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jtcoops



Joined: 29/08/07
Posts: 137
Mixing in the box - what affects rendering?
      #947079 - 13/10/11 11:45 PM
Hello

I have an ongoing dilemma and really want to get to the bottom of it... here goes:

When mixing on a DAW, what has greater effect on overall summing/rendering? is it processor, audio interface or software? I am guessing the audio interface is just for AD/DA conversion, so any number crunching to mix 24 tracks of audio is going to be processor led along with algorhythms from the DAW unless routing to outboard is a factor (not in my case). On that basis, upgrading an audio interface won't make any difference to the way rendered mixes sound. Am I right?

Reason for the dilemma is that something is going wrong with my mixes and its getting worse so I'm trying to get to the bottom of it.

I use Nuendo 3, with a Motu 24 i/o card, Windows XP on a Core 2 /3GB ram PC, UAD card and Liquid Mix 32.

When working on a mix and playing it back with the stereo bus output fed into my desk and through monitors I can get the mix sounding just right. If I Export the mix (even keeping sample rate and bit rate the same) the stereo file on playback sounds duller, and either the vocals jump out or the guitars for example sound too quiet, so I end up exporting a mix with tweaking levels on the basis of what is lacking in the mix file, rather than what I hear in monitoring.

I figured internal summing may be the problem, so routed 4 x stereo pair outs through my desk, and recording the desk mix back into Nuendo on a stereo channel, and although better than the Nuendo rendering was still not as good on playback as the original coming through the desk.

The real problem comes when mastering for CD, as the mix seems to degrade further after resampling to 44.6 and dithering to 16 bit. By the time a mix hits MP3 its flat, lifeless and dull - to the point that reverb tails seemingly dissapear.

This has only really been a problem for the last couple of months months but seems to be getting worse.

Therefore, does this point to the interface, something wonky/corrupt in Nuendo or a PC issue (PC is not on the internet and has never had a Windows update and has the same plugins etc since its build in 2008 and generally has been stable as a result). I need to get to the bottom of the problem - I have an albums worth of material I am trying to get mixed down for CD and its driving me mad that what sounds great coming straight from the desk sounds so different in a stereo file. Especially as this didnt used to be the case. I was going to buy a new audio interface, but am now not sure if that would make any difference.

Any thoughts? Anyone had similar issues? Any help much appreciated.


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Jonnypopisical



Joined: 16/07/05
Posts: 1161
Loc: Oakham
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #947087 - 14/10/11 01:07 AM
Hi,

Just things first - the audio interface has nothing to do with the rendering process or the quality of the DAW 'summing'. It sounds like something funky is going on with your routing. All DAW sum the same 1+1 is always 1.

It's not clear from your post but are you mixing in the box and monitoring out of a stereo pair of your interface or are you splitting tracks across more than a stereo pair?

If it's all ITB and just a stereo pair the bounced file should be identically to your mix as you hear it - how are you monitoring back the mix - make sure there is nothing across the stereo buss...mix plugs for example....

JP

--------------------
Mac Pro, Logic Pro, lots of software and 17 hard drives!


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humandrums



Joined: 26/01/10
Posts: 178
Loc: liverpool uk
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #947093 - 14/10/11 03:36 AM
yep had the same problems, the only way i found of getting round it was to record from my main pc to another pc, we use motu 828 mk3`s sometimes we go through a sonic maximizer in between the two pc's but it defo gives us the best results instead of a mix that lies, its not really a viable option i suppose for a lot of people we had two decent pc's and interfaces and tried it and defo get results we are way happier with

--------------------
www.humandrums.com
online session drumming at realistic prices


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desmond



Joined: 10/01/06
Posts: 9146
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #947097 - 14/10/11 07:02 AM
Quote jtcoops:

On that basis, upgrading an audio interface won't make any difference to the way rendered mixes sound. Am I right?




Yes.

Quote jtcoops:

When working on a mix and playing it back with the stereo bus output fed into my desk and through monitors I can get the mix sounding just right. If I Export the mix (even keeping sample rate and bit rate the same) the stereo file on playback sounds duller, and either the vocals jump out or the guitars for example sound too quiet, so I end up exporting a mix with tweaking levels on the basis of what is lacking in the mix file, rather than what I hear in monitoring.




