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Width And Depth For Production Cues Virtual Instrument Plugins
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Thread Starter
Width And Depth For Production Cues

Hey Guys,

Maybe this question should be in a regular mixing forum but I know Dr. Bill, Etch and the crew would be able to help.

A little on me. I Belong to a few Exclusive libraries and have TV placements getting stronger by the day on Cable and Network.

Now, the question. When I listen to the catalogs on some of the "Big Boy" PMA's such as WCM, BMG, etc, I notice that the cues are extremely rich in depth and width. I notice this even listening on my crappy imac speakers.

Are these libraries doing further "Mastering" or manipulation on their accepted cues?

I do make use of panning, doubling, etc, but can't get these results. Should I start my mixes in mono? I know there are many plugins for width and binaural image too but doubt these are doing all of the work.

Thoughts?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny Scott View Post
Hey Guys,

Maybe this question should be in a regular mixing forum but I know Dr. Bill, Etch and the crew would be able to help.

A little on me. I Belong to a few Exclusive libraries and have TV placements getting stronger by the day on Cable and Network.

Now, the question. When I listen to the catalogs on some of the "Big Boy" PMA's such as WCM, BMG, etc, I notice that the cues are extremely rich in depth and width. I notice this even listening on my crappy imac speakers.

Are these libraries doing further "Mastering" or manipulation on their accepted cues?

I do make use of panning, doubling, etc, but can't get these results. Should I start my mixes in mono? I know there are many plugins for width and binaural image too but doubt these are doing all of the work.

Thoughts?
Are you sure you really want to know?

First, learning how to mix is a life long experience. If you've only been doing it for 5 years (I have no idea how long you've been mixing, I'm just being rhetorical), you're just beginning. Keep at it. You'll get better. I learn something new every time I sit down to mix. If you're not, you either not paying attention or just phoning it in.

That said, there are some things that will up your level of mixing ability almost instantly (see below) :

I'm going to get a lot of rub from the ITB composer crowd, but my opinion is only mine, and I'm very passionate about it. It's taken me 25+ years of mixing my music as well as other composers music (Grammy's and Academy Award winning stuff) to come to these conclusions.

The #1 thing you can do?

Get outside the box. Get analog gear on your 2 buss especially. Of course I'd suggest a Silver Bullet (SEVERAL guys here have em, but they keep their mouths closed unless asked specifically.... - because OTB is controversial in the composer world, and also because it's their secret weapon.). In addition, something like a VariMu and killer EQ like the Miad's would help tremendously as well. Your mixes will go from 2d to 3d with barely trying. The Silver Bullet journey (my story is in the manual and my name is on the box) is what brought me away from ITB / Console mixing into a Hybrid approach.

Moving back OTB in a Hybrid configuration was the best thing I've done for my mixing in 15 years. I've mixed every which way - console / tape - console / digital - ITB - Summing OTB - Hybrid.

For me, Hybrid is the way to go. It's EXPENSIVE. Lots of wire, lots of bays, lots of outboard. But no matter what anyone says, the 3 dimensionality, the width, the musicality, the imaging, the "real-ness" and the motion of the music all step forward 2 or 3 steps from pure ITB / plugins. And personally, I think I can do the ITB thing pretty well....

If you dare, step into the conversation over here :
HW Worth Owning for Mixing Hybrid?
Some heavy hitters with their opinions, and a very civil conversation.

Good luck.


PS - the way I do Hybrid is to basically leave the outboard gear in it's sweet spot so that I don't have to constantly be tweaking everything, and then notating all the settings for recall and using a trim before the hardware insert in PT to drive or back off how hard I'm pushing into any particular piece of outboard. My recalls take about 1-2 minutes longer than a normal PT recall. Just a couple of things to tweak, and I'm back mixing. Traditional approaches with outboard, consoles, bays, etc. won't work for me these days....

PPS - re: WCPM - from my experience - they want to mix and master themselves.

PPPS - I don't use any of the "width" enhancing plugins. For me, depth and imaging is a matter of EQ, delays, verb, and panning placement. One thing that most young mixers don't do is kill all the stereo files and make em mono. Well, not all of em, but a good percentage. Everything is "stereo" coming out of VSTi's. Get rid of one side and use some panning and watch your mixes open up. When everything is stereo, all you have is a big lush mono mix.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Gear Nut
 

Thread Starter
Thanks for the great insight Dr. Bill,

I do know it's a life time to learn the art of mixing. I have been mixing much longer than the 6 years I have been doing production. Of course there is plenty of room for mixing improvement but it was interesting to know that WCPM does the mixing and mastering themselves. It definitely shows in their catalog. There is a certain sheen that all of the tracks have even though there are multitudes of different composers with different methods.

