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Help and tips needed: mixing a live studio session

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Help and tips needed: mixing a live studio session

Postby Santarosa » Mon Apr 01, 2013 7:23 pm


I recorded a project that will become a dvd. There were 12 bands playing one song each live inside a small studio room. It wasn't too small considering is a home studio. It was L shaped and something like 24 square meters. There wasn't too much acoustic treatment but it didn't sounded bad (neither good). It was ok and it was the room I had to deal with anyway. The fact is that some acts were playing really loud, with instrument amps, wedge monitors, drums and vocals, everything together, no sound barrier of any kind. For the recording I tried to "isolate" (put apart) the vocals as much as I could. The problem was that I had to be in agreement with the video as well, considering the position of the band members, and in some cases I have a big amount of bleeding.

Well, the sessions went as good as it could be. Some bands even chose to have more spilling in the mics than considering to play a little quieter.

What I'm asking here is for you to share similar experience and tricks that helped you to achieve a clearer mix in a similar circumstance. For instance, what kind of effects (delays, reverb, chorus, etc.) could disguise a bit of the room sound and still be natural or good sounding, considering there'll be a video of the session. Also I'd ask for you to point me some good reference material of this kind, if there's any.

Any other idea would be much appreciated.

I will try to attach the first mix I did so you could listen and have a better idea. If I can't attach a MP3 version here then I will try to find another way and will post the mix to you as soon as I can.

Well, the FAQs says one can attach a file but I couldn't find out how to do that. any idea?

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Re: Help and tips needed: mixing a live studio session

Postby Persian Bit » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:59 pm

Well it would be a long long reply, to cover all details and steps of mixing such project. I've been doing this for 15 years or more, so I may be useful in giving you a few quick hints, and then expand these subjects if you needed. The last show of this kind which I did was last year, recording a pop orchestra [a small classical orchestra along with a pop band and 6 different singers\acts] live on stage and later mixed it for DVD. It was a good experience and I yet everytime learn a lot of new tricks.

1. Prepare seperate projects for each song, and then clean up each project and remove unnecessary tracks and sources. Just remove the tracks that has been muted on the desk back in live setup,and keep the unused open mikes. you would later use them as ambience tracks. organize,label and color each track and keep the same colros and scheme for the whole songs and performance so you can quickly dive in to edits and tracks later.

Copy applause and people's sound between each song to seperate files. later you can sequence them between your final mixes.

2. 'Edit' is everything for mixing a live performance. a well edited project can be mixed much easier and faster, cause everything is in right place and you will save a lot of time. It can be started with removing bleedings wherever possible, and goes deeper to replacing and fixing performance mistakes or sound issues.

The tracks\sources that has serious problems can be recorded again in studio but very carefully with the same setup and mikes and using monitors wedges. most instruments can be relaced in studio easily and vocals are the hardest ones to replicate cause it should match the video and all those little words and reactions by the singer. in this case you can use the video to mimic the same performance.

Check all phase issues in this step. it begins with drums, and then checking all faders opened up to see if any sources conflict with each other.

3. Create a mixing template [track layouts, bus groups, FX,...] and use it for all projects. I usually first mix and fine tune one of the hits of the show and when I'm satisfied with the overall sound [EQ,compression,etc] of major instruments [drums,bass,guitar,..] i save them as presets and use on other projects. of course i will have to tune and adjust them to fit each song, but it gives a good starting point and make the whole performance contagious in terms of tone and feel.

Create sub groups for different instrument 'families' [drums,bass,perc, keys, guitarsm...]. as you might know, some of these subs have to be compressed or limited slightly to glue the contents togather and control the groupe output level.

4. Mixing: the main game begins here: you will have a dificult time to fit and mix your live vocal tracks. everything sounds just nice and nearly perfect, untill you open that vocal track with a lot of leakage and bleedings: everything falls and it sounds ugly. there might be serious phase problems as well. You can't keep it open through the mix cause it adds some unwanted ambience and leakage, and when you edit or gate it, the whole leakage comes in and out with vocal lines. If the bleeding is too much and you can't re-record the vocal in studio, you have to live with it and try fiting it in the mix with proper EQ.

there is nearly a million things to discuss for mixing such a project and you should experience them personally and at every stage of the work. the important issue which you pointed too is the reverb. it totally depends on the sound of the venue the show is recorded, and then how the instruments have been recorded. a close miked and clean recording will let you experience with various reverbs if the bands are too different in terms of style and sound. But if you've got too much ambience and leakage from the acoustics, you have to mimic the venue reverb type and shape.

in such situation, you really can't do much with reverbs and delays cause they will make the bleeding problem worst and everything will mess up. So just try to re-create the room's reverb with your plugin.

For drums and some other instruments, you can use triggers to replace messy kick or snare tracks.

One important [and sometimes strange]thing to consider is: your mix would sound different along with picture [video] and it's wonderful how they impact on each other. a normal guitar solo level would sound low when heard in video. This is something that there's no formula for, and you would gain the experience by working on such projects more and more.

When you're done with the mixing, you will give the mixes along with applause\people sounds to the video guy and he will sync up and sequence them. some people prefer to send mastered mixes to the video department, and some leave it the them to master the final sequence. Anyways, you should give them 48khz\24 bit stereo mixes.

I tried not going to too much details and just pass through the whole process quickly. hope it could help a bit. tell me if you needed to go deeper into any subject.
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Persian Bit
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