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Do I need SUM? For you guys who mix ITB and OTB...
Old 22nd June 2005
  #1
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Do I need SUM? For you guys who mix ITB and OTB...

So, I'm re-mixing a track today that I originally mixed (well, rough mixed...) on an AMS-Neve VRL here, running out of PTHD and using a bunch of their outboard stuff. I've been an all ITB guy for years, only because I've never had the opportunity to mix with a big console. No $$$ for it.

I feel like my ITB mix of this pop/rock tune (big guitars, pop hook) is winning at the moment (bigger, wider), except for one thing... the drums. Off the console, the kick and snare have a clarity that cuts through even the densest sections of the mix. The only way I can approach it is by doing the old side-chain compressor on the track minus drums triggered by the kick and snare, and even then, it's not quite as cool. It's as if the kick/snare are sort of pushing their way through everything and coming through clearly... BTW, I processed the drums with the consoles comp/gate/eqs plus a parallel bus of the drums through some Distressors, smashed pretty hard and brought back up alongside (you should have seen me trying to explain that concept to some guys that mainly spoke Polish! HA!).

My question is this... are we talking about a PT summing issue here? Or is it more of a console related byproduct? I can't believe I was running the gain through the console so perfectly as to get it "in the sweetspot" as I hear you guys talking about... though I'm not sure that's the "sound" I'm talking about. I've never mixed on such a beast in my life. Would I be able to get this sort of punch or sponginess or whatever it is by externally summing my HD rig? (I'm dying for an excuse to buy the Neve Portico Mic Pre... and it with a Folcrom should be pretty cool sounding. But then I have to get more and better D/As. $$$$$$)

So, how do you guys that do both deal with this in your ITB mixes? How do you get that clarity and separation? It must be doable...

Thanks,
brian
Old 22nd June 2005
  #2
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I'm slapping myself in the head for even LOOKING at a thread with the word "summing" in it, let alone posting in it... but

Why don't you try doing the same thing to the drums that you did with the console (parallel distressors on the bussed drums, etc).. Use some outboard... or if you don't have any, ignore the internet-heresy of it all and try using whatever plugins you can to go for a similar result ..

Give yourself some credit!! IMO, what you're talking about sounds like something that has more to do with the concept of what you did to the drums than the 'sound' of the 'summing' of that console ..

-dave
Old 22nd June 2005
  #3
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Oh yeah, I've been doing ITB parallel compression (no cool outboard for me) on the drums (individual and submixies)with abandon especially since Digi added ADC. The drums soloed sound great. But, there's something going on when everything is added in... the more other stuff, the more the kick/sn get pushed back. That didn't seem to happen with the console. That's why I wondered if it's a summing thing...

BTW, I thought to myself... "I can't believe it's another summing thread... AND I'M STARTING IT!" But I figured it's only sort of about summing... if I can learn to get it to sound right without more $$$, great.
Old 22nd June 2005
  #4
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Yeah, I'm getting pretty close today.

djui5, can you elaborate? What's your basic mix template look like?

I still want that Portico.
Old 23rd June 2005
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djui5
Sierously, that's not something I'm willing to share. Sorry. But I will tell you it's all in the master fader.
Uh... ok. No prob.

Anybody know what he's talking about and care to point me in the right direction? I'm assuming he's talking about some mysterious plug-in combination (probably ones I don't have... HA!), or headroom something or other...

I should add, I'm not far off... I am using parallel bus compression, Phoenix on the 2-bus, and have worked with various combinations of compressors on the mix bus. So far nothing does what it is I think I'm looking for.
Old 23rd June 2005
  #6
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When I read your post, it reminds me of when I was stuck in kind of the same place. I don't have any big secret, but when I was having a lot of trouble getting drums to sound the way I heard them in my head, I decided (for some reason) to try to do the best mix possible with no compression. I learned a lot about getting the kit to sound right just using fader automation and EQ. I think that in the end, I was chewing stuff up with too much gain reduction. As far as getting clarity and separation, that's key! You can get the drums slamming with the threshold set higher and the ratio lower, I think (for example, I usually use an 1176 on the room mics with the ratio at 4:1 with slow attack and fast release.) I also usually don't put one compressor on the whole kit. The kick gets it's own, the overheads + rooms get one, and the snare and the toms share one. The other thing is (I think) to get one or two really good hardware compressors and EQ's for the drums (if not other stuff.) I work in the box too, and I have some of the best plugins (McDsp, UAD, URS, PSP, etc) but they still don't do what hardware does (if you can spare the sends.)