I am basically an ITB guy although I do like using nice Pre's like UA's for front of the signal chain.

If I run into some more cash I will definitely take the hybrid plunge :-) .
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Well...

There are a lot of factors to this. Dr Bill brings up a good one, in trying to expand your setup to get the best possible mixes (including outboard gear).

There are a couple of other factors that go into the mixes that aren't even about the mixes... Dr Bill and I have discussed this a lot in the past and it is also something he and I both do a lot of... and that is recording LIVE players. That adds a lot of energy, depth, emotion, etc, etc, etc to the music when you have live instruments on it... granted, they have to be good sounding recordings of live instruments. They can't sound like crap. But a good player in a good room is unbeatable from a mixing standpoint for most styles of music. Even stuff you think might be loops, could very well be live players. Famous songs by artists like Adele, Bruno Mars, etc all incorporate live musicians as much as possible.

Another factor in this, is the "big" libraries have the money to hire good mixing engineers. Narcoman, Dr Bill, Greg Townley, Jim Hill, Noah Scott Snyder, Jeff Biggers, Phil McGowan, etc all do a fair amount of music library mixing work on top of working on the top TV shows and films. Having someone like that mix your tracks immediately takes the track to a whole new level... as these people know how to use compression, EQ, Reverb, automation, etc to MAKE depth happen.

Not to mention the arrangement and composition. This is one that took me a long time to realize but to create that "depth" in a track you need something buried deep down in there. There are usually multiple layers to a track, some that are turned down into the background, and those help create depth, add to the energy or emotion of a track and keep the track from sounding "flat" or two dimensional. It can be little percussion and sound design elements, it can be subtle synth doubles, it can be a huge list of things. But they are in there and it might take a while of listening to really notice them.

The arrangement of the instruments and voices can also play a huge role. I just did a 10 piece string section and 7 piece brass section overdub on these big orchestral trailer pieces. Everything was midi and we decided to sweeten with some live brass (french horns and low brass) and strings (vlns, vlas, clos). Normally you would think 10 strings would sound small... but wow... because of the orchestration/arranging the composer did... they sounded huge... the composer and producer kept asking "can you turn the midi off so we can just hear the live strings?" And my reply was "the midi strings are off". We were all getting goosebumps just from the 6 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos. So... some of what you are hearing does come from some amazing orchestration work too. It's not all just EQ and compression and a touch of verb. It really does start with the writing and arrangement/orchestration.

And lastly, mastering. The libraries I work with use Capitol Mastering (yes, THE capitol mastering), Bernie Grundman Mastering (yes, THE Bernie Grundman mastering), Dave Collins, Mike Wells, Gavin Lurssen, etc to master their albums. That, in conjunction with stellar mixes from the above mentioned mixers makes an album that sounds as good as any major film studio film soundtrack or major record label release... And you can hear that when you listen.

So it is never "one" thing but the summation/combination of a bunch of little things that all add up to a huge difference in the end. But those things end up costing $$$ compared to not doing them. I always say it only takes 20% of the budget to get an album 80% of the way "there". It takes the other 80% of the budget to get the album that last 20% to being perfect.

A lot of libraries tend to just take it to the 80% mark because that is the most bang for the buck. But some of the "big" libraries will go the extra distance and fork out the money to make it perfect. Why? Because it is actually worth it in the end. When you do this sort of thing to the album, it really does make it "timeless". A catalog I work for, just got a big license for a track off their first album they did back in the early 90s!! Why? Because they did it "right" the first time and the track still sounds "good" to this day. That is the problem with using samples... it can sound dated, in later years as better samples come out, prior works using the old stuff sounds bad in comparison. But a good live orchestra actually playing music has never and will never "sound bad" compared to recordings 20 or 40 years from now... Listen to the Soundtrack to the original Star Wars back in the 70s and then listen to some of the orchestral scores of today like the new star wars. Those are good comparisons, its' the same exact themes, same exact music, just recorded 40 years later... going back and forth between them side by side you can tell they are different recordings but in just hearing either one, you would never say either sounds "bad". But if they had done Star Wars with orchestral samples of the 70s and then orchestral samples of today... there would be a HUGE difference in sound/fidelity/perceived "quality"/etc. So that is why the libraries will sometimes spend the extra money. Because when you do it "right" the music is truly "evergreen" and will make money for decades and decades to come.

Anyway... I could beat this subject to death if allowed! LOL Someone get the hook!
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Gear Addict
 

drBill and Etch have a lot more experience than me, but mine is slightly different. The thing is, to get into one of the big libraries your mixing and mastering have to be very good already. I have an album published by WCPM, and working on the second one. I did the mixing and mastering by myself for the first one, and most probably will for the second one as well. Everything completely in the box. WCPM gave feedback and asked for some small changes, but they wanted me to do the mixing and mastering. I assume that on lower profile projects they are fine with that, while they use professional mastering and mixing engineers on higher level projects. It's probably the same with recordings. For lower profile albums they are fine with highest quality mockups, on higher profile albums they pay for recordings. The albums I am doing are orchestral music. That makes a difference too I assume, as orchestral recordings get very expensive quickly. So that won't happen on most projects.

