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The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

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The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:01 am

To achieve a cleaner sound with less risk of peaking, I took the advice of folks here, and now I always record at high bit rates and use -12dB as my peak reference, right through the system.
However, I think it must come from my analogue recording days, when I always used to keep the level up as high as possible, to avoid noise, and now the waveforms on my screen are pathetically small, it makes me feel insecure, and then going in and increasing the levels or normalising things just doesn’t feel right, as I’m obviously "throwing away" bits.
It all sounds fine, it’s just that I can’t put my confidence in high bit rate recordings, I’ve always been used to big healthy levels, and this just feels like it’s going against the grain.
I still record to tape now and again, and it’s a big relief, the meters actually become sort of irrelevant! and I have to use my ears to either achieve a clean sound, which isn’t the point, as I always use tape when I need a colouration, or a nice distortion, it seems a much more intuitive way of recording, and unlike digital, the results are very varied, and distortion is controllable and progressive.
Digital is great we all know that, but it still makes me feel insecure, it’s like recording into an invisible intangible medium.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Kwackman » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:16 am

What's your DAW?
In Cubase there's a slider type control to increase/decrease the size of the waveforms.
I use it for the same reason you give.
I guess other DAWs may have this option too?
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:29 am

Kwackman wrote:What's your DAW?
In Cubase there's a slider type control to increase/decrease the size of the waveforms.
I use it for the same reason you give.
I guess other DAWs may have this option too?

That’s an idea, I’m on Reaper, I can make the tracks bigger, but I’ll have to investigate the waveforms.

PS!

Done it! Shift plus ^ on Reaper, and it doesn’t alter the audio level.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:31 am

There are two things you can do on Reaper to help, one is to extend the meter scale, the other is to change the render of the waveform. They're both explained on another recent thread, I just have to go away and find the link now. :)
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:32 am

blinddrew wrote:There are two things you can do on Reaper to help, one is to extend the meter scale, the other is to change the render of the waveform. They're both explained on another recent thread, I just have to go away and find the link now. :)

Drew, I’ve done it, Shift plus ^ does it.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:37 am

Interesting comments....... just imagine how insecure you'd feel if you'd started off with digital with all the information, and visual feedback it offers and then have to work with tape!

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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:41 am

Arpangel wrote:
blinddrew wrote:There are two things you can do on Reaper to help, one is to extend the meter scale, the other is to change the render of the waveform. They're both explained on another recent thread, I just have to go away and find the link now. :)

Drew, I’ve done it, Shift plus ^ does it.
Yep, that increases the size of the waveform but if you have some very different (or very dynamic sources) it can render somethings into a block (or other things shrink).
Fortunately there are a couple of other things you can do (courtesy of James P! :) )

1) extend the default level of the meters so that they go from -96 to +12 rather than -62 to 12. Which just makes your levels look proportionally larger.
Options > Preferences > Appearance > Track Control Patterns > then change the minimum value in the VU meters section.
2) change the waveform view from a linear display to a logarithmic display. To change this setting go to the actions menu, click on actions list and then search for Peaks:scale peaks by square root (half of range is 12dB rather than 6dB).
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:43 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:Interesting comments....... just imagine how insecure you'd feel if you'd started off with digital with all the information, and visual feedback it offers and then have to work with tape!

Bob

Now that’s a massive can of worms, the "committing ideas earlier to tape" worm, the "getting too involved in digital editing" worm, the "believing your eyes more than your ears" worm, to name just three...

:D
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby ef37a » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:55 am

Yes, Samplitude has two +&- zoom controls at the extreme lower right hand edge of the track scene. Reaper has similar but it is B hard to see on 15.6" screen! These can expand the waveform in both X and Y directions.
Adobe 1.5 also has a waveform zoom function but it is a bit of PITA to find and use. Later versions might be better.

If you think about it, all DAWs must have this function else how could you put 50 tracks on even quite a large screen?

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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:59 am

ef37a wrote:Yes, Samplitude has two +&- zoom controls at the extreme lower right hand edge of the track scene. Reaper has similar but it is B hard to see on 15.6" screen! These can expand the waveform in both X and Y directions.
Adobe 1.5 also has a waveform zoom function but it is a bit of PITA to find and use. Later versions might be better.

If you think about it, all DAWs must have this function else how could you put 50 tracks on even quite a large screen?

Dave.

Yes, I can make "tracks" big or small using those + and - buttons on the screen, but also, using shift and ^ just expands selected waveforms within the track.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby ore_terra » Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:15 am

As said above, it’s just a visual reference... I only care about it for editing. When I’m done editing I normally reduce track size to nearly the minimum, so I’m always seeing waveforms as a small black line, or even nothing if I have it to the minimum (Cubase)
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:16 am

Arpangel wrote:However, I think it must come from my analogue recording days, when I always used to keep the level up as high as possible...

