Time to time this question/observation comes up on different audio forums, or someone ask another guy about this, or sometimes I get emails about this. Is it good or bad practice? What’s the idea behind it? Is it just a game? Or some weird habit? Questions like these emerge. I saw guys who swears that it is the only method, heard others who ridicule it.
As it seems to be, this is one of the dark spots of mixing, I’ll try to shed some light on it. But first things first, let’s see what it is. After the soundcheck, raw mix, pre-mix, pre-dub, etc. you see this on the console or control surface.
Everything at unity, not even a millimetre below or above. How does it make sense? Well, there are multiple answers for this. If you see this for example in a live sound environment and then see the guy mixing with the gains to adjust his/her mix, than it’s simply a bad habit, or if you like twitter, it’s a #mixfail. Faders are there for us to help adjust, massage the levels inside the mix and as we have more than one fingers we can adjust multiple channels/groups at once. I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why it is good.
On the other hand, there’s logical explanation for the “ruler-flat faders”. When you begin a mix, be it live or post mix, music or for picture it is definitely a good idea to adjust everything so if your faders are at unity (ruler-flat) then you have a good starting point. This is the point of this whole thing. With all faders at unity, you have a good raw mix, pre-dub, etc.
- If you have to send the session into any other place in the World, they open it, and can start to do their mixing job right away. With faders at unity, they don’t have to do anything, able to start automation, trimming, anything, but first of all, listening to the mix, they have a good starting point.
- In live sound, after the often frantic sound check, you have ample room to go below or above unity, but at the ruler-flat state you should have a pretty good mix already
I don’t say that this is the only method to follow or even the right one, but still, I hope with this in mind it at least makes sense why so many people doing this way.