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Audio Post Production Mixing: Should I learn console workflow?
Old 1st September 2020
  #1
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Audio Post Production Mixing: Should I learn console workflow?

Hi GS

So I'm currently mixing short films ITB in hopes that I could eventually do APP professionally (or at least something close). I've heard that, even today, post production studios mix primarily on consoles.

I do have knowledge of the layout of a console through both reading and around 2 hours of hands-on experience as part of my university degree. However, even the hands-on experience was barebones and did not involve use of the signal processing. Really, the class only used the gain knob, faders and other generic fuctions (solo, mute, pre-fader listen). Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure I know my way around a console in the most basic sense.

But I get the feeling that, in order to truly 'know' console mixing, you need to learn the workflow. So that brings me to my question: do you believe it is even slightly necessary to learn console workflow for APP? My only experience with consoles outside of university experience is using Dead Duck Channel Strip, Acustica Big Ceil, and Neutron 3.

If the answer is yes, here are some ideas I have on how I would familiarise myself (please feel free to list alternatives):

- Learning a analog-modelled channel strip plugin.

Pros: Includes (hopefully) accurate models of signal processing from a much more expensive hardware counterpart. Takes up no physical space.

Cons: Not an actual console. Not hardware means no learning about hardware issues (cables, maintenance, DAW integration etc.). Cannot track due to latency from being a plugin.

I mentioned that I already use Big Ceil, but I found the EQ bands too large to really do anything precise (meaning I always supplement it with other plugins, so it's never the 'main event' in my mixes).

- Learning a cheap mixer

Pros: An actual console. Allows me to learn hardware-related issues (cables, maintenance, DAW integration etc.). Lets me process signals while recording.

Cons: Very rudimentary signal processing. Definitely not something you could do a full mix (or even half a mix) on. Takes up physical space.

What is your advice?

Thanks for reading.
Old 1st September 2020
  #2
You've heard wrong. 99.9% of post is 100% In the box.
Some large stages still mix on actual consoles, but that is just because that's what they've had in there...

Most of us still use a control surface... but not a console...

That being said... those are all not bad things to learn.

.. but learn Pro Tools like the back of your hand.
Old 1st September 2020
  #3
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TVPostSound's Avatar
My ITB Protools sessions are still modeled after console workflows.
So might be useful.
Old 1st September 2020
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sventeck View Post
You've heard wrong. 99.9% of post is 100% In the box.
Well that's a relief...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sventeck View Post
.. but learn Pro Tools like the back of your hand.
Are you expected to give coworkers and clients project files, rather than just consolidated audio?

If so, I'm reading that I should also make my projects easy to navigate for other people and, perhaps, to stop using obscure plugins. Correct?
Old 1st September 2020
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cerbdashrdashus View Post
Well that's a relief...



Are you expected to give coworkers and clients project files, rather than just consolidated audio?

If so, I'm reading that I should also make my projects easy to navigate for other people and, perhaps, to stop using obscure plugins. Correct?
No, you provided mixes and stems

occasionally someone wants a PT session for archival... but mix with whatever plugins you want.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sventeck View Post
No, you provided mixes and stems

occasionally someone wants a PT session for archival... but mix with whatever plugins you want.
Then why is learning Pro Tools 'like the back of my hand' so important if I could mix in another DAW and then just drag the stems into a PT project?
Old 2nd September 2020
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cerbdashrdashus View Post
Then why is learning Pro Tools 'like the back of my hand' so important if I could mix in another DAW and then just drag the stems into a PT project?
If you come to my mix with rerecorded stems and expect me to mix I will show you how to reduce the lights in the studio and show you the coffee machine, and then tell you you are on your own...

Joking aside... So In other words NO, You do not deliver re-recorded stems to a dubstage for actual mixing. If its for a short signoff and level check, sure. But otherwise you will have to come with a open project to playback in the studio all with active plugins that you have agreed to beforehand with the mixer.

As a mixer I have to be able to actually mix.
Mixing entails as a basic minimum EQ, reverb, dynamics, pan and levels. If any of those processes are delivered as stems I will have to try to work "on-top" of earlier work and this makes it harder to achieve and often sounds worse as you have to chase incorrect work.

So no, you do not deliver stems to the dubstage apart from the score, and the score stems are often quite elaborate and wide for actual feature films.

For actual sound designed elements, that may be rendered as elements, but only as elements, not as stems. At least not when I mix.

And as for console workflow, if by that you mean properly dividing tracks so arrangement is logical and routed as per the pre agreed mix template to make the life of the mixer tolerable? Yes.
In terms of knowing and working around hardware mixconsole limitations? No.

EDIT: And I say that as a mixer who mostly does NOT use the industry standard (PT) to mix. But beeing limited to stems just is a pretty crappy workflow. All in my humble opinion of course.