I'm starting to collect API 560's and I'm thinking a pair of Purples for the room + overhead bus.

I try working with paralell compression sometimes, and there have been phases of my life where I've used it, but I think most of the time it doesn't help me. I know many swear by it. I think I keep things clearer by limiting the number of tracks the drums come in on.

Hope some of that helps!
Old 23rd June 2005
  #7
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Thanks Max... I go back and forth in that mode as well.. trying it AGAIN without much compression. I just keep finding that to get that "in your face" attacky sound, I need to step on them pretty hard.

I agree some outboard stuff would help, but at this point it's too hard to justify the bread for a unit I can only use for one thing in a mix (well, I can print it, and have done that in the past when I've had a chance). Especially when I'm lacking a decent mic pre (or 8) or great D/A to make it sound decent on the way in (though, lately I'm tracking elsewhere and mixing here).

Anyway, the quest continues... I know I'll never arrive, but that's the beauty of it.
Old 23rd June 2005
  #8
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One thing that helped me a bit (in SX, that is) is to aim about 3-6 dB lower on mix bus than I usually would. Somehow, when I get too close to 0 dBFS, even when you are not clipping the bus, it gets congested very quick especially if I am using a compressor across the mix... If I find the level be too low half way or so into the mix, I'd jack it back up with make up gain on the compressor.

I've also been experimenting with having 2 compressors on the mix bus - one that has very soft knee taking a couple of dB at most, and the other one with relatively harder knee taking off 3 dB or so again. Slow attack on both. Seem to be working so far, but I might change my mind completely in a few days...

I have been multing the kick track these days. The first one I would cut the mid to high frequency and compress as usual, and on the second one I would cut the mid to low frequency and compress it to hell. I would make the frequency void between the two to work out in a way they would sound like a mid frequency scooped kick when combined. Anyway, compressed to hell clicky kick channel works great in a dense rock track, works much better for me than making one kick channel compressed and EQ'd to fight in the mix.

Anyway, I am actually on the same quest as you, though my set up is very limited at the moment. Good luck. :-)
Old 23rd June 2005
  #9
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Yeah, I'm all over the mult-ed kick and snare. I think the mix I did today had something like 3 mults, a sub kick and 2 samples to get it right. Same for snare. One for snap, one for body, one open, the bottom snare mic and a sample.

I don't think the PTHD mix bus is a problem up toward the top... and I usually mix to some stems, one of which is the "MIX" which in turn feeds the master out. That way if I need to do client "mastering" it happens pre-fade, which PT's master bus isn't. But, I'll experiment with not pushing that bus as hard as usual... which usually isn't that hard, but you never know.

Thanks for the ideas...
Old 23rd June 2005
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yutaka
One thing that helped me a bit (in SX, that is) is to aim about 3-6 dB lower on mix bus than I usually would. Somehow, when I get too close to 0 dBFS, even when you are not clipping the bus, it gets congested very quick especially if I am using a compressor across the mix... If I find the level be too low half way or so into the mix, I'd jack it back up with make up gain on the compressor.
I guess I should add that mix bus itself in SX is not a problem, but the way I have been trying to pack all the tracks and the way I was using the compression was not working too well for me. It was really a problem with the way "I" was trying to mix.
Old 23rd June 2005
  #11
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have you tried parallel processing the 2 bus as well?
Old 23rd June 2005
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stick
...I've been an all ITB guy for years, only because I've never had the opportunity to mix with a big console. No $$$ for it.

I feel like my ITB mix of this pop/rock tune (big guitars, pop hook) is winning at the moment (bigger, wider), except for one thing... the drums....
I would never assume I could just walk into a strange studio and immediately get great results using a console I wasn't used to while at the same time employing a completely new method of mixing.

Speaking for myself, when I talk about the benefits of mixing on a console, I'm really talking about how far a very experienced person can advance the quality of the mix. Consoles have considerably less of a learning curve than DAWs but it still requires months of doing it every day to really get up to my idea of speed.
Old 23rd June 2005
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson
I would never assume I could just walk into a strange studio and immediately get great results using a console I wasn't used to while at the same time employing a completely new method of mixing.

