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Automation : pre vs post channel?

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Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Dave B » Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:57 am

I have a thought rattling around my head and it's probably quite obvious to others, but I thought I'd check :

When you automate vocal levels, should we not be automating the initial gain into the channel rather than simply the level after processing?

I'm thinking that recorded levels may vary quite radically and this would mean that any dynamics processing would have to be fairly heavy handed to keep things under control. But if I were to automate the 'tape trim' (in Logic, I suppose I'd use a gain plug in), then I could more naturally ride the incoming signal and the compressor would have to work less hard and just even out the peaks in the delivery rather than correct level changes. I kind of do this by using the region-based gain control in Logic, but I'm wondering if automation is the way forward for finer control?

I can see the point of automating the fader level post channel processing to ensure that the voice / instrument is not drowned out by the songs dynamics. I just wonder if it's too much too late?

Or are we all doing this already and I'm just late to the party? ;)
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby The Elf » Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:18 am

I use both, depending on my requirement. The way I do it is to either automate the source channel, or automate the Group channel. If I want automation pre dynamics processing I add the processing in the Group and automate the source channel.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby desmond » Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:02 am

Dave B wrote:I'm thinking that recorded levels may vary quite radically and this would mean that any dynamics processing would have to be fairly heavy handed to keep things under control. But if I were to automate the 'tape trim' (in Logic, I suppose I'd use a gain plug in), then I could more naturally ride the incoming signal and the compressor would have to work less hard and just even out the peaks in the delivery rather than correct level changes.

Yes.

So, generally speaking, let's say I have recorded a vocal that's pretty dynamic. Just slapping a compressor on the channel to level the vocal, and then automating the channel for the mix can often result in not great results as the compressor has to work hard to level that overly dynamic vocal.

With a dynamic vocal, I want to ride the vocal with a fader, which means I'll automate the vocal channel to smooth it out, and *then* route it into an aux channel, and I'll put the compressor on there, so it's working with an already smoothed out signal - result, less severe compression and a smoother overall sound. You can then automate that aux channel for mix automation.

I think that's a pretty common/standard technique, when you want to use automation to affect how a signal flows into processing, as otherwise, fader automation is generally post inserts on that channel, so doesn't help.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Sam Inglis » Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:28 am

What they said.

It also used to be common practice to adjust the preamp gain during a performance so as to get a more consistent level on tape.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Zukan » Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:15 am

I wish all the DAWs carried trim. This is what I like about both Mixbus and Reaper.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Mixedup » Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:51 am

For lead vox, depending on the style, I'll tend to work in a few stages — edits and clip gains first, for the worst offenders (including esses and breaths), along with any pitch correction I feel needs applying. Then EQ (which is about levels, when you stop to think about it...). Then a couple of pre-insert level automation passes for a bit finer control where the clip gain is too fiddly. Then compression and any other processing, including maybe more EQ. Finally fader-, send-level- and possibly EQ-automation.

The first stages are essentially about control and correction. The last two stages are more about tone and larger-scale changes (e.g. nudging the level in a chorus), or in light of other things going on in the track.

But perhaps I have a tendency to overthink things :headbang:
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Mixedup » Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:52 am

Zukan wrote:I wish all the DAWs carried trim. This is what I like about both Mixbus and Reaper.

As in trim automation, or a gain/trim control at the top of the channel? Most do the former now, don't they? And for the latter, it's easy enough to add a gain plug-in in the first insert slot. Or have I misunderstood?
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Zukan » Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:12 am

Top of channel Matt. I know a plugin will solve this problem but there is something aesthetic and 'complete' about having the old school trim knob.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Dave B » Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:33 am

Gotcha. I'd not thought about auxes or groups in this way - good to know there's options. I think I was confused slightly by more experienced engineers talking of riding the fader - I guess they mean as an input source to another channel. This now makes more sense.

