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Tag: avid

Modularity

Some of you probably know that I work for a company where modularity and flexibility plays a huge role in our workdays. Few years ago when we decided to upgrade to Avid S6 controllers we had to find a viable solution to integrate them into our existing workflow. This also means we had to implement things that make changing from one workflow to another feels easy and can happen within a few minutes.

Our Studer systems has been updated and maintained for several years but for many reasons we felt that to remain future proof and to be able to serve the enormous amount of work we need better solutions, yet without abandoning the old one. We achieved this with special roll-over-car for the S6.

Here’s a video sped up to show how one person can change to S6 within five minutes. Five minutes including putting the S6 into position, connecting all the necessary cables and booting up Pro Tools and loading the session. The video is only a bit over one minute:

Avid S6 roll over the Studer system. from Tamas Dragon on Vimeo.

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Why do we need so many reverbs?

Without any introduction, here’s my current list of reverbs:

And this is a curated list as some others has been moved to unused for some time, but not necessarily permanently.

The question is simple, why do I or anyone else need this amount or even more? The answer is not so simple though. Yes, I know many times we can tweak a certain reverb to sound like some other, we can insert EQ, Dynamics and-or Saturation before or after the verb changing its sound. Automation is another thing that can make real difference as we can automate certain parameters to change the type of reverb or the tail multiple times in a song. Combining different reverbs can take you into even more interesting territories, honestly the possibilities are almost endless even if you only have a few different reverb plugins.

It’s a curse

If you don’t have a vision, multiple choices can easily derail the mix process and you find yourself endlessly searching for the best while loosing perspective. The other possibility is what you liked the first day may hate the next and change again on the third. Of course you might just find the best possible reverb for the material but more often than not it’s just brings you further away from the real solution.

Many times I see some purchase all the famous ones thinking that if all the big names use some of these than they must be good enough for the rest. But this kind of thinking is bad. The biggest names in the industry turns out to be very picky when it comes to reverbs. And for a good reason. They use what really works for them. It doesn’t matter if it cost 50 dollars or 300. If it not suit your taste, you can’t achieve what you want, it doesn’t worth your money. Note that it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It only means that it’s not for you.

Don’t be a mindless collector. I mean it is so tempting to pull the trigger when you see the deals on forums and other places. It is easier to read some user reviews and believe it’s going to be just fine for you. And as I mentioned, it’s even more tempting to buy instantly when you see someone famous in the advertisement. But the point is until you tried it, until you’ve thoroughly tested and become familiar with its idiosyncrasies, there’s no way it’s going to be a good purchase.

One strange phenomenon can happen if you have too many choices. Many people think that having endless choices makes you creative as you don’t have any boundaries. But in reality it does the opposite. Ever been in a restaurant where the menu is way too long? Your brain suddenly can’t decide as it has too many choices and frankly many seems like a great choice. It’s the same with this. You won’t be more creative, actually you derail you vision while trying to pick the best from an enormous list. At the end you might have the best that really fits the project but you might as well lost the creative spark, the vision not to mention you wasted too much time and don’t have enough left to polish the rest of the mix.

It’s the best thing

On the other hand, owning many different reverb can be the best thing. For example if you know them well, know your favourites for certain things and have at least an idea where to start, then it’s great to have multiple choices. Some think that owning for example multiple plate reverbs is not necessary as they do the very same thing. But make no mistake, even rooms or plates can have quite different qualities. And most of the time it’s not that one is better than the other, it can be substantially different and that can be the recipe for success. Not all plates created equal or the same.

It’s very easy to test this yourself. Just make a test session with a snare and some other instrument samples. They can be short, mono or stereo. The main thing is that you need some reference samples and they need to be dry preferably. Make an aux where you instantiate the first plate you find in the list. Make it sound great on the snare for example. Then bypass that first insert, and do the same with the second one in the list, and do this until you tried all of your different plates. If you happy with all the settings, simply bypass and reactivate the different plates will deliver you amazingly different results. And this is still true even if you try to match them as close as possible. So having multiple choices even from the same type is not necessarily a bad thing.

And don’t deny, there are happy accidents. When you just insert one from the arsenal accidentally and it turns out to be the best choice. The funny thing is, this can happen with the default preset many times. Just throw it in and hear what it does. If the style is great, you might only want to tweak a few settings to get the desired result. Or just quickly change it to another one. While I love to have my own preferences sometimes it’s fun to really just experiment with different choices and surprise yourself.