In my experience, when most people complain of issues like this, it turns out that they are listening to the bounced mix through a completely different chain than what they are listening to in their DAW - for instance, in their DAW the mix sounds fine going directly to their audio interface, then they bounce out to a wav/aiif/mp3/whatever, load that into something like iTunes to play it back, and it sounds different - because iTunes has all kinds of loudness maximisation and EQ rubbish going on, and is then going through the system volume which is turned down etc etc - of course it's not going to sound the same.

So how are you listening to your rendered bounces, in order to compare them to how it sounds in your DAW?

In general, the DAW is writing to a file the exact same bytes that are hitting the main outputs which you are monitoring from - in most cases it's not even possible to get something different in the bounced file to what you are hearing (in some cases, the odd plug might slightly misbehave doing an offline bounce causing things to sound different to a realtime bounce, but that's about it.)

Quote jtcoops:

I figured internal summing may be the problem




Seems unlikely - summing is rarely a problem in a DAW, as it's quite a trivial process to do properly.

Quote jtcoops:

The real problem comes when mastering for CD, as the mix seems to degrade further after resampling to 44.6 and dithering to 16 bit. By the time a mix hits MP3 its flat, lifeless and dull - to the point that reverb tails seemingly dissapear.




Again, how are you listening to the files?

Quote jtcoops:

This has only really been a problem for the last couple of months months but seems to be getting worse.




Hmm - what's changed with your setup in the past couple of months to make this a problem now, where it wasn't before?

Quote jtcoops:

Therefore, does this point to the interface.
I was going to buy a new audio interface, but am now not sure if that would make any difference.




The audio interface will not change the bytes that are written to the bounce file at all. Buying something is unlikely to magically fix your problem - you need to methodically try and understand and get to the route of the problem before you can fix it, I'm afraid.


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Mixedup
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Joined: 03/09/03
Posts: 4835
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Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: desmond]
      #947098 - 14/10/11 07:24 AM
If it genuinely *is* different, it's often that you've got the Cubase/Nuendo 'Control Room' active and duplicating the output while mixing. Or that you have some routing in your CueMix software for the MOTU card that's doing a similar thing - sending duplicates out to different channels on the desk in that case.

Also, check levels. What are levels like on your mixer channels when monitoring? Are you listening back to the bounce over the same setup.

The audio interface has nothing to do with it, unless bouncing out through your desk.

Check with headphones, just to take your monitoring environment out of the equation. It's quite possible for significant differences in sound occur in a poorly treated room just by moving your head an inch or two!

Finally, there's no reason why an off-line bounce in Nuendo should sound any different to playback during the mix. If anything, it should be better, as you can get some plug-ins (eg Cytomic's The Glue) to operate at higher resolution during render, and the computer isn't having to deal with real-time issues so won't suffer from CPU overload as it can when working in real time.


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BJG145



Joined: 06/08/05
Posts: 3462
Loc: Norwich UK
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #947102 - 14/10/11 08:12 AM
^^^^^

What they said. I was wondering about checking that you're rendering the file at the same spec the project is running at, importing it back into Nuendo, matching the level and A/B-ing the mixed track against the project tracks.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 22064
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #947121 - 14/10/11 10:22 AM
I agree with these guys. it's probably becuase the monitoring sourceand chain are significantly different between listening to your mix and listening to the finished file.

Have you tried pulling the mix file back into the DAW session, muting everything else, and playing it back from there?

As for the MP3 thing killing reverb tails and sound lifeless... yes. That's what it does!

hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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andy cross
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Joined: 22/04/03
Posts: 193
Loc: Cambridge, England
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #947189 - 14/10/11 04:41 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:


Have you tried pulling the mix file back into the DAW session, muting everything else, and playing it back from there?
hugh



You could flip the phase of the mix and check it cancels against the multitrack (provided you've aligned them correctly). That way you can reassure yourself there's no funny business going on in the rendering.