Cheers chaps
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Mixedup » Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:37 am

Zukan wrote:Top of channel Matt. I know a plugin will solve this problem but there is something aesthetic and 'complete' about having the old school trim knob.

Ah, understood. It's in Cubase/Nuendo, along with HPF, LPF and polarity, which is nice. It always annoyed me that this stuff wasn't there by default in PT or Logic and that I had to use up an insert slot!

Reaper doesn't have a control in the mixer or the arrange page — at least not by default... though it's possible to create one — but it does have an automation lane for 'Volume Pre-FX', which is very handy.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby The Elf » Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:36 pm

It looks like we are now getting 16 insert slots in Cubase, with definable pre/post switchover point, so setting up pre/post fader dynamics directly within the source channel alone is going to be tidier and more practical. No need to use a Group to preserve insert slots now.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Sam Inglis » Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:35 pm

Pro Tools has Clip Gain which can be used as a trim function pretty easily.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Mixedup » Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:51 pm

Sam Inglis wrote:Pro Tools has Clip Gain which can be used as a trim function pretty easily.

Yeah, it's handy — the Dynamic Clip Gain, which is essentially clip-based level automation (also available in Reaper and, I'm sure, some DAWs that are less familiar to me), is particularly useful, and is something that's lacking in some DAWs (eg Cubase, where you only have level and fade in/out on the clip envelope).

That said, sometimes I still like to use a control surface for this stuff, which requires a dedicated pre-insert gain control for the whole track, not just the clip(s) — as in Cubase/MixBus.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby desmond » Thu Nov 16, 2017 4:50 am

The Elf wrote:It looks like we are now getting 16 insert slots in Cubase, with definable pre/post switchover point, so setting up pre/post fader dynamics directly within the source channel alone is going to be tidier and more practical.

That's a great feature! :clap:
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Mixedup » Thu Nov 16, 2017 11:36 am

The Elf wrote:definable pre/post switchover point

I don't need 16 insert slots, but this is something I've wanted for a while! There look to be a fair few features that are basically long-standing requests from the existing userbase: :clap:
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby molecular » Thu Nov 16, 2017 2:15 pm

Mixedup wrote:
Sam Inglis wrote:Pro Tools has Clip Gain which can be used as a trim function pretty easily.

Yeah, it's handy — the Dynamic Clip Gain, which is essentially clip-based level automation (also available in Reaper and, I'm sure, some DAWs that are less familiar to me), is particularly useful, and is something that's lacking in some DAWs (eg Cubase, where you only have level and fade in/out on the clip envelope).

I love the clip gain feature, and the way it's executed with the little fader in each clip is great.

I have quite often used the following order

Clip Gain for anything that stands out as a "level change" after recording > track compression > track automation

for e.g. a vocal track or a VO.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby The Elf » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:20 pm

Mixedup wrote:
The Elf wrote:definable pre/post switchover point
I don't need 16 insert slots, but this is something I've wanted for a while! There look to be a fair few features that are basically long-standing requests from the existing userbase: :clap:
But no multitrack Audiowarp - waaaaah!!! :thumbdown: :( :( :(

This one has been on the request list for years.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Mixedup » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:26 pm

The Elf wrote:But no multitrack Audiowarp - waaaaah!!!

Huh? As in being able to warp multitrack drums? You've been able to do that for several versions. Or have you a different sort of multitrack warp in mind?
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby The Elf » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:34 pm

Split and quantise, yes, but not warp.
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Re: Automation : pre vs post channel?

Postby Mixedup » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:40 pm

The Elf wrote:Split and quantise, yes, but not warp.

Sorry, yes, I was thinking of the split/fades.

IIRC correctly, you can import and warp multichannel files with lots of channels... it's just that Cubase itself can't create such files. Audacity can. But it's a cludge, I suppose.

I'm curious, though. What sort of material are you wanting to warp? (warp always sounds hideous on drums... and most other stuff is easy enough to retrack...) Stacked bvox, I suppose?
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