If you are like me who love to save your own presets and many times have an idea what might work with the particular material you’re working on, then it’s absolutely the best thing to have a bigger arsenal so you have options. The key is to keep balance, it’s great to have preferences and presets, but it’s also vital to sometimes break free of the good old things and go wild without any preconceptions. By the way the wild experiments can lead you to your best ever presets later on.

So how many do we really need? The only thing I can say is: it depends on the person and the job. Probably if you tend to work on mainly similar material, you don’t need more than let’s say 3-5 different ones. But if you work in many different genres or in the film scoring world, you might need more than that. The solution is to forget the marketing materials from companies, forget the once-in-a-lifetime offers, forget what others use. Think about your own work and needs, make thorough tests and choose what really works for you.

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Consider it done… a positive experience

It’s only fair to vent if you mention the positive things when it comes to customer support. And honestly I like to spread these great experiences so everyone can vote with their money and support the companies who really care about their customers.

The other day I was setting up a score mix and decided to use Exponential Audio’s Nimbus as one of the quasi surround reverbs. I know it’s not available as a multi-channel plugin (not yet), but I thought in multi-mono it can still be a nice solution. However, I’ve found that it’s not available as a multi-mono plugin.

I didn’t know the reason so I wrote to Exponential Audio’s support to ask if this is intentional. They responded within 24 hours, actually read my mail because they already checked that it is really not there as a multi-mono and told me they look into it, it is a bug and they’re going to solve it.

Without too much praise, in my opinion, this is how a professional treat their customers and take care of his/her products. Again, Exponential Audio proved that they not only make some of the best reverbs in the plugin world, but they take their work and support seriously. If you don’t know much about them, go grab the demo, I’m sure you’ll end up spending some money there.

Wonder why do I have so many customer support stories? Because in my opinion simply venting and moaning on different user forums is not enough. We all should send bug reports, crash logs and experiences to developers so they can make the products we use better. Most of them welcome these. Those are the worthy ones.

And voila! This happened almost a week ago, and Exponential Audio already released the updates that cures the problem. What else a mixer could wish for? You can download the new releases here.

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Experiences with the Bx_console

Last week was the first time that I’ve thoroughly tested the Brainworx bx_console. As you probably all know, it’s a Neve VXS console emulation with one very interesting twist that is called Tolerance Modelling Technology. As Brainworx states that basically means they’ve modelled all the channels instead of only one, so they built in the analog components’ variations you’d find in a real console. Although of course all manufacturers try to keep everything as perfect as possible, there are certain tolerances between analogue components as nothing is completely perfect and this is even more true when it comes to older gear. This plugin includes these differences.

Make it even more clever

But “simply” modelling the console was not enough for the team, they made the original thing more clever than ever. There’s some inherent noise in the original which can be easily switched off in the plugin. Also parallel compression is easy within the plugin with the small mix knob. They improved the HP/LP filter section, we can swap the order of EQ and Dynamics. These little and not so little things can make our mix life so much better.

I truly love this new era of plugin emulations where a company not only capture the original hardware and code it into a plugin, but adds certain features that are really useful in real life. This is why we need real audio guys around the geeky coders because this is where engineering meets art and practicality.

Build a console

To really hear and feel the possibilities of this channel strip I decided to virtually build my Pro Tools session as a Neve console so every channel has one instance of the plugin with different channel inside to truly test the new TMT thing.

Only the audio subgroups and the final mix master had different processing. I made my own default preset that has no gate, the compressor is active but works only from -14dBFS if needed, eq flat, noise off.

Just a quick note. I applaud Brainworx for supporting the AAX DSP platform so it doesn’t matter if you use and HDX or a Native system, you can freely and interchangeably use this channel strip. The other huge plus is that their Eucon implementation is great! It’s very convenient to use it with the Avid S6. All the controls are mapped properly so even though it has a nice GUI you don’t see that most of the time because adjusting the parameters from the S6 feels natural.

The sound

Well, this is the hard part. To convey the whole experience, what I experienced, heard and felt during the test period. I only had very little time to test the TMT technology alone, but I feel it adds some intangible thing to the sound, you’ll perceive it’s there in depth rather than tone. It’s very, very subtle so anyone expect to hear those huge night and day differences will be disappointed. This is why I intentionally used the word feel. It’s definitely there but I don’t think there’s a proper term for it to describe what it does sonically. Truly the best way to appreciate it is to use it during a mix and then play the mixed material with and then without it. I liked it so much I saved a template with a full Neve console where every channel has a different number inside the channel stip.

