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Category: Sound design

Add meaning to programmable buttons

As you might know, one of my favourite input device is the Kensington Expert mouse. It’s sturdy, precise, built like a tank, has programmable buttons and probably most importantly, it’s comfortable.

kensington trackball

For a while I always changed the what the additional buttons do in Pro Tools. Sometimes one simply added a marker, the other did nothing, I had them switch between windows, show different automation curves or start a bounce.

But now I’ve been using them for more than 3 months now to increase and decrease clip gain. It’s tremendous help both during editing and during mixing. I’m admittedly a clip gain fan, so it just makes sense and speeds up my workflow.

To do this, you need to download the Trackball works software from the Kensington website. After successful installation, you can set up the keys under System Preferences/Trackball Works.

I’ve set up the upper two buttons. You’ll need to add the two shortcuts separately.
Here are the shortcuts:


Ctrl+Shift+down arrow = clip gain down
Ctrl+Shift+up arrow = clip gain up


As soon as you’re ready with the settings, it’s going to work.

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Lack of posts (again…)

I know I’ve promised that I have foolproof plans so even if I don’t have time to breathe, posts will come. Well, it seems that my plan failed miserably. At first I thought the start of this year will be a bit more relaxed, but it turned out to be even busier than the end of last year, which was a true chaos schedule wise. I just wanted to let you know that I have no plan to abandon this little place, ironically I have more than ever post to write and publish, but honestly didn’t have time or energy to write.

In the next few weeks though you’re going to read about many things. This hectic first few weeks inspired so many posts. About acoustics and different loudspeakers and their measurement and adjustment. About the importance of critical, analytical thinking when you want to build and operate a big system, and of course, about my beloved DAW, that’s working hard daily almost flawlessly.

Thank you for the many, many emails (I think I’ve managed to answer them all), everything is fine here, I’m busier than ever, more curious than ever, which means I’m going to write many posts in the very near future. Stay tuned!

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Christmas

After another great year I wish every sound enthusiast a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Take a rest from the work, so after the huge celebration we can cut-design-mix even more sounds!

 

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Fabfilter ProQ 2 THE UPDATE

Yes, I mean it, with all capital letters. Honestly I’m very seldom get excited by any software update. When I saw Fabfilter’s sneak peak video about the new ProQ2 EQ, I thought that it’s very nice, I have to try it in the minute they’re going to release it.

The original ProQ has been my go to eq for some months now, no matter what production I’m in. It served amazingly well in music productions, sound design, dialogue mixing, during full re-recording sessions, so literally in every possible scenario.

Now here comes ProQ2, which is considered as a new product, but Fabfilter customers get a very fair discount upgrade price.

ffpq2 q

The update is not a cosmetic thing at Fabfilter, here’s the list of the new things:

  • Different interface sizes and additional Full Screen modeNEW
  • Operates in zero latency mode, linear phase mode with adjustable latency or the unique Natural Phase modeNEW
  • Spectrum Grab: just grab and adjust a peak in the real-time spectrum analyser right away!NEW
  • Filter shapes: Bell, Notch, High/Low Shelf, High/Low Cut, Band Pass, Tilt ShelfNEW
  • Universal filter slope support for all filter types, up to 96 dB/octNEW
  • EQ Match feature to automatically match the spectrum of another track via the side-chain inputNEW
  • Phase Invert option to change polarityNEW
  • Highly improved CPU optimisation: Pro-Q 2 uses less memory and is more than twice as efficient as its predecessor!NEW
  • Optional Gain-Q interactionNEW
  • Auto Gain and Gain ScaleNEW
  • Built-in spectrum analyser with Pre-EQ, Post-EQ and SC modes, adjustable range, speed, resolution, tilt and freezeNEW
  • Optional piano roll display to quantize EQ frequencies to musical notesNEW
  • Large output level meter with peak level readoutNEW

What really should be normal daily operation in the software world, but we all know it’s not, every new function works flawlessly, just as they promised. No weird things, no unkept promises, it’s just works.

ffpq2spectrumgrab

You really have to try it to believe. It’s not only a spectacular sounding eq plugin, but this one also has all the features we wished in post production. So, if you want a trusty eq which is not only good sounding but also “clever”, then try ProQ2.

I truly wish that more developers would go on this route like Fabfilter and Exponential Audio, that we, users really get value for our money.

Just for you to know, this is not a sponsored post, I’m a genuine Fabfilter customer, get the same prices and discounts as any other customer.

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Mix tip #6

This is a really short one, but even after the invention of one button magic plugins and sophisticated metering, it’s still one of the fastest method for correcting some mix problems.

Reverse the polarity

This is the fastest way to detect and solve problems with your ears and cost no nothing, and as a real bonus, can be done in a few seconds easily. It is a general advice because it works great both in post and music production. I know we have many fancy plugins that can detect, show, correct, suggest solutions, but some of them really just a nice GUI with no real value, some cost too much, some eat huge amount of CPU power.

In my opinion, don’t waste your money and time. Use what you already have, your ears and some free plugins.

Just a few examples, you can find these plugins in all Pro Tools versions (Native, HD, etc.) for free:

  • trim plugin
  • any stock Avid EQ
  • Avid channel strip

 

avid trim

 

Post production example

During dialogue editing, reversing the polarity on one track can help you filter out duplicate tracks (contain the very same thing), and detect issues in multi-miked situation.

During the sound design stage, we often layer many sounds on top of each other, sometimes this can be problematic. If suddenly you hear that your layered effect starts to sound too thin, you might have some problem with the phase. Just quickly flip the polarity switch on a plugin which is on the last track (last sound you just added) and listen if it solve your problem. Many times it does.

During the mix stage, when everything comes together and you constantly mixing in tracks, sometimes you might detect strange issues such as the well-known “head twisting” effect, or suddenly your bass and low region is suspiciously and strangely empty, you might simply have to flip the polarity on one or on a few tracks.

 

Avid eq

 

Music production

There’s more occasion than I can mention. Multi-miked situation almost always has some problems. Even a drum kit miked up properly can have some issues. Or if you have two bass drum mics, testing the sound with the polarity switch is a good idea. It pays off very soon as your mix will sound much tighter, the stereo or surround landscape will be more defined and stable.

It can even help between different instruments as this might help separation. If you record something live (studio or stage) there’s the inevitable leakage from other sources. This is generally not a big deal if it is under control, and more importantly if it don’t screw the instruments phase relationship too much. Sometimes, again, a polarity switch can solve these issues too.

 

Avid channelstrip

 

What to listen for

It’s very easy really. You can even test it yourself with an old session where your deliberately force instruments to be out of phase.

The first thing to listen for is the low and bass regions. Every time you hear more healthy low and/or bass, you’ve found the right setting. Probably one of the most obvious example would be a snare drum miked both from the top and bottom. Set both faders to unity and flip the polarity switch on the bottom track. Many times what you’re going to hear is that the snare will be much more punchy and healthy at the lower registers.

The second thing sometimes a bit tricky, but with a very short ear training it’s quite easy to detect without any serious device. This is the “head twisting” effect. I bet once you hear it you’ll know what I’m talking about. It really feels like your head automatically want to turn into different directions. With just one button (you guessed right: the polarity switch) you can solve the issue.

This is a very easy and old thing, but often forgotten. It is so basic that we often forget the whole thing, while it can easily ruin a mix. Don’t afraid to test this, it takes only a second and you might solve many issues with it.

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