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Pan law discussion! 2.5 vs 3, 4.5, and 6 decibels.
Old 6th September 2011
  #1
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Pan law discussion! 2.5 vs 3, 4.5, and 6 decibels.

First of all Pro Tools 9 is wonderful, everything I hoped it would be. I'm using the dithered surround mixer too, and I love it. [Do I really hear the difference in the dither? Dunno but if it's there it's there and it sounds good!]

So this pan law business -- in the session setup window -- Command-2[numpad] -- that window.

Changing the pan law is great, and makes a difference to me. A mix I had done at -2.5 came to life at -3, seemed really alive at -4.5, and seemed overwhelming at -6.

Now whatever I go with I'll certainly rebalance levels to acclimate to the new pan law, and each of the four pan laws will give its own fader levels and automation, naturally.

The question is if the end result from one or the other tends to be superior, if I'm mixing entirely ITB? If one of them provides a somehow superior source for the mastering engineer.



Edit -- yeah I know 'pan law' refers to the RMS, sine/cosine, equal power/equal gain calculation stuff but I'm not mathy enough to really make any sense of that and everyone thinks of the dB values as the 'pan law' so just so you know I know it's wrong, and we can be wrong together and all that.
Old 6th September 2011
  #2
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BTW i tested it and -6 translates AMAZINGLY to mono. fyi. i think everyone already knew that in theory but it works GREAT in practice. wow. yes. give it to me. again. great. love it.

[/waxing poetic about -6 dB]
Old 6th September 2011
  #3
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JakeKalka's Avatar
 

Glad to hear it sounds nice! I was actually just going to play with that tomorrow for the first time
Old 6th September 2011
  #4
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i have a suspicion that -6 makes it easier for a mastering engineer to do M/S processing as well, the center is more defined from the sides.

(unless im missing something, which i sure as hell might be)
Old 6th September 2011
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by recorder2 View Post
i have a suspicion that -6 makes it easier for a mastering engineer to do M/S processing as well, the center is more defined from the sides.

(unless im missing something, which i sure as hell might be)
Yeah, that's kind of a weird thing to suppose!

Pan law doesn't actually affect ANYTHING if things stay static. Once you've done your mix, that's your mix. you can in theory, get the same mix using ANY pan law - it's just that your fader levels would be different.

The only thing the pan law affects is how the levels change as you move a source across the stereo field.

Out of interest, how are you collapsing to mono - in software or hardware?

Once the mix is done, it doesn't really matter what the pan law was, the mono sum will be the same. Your particular mix might sound better collapsed to mono when you're using a -6 rather than a -3 pan law, but you could easily make the same mix using a -3 pan law, and then that mix collapsed to mono would sound exactly the same.

Most of the time, it makes sense to choose a pan law at the start, and stick with it. It's not really something you'd usually tweak mid mix - if you want your sides signals louder, turn up the things hard panned!

I'm not sure how well I've explained that, but the difference in pan law is only really a tactile thing whilst you're mixing - once the mix is done, it has no effect. Makes no difference to the mastering guy - he has no idea what pan law you've used!
Old 6th September 2011
  #6
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The pan law will only change your mix if you change it after the mix is done. (not something you'd usually do...just turn up the tracks that are panned.....)

If you start with a pan law of -6 as opposed to -3, you'll just mix differently to compensate (and end up with the same result).
Old 6th September 2011
  #7
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Always set it at 3, just because that's Neve and API consoles pan law (4.5 would be SSL)
But it's true, if you start mix at a given pan law, whatever that is
you will compensate while mixing, nothing changes
Old 6th September 2011
  #8
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-3 just seemed to perform more like a real analog mixer to me and is where I set it. Different DAWs are set at different defaults so it's something to check in the preferences when setting it up (don't forget to check your interface's software mixer pan law settings too).
Old 6th September 2011
  #9
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Arksun's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
The only thing the pan law affects is how the levels change as you move a source across the stereo field.
This, pan law makes no difference to sound quality or seperation that can be achieved, its just a different kind of workflow to the same problem, ie changing the sounds position and how loud it is.

So if you do a whole mix at one pan law then suddenly change it at the end, it'll sound different and thus may even be more pleasurable, or worse. I prefer to stick to one pan law and keep that all the way through so I know exactly what I'm getting.
Old 6th September 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Pan law doesn't actually affect ANYTHING if things stay static. Once you've done your mix, that's your mix. you can in theory, get the same mix using ANY pan law - it's just that your fader levels would be different.

The only thing the pan law affects is how the levels change as you move a source across the stereo field.

exactly!
I don't understand why so few people seem to get this.

the whole idea in the first place of "pan laws", and dipping the level in the centre of a pan pot, was that when people were doing those wild pans, that had the guitar flying left to right all the time during a solo, the level of the thing being panned would seem to jump up and be too loud as it passed through the centre unless the centre was dipped.
that's ALL.

theoretically, that -3 (or whatever) dip was chosen so that when you move a signal from far left into the centre it should appear to be about the SAME level, without adjustment.
In practise, you adjust.

and once you HAVE adjusted, the amount of that dip built into the panner doesn't matter anymore until you move the position again.