Speaking for myself, when I talk about the benefits of mixing on a console, I'm really talking about how far a very experienced person can advance the quality of the mix. Consoles have considerably less of a learning curve than DAWs but it still requires months of doing it every day to really get up to my idea of speed.
Absolutely agreed... that's why I was shocked that it sounded pretty good. I was expecting it to sound much worse than it does compared to my ITB mix (which I've been doing for 8 or 9 years). And granted, I know some of the theory behind a console mix, but had just never had the chance to try it myself on a console. I've sat through a couple of mixes by some big-time pop guys, and I've tried to use some of the concepts ITB I've gleaned from them.

And all the more reason why I'm curious as to what it is about doing it on a console that gives that clarity to the kick and snare that I struggle to get ITB. I don't hear much more that I like better about the console mix, probably because I didn't really know what I was doing, but man, the kick and snare cut through great, and maintain their beef and low end punch even in the thickest parts of the song.

Quote:
have you tried parallel processing the 2 bus as well?
Yeah, I tried that yesterday with good results... it wasn't the thing I'm after, but it sounds great. More presence to everything. I'll keep experimenting with that. I think I ended up using Smack! for the parallel bus. I could probably dial something cooler in with CompressorBank or RennComp, but needed to get it moving.
Old 23rd June 2005
  #14
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u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stick
And all the more reason why I'm curious as to what it is about doing it on a console that gives that clarity to the kick and snare that I struggle to get ITB.

this is all very much imho, take it for what it's worth:

voltage and electromagnetics are alive, they are energy, they vibrate, they ARE the music.

zeroes and ones are approximations of the vibrations of sound, and dsp is an approximation of an electrical process. doing an approximation of a process to an approximation of music will get you in the proximity of the results you're after, but there is nothing quite like the effect of real circuits manipulating the juice.


gregoire
del ubik
Old 24th June 2005
  #15
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Hiwatt's Avatar
 

Word!
Old 24th June 2005
  #16
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Stick's Avatar
 

Yeah maybe... but isn't that what any recording is? An approximation of what it really sounds like in person?

I don't care about the philosphy of it... I just want my ITB mix to rip.
Old 26th September 2005
  #17
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It's pretty simple...

Analog summing design (all analog design for that matter) was devopled decades ago and has been refined by designers over the years. There were only a few opamp circuits in the discreet days that were used as summing amps and level amps (that's all there really is.) Tubes and ICs are similar in this respect as well. There are only so many ways to build gain circuits. The qualities of the selected components shaped the actual sound more than the limited number of circuits.

There was a "history" to the designs that defined the sound of each manufacturer's consoles. This "history" is what defines what we call a mix. The designs are all fairly similar. All analog mix busses are VERY similar!

Digital summing and processing WAS NOT DESIGNED BY THESE GUYS! It was designed by engineers that worked at the companies who sell software! There is no relation to the way the two processes work except for the fact that the software designers are trying to emulate the analog process called summing.

By it's very nature digital is attempting to emulate the sound of analog.
Analog design defined the sound of a modern mix.

Think of this: Are there ANY analog devices that emulate the sound of a digital device?

I can't think of one!
Why would you?

Just because you can afford a DAW and have space for one (since it takes a BIG place to set up a real analog console and analog recording machines) doesn't mean that digital mixing is great. It only means that you are happy with your purchase.

I went from analog mixing to mixing "in the box" because of space limitations and after four years of trying to mix ITB I am building an analog mix buss. I presently use a Midas Venice 320 and the results are great. It's a "live" console, but it sounds great!

Digital has allowed a lot of people to get access to gear that they can create music with because it is WAY cheaper and WAY smaller. A knocked out ProTools rig costs less than a 24 track deck used to! Then you needed the console. ...and a place to set it up which came with rent and utility bills.

I've had a big room. I've owned 1" 8 track, 2" 16 track, 2" 24 track, 1/2" analog (still have that) 1/2" 8 track, tube consoles, IC consoles, discreet consoles, American consoles, British consoles, Pro Tools, MOTU, Opcode, WaveFrame, DAT, CD burners...

Altering your mix method because digital summing is lacking is stupid thinking.
People have used the "mono first" method for years... it's nothing new.
After listening in mono I guess that it would sound "really seperated and cool" when you popped it into stereo. That's why mono went away exceot for AM radio! Stereo sounds more like the real world. We have TWO EARS! We hear and SEE in stereo! In fact, our eyes and ears are arranged on our head in a horizontal array. This defines how we see and hear stuff. Why aren't the two speakers in a stereo pair arranged on top of each other with a gap of a few feet? Maybe that'd fool a digital summig buss!

