New skin

As you probably already spotted, I just intalled a brand new theme, which is even more minimalistic, more clear than it was before. Hopefully everything is working fine, I tried to check all the things, but if you happen to find anything that seems to be broke, just please tell me so I can correct it.

Enjoy!

Mix tips #3

Considering all the elements. Recently I’ve mixed a complete score for a feature film in 5.1 and while it is great fun, there are some serious matters that you have to be aware of. During mixing the complete score it is very seldom that you can have a complete session which includes all the other elements, that’s the privilege of the dub stage. With all that said, it is a very good idea to grab even a temp dub from the dialogue for example and mix your score against it.

Treat the centre gently

Of course we all want to fill everything with nice solos and strings and effects, but we have to be modest in this area as other sonic elements must be in there. In my experience it is a very good idea if you not only try to clean out the centre channel a bit blindly, but use some real dialogue to put up against your score mix. I can assure you that it will highly affect your decisions. The dialogue doesn’t have to be from the final mix, that will happen later. Even the raw, edited dx tracks can help you make the right decisions at mix time. Make a temp dialogue track and keep it in the mix as much as you can. You’ll unconsciously mix the score to fit in naturally, which has some additional benefits for the whole production.

  • Your mix will sound much more like a finished usable mix
  • It won’t get dissected so hard because you diligently mixed it around other elements
  • The re-recording mixer will have a much easier time
  • Probably the end result is going to be a cleaner, better sounding final thanks to the right decisions

This may sound overly obvious, but believe me, without anything to mix against, it is almost impossible to judge how something will sound. It may very well be one your best shots, but if it masks the dialogue, they need to clear it out.

Be very thorough with the solos. For this discussion it doesn’t even matter if it’s a cello or guitar or piano solo, the thing is, it should be “harmless” to other things that will eventually surround your precious solo. If it lives happily with the dialogue, you’ll have a good chance that it’ll be good with other things too. If in doubt, send a temp mix to the re-recording mixer to check if you’re on a good route.

mix

Generally it is a good idea to treat the centre channel softly as mostly the dialogue and foley lives there in a film. This does not mean that you have to kill it completely, just use it lightly so you won’t fight other elements. Remember, it is about the end product, your mix is only a part of the big picture. Whenever in doubt, ask the re-recoding mixer for input.

Avid Everywhere

Avid just unveiled their new concept at NAB. I followed it on Twitter, read the Pro Tools Expert article and Ceri Thomas’ opinion about it, and to be honest this whole thing is very interesting to me.

I’m one of the many mixers who collaborate every day around the world. With collaboration this time I mean collaborate through the net. Sending sessions and premixes across the ocean, receiving guide tracks and AAFs and OMFs from a distant place, etc. Now it really happens almost daily.

avideverywhere

As I happened to work in feature film recently which absolutely needed this multifaceted collaboration, I really applaud Avid for doing this. Obviously I’ve yet to see any concrete thing, but the whole concept and aim is just the thing we really need in post production. It is my understanding that at the end, it’s promising a really usable audio-video enabled collaboration platform, where our precious metadata is preserved, our mix and change notes are delivered with the sessions, and even communication and exchange between audio and video becomes an easy, streamlined thing.

It would be still early to judge, but my hope is that this can really change things toward our daily fantasy, which is an easily usable, well thought out stable package that is really helping us.

With my recent experiences with many different online, cloud-based services we tried to use for our collaborative work, this new thing from Avid honestly seems amazing. I really hope they will execute and develop it the right way.

Here’s a little video about it, this does not cover the whole picture, but may give some ideas:

Mix tips #2

The second little tip is about distortion. I’m talking about nice, pleasant distortion. It can have two very nice effect on our mixes, first may sound strange. Subtly use of distortion can give certain elements in the mix vivid presence, while glueing the mix together in a spectacular way. The trick is to use just enough, but never too much.

Of course this does not mean that you have to grab a plugin and put it on all the tracks in the session. It is much better to use it sparingly on selected tracks that really need that additional presence. With presence I mean a kind of loudness you cannot achieve otherwise. It’s nothing like using a compressor or riding the fader or eq in certain frequencies. Once you hear it, you’ll know it that it is very hard to describe, much easier to hear it. One good advice I can give you is that if it’s obvious, you’ve overdone it already.

My personal favourites

Sonnox Dynamics

The warmth control in their dynamics pack is just amazing. I use it all the time. You can adjust it from 0%–100% and even use it at low settings gives you very nice results on almost everything. And this is why I really awe this plugin. It is really that spectacular on anything from dialogue through effects to musical instruments. Many times I even use it on a bus just because I need the warmth from the brilliant dynamics.

sonnox dynamics

Soundtoys Decapitator

A unbelievably good sounding beast, but be aware, it is a weapon of mass destruction. Use it very sparingly and you’ll be blown away, but it can be overused quickly. Generally it is a good idea to use the bypass function to compare your setting with the original sound to be sure about that you helped the sound and not just changed it.

decapitator

Softube Saturation knob

This is free plugin from Softube. And it is brilliant! One switch and one big knob to control the amount of distortion. What I really love about this plugin is that it can be very, very subtle, and as this one is extremely efficient, you can use many in a session without much cpu overhead. If you happen to research distortion plugins for Pro Tools, go grab this, it is a very useful tool in any plugin arsenal.

saturation knob

Avid Lo-fi

This is an interesting one. Many thinks that it’s a very good sound design plugin which is not for mixing though. Well, they’re wrong. It is very good for mixing, there’s only one thing you have to remember. It is (just as the Decapitator) a very powerful weapon, if you’re not really diligent, it can be too much before you notice. Use it sparingly (again, this stands for all distortion plugin) and you’ll appreciate what this little built-in plugin can do for you.

lofi

Soundtoys Little radiator

Another Soundtoys gadget. This is a very small little plugin with a huge sound in it for sure. As with any other plugin producing distortion you have to watch the meters to avoid the trap of the louder is the better. However, on this gadget you’ll find a mix knob that helps you to dial in as little or as much tube effect as you like. It might be even a good idea to automate the mix knob sometimes.

little radiator

Some closing thoughts. As I mentioned, distortion can help you give more separation to certain elements, or can help you glue your mix together, but it is a very powerful weapon. As fast as it can help you, these plugins can also ruin your mix very easily if you overdo things. Use your ears and do use the bypass to compare if you’ve really helped the sound. Don’t just automatically put some distortion in there. Use it, if the sound needs it.

Mix tips #1

The first very short tip is about low frequency content. Obviously everyone wants a tight, well-defined low end, which is so powerful that you can feel it in your stomach, yet so clear that it’s never mask or overpower the rest of the spectrum.

To achieve this, our very best friend is the good old high-pass filter. This is not a secret, but we have to be careful with it, or else we can easily kill our sub power, left with a bass shy, thin sounding mix. On the other hand, if we don’t use enough of it, we might end up with boomy bass spectrum, nasty rumbling dialogue, eating up our precious headroom. Neither is good for us, so we have to be cruel and soft at the same time.

Use a 18–24dB/octave high-pass to filter out the junk, the unnecessary rumbling, and use another one, preferably with a gentle 6dB/octave slope to reduce the lower part of the sound.

2highpass

It may sound strange, but with this technique, you’ll have a very natural sounding low-end, which remains powerful, but very controlled. The added benefit is that you can automate it easily, so whenever you need a little less or more cut, just move the filter lower or higher and you’re done.
Alternatively if you don’t have such a clever eq plugin that can provide two high-pass filters, use one high-pass to filter out the super-lows, and use a low shelf to execute the necessary low cut.

highpasslowshelf