Many times there’s an argument that you can recreate these EQ characteristics with a basic built-in EQ so these vintage emulations are rather useless pieces. Well, I’m here to disagree with this. I mean yes, there’s this possibility. If it’s very easy to recreate your vintage emulation with a built-in EQ, then you know you shouldn’t buy that emulation. This time I really tried to match the Neve curves with a few clean processors and I failed miserably. Sometimes I felt that I got so close but as soon as I tried to A/B the two it was obvious that I’m still far away from it. The key is that this is a real Neve console emulation and it reacts differently, it’s not a clean stock EQ. You can experience this if you really mix with the bx_console. I deliberately ignored the parameters during the mix, just did what I felt sound good and enjoyed the process. It turned out that I used bigger cuts and boosts than I thought. For example with a surgical, clean digital EQ I might cut 1-2dB at 2.3kHz, but with this channel strip it was 4-6dB at the same frequency. The same goes for boosting things. Most of the time I wasn’t shy to boost 4-6 or even 8-10dB and trust me it sounded spectacular. For me this is one of the main differences. You can be brave and nothing bad will happen, trust your ears here.

All in all you might get close to recreate these curves with some other processors but in my opinion it is a useless exercise. Why would anyone spend considerably more time to get in the near ballpark when you can reach THE SOUND in a second with this?

I’d been testing this on very delicate symphonic material where many different processors tend to show their weaknesses but bx_console really shined there. It’s very interesting that this EQ is almost never get nasty. The cuts are not surgical but effective, the boosts are gently shaping the overall sound without the obvious feel of EQ usage.

The second thing I fell in love with is its dynamics section. It’s a very versatile piece but this time you have to be cautious because it’s very easy to overdo things. My advice is to first use a signal generator to understand the threshold values. It works a bit differently than the usual ones. Once you get accustomed to it you can delve into it. This is the section where I feel the guys at Brainworx really did a great job adding more features. Without these, it’s a nice compressor but many times a bit too aggressive for my taste. But, additionally we have the high-pass section and the wet/dry knob. With the help of these it can be a real trusty weapon that does not change the characteristics of your source.

My favourite default setting is to have the dynamics high-pass section at 100Hz and use the wet/dry at 80% wet. Other favourite wet/dry ratios are 70% wet to dry and the 50/50. With these you are able to carefully choose how drastically you want to control the dynamics.

I’d like to emphasise something because if you simply want a vintage Neve emulation for the sake of having the “Neve hype” plugin then be prepared for a terrible disappointment. The original console is considered as a quite natural sounding clean device. It’s not a 1073!

What you get is a very subtle real analogue sound that actually behaves exactly like if you were using a desk for mixing. Except the hurdle of maintaining a real monster and paying the electricity bill. Not to mention the fact that this includes total recall capabilities and improved functions.

I highly recommend to use this channel strip in many cases to get used to its idiosyncrasies. As I already mentioned above, the threshold might feel a bit odd at first, the high and lo-pass filters are not what you might expect from a general digital EQ, as well as you need to get used to the fact that you may boost or cut bigger amounts than you think you should. But once you really start to feel how it really works, you’ll start to feel how fun is to just twist the knob and achieve great sonics without overthinking the whole process. I honestly highly recommend you to check out the bx_console if you haven’t done that already.

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Consider it done…

Something really funny happened. I mean it was frustrating but turned out to be funny. At least I consider it to be that. You might remember my venting about the lack of proper customer service at Gobbler. Basically they couldn’t solve a very basic issue that happened on their side and instead of trying to do something they decided to abandon the case.

Now, after more than a month I’ve received an email from them apologising for the delay and asking if I’m still having that particular problem. Wait a minute… Gobbler’s customer support did nothing to solve the issue. So what do they think? A wizard came by and solved their issue? Honestly I couldn’t believe they seriously sent me that mail.

I thought ok, last chance, I answered their mail and told them that the issue is still present, but honestly I somewhat gave up the hope that they will or able to solve it. Frankly I completely lost faith in Gobbler and not willing to purchase anything through them. Guess what is the answer. They closed my case as if they could solve it and sent me a survey mail so I can rate their customer service’s quality. I mean really???

Probably this is a standard procedure but if only once only one member of their team really cared about this, we could all already forgot the whole thing. But I dare to say after more than a month (almost 2) that they couldn’t care less. And after all that they ask me if I was happy with their service? I think that’s a joke. Beside that it’s really not a real, working customer support.

On a closing note I sincerely hope that any company who offer some of their product through Gobbler will remain partly independent and continue to offer their products without a Gobbler registration. Now it’s clear to me that it was a huge mistake from the Softube guys to offer Gobbler only service.

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