Quote:
A mix I had done at -2.5 came to life at -3, seemed really alive at -4.5, and seemed overwhelming at -6.
all you are doing here (if I understand you correctly, that you're just changing the 'pan law' setting and not anything else in the mix) is making everything positioned in the centre of your mix LOWER progressively in each subsequent mix. (.5dB lower, then 2 dB lower, etc)

when a camera "pans", it MOVES... it comes from the word panorama.
and from that, we get: panoramic potentiometer.

Static positioning isn't really "panning", even if it's done with the 'pan pot'.
Old 6th September 2011
  #11
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

It seems to me that if you are using stereo tracks that are already panned from the recording, i.e., a stereo piano, or say you're using stereo synth patches/pads that you've panned hard left and right, then the pan law will affect how much of the center part of the spread will be amplified relative to the extremes. It seems to me that this would affect the tonality of these stereo sounds, or am I just not thinking about this right?

In other words, if a track is designed to be hard panned from the get-go then you can't adjust levels to accommodate a different panning law.

-R
Old 6th September 2011
  #12
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When using stereo (or PT dual-mono) audio files, there is no actual "signal" anywhere apart from hard left/right. So pan depth/rule (not law) will cause no change unless it's of the type that can optionally "boost towards the sides" rather than "attenuating towards the centre" (i.e. Logic's gain comp mode).
Old 6th September 2011
  #13
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Ah, thanks Tim, I just grasped it. Doh.

-R
Old 6th September 2011
  #14
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JoeyM's Avatar
Reaper has had adjustable Pan Law for every track, which seems like a nice idea. I leave it at -3 because Geoff Tanner got me thinking that way
Old 6th September 2011
  #15
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shortstory's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman View Post
exactly!
I don't understand why so few people seem to get this.

the whole idea in the first place of "pan laws", and dipping the level in the centre of a pan pot, was that when people were doing those wild pans, that had the guitar flying left to right all the time during a solo, the level of the thing being panned would seem to jump up and be too loud as it passed through the centre unless the centre was dipped.
that's ALL.

theoretically, that -3 (or whatever) dip was chosen so that when you move a signal from far left into the centre it should appear to be about the SAME level, without adjustment.
In practise, you adjust.

and once you HAVE adjusted, the amount of that dip built into the panner doesn't matter anymore until you move the position again.



all you are doing here (if I understand you correctly, that you're just changing the 'pan law' setting and not anything else in the mix) is making everything positioned in the centre of your mix LOWER progressively in each subsequent mix. (.5dB lower, then 2 dB lower, etc)

when a camera "pans", it MOVES... it comes from the word panorama.
and from that, we get: panoramic potentiometer.

Static positioning isn't really "panning", even if it's done with the 'pan pot'.

This gentleman just clarified this perfectly as my engineering training would have it.

One thing I was not aware of is what another poster stated regarding SSLs being set at -4.5. I thought all consoles had settled on -3db.

Is that true that SSLs gradually reduce by 4.5db from left or right to center?
Old 6th September 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shortstory View Post
Is that true that SSLs gradually reduce by 4.5db from left or right to center?
yes-

SSL's assumption being that their customers would be more likely to be working in acoustically correct rooms, and so there would be a greater perceived increase in level as the panning swept through the center.
Old 7th September 2011
  #17
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jimmyboy7's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jonathan jetter View Post
yes-

SSL's assumption being that their customers would be more likely to be working in acoustically correct rooms, and so there would be a greater perceived increase in level as the panning swept through the center.
Hence the joy of adjusting panning laws to get that wide SSL feel
Old 7th September 2011
  #18
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You can always mix just as wide no matter what pan rule you use :p
Old 10th July 2016
  #19
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I know this is an older post, but I found this article that explained pan law the most accurately for me with constant gain vs constant power.

https://film-mixing.com/2015/08/22/u...d-dolby-atmos/
Old 22nd November 2016
  #20
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In the book mixing secrets, I read that for hard panned mono instruments there's -3dB level drop in mono. Because of this, mike senior suggest that you set your pans first then go for your balance in mono on the avantone mixcube

So if the pan law was set to -3dB, would that mean; I could balance my mix in mono with everything panned center, I can maintain that initial gain structure by using constant loudness function eqs and makeup gain on compressors, and finally when I switch back to stereo to adjust pan I won't have to fear losing my balance because of the pan law compensation? If this is true I can leave my faders at unity!
Old 24th November 2016
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crentheman View Post
In the book mixing secrets, I read that for hard panned mono instruments there's -3dB level drop in mono. Because of this, mike senior suggest that you set your pans first then go for your balance in mono on the avantone mixcube

So if the pan law was set to -3dB, would that mean; I could balance my mix in mono with everything panned center, I can maintain that initial gain structure by using constant loudness function eqs and makeup gain on compressors, and finally when I switch back to stereo to adjust pan I won't have to fear losing my balance because of the pan law compensation? If this is true I can leave my faders at unity!
pan law still has NOTHING to do with that
Old 24th November 2016
  #22
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12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by -tc- View Post
You can always mix just as wide no matter what pan rule you use :p
...As long as you don't get caught breaking the Pan Laws:
Old 25th November 2016
  #23
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kelldammit's Avatar
In an acoustically perfect environment, a single-channel signal panned center would sound 6db louder than the same signal panned hard to either side simply because it's identical signal coming from 2 speakers instead of just one. As you pan farther to either side, the signal from the opposite speaker decreases, and so does this apparent "boost" effect. The fader level never changes, nor does the signal itself. The only thing that changes is how many speakers are pushing identical waves at you, at what proportion relative to each other, and how your ear perceives that in terms of apparent level. That's what pan law compensates for.