No matter where you start with a mix it doesn't alter how a mix buss processes what you feed to it! If starting with certian tracks makes you EQ, compress or mix differently then all you are doing is creating a different mix. You are describing a compromise to get the DAW's mix buss to "accept" a mix.

There is no magic.
You either know how to mix and have access to the right tools or you don't.

If digital mixing makes you happy then those results are adequate.
The original post is from a guy who experienced the difference.
I'll back him and so will the people who I mix for!
I can't get the same results mixing ITB and after THIRTY years of mixing why would I change how I mix because a system has deficiences?

Who has time to jump through hoops to get an acceptable result when analog mixers will get the result quicker and better? Not me!

Digital summing might get there eventually.
IF people hammer on the software people hard enough and ASK FOR IT.

Danny Brown
Old 26th September 2005
  #18
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hey guys,
if you haven't yet please read this:
http://www.tllabs.com/index.php?opti...d=20&Itemid=62

cleared alot up for me.
Old 26th September 2005
  #19
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Another strong recommendation is Paul Frindle's posts and the follow-up from Bob Katz and others in George Massenburg's forum on PSW.

There are technical differences mixing digital and analog which many of us are still struggling to master. Many of our analog techniques and habits are counterproductive ITB. Learning the specific issues and techniques required for best results ITB leads to vastly improved results. This doesn't really have that much to do with which technology has the most history, rather, which technology is better understood by engineers. IMO the PSW thread I've pointed to and the TL Labs white paper which Raal pointed to are really worth the effort to understand.

Hope this helps!
Old 26th September 2005
  #20
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u b k's Avatar
 

well, since i already posted on the mojo aspect of things, it'd be nice if i chimed in with something practical.

a key to itb mixing is keeping the levels LOW. pull the faders way back, maybe have the meters peaking at -18 on the channels. pull the master fader back about 6db as well. watch the master meter, if it's pushing -10 you've entered the zone where the digital bus is summing to a huge number and then scaling it way back to get it to fit into a 24-bit output word.

on an analog desk, it's common to start a mix with the kick hitting -9 or -7dbVU and going from there. in digital, i think it's better to start off with the kick peaking more like -18dbFS.

yes, digital has tons of headroom, but that doesn't mean you can use it all with impunity. i know there's the thought out there that by pulling the channels way back on a digital mix you lose resolution, but my ears and experience tell me that keeping everything very conservative results in better transient fidelity and a more open soundfield.

still, i bought the nicerizer .


gregoire
del ubik
Old 26th September 2005
  #21
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So, an update:

Since that first mix where the drums worked so well I've had a chance to mix on an SSL and again in the same room as the first. None of the new mixes worked out as well as the first, even though I did exactly the same conceptual moves to make the drums cut through like that first mix. That makes me think that it was a bit of a fluke, and that I somehow managed to hit a combination of console and outboard 2-bus processing that just worked for that first mix. But again, the drums were really the only cool part of that first mix too. And in all three instances I've remixed the tunes ITB, and they sound way better... more controlled, better balances, better translation.

After doing these "analog" mixes, I'm sure that I could get there given some time and experimentation, but but for now ITB works for me because it's what I've learned to do over the last many years. Ultimately, when budget allows I'll move toward a hybrid set up, with cool outboard EQs and compressors alongside my PT rig.

As always, everyone's input and thought is appreciated. And anymore advice or direction would be great.

-stick
Old 26th September 2005
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b i k
a key to itb mixing is keeping the levels LOW. pull the faders way back, maybe have the meters peaking at -18 on the channels. pull the master fader back about 6db as well. watch the master meter, if it's pushing -10 you've entered the zone where the digital bus is summing to a huge number and then scaling it way back to get it to fit into a 24-bit output word.
Who told you that? It may in fact be a good idea to run your levels low, but I've never heard that rationale. The numbers just flat out get too big? Can it really be that simple?

-R
Old 26th September 2005
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b i k
a key to itb mixing is keeping the levels LOW.
Yes!