Last edited by ErikG; 2nd September 2020 at 10:41 AM.. Reason: Adding reflection at the end...
Old 2nd September 2020
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cerbdashrdashus View Post
Then why is learning Pro Tools 'like the back of my hand' so important if I could mix in another DAW and then just drag the stems into a PT project?
If you're working in a bubble where you are doing everything start to finish and not collaborating with anyone and working in your own facility, that is valid... you can use any DAW you want. But post production is a team sport and Pro Tools is the only DAW that matters (at least here in the US)... When I assemble a team, you have to use Pro Tools.
Old 3rd September 2020
  #9
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NReichman's Avatar
 

To the OP: learn S-series control surfaces. Way more valuable in 2020 to be a Eucon ninja than to know an old console. And the concepts apply all the way from S1 up to S6.
Old 11th September 2020
  #10
What I find interesting is that everyone is referring to "old console" workflows as if it's really a thing of the past. When you mix in a DAW, whether it be PT or Nuendo, like it or not you ARE mixing in a Digital Console.
Learning the basics of consoles workflows (as in how things go in, are processed, mixed, summed, bussed and finally end up at your ears through the Monitors) is just as relevant for mixing in PT than it is for a DFC or System5 (bless their old, overheating, digital little hearts).

That is why I see more and more mixers who have ITB setups that are a complete mess, and anyone but themselves (if even) can make any sense of what the signal flow is.

I like to imagine that if I were to disappear tomorrow, a mixer would be able to look at my mix sessions and figure out what is going where. It wouldn't be easy, but at least it would be possible, if time-consuming. I consider that over the years I have figured out - through the use of Digital consoles, and then DAW - what I want done to my audio signals, in what order, and in a (sort of) understandable way.
Old 11th September 2020
  #11
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dr.sound's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven1145 View Post
What I find interesting is that everyone is referring to "old console" workflows as if it's really a thing of the past. When you mix in a DAW, whether it be PT or Nuendo, like it or not you ARE mixing in a Digital Console.
Learning the basics of consoles workflows (as in how things go in, are processed, mixed, summed, bussed and finally end up at your ears through the Monitors) is just as relevant for mixing in PT than it is for a DFC or System5 (bless their old, overheating, digital little hearts).

That is why I see more and more mixers who have ITB setups that are a complete mess, and anyone but themselves (if even) can make any sense of what the signal flow is.

I like to imagine that if I were to disappear tomorrow, a mixer would be able to look at my mix sessions and figure out what is going where. It wouldn't be easy, but at least it would be possible, if time-consuming. I consider that over the years I have figured out - through the use of Digital consoles, and then DAW - what I want done to my audio signals, in what order, and in a (sort of) understandable way.
Well said Steven! I learned in a "traditional" mix workflow and then applied that to Pro Tools. Remember one used to have to be an "Engineer" to sit behind a console. You needed to know how everything worked and how to fix anything that went wrong or work around it. Learn signal flow. The lack of mentors playing a part of your learning and the ability to watch and ask questions is really missing these days. REMEMBER: The more you know the more you're worth.
Old 11th September 2020
  #12
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Sharp11's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven1145 View Post
What I find interesting is that everyone is referring to "old console" workflows as if it's really a thing of the past. When you mix in a DAW, whether it be PT or Nuendo, like it or not you ARE mixing in a Digital Console.
Learning the basics of consoles workflows (as in how things go in, are processed, mixed, summed, bussed and finally end up at your ears through the Monitors) is just as relevant for mixing in PT than it is for a DFC or System5 (bless their old, overheating, digital little hearts).

That is why I see more and more mixers who have ITB setups that are a complete mess, and anyone but themselves (if even) can make any sense of what the signal flow is.

I like to imagine that if I were to disappear tomorrow, a mixer would be able to look at my mix sessions and figure out what is going where. It wouldn't be easy, but at least it would be possible, if time-consuming. I consider that over the years I have figured out - through the use of Digital consoles, and then DAW - what I want done to my audio signals, in what order, and in a (sort of) understandable way.
Yes!

One of the first things I do before ever getting into pro tools is teach my students the basics of signal flow through an analog console - it’s all about the flow, courtesy their teacher, Eddie

Badaboom
Old 11th September 2020
  #13
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TVPostSound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven1145 View Post
That is why I see more and more mixers who have ITB setups that are a complete mess, and anyone but themselves (if even) can make any sense of what the signal flow is.
Yes!!!
I had one recently, everything was what I would call "virtual" bussing for the lack of a better term.
Took me 20 minutes to figure out the signal flow. Just to correct a swear word bleep on someone else's session.
Old 11th September 2020
  #14
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gsilbers's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cerbdashrdashus View Post
Hi GS

So I'm currently mixing short films ITB in hopes that I could eventually do APP professionally (or at least something close). I've heard that, even today, post production studios mix primarily on consoles.