But because analogue meters never revealed the available headroom, you really weren't 'recording as high as possible' at all. You still had 10-12dB of headroom even when you'd pinned the VU meter to the end stop. It's a constant frustration that so many people either don't understand this, or have forgotten it!

...now the waveforms on my screen are pathetically small, it makes me feel insecure

Yes, I get that... but a decent DAW will let you boost the amplitude of the waveforms precisely to overcome this 'problem'. Some also provide one or more (very useful) logarithmic display options to maintain a sensible waveform with very dynamic material, so you can still see the quiet bits without blocking out the loud bits. SADiE, my recording and editing DAW of choice, offers eight different waveform display algorithms.

...going in and increasing the levels or normalising things just doesn’t feel right, as I’m obviously "throwing away" bits.

The only thing you're throwing away by normalising/gain boosting is headroom at the output and in the monitoring... although working with higher internal levels might also affect the operation and character of modelled vintage-style plugins.

However, since all DAWs operate in floating-point internally, there won't be any overloads or clipping within the mix itself... but it really does make life a lot easier if you can maintain normal headroom margins when mixing by persuading the DAW to display the waveforms in a more practical way!

I can’t put my confidence in high bit rate recordings...

:?: I fear this doesn't mean what you think it means! :o

If you're talking about a linear PCM digital audio signal, a 'high-bit rate' is synonymous with a high sample rate -- 96kHz, 192kHz, or whatever. Or, if you're talking about the output from a lossy codec, a 'high-bit rate' equates to the least efficient, but also the least damaging coding format. Lossy codecs exists to produce the lowest bit-rate possible...

As Eddie points out below (and I've edited this to add it for completeness) you're probably thinking of 'bit depth' or -- more correctly -- word-length meaning the number of quantising bits employed per sample (16, 24, etc). In the context of your comments, it would make sense to be referring to recording with a long word-length of 24 bits.

I’ve always been used to big healthy levels, and this just feels like it’s going against the grain.

That's because you're letting your eyes determine what you hear!

...unlike digital, the results are very varied

One of the reasons the industry moved wholesale into digital! :D

H
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Arpangel » Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:23 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:]

One of the reasons the industry moved wholesale into digital! :D

H

Yes, so did I, it was a revelation, and for my music, personally, or for anyone that made quite dynamic recordings, classical, and quiet, ambient style music...no hiss!
It was at a time when distressing and coloration were yet to become popular as a creative tool, in the way they are today, and cleanliness and transparency were the order of the day.
Because it was all new to us, a new sound, creatively digital enabled us to do many more things, that would have got lost in the analogue soup.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Zukan » Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:59 am

Not being a Trump Tone but it's bit depth not bitrate.
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jan 16, 2020 12:04 pm

Ah yes. That makes a lot more sense -- well interpreted Eddie!

24 bit recordings have a long 'word-length', or a large 'bit-depth'...
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 16, 2020 12:12 pm

Speaking as one who has suffered from these delusions in my past... most people feel that they have an understanding of digital audio right from the off. It is only when you realise that you don't understand it as well as you thought you did that you begin to get a real understanding!

I move in circles where I still see the dreaded stepped waveform drawn and the word 'resolution' used a lot. Unfortunately many people find these 'intuitive' concepts more comfortable to cling to than the reality.

And yes, the 'thin waveform' and 'wasted bits' are part of that world...
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jan 16, 2020 12:39 pm

The Elf wrote:I move in circles where I still see the dreaded stepped waveform drawn and the word 'resolution' used a lot.

Tell me where they are...we have a dedicated troop of SOS 'Education' Ninjas primed and ready to 'deal' with these people... :shocked: :silent:
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 16, 2020 12:41 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
The Elf wrote:I move in circles where I still see the dreaded stepped waveform drawn and the word 'resolution' used a lot.
Tell me where they are...we have a dedicated troop of SOS 'Education' Ninjas primed and ready to 'deal' with these people... :shocked: :silent:
I'll refrain from naming and shaming, but we're not talking primary schools! :lol:

One day I'll tell you about my method for teaching about dithering! :mrgreen:
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Wonks » Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:06 pm

The Elf wrote:I move in circles

Try moving both legs instead of just one. It helps. :D
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Re: The insecurity of small waveforms on your DAW

Postby Rich Hanson » Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:11 pm

Some of my friends are analogue hifi nuts. We were talking about Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds recently, and the subject of the tapes shedding and having to be baked and transferred to digital... "it's good they're preserved but they'll have lost that analogue air now". I know I ought to educate such obvious bullcrap, but I just can't be arsed!
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