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Mixing In The Box versus Olde Skool Technique

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by Matt G, Dec 9, 2018.

  1. Matt G

    Matt G Tele-Afflicted

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    Here's an interesting piece from a recording engineer, who compares Pro Tools to the old way of doing business.
     
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  2. w3stie

    w3stie Poster Extraordinaire

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    Good article, thanks for posting. I like this quote : "Whatever all those Neve and SSL channels were adding to the sound is now available to the engineer in Pro Tools as well. The “coldness” of digital audio was a legitimate concern in the early days. Now it simply isn’t (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise)."

    The thing I'm finding, and I don't think he mentioned it, there are so many options with e.g. Logic Pro, you can easily get bogged down in a maze of choices, especially if you're using synths to make music. Sometimes less is more. Not that I'm complaining ;)
     
  3. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    I agree w3stie.
     
  4. Matt G

    Matt G Tele-Afflicted

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    I've got to agree, W3stie. I'm reasonably good with technology, but I really struggle with the various recording software packages. Of course, I'd struggle with old school engineering, too. It seems that the software doesn't really make it easier, it just makes it possible to do infinitely more without having to buy lots of extra kit.

    (Which is a pretty OK trade-off with me -- but I'm still no closer to being a recording engineer.)
     
  5. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    They'll be raging about this over at Gearslutz.

    The original recording studios pretty much required the musicians to balance themselves, grouped in front of a cone that finessed the sound down to the stylus carving a wax platter. In the 1950s you had maybe three channels, and aside from mic choice and baffles that was it. You could use mic position to get the trombones louder or softer, but why bother--you are giving professionals who know how to blend and mix themselves after playing in big bands or orchestras for twenty years. You wanted a nice sounding room, because there was bleed on every track. Three eqs, one for each track, a single compressor or maybe one on each track. That's Sinatra at Capital, or "Kind of Blue," or Chuck Berry at Chess. The band does maybe 4-6 takes at most and done. Next!

    Then multitracking comes in in the late 60s early 70s. That's the moment he describes--24 or more tracks to tape. Isolated instruments, no bleed. Huge budgets, unlimited time.

    Now it's all ITB, in the box. I use Logic Pro all the time, and it's true, the range of choices can be paralyzing. OMG let me try THIS eq, there's a subtle difference....You can do that all day. But the more you work with it the more you get to know what kind of sounds you can get quickly. People blather on about the sound being better in analog but the bottom line is good music is good regardless of how it's recorded. I mean when was the last time you listened to a song and said to yourself "wow if only they had use a real LA2A on that track, instead of a plugin?"



    I think the big difference is the loneliness of the screen. No assistant no eager kid trying to work his way up and watching everything. No staff coming in and out, no other listeners to check it against. Instead of compromise you get a rabbit hole quest for perfection. The more I now about audio engineering--and I'm no expert--the more I hear terrible mistakes in old recordings. Bad notes, momentary mixing problems, obvious splices in tape: all that stuff would be erased by an obsessed guy working alone to achieve some odd notion of perfection. So Mutt Lange supposedly gets the vocalist to do a done or more takes and then chooses the best syllables from each take and comps them down to a single vocal track.

    The problem with the old model was huge budgets. the problem with the new model is obsessiveness. Thats't the thing I think you have to master
     
  6. Matt G

    Matt G Tele-Afflicted

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    That's a good point. One of the things that attracted me to music was the clubhouse aspect. You get to hang out with friends, and friendly people, and make something out of nothing.


    That's the thing W3stie has to master. Me, I have to master the minimum basics. ;-)
     
  7. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    Some really excellent points and observations. while the article refers to PRO TOOLS we can replace Pro Tools with brand XXX

    Years back, maybe 10, I had been using a full featured Yamaha 16 channel workstation. I believe I paid $1000 for it used. It was the most recent Workstation I had acquired. A friend in an LA Studio had the same one and he would say to me that it would cost $25000 to build a studio with all of the stuff contained in that 15 inch plastic box ! I also recall buying the first version TASCAM 4 Track Cassette machine.I believe it was right at $800 ! It was amazing, at the time.

    Fast forward we all jumped into the DAW world , for me it was 2009 , Pro Tools 8, $149 for the full perp licence package when PT 9 came out. I sold the Yamaha for $600 and said goodbye to it.

    Like stated above, the benefits are huge but the negatives can be huge too ! But we can limit the negatives, don't obsess ! Easier said than done The biggest negative is self inflicted, we never FINISH ! . thats on us, not the gear.

    In 2015 I added Pro Tools 12 to my studio, 8 is still running. Reading the article above kinda reconfirmed why we use DAWS.

    just a few of my own thoughts

    we can sit in the corner of a room at home with a laptop and run a 50 track session while our family is watching TV

    we can turn it off and come back tomorrow and pick up exactly where we left off.

    we can come back next MONTH and fix something we overlooked in a few short minutes.

    we have the ability to create exceptional SOUND and DYNAMIC range of our sessions.

    we can share our session or track in moments with EMAIL or over the NET




    There is no going back as the article says. While many pro engineers and studio's still have the GOODS from years back , it's in addition to the modern new DAW world !