I do have knowledge of the layout of a console through both reading and around 2 hours of hands-on experience as part of my university degree. However, even the hands-on experience was barebones and did not involve use of the signal processing. Really, the class only used the gain knob, faders and other generic fuctions (solo, mute, pre-fader listen). Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure I know my way around a console in the most basic sense.

But I get the feeling that, in order to truly 'know' console mixing, you need to learn the workflow. So that brings me to my question: do you believe it is even slightly necessary to learn console workflow for APP? My only experience with consoles outside of university experience is using Dead Duck Channel Strip, Acustica Big Ceil, and Neutron 3.

If the answer is yes, here are some ideas I have on how I would familiarise myself (please feel free to list alternatives):

- Learning a analog-modelled channel strip plugin.

Pros: Includes (hopefully) accurate models of signal processing from a much more expensive hardware counterpart. Takes up no physical space.

Cons: Not an actual console. Not hardware means no learning about hardware issues (cables, maintenance, DAW integration etc.). Cannot track due to latency from being a plugin.

I mentioned that I already use Big Ceil, but I found the EQ bands too large to really do anything precise (meaning I always supplement it with other plugins, so it's never the 'main event' in my mixes).

- Learning a cheap mixer

Pros: An actual console. Allows me to learn hardware-related issues (cables, maintenance, DAW integration etc.). Lets me process signals while recording.

Cons: Very rudimentary signal processing. Definitely not something you could do a full mix (or even half a mix) on. Takes up physical space.

What is your advice?

Thanks for reading.


professionally Its all pro tools and inside the box with a control surface.

Sure, maybe get around with FLstudio and outboard amazing gear but why reinvent the wheel. and you wont be able to work in a post production studio without knowing pro tools inside and out and fast.

just learn pro tools to be very fast at it. deliver omf or import session data.
etc. keep it simple and standarized.

outboard gear that poeple might be refering to might be the reverb like TC6000 which you can now find similar in the plugin world, or at least plugin reverb wont be noticebale enough to warrant buying one of these pricey units until you can afford it later on. of course debatable.
but no one is using compression and eqs like manley or shadowhills to mix in post production. Since there are so many revisions plus different types of mixes that it wont make sense recalling the mix so many times and would compromised already approved mixes.
Old 11th September 2020
  #15
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Of course, what We all think a console workflow means differs among us.
Yes obviously you still need to understand signal paths and routing and how things work regardless if it is a DAW or not.

When I said you don’t need to learn that, I meant more in terms of learning old antiquated automation systems, how you deal with reconforming them. How you optimisé mix automation “trees” for good workflow. How to assign processing between channels to get the best usage out of your available DSP in the rack etc. For me that all went out the window a long time ago. It doesn’t mean that the principals of good audio engineering has changed. They haven’t and really won’t.
The only thing we don’t have to be as diligent about these days working ITB is gainstaging, however if you are 40+ Years old you will make sure to do it right anyway.
Old 11th September 2020
  #16
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basic signal flow or operating a desk/surface?

the former hasn't changed (much) in decades, the latter varies a bit between manufacturers but essentially, they are all trying to achieve the same thing (although automation varies a bit)...

...so learn both (basic signal flow and operating a desk/surface) on whatever gear you can afford and you'll be at home at pretty much any system with a little bit help from a friend (except that there are indeed a few things which are unique to some high-end digital broadcast desks).
Old 11th September 2020
  #17
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Quote:
The only thing we don’t have to be as diligent about these days working ITB is gainstaging, however if you are 40+ Years old you will make sure to do it right anyway.
I'm 44, and to this day I still think floating-point mixing is absolute magic. I spent so many years mixing fixed-point that I still have those habits. Totally unnecessary with these great tools today.
Old 12th September 2020
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NReichman View Post
I'm 44, and to this day I still think floating-point mixing is absolute magic. I spent so many years mixing fixed-point that I still have those habits. Totally unnecessary with these great tools today.
It’s black magic I tell ya!
Old 13th September 2020
  #19
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the place where it makes still most sense to actually know the ins and outs of an actual console is in anything live.
For picture-related live it's a lot of LAWO etc.
For music-related live Digico would come to mind.

The rest is almost all DAW-based these days.

I have to say I sometimes miss my SSL.
Old 13th September 2020
  #20
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I regularly work in 4 different DAWs, and can tell you that the leading apps are more remarkable for their similarities than for their differences. All are based on some idea of a console style workflow: that is what the designers and their customers knew way back when, and that has informed how most of them work. If you have a console to work with (and a manual for it) that might be an easier way to understand how most designers of DAW (and other gear) think of signal flow, and what they call various tasks and components. Armed with that knowledge you will probably find that the DAWs more common in post work will make pretty good sense to you in their basic signal flow. This will help you even if you never actually end up using a real console in your work in post.
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