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C.LYDE
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Posts: 231
Loc: South Africa
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #947265 - 15/10/11 07:21 AM
Just a comment related to the routing. I routed my output signals to both monitors and stock std hi-fi and set listening levels with CD (music suitable to what I'm mixing). That way the effect of 'listening level' is not that significant to my mixing decisions. I could A/B between my mix and the CD at any point. A very useful tool to have - http://www.samsontech.com/samson/products/processors/c-class/ccontrol/

--------------------
C.LYDE
http://soundcloud.com/c-lyde


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jtcoops



Joined: 29/08/07
Posts: 137
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #950510 - 31/10/11 04:43 PM
Well its taken a while, but I've been experimenting on and off - oddly a few mixes were coming out fine so I figured I had imagined the whole thing until today when I've had a complete nightmare mixing down a live recording. Every time I render it in Nuendo it comes out wrong when played back in Wavelab, - the guitars are too loud, or the overheads are dominating, or the vocals are lifeless. Doesnt matter if its bounced at the same bit rate/sample rate or dithered down.

In desperation I ripped out all the compression inserts from the Liquid Mix I tend to use and replaced them with a basic VST compression plug in, did another mix and hey presto, the render is identical to what I am hearing on normal playback.

Therefore it has to be something with the Liquid Mix thats causing my troubles. It doesnt seem to be every time, so now I'm going to experiment with it on group channels and individual channels and see if I can work out what causes it to mess things up.

The hunt for an answer continues....


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Wease



Joined: 17/07/03
Posts: 2239
Loc: Sunny Walsall
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #950520 - 31/10/11 05:22 PM
Quote jtcoops:

.....

In desperation I ripped out all the compression inserts from the Liquid Mix I tend to use and replaced them with a basic VST compression plug in, did another mix and hey presto, the render is identical to what I am hearing on normal playback.

The hunt for an answer continues....




Sounds as if your bypassing the liquid mix in some way when your bouncing the files - a possible latency issue?? - bussing issue??

to avoid this, you could bounce individual stems - if you mix this way....

If the problem is intermittent (as you say) - then maybe your using the liquid on some busses that arn't being sent to the final output mix - I'd look to see (hear?) if the mixes that arn't working when bounced have liquid on some busses....and if the ones that are working have liquid just on individual tracks...or visa versa......

good luck with tracking the issue! - please tell us when you've found an answer

(BTW - what are your settings on the liquid mix manager when the files don't bounce properly compared with when they do - just trying to see every possible issue!)

--------------------
http://soundcloud.com/seaapes


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Jack Ruston



Joined: 21/12/05
Posts: 4546
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #950550 - 31/10/11 08:16 PM
Are you rendering faster (or slower) than realtime? If so, perhaps the liquid mix can't support non realtime operation and it's bypassing those processes....?

A word from the wise (stop laughing at the back there): Rendering, Bounce To Disc (in PT) whatever you want to call it, is a risky business. Either designate an internal bus to print the mix to an audio track in your DAW (in real time obviously) if you're mixing in the box, or just bring it back in on a spare input pair and print straight to an audio track if you're summing externally or using an analogue bus chain.

J

--------------------
www.jackruston.com


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jtcoops



Joined: 29/08/07
Posts: 137
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #950567 - 31/10/11 10:34 PM
When the Liquid Mix is in use, exporting to a stereo file is done in real time. Without it the render is much faster. Also the lights flash on the Liquid Mix during export, which seems to suggest it is doing something, but perhaps not what is should be doing.

I have 2 firewire cards in the PC, I will check they both have the Texas Instruments chipset, as I have heard that only the T I set performs properly with Focusrite stuff.


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jtcoops



Joined: 29/08/07
Posts: 137
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #950568 - 31/10/11 10:36 PM
I have been routing the stereo mix through the desk and back into Nuendo printing to a new stereo track recently and this generally works ok. I guess seeing as both need to work in real time I may as well continue along that path regardless.


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4TrackMadman
active member


Joined: 30/10/02
Posts: 1745
Re: Mixing in the box - what affects rendering? new [Re: jtcoops]
      #950571 - 31/10/11 10:55 PM
I remember Cubase had a stereo spread designation option (stereo pan law?) when saving to wav file, maybe Nuendo has that and it has changed?

--------------------
www.descentintomadness.com


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