Amber's experience are similar to mine if I am not mistaken. I don't know which libraries he is working with, but I remember him writing that he does everything in the box. Don't know if he does the mixing/mastering himself, though.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Mrx
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post

Not to mention the arrangement and composition. This is one that took me a long time to realize but to create that "depth" in a track you need something buried deep down in there. There are usually multiple layers to a track, some that are turned down into the background, and those help create depth, add to the energy or emotion of a track and keep the track from sounding "flat" or two dimensional. It can be little percussion and sound design elements, it can be subtle synth doubles, it can be a huge list of things. But they are in there and it might take a while of listening to really notice them.

The arrangement of the instruments and voices can also play a huge role. I just did a 10 piece string section and 7 piece brass section overdub on these big orchestral trailer pieces. Everything was midi and we decided to sweeten with some live brass (french horns and low brass) and strings (vlns, vlas, clos). Normally you would think 10 strings would sound small... but wow... because of the orchestration/arranging the composer did... they sounded huge... the composer and producer kept asking "can you turn the midi off so we can just hear the live strings?" And my reply was "the midi strings are off". We were all getting goosebumps just from the 6 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos. So... some of what you are hearing does come from some amazing orchestration work too. It's not all just EQ and compression and a touch of verb. It really does start with the writing and arrangement/orchestration.
I agree with this. A lot has been said about mastering, mixing etc but all that will have minimal impact without a great arrangement. In theory you should be able to push the faders up and have it sounding reasonably good. The other thing that can create depth is great musicians. Try a killer bass player over programmed drums and hear the track come alive.

Problem with hardware: it's so expensive. What I love about it though is the tone you get. Everything just start sounding right. It's a lot of fun too.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Random thoughts :

I 1000% agree with Etch and Mrx about arrangements in the music. It's really the place where my mixes start. If I've lost focus, or the arrangement has shifted since my initial vision, mixing is the last chance so to speak. Knowing what to throw out, move around and what to keep is the start of any mix for me.

For certain styles of production music, the arrangement becomes as or sometimes more important than the composition itself.

Good ideas by everyone so far.

And yes, outboard and back line and purpose built studio's are so expensive. But there's a reason people keep building studio's and purchasing gear. If you're wondering where to look, and you're doing the best you can at the stage you are at, sometime throwing money in the right spots - be it musicians or gear - is the best thing you can do to up your game.

I've found Etch's 80/20 rule to ring very, very true in real life situations.
Old 6 days ago
  #8
Lives for gear
 
Amber's Avatar
 

Production quality is 50% of it I think.

Most of my work is mixed and mastered by the library. I'm delivering what I think are pretty good mixes though. I can't 'finish' a track without giving it a good seeing to mix wise. I know one library use my mixes 50% of the time.

One album for WCPM I did was mixed and mastered by them but delivered well mixed (I think so anyway!). It's probably my best sounding album. The mix/master they did is stunning. It sounds huge. I'd share it when it's released, but I prefer to be anonymous here.

Megatrax is a mix of my mixing and their mixing. Their mixes are great and so are the masters. The stuff that uses my mixes sounds very different when mastered. Not complaining, it sounds good.

A trailer library I write for master my stuff and I'm really happy with the masters. 2 smaller libraries I wrote for seem to do mixing/mastering in house and the guy there has a ton of outboard and frankly the mixes/masters suck so bad I won't write for them anymore. All the gear... no idea. I can often hear Slate plugins a mile off too... I'm not keen.

Newer libraries tend to only pay for mastering. Mostly to create a uniform sound across the library. From the few of these I write for, I find they push the mastering a bit too much. The best libraries are tasteful with it. Largely because they've been doing it so long.

I know a few people who write for Extreme and Bleeding Fingers and was a bit surprised how sub par the mixing/production was. Obviously it's just my opinion but I reckon if I'd have submitted those tracks to WCPM or Universal, they'd have been knocked back. But then I wouldn't have delivered them like that in the first place!

