also make a mix with no lead vocal (for TV performances) and a Playback with no vocals that have a languge, so they can easily be done in a different language. If I need the stems, I just route out of the serparate SSL channels into 12 stereo tracks in Nuendo. I think that when you make stems, they will get worked further on anyway so the final summing will still happen when they are finalized.

Here is what MTV requested for Rockband:

SPEC FOR DELIVERING MASTER AUDIO TRACKS FOR ROCKBAND

All stems should be 16bit or 24bit, 44.1k or higher and included in PC & Mac compatible ProTools session. All should have any needed fx processing baked in, except final maximizing/limiting, unless otherwise noted.

For songs where the original mix did a fade-out at the end, please don’t fade out the stems. Let them play out til the end. For our game, we need proper endings instead of fade-outs, so we’ll use what’s on the tracks to create a proper ending if one doesn’t exist.

Here are the stems we need for RockBand.

1. stereo Full Mix – for reference only

2. mono or stereo Kick Drum stem

3. mono or stereo Snare Drum stem

4. stereo Drum Submix stem – a submix of everything else in the kit besides Kick & Snare, including Hats, Cymbals, Toms, Overheads, Room, etc…

Note about drums: I fully understand that when recording a real kit there will be some bleed between the Kick, Snare and Drum Submix stems. That’s acceptable. Just try to isolate them as much as is practical.

5. mono or stereo Bass Guitar stem

6. separate mono or stereo Guitar stem for each guitar part. We’ll comp together our ‘playable’ guitar and remix the remaining back into the backing tracks.

7. mono or stereo Lead Vocal stem – a comp of the lead vocal track.

8. mono or stereo Background Vocals stem - a comp of any bg vocals/harmonies, etc.

9. mono Dry Vocal stem – for lipsync and phoneme detection only. This should have no fx processing and should be one single human voice at any one time. Phoneme detection does not work well on double-tracked voices.

10. stereo Backing Tracks stem – a submix of anything else in the song, not already broken out above: keyboards, percussion, accordian, etc…
Old 24th February 2015
  #11
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mwagener View Post
Here is what MTV requested for Rockband:
Thanks for that peek behind the curtain. Very well written and thought out, with the right amount of "why" along with the "what." I wish all specs for deliverables were that good. And it's spelled "accordion."
Old 24th February 2015
  #12
Gear Addict
 

I've always found the SSL "sound" very sensitive to becoming very harsh and clinical which is probably made worse by the mastering process.

Maybe someone here could expand on that? Neve EQs are so lush and sound so musical.
Old 24th February 2015
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MUSICMUSIC View Post
I've always found...
"Always?" And what does one brand of EQ have to do with another brand's summing bus? Please elaborate.
Old 26th February 2015
  #14
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
"Always?" And what does one brand of EQ have to do with another brand's summing bus? Please elaborate.
Well, whenever I here I track I like, but find harsh, it always seems to be an SSL. If the EQ from the channels are used then the summing buss receives that signal right!
Old 26th February 2015
  #15
Gear Maniac
 
Synchronia's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveAliveHQ View Post
The great sound of a big desk comes from driving all the channels into the 2-track mix down.
Hi Dave could you please explain how much you usually drive the channels in the console? I mean at what level each track out of the daw hits the ssl channel line in (peak meter yellow zone?). Do you drive the master bus hard (i.e. +3 on the VUmeter)? Thanks
Old 27th February 2015
  #16
Not very conscious of how hard we're hitting the channel out of Pro Tools, certainly don't do anything deliberately to increase output out of pro tools. You hear a big difference in where the desk channel faders sit. There's a point where everything comes to life, a bit like on a valve guitar amp - there seems to be a sweet spot. The make up gain on the ssl buss compressor seems to also add weight - and in a much nicer way than the make up gain on the 500 series version. I used to use the waves SSL buss compressor plugin just for volume boost on a mix as it manages to capture some of that vibe. Why any of this works the way it does isn't something I know anything about (and I don't really care about why either) but if you group all the desk channel faders to the vca faders, and use the vca faders to push the relative level of all your channel faders up - you can drive the desk harder. I wouldn't say you'd want to do this for the same reason you'd drive a guitar amp harder, it's just about finding the sweet spot where the desk sings.
Old 27th February 2015
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
Synchronia's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveAliveHQ View Post
Not very conscious of how hard we're hitting the channel out of Pro Tools, certainly don't do anything deliberately to increase output out of pro tools. You hear a big difference in where the desk channel faders sit. There's a point where everything comes to life, a bit like on a valve guitar amp - there seems to be a sweet spot. The make up gain on the ssl buss compressor seems to also add weight - and in a much nicer way than the make up gain on the 500 series version.
Thanks for your reply Dave! Are you going to lower the SSL master fader before hitting the AD or use a sort of compressor/limiter to prevent clipping? Thanks again.
Old 27th February 2015
  #18
Usually a bit of both - but nearly always backing off the master fader a little bit to get the mix back into pro tools without clipping.
Old 27th February 2015
  #19
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Synchronia's Avatar
 

thanks again!
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