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Tag: Maag

The anatomy of a score mix #3

By popular demand, let’s take a look at the plugins in the session. As you can imagine there’s plenty of different brands and types represented in this mix. I admit that sometimes I suffer from plugin fetish in a way that I fall in love with some and maybe use them many times, but try to actively control myself in this regard.

During the mix I have the luxury to use both AAX DSP and AAX Native plugins as I don’t need to overdub right into the supersession. If we need some additional recording then I prepare another rec session instead of dealing with this huge monster. It would not only be extremely hard to do everything in the supersession during recording but would put immense burden on the recording machine too.

Let’s see the plugins divided into different categories.

EQ

Probably the first one will raise some eyebrows, but I still use it and actually like it. It is very reliable even when you automate the hell out of it.

EQIII

Yes, the old built-in EQ in Pro Tools, available to anyone. It’s versatile, trusty and requires virtually no DSP or CPU power so if you can have zillions of instances.

Avid Channel Strip

This is also a very good choice, a huge plus is it maps on the control surface almost perfectly. Honestly I could mix a whole score only with this. Don’t get me wrong I still love some other EQs, but I’m happy to use this anytime.

BX console

It’s a beautiful Neve emulation and a very good one in fact. Even if I only use the equaliser part of it, I often have it at certain places just for the sound. This EQ always make me smile, it’s smooth and for the lack of a better term, it’s always musical sounding no matter what you do with it. I don’t use it for surgical stuff but for general ‘console’ EQ. Also maps great on the Avid S6.

Maag EQ 4

I really rarely say this, but this thing is magical. Although by today’s standard this is not a flexible tool as it doesn’t offer variable frequencies. But frankly, it is still one of my all time favourite tone shaping instrument. Even half a dB can make huge difference and the Air band is amazing.

Waves API 550

The 550 B and A also falls into the emulations category, and I confess I’m in love with them. For me, these pieces just works. It doesn’t matter what the application is, you can be sure about that if you insert an API on it, it’s going to sound awesome. It has fixed frequency bands, but the bands are overlapping so it is possible to achieve anything you want.

EMI TG 12345

Yes, I know, another vintage emulation… But believe me, they offer vastly different vibes and sound. These oldies are somewhat limited when it comes to features, especially when you compare them to the newcomers, but they still has some very special magic you can’t really achieve with the modern tools.

SSL EQ

I know this is a big fetish in some circles, and for a very good reason. This is for me a very liberating tool. Just insert it, twist the knob and enjoy the result. Not saying that I’m thinking too much when using any other EQ, but this one always makes me smile.

McDSP AE600 Active EQ

This is a very special one. As this masterpiece can be a spectacular EQ and a Dynamic EQ at the same time. I use it for cleaning up things and for general tone shaping. It also sits on all the stems. As much as I love vintage emulations, this EQ offers all the flexibility you’ll ever need. It has 6 fully overlapping fixed and active bands and you can choose from many different curves depending on your needs.

Well, believe it or not, that’s it, I’ve used these EQs during the score mix. I know many think that using these vintage emulations are useless because you can achieve the very same thing with a flexible and modern tool as are able to have many different curves. I won’t say that sometimes it’s impossible to almost or completely match the curve of a vintage EQ. But! And this BUT is bigger than you’d think. The main point here is to achieve what you want rapidly without overthinking and without loosing perspective. If you start to be an engineer with a white lab coat analysing and reproducing different special curves, you surely won’t have a great mix. This is the reason why we still love and use these emulations.

In my opinion during a mix the bottom line is to use any tool that helps you achieve the result you’re after. Different EQs leads to different results and mixing is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Use whatever you like, use it wisely and trust your ears.

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Gala for the Olympics

Today we have a big gala, which is a live broadcast event for us. As we’re getting closer to the Rio Olympic Games, these big events start to pop up everywhere. This one is going to be the official oath taking ceremony.

The show

The easiest and most obvious thing is that we’re going to have two speakers on stage whose job is to announce the ceremony, ask the celebrities to come to stage to speak, and announce the band who will perform a few songs. From this perspective it seems quite simple.

We’re going to have 5 band during the show with different needs.

Probably the flow will be something like this:

  • speeches
  • first band
  • introduction of the celebrities
  • second band
  • speeches
  • third band
  • politicians speeches
  • fourth band
  • short film about the upcoming olympics
  • fifth band
  • end

Let’s see this whole thing from a technical perspective. The live sound part of the show is given, I won’t go into detail with that. For us, the interesting thing is the broadcast part.

Technical background

The whole show will be mixed in Pro Tools HDX2 live with an S6. The basic template comprise of 128 inputs, all mixed down to final stereo which must be compliant to EBU R128 loudness standard. The OB truck receives our stereo mix and sync it with picture.

Sounds simple enough. I’ve got a well worked out template, so in reality it won’t be so complicated. Every band will have its own audio group and VCA master. So I have the ability to process them differently through their own audio group, but at the end I can easily have control over them the VCA masters. This is important because with this method I only have 8-10 faders at the end, which is much more easy to operate than to have 24 or more different types.

So my final MasterMix Layout looks like this:

  • Band 1
  • Band 2
  • Band 3
  • Band 4
  • Band 5
  • Speeches
  • Atmo
  • FX
  • Sum
  • Master

The combination of VCA spill and Layouts will give me the flexibility to reach anything in a second if I need to. For safety I have one Layout for each band, one for the Atmospheres and speeches and one MasterMix which shows me all the VCAs and other necessary groups and the individual mics for the announcers. The Sum group is there for various reasons. One is being a great place for overall level adjustment, the second is to have an easy control point during the live broadcast. Because all the band groups will go through the Sum, but none of the audience mics or announce mics. With this, I can easily level or remove all the performers from the broadcast while still have the announcers and the audience.

Of course, under the hood there’s many more things going on, but here’s a very simplified pic of the routing:

Signal flow

How it all goes

We have one full day for doing all the technical preparations, soundchecks and at the end of the day we have a full rehearsal. The next morning we have a short rehearsal, a final check and then we go live with the show.

While I record everything into Pro Tools, along with the audio the automation will be recorded too, so after the show I’ll have a complete mix with all my moves in the session. So if I need to correct something, it only takes a few seconds to make some adjustment. While our rigs are very stable, we still use multiple backups. One full backup is a Nuendo 5, the other is JoeCo Madi recorder. All running parallel to Pro Tools.

S6 during the rehearsal

Plugins used in the session:

  • Avid HEAT
  • Brainworx BX console
  • McDSP AE400
  • Maag EQ4
  • Softube TLA 100A
  • Brainworx Millenia TCL-2
  • Brainworx bx digital V3
  • Avid ProLimiter
  • Exponential Audio Phoenixverb
  • Exponential Audio R2

At the end of the first day, I can tell you that all the rehearsals went fine, I’ve got everything as it should be. Double-checked all my routings to make sure I won’t fall into my own trap. The fun starts tomorrow.

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