Personally I do everything in the box in terms of processing sounds that are already in the box (so something going in might have gone through 4 pedals). It's the only way I know but for me it's all about dynamics and character and I think you can create a lot of that in the box. Automation lanes keep things moving and alive. No $2,000 compressor is going to fix lazy string programming. It'd take me forever to process everything through hardware. If I have one piano in a track, it's actually more likely to be 8 tracks of piano all processed differently in terms of stereo width, EQ, reverb wetness, tuning (quieter passages maybe a piano tuned down -6 and transposed back up to give a roomier sound) and saturation depending on where it is in the arrangement. Anything else on top of that is usually colouring what I've spent ages trying to do. And that's probably down to my lack of experience with hardware. If I'm struggling to find pro mixers using hardware making my work sound better instead of worse, I've probably got no chance. But the guys that do it well, I've got no chance of getting close. I'm fine delegating these things if needed, but I rarely deliver anything I'm not 99% happy with mix wise.

And like Dr Bill says, lots of mono. Anything low is usually mono. If a drum hit has very little room information, it's probably going mono. I don't do much panning. Lots of narrowing stereo width on Stereo channels. Never use stereo widening but I know of a few people who do lots of big TV stuff that do.

Also, some producers at libraries can hear something rough, know it's rough and that it will be improved and it's fine to send demos and get an idea if you're on the right track before you put in the hours bringing it to life. Others just can't hear past it and that's fair enough.

The longer a library has been around, the better they'll make you as a composer/mixer/producer. I find they push you to improve and add those extra 2% here and there when you feel like you've already given it your all. The newer libraries are mostly happy to be building their catalogue and don't have the ears to know that a kick drum won't cut through a TV mix quite right or that there's a touch too much reverb on the piano. And along those lines, they'll accept a half decent master without having the ears to know it could be improved. You can put two different people in charge of a restaurant, the one with good taste and high standards will create a better product.

Last edited by Amber; 6 days ago at 07:47 PM..
Old 6 days ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 
VitaEtMusica's Avatar
 

WCPM US (Non Stop, 615, Groove Addicts catalog families) does 99% of it's own mixing... meaning the composer does not mix. WCPM Germany (Perfect Pitch, Elbroar, Massive Bass, etc) and UK (CPM, V, etc.) are autonomous and do things their own way. Germany tends to have the composers deliver mixes, UK does both, but if their composers are delivering mixes it's because they are excellent mixers.

WCPM US has five full time mix engineers on staff, with as many mix/control rooms. The Non-Stop and 615 families of libraries are mixed in-house. The Groove Addicts family are almost all outsourced to very established mix and master engineers. Whether staff or not, you're talking about mixers who have been mixing for decades and have mixed 10's of thousands of tracks... each. They all mix using a combination of software and hardware.

Here is the WCPM studio in Salt Lake City to give you an idea of what is going on.Home | Salt Lake City | LA East Studios

I can't speak for Germany or the UK, but in the US anything but mixes done at the very highest level of excellence are not acceptable. The engineering and production staff are constantly trying to be better at their craft and are very serious about the tools required to do so.

WCPM pays for all the mixing and mastering so the composer only needs to deliver mix ready tracks and collect the creative fee. Sometimes the composer is involved in the mix process, but mostly not.

So, hopefully that answers the question as far as WCPM is concerned.
Old 6 days ago
  #10
Gear Nut
 

Thread Starter
Thanks for all of the insight guys,

All of you are giving very helpful information.

I have been seriously diving into mixing only about ten years or so and I know it's a lifetime of learning.

BTW I do know from being a session musician for over 40 years that the performance is the number one factor to making or breaking a track. I also incorporate live instruments in some tracks and do all ITB in other tracks.

I think it was Dr. Bill that made a good point that I am going to start paying attention to. I can see how the intense synth patches from Massive, Omnisphere, etc, can create a muddy mess in the middle of the stereo field due to decay and width of the actual patches. I am going to start placing those big synth samples in mono, then panning them to the desired stereo field.
Old 6 days ago
  #11
Gear Addict
 

Thanks for chiming in Amber and Vita. These are amazing insights.

The Chapel Scoring Stage looks beautiful. I hope one day I can have one of my pieces recorded there.
Old 6 days ago
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Sam Watson's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by VitaEtMusica View Post
Here is the WCPM studio in Salt Lake City to give you an idea of what is going on.Home | Salt Lake City | LA East Studios
*long low whistle* Looking world class over in SLC!
Old 6 days ago
  #13
Gear Nut
 

For many composers, panning is very much a side issue.
Old 6 days ago
  #14
Gear Addict
 

As always it depends. If you are writing orchestral cues, panning is a very important part of mixing. For other genres probably much less so.
Old 6 days ago
  #15
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by goodkeys View Post
As always it depends. If you are writing orchestral cues, panning is a very important part of mixing. For other genres probably much less so.
I guess there's two sides to the argument.
Old 5 days ago
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by goodkeys View Post
As always it depends. If you are writing orchestral cues, panning is a very important part of mixing. For other genres probably much less so.
In my opinion and experience, panning is a very important part of mixing ANY genre, not just orchestral cues.
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