SSL opted for 4.5 db as stated previously, assuming a "best real world case" studio-quality acoustic environment.

3db is likely more "true" in most environments, though, so it's not surprising that it's the most widely used.

Post-mix (not rendering/reimporting a stereo file), changing pan law in the session will change stuff for sure. -4.5 or -6 will sound wider if you mixed at -3, because you're just attenuating the center by 1.5 or 3dB after the fact (with the non-center attenuation decreasing at a different scale as well).
Conversely, if you mix at -6, and then change the session pan law to -3, it'll sound more "mono", because your center just got a 3db boost (and again, non-center attenuation changes too)
For best translation, it's probably best to choose the pan law value that works as it's intended to in your space.

Or not

Last edited by kelldammit; 8th December 2016 at 06:48 PM..
Old 25th November 2016
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by kelldammit View Post
In an acoustically perfect environment, a single-channel signal panned center would sound 6db louder than the same signal panned hard to either side simply because it's identical signal coming from 2 speakers instead of just one. As you pan farther to either side, the signal from the opposite speaker decreases, and so does this apparent "boost" effect. The fader level never changes, nor does the signal itself. The only thing that changes is how many speakers are pushing identical waves at you, at what proportion relative to each other, and how your ear perceives that in terms of apparent level. That's what pan law compensates for.

SSL opted for 4.5 db as stated previously, assuming a "best real world case" studio-quality acoustic environment.

3db is likely more "true" in most environments, though, so it's not surprising that it's the most widely used.

Post-mix, changing pan law will change stuff for sure. -4.5 or -6 will sound wider if you mixed at -3, because you're just attenuating the center by 1.5 or 3dB after the fact (with the non-center attenuation decreasing at a different scale as well).
Conversely, if you mix at -6, and play back at -3, it'll sound more "mono", because your center just got a 3db boost (and again, non-center attenuation changes too)
For best translation, it's probably best to choose the pan law value that works as it's intended to in your space.

Or not
To clarify the above - when you're saying "changing pan law post mix" you mean within the session. Pan law has no effect on a stereo file. Stereo files are hard left/right panning and so pan law is irrelevant.

(I'm sure you realize this, but it might be confusing to some!)
Old 25th November 2016
  #25
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kelldammit's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
To clarify the above - when you're saying "changing pan law post mix" you mean within the session. Pan law has no effect on a stereo file. Stereo files are hard left/right panning and so pan law is irrelevant.

(I'm sure you realize this, but it might be confusing to some!)
Yes, good catch. Revised the post to make that bit clearer.

Thanks!
Old 28th November 2016
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman View Post
pan law still has NOTHING to do with that
That is a useless and seemingly thoughtless response my friend. Care to explain?
Old 12th January 2017
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crentheman View Post
That is a useless and seemingly thoughtless response my friend. Care to explain?
pan "law" only relates to the behavior of a pan POT in its centre position.
nothing to do with how a hard assigned to one side signal will sum to mono.
Old 3rd December 2017
  #28
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Totally, you explained very well.
Old 4th December 2017
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crentheman View Post
In the book mixing secrets, I read that for hard panned mono instruments there's -3dB level drop in mono. Because of this, mike senior suggest that you set your pans first then go for your balance in mono on the avantone mixcube
I have been struggling with this effect lately. I have a mix with requires a piano hard panned, and it practically disappears in mono. A reverb was partly to blame for some cancellation and I solved that. Still, the track will poke your ear out if you balance in mono then switch back to stereo. I don't generally mix for mono, but it's still a great reference. Other than splitting the difference does anyone have a suggestion for dealing with this issue?

And no, this has nothing to do with pan law!
Old 4th December 2017
  #30
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leckel1996's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chip Booth View Post
I have been struggling with this effect lately. I have a mix with requires a piano hard panned, and it practically disappears in mono. A reverb was partly to blame for some cancellation and I solved that. Still, the track will poke your ear out if you balance in mono then switch back to stereo. I don't generally mix for mono, but it's still a great reference. Other than splitting the difference does anyone have a suggestion for dealing with this issue?

And no, this has nothing to do with pan law!
This is an issue every mix engineer has run into. There isn't a solid answer for your question. One option is to split the difference. Also, it could be poking your ear out because of how it's EQ'd. Doing a dip around 1kHz or so can allow it to not jut out of the mix too much in stereo, but also be heard in mono.

Personally, I'm more concerned about how my mix sounds in mono at the end of the day because most listeners will either be listening in mono, or their stereo system has such little stereo separation that it's essentially mono.

Hope this helps!
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