Also, don't trust your DAW meters. Peak sample meters lie. They can fool you into mixing too hot, so that you end up with reconstruction errors in a DAC somewhere downstream. Use oversampling meters such as TL MasterMeter or the Oxford Limiter. These are the main lessons of the long PSW thread on ITB theory which I linked to in my earlier post and also of the TL white paper which raal linked to.
Old 26th September 2005
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RKrizman
Who told you that? It may in fact be a good idea to run your levels low, but I've never heard that rationale. The numbers just flat out get too big? Can it really be that simple?

-R
Yes. Read the white paper and the PSW thread linked to above by myself and Raal for the theory and the practical implications.
Old 27th September 2005
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b i k
this is all very much imho, take it for what it's worth:

voltage and electromagnetics are alive, they are energy, they vibrate, they ARE the music.

zeroes and ones are approximations of the vibrations of sound, and dsp is an approximation of an electrical process. doing an approximation of a process to an approximation of music will get you in the proximity of the results you're after, but there is nothing quite like the effect of real circuits manipulating the juice.


gregoire
del ubik
Voltage and electronics are 'real world' yes, but just as much (or even more) an approximation of music as ones and zeros.

Dsp doesn't need to be an approximation of an electrical prosess, it can be much more than just that, that's the beauty of digital imo, the possibilities are endless.
Old 27th September 2005
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b i k

a key to itb mixing is keeping the levels LOW. pull the faders way back, maybe have the meters peaking at -18 on the channels. pull the master fader back about 6db as well. watch the master meter, if it's pushing -10 you've entered the zone where the digital bus is summing to a huge number and then scaling it way back to get it to fit into a 24-bit output word.
It really doesn't need to be, too low signals trough a digital signal chain will sound pretty bad in the end, some plug-ins suffer more from this than others though.

It's a good idea to keep the level reasonably low before hitting the dac, and having a brickwall limiter in place to prevent 'bad signals' from coming through.

Floating point daws have crazy headroom, like hundreds of db's, I don't really understand what you mean by 'the digital bus summing to a huge number and scaling back'.. that's different from feeding a 24 bit dac a too hot signal.

Anyway, I look forward to the new 64 bit daws coming out, it'll be interesting to see if itb summing will sound even better.
Old 27th September 2005
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juicemaster1500
It's a good idea to keep the level reasonably low before hitting the dac, and having a brickwall limiter in place to prevent 'bad signals' from coming through.
If I understand the implications of the TL white paper and other materials noted above, I'm not sure that a limiter is a guaranteed solution. It would depend on how the limiter is implemented. A limiter based on sample values could potentially make the problem of downstream reconstruction errors worse. If the limiting were based on signal level, rather than sample level, all would be well.

The issue with 'bad signals' is all about the difference between samples and signals, and the fact that DAW meters indicate the former, not the latter. The safe solution is to meter properly, that is, to meter signal, which means use of an oversampling meter plugin such as TL's or the Sony Oxford Limiter.

Sorry if this subject seems like my personal little mission in life, LOL! I've struggled to wrap my head around these issues and it seems to me that they're not widely understood by participants here on GS. I think that before making a decision about ITB versus OTB summing, it pays to be as clear as possible re what's happening to signal levels ITB, and why that matters. Then if one chooses to sum OTB, that's 'cause one likes the yummy nonlinearties of analog, not because one feels there's something 'bad' with ITB summing!

--Mark
Old 27th September 2005
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwailoh
I think that before making a decision about ITB versus OTB summing, it pays to be as clear as possible re what's happening to signal levels ITB, and why that matters. Then if one chooses to sum OTB, that's 'cause one likes the yummy nonlinearties of analog, not because one feels there's something 'bad' with ITB summing!

--Mark
I agree with that. I normally run very conservative levels in my DAW, and I've never had the sense that the mix bus is crapping out. But this rationale that the bus adds up numbers that are so big they can't fit into the 24 bit window at the end of the day seems a bit glib. Such a mythical mathematical headroom ceiling would seem to be a very simple thing to design around simply by designing the mix engine to scale back overall levels before they exceeded any summing limit.

-R
Old 27th September 2005
  #29
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Old 27th September 2005
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwailoh
Sorry if this subject seems like my personal little mission in life, LOL!
because of that little mission, at least one guy on this forum has changed the way he mixes!

the summing deal has lost it's voodoo for me, and i now feel confident when mixing ITB (w/outboard). i still haven't decided whether to continue doing that or going OTB, most probably will be a mixture, but with the posts you pointed me to and the TL paper i read, i think i'll now be able to do a better job regardless.

thanks gwailoh.
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