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Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

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Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby BJG145 » Tue Aug 28, 2018 4:55 pm

This is a basic query about mixing; just trying to improve my understanding.

In the current SOS, Stu White notes: "I need tons of headroom, and everything that I receive tends to come in too hot. The first thing I do when I get a multitrack in is clip gain everything down to where I have a ton of headroom. One reason is that Beyonce's dynamic range is incredible...and I'd be a terrible engineer if I was clipping my recordings of her."

I get the impression here that he's talking about changing the gain of the audio in a bunch of tracks, and not just ones where Beyonce is singing; and not just turning down the fader level. But if that's the case, I don't understand why Beyonce's dynamic range has anything to do with it, so I guess I'm missing something. Maybe someone can clarify what he's talking about here...?
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby desmond » Tue Aug 28, 2018 5:13 pm

Maybe the loudest parts of her vocal are really too hot for his mixing preference, and the reference mix project has been set up with these levels and so is also really hot, with the quiet stuff pulled up with automation/compression etc.

By gaining everything down, he's pulling the whole mix down to give more headroom for the mix buss and the plugins etc, which is a better place to work in general, and thus everything runs less hot and hopefully sounds better as a result.
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby James Perrett » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:38 pm

The most likely possibility is that he's using plug-ins that assume that signals will always be below 0dBFS and act badly if they aren't. Any eq boosts or compressor make-up gain would result in peaks that the plug-ins couldn't handle. There are other plug-ins such as tape emulation that assume a certain level and work best with signals around that level.
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby BJG145 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:20 am

OK, yeah, I get that...ta...!
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Wonks » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:00 pm

Or even sending to outboard hardware effects that also will overload with too hot a signal. You don't want the loudest, most noticeable parts of the singing, to be distorted.
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Forum Admin » Wed Aug 29, 2018 3:12 pm

I always like to post a link to the article when a member is referring to it, even though initially it is a locked subscribers-only article -- non-subbers can always buy the single article PDF ;-)

So here it is: SOS September 2018 https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/inside-track-beyonce-and-jay-z-apeshit
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Sep 01, 2018 7:28 am

I think he simply means that because the vocal is dynamic, he needs plenty of headroom at all stages of the mix, so that he doesn't have to hold it back to avoid some sort of clipping. If everything starts too hot, and you have to pull the whole lot down later, it will affect the whole cascade of processes that depend on input level for their level of compression, or saturation. Digital mixing makes the process of creating more dynamic range easier, because you can precisely pull things down, but you may affect processes that exist 'downstream'. For that reason, he starts by creating lots of headroom before any of that is put in place.

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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:19 am

So, at present, if I record some (24/44.1) tracks with, say, peaks at -12dB I should not do anything to increase the gain of individual tracks until the mix is complete? This is what I do now but I used to normalise individual tracks before mixing which I now think is not a good thing to do.
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Sam Inglis » Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:51 am

You'll be fine, and yes, definitely a good idea *not* to normalise the tracks prior to mixing.

In general I think this is something people worry about too much. The whole point of a 24-bit digital system is that you have, in effect, unlimited headroom. It only goes wrong when people insist on recording and mixing stupidly hot.

In recent years I've taken to doing my initial rough mixes in Pro Tools using the Clip Gain feature, so that I can start the mix proper from a point where all the faders are at zero. But that's primarily an ergonomic decision not one to do with sound quality.
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby The Korff » Fri Sep 14, 2018 12:13 pm

Sam Inglis wrote:In general I think this is something people worry about too much. The whole point of a 24-bit digital system is that you have, in effect, unlimited headroom.

It's the floating-point nature of most DAW mix busses that gives you thousands of decibels to play with, not the bit depth per se (and most DAWs now use 32- or 64-bit floating-point maths for their summing).
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby redlester » Fri Sep 14, 2018 12:28 pm

Wonks wrote:Or even sending to outboard hardware effects that also will overload with too hot a signal. You don't want the loudest, most noticeable parts of the singing, to be distorted.

Looking at the photo at the head of the article as linked, I would think it's absolutely definite that he's using a lot of outboard gear. Is that a Teac A3440 on the far right hand side? I used to have one of those in the '80's! Saw one on eBay go for about £550 a couple of weeks ago. I did consider it, but all it would do would be sit there looking pretty.
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Humble Bee » Fri Sep 14, 2018 12:37 pm

Love things with wooden sides... :beamup:
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Sep 14, 2018 1:13 pm

It's the 'Micky Mouse' ears that get to me :blush:
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Sam Inglis » Fri Sep 14, 2018 2:17 pm

The Korff wrote:It's the floating-point nature of most DAW mix busses that gives you thousands of decibels to play with, not the bit depth per se (and most DAWs now use 32- or 64-bit floating-point maths for their summing).

you are correct of course
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Sep 14, 2018 3:07 pm

Sam Inglis wrote:In recent years I've taken to doing my initial rough mixes in Pro Tools using the Clip Gain feature, so that I can start the mix proper from a point where all the faders are at zero. But that's primarily an ergonomic decision not one to do with sound quality.

I like the idea of starting with the faders at unity then you have a graphic representation of which tracks will be most prominent. I use Reaper and don't know if it has an equivalent to the 'clip gain' feature you mention. Either way I intend to try Zukan's pink noise technique (off to read up about it again as I type) next time I mix something (which doesn't happen often TBH, I will probably dig something out of the 'archive' to have a play with.
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby blinddrew » Fri Sep 14, 2018 3:27 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:I use Reaper and don't know if it has an equivalent to the 'clip gain' feature you mention.
Right click on the waveform, edit item properties (I think, from memory) and you can adjust the gain in there.
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Sep 14, 2018 4:11 pm

Ah, yes I believe you can I was assuming the Pro Tools feature did something clever :headbang:
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby blinddrew » Fri Sep 14, 2018 6:53 pm

Cubase does have a nice little gain knob on every channel which makes things much easier.
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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:12 pm

With Reaper I tend to insert an instance of Blue Cat's freeware Gain plug-in in each playback channel for gain trimming - very low CPU and simple to use.

Image

These can also be ganged together, and even reverse-linked, making them a perfect way to investigate how input levels alter the effect of other plug-ins - Blue Cat gain before, plug-in under test, Blue Cat gain after with reverse link, so that as the input level goes up, the output level gets brought down in perfect sync, keeping overall level fairly constant. Very handy!


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Re: Gain structure (Inside Track, Sept)

Postby Matt Houghton » Mon Sep 17, 2018 10:53 am

Hi Martin,

Yes, that's a handy plug-in. The only annoyance for me was that when using a standard MIDI rotary encoder, it doesn't return to unity unless you restrict the range a tiny bit. Though that's no biggie.

If you're using it to set initial faders-up mix levels, then did you know you can also make it appear directly on Reaper's mixer, a little like having the gain knob in Cubase? Details in Nick Storr's Reaper workshop here...
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