    Like many, I have sat in studios with 12 foot consoles and racks upon racks of processors for each channel. Hundreds of audio cables ! Looking back , who could have imagined or guessed where we would be in 2018, almost 2019.
     
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  8. w3stie

    w3stie Poster Extraordinaire

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    There's another thing he didn't mention. The roles in a recording studio used to be fairly clear; you were a musician - not expected to know anything about all this stuff, or a recording engineer, or a producer. Maybe you also had a mixing engineer and a mastering engineer as well. Now we have to do everything. I spent a few hours this weekend watching clips about chord structure and harmonisation and tricks to get big sounding arrangements, as well as clips about mastering including how to use the limiter, multipressor etc. ( and a few funny animal clips, but they don't count). So it's exciting but my head hurts. ;)
     
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  9. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    Old timers will always talk about mic placement as an art--some will claim they never touched the eq, the eq was all mic choice and positioning. I believe them, but you really can't develop that alone. You would have your assistant move the mics around while the musicians played, till you found the right spot. The engineer listened from the control room til he heard the best combination. After a while you would get to know the room and you'd know where you wanted the drums put and hw ti mic them. That still goes on, but it's much more likely that the person doing the recording is also the assistant AND the musician. And close-micing and isolating make s the room irrelevant, for the most part. Just really a different kind of person is required.
     
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  10. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    The writer of the article acts as if he has discovered the wheel :lol:

    For many years now the headroom and dynamics of any DAW have surpassed those of any analog console by a huge longshot.

    Mixing outside the box ,and using analog gear,can of course be done with "pro tools" too.

    I do it sometimes but to be honest it's not worth it anymore.
     
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  11. Matt G

    Matt G Tele-Afflicted

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    That's the truth. It's been an amazing run.

    I hadn't thought about it much, since I don't spend much time on the recording side, but has DAW put a lot of people out of work over the last fifteen or twenty years? Or has the demand for high-end recording kit and engineering skills simply shifted into new areas?
     
  12. Steve Ouimette

    Steve Ouimette Tele-Holic

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    The only thing I miss about the old school studio and tape was you definitely felt like you were making a record back then. As you recorded a part, if it didn't work you had limited tracks available to get it right, and it took time to rewind the tape which mentally prepared you for the next take.

    I don't miss -

    - Aligning a tape machine
    - Calibrating the tape machine
    - Striping the tape
    - Running test tones to tape, and losing precious time that is available on that reel
    - Paying for tape!!!!
    - Mixing boards, patch bays and cables getting scratchy sounding.
    - Re-capping electronics
    - Editing with a razor blade
    - Degaussing the heads
    - Paying for tape
    - Getting a total of 3 songs on a reel of 2" if you're lucky.
    - Paying for tape
    - Coming back to a session and recalling all the settings by hand. Event the SSL with full recall still required setting a lot by hand

    Back in the day I had a beautiful Ampex MM1200 machine. In fact, it was one of the two machines that recorded Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" album. From Wally Heider. It sounded great but it had a 75ms punch gap unless you put the special PERC cards in the channel you were punching on. I only had 5 so you could forget punching drums unless you were using the Glyn Johns mic'ing method.

    Now I fire up my session and everything is where I last left it, right down to the reverb amount, fx sends, eq, automation. Everything. And it sounds fantastic. Ain't wanna go back no time, no way, never!
     
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  13. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    So I used to spend a lot of time at gearslutz and I read Sound on Sound every month. Sound on Sound always features some fancy studio somewhere, every issue. There's always a big board and pictures of rack of vintage gear, usually the same vintage gear types. Then there are articles about this or that hot engineer of the moment, Invariably that engineer is doing a lot of work ITB. But SOS is careful to kind of soft-pedal it, because a lot of their revenue comes from people making hardware.

    Gearslutz has consent threads in which somebody declares analog is superior or analog is dead. It's exactly like tunes vs modeling here. The vast majority of mixing--which would be mixing for video and movies--is done itb. Music has holdouts who insist ITB is better. But the stuff my daughter and her friends listen to--a lot of which I like, though it's different from my personal preferences--does not need any of that analog fetish stuff. It's synths and beats and sounds like it was made on a laptop and probably was. It's still good music--my 14 year old and her friends find it compelling and moving and I can hear what they hear--but it's a different aesthetic
     
  14. Matt G

    Matt G Tele-Afflicted

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    I'd actually forgotten all that jazz. My dad had a top-end tape machine which I inherited for a brief spell, before I realised how much time I'd spend working on it instead of with it. And BIG! Not fun to truck around for an indigent uni student.

    Plus . . . paying for tape!!!
     
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  15. Matt G

    Matt G Tele-Afflicted

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    And yet I'll bet that somewhere there's a garageful of teenage gear nerds busily creating the New Analogue Age with grandpa's old kit.

    On a side note, my hearing's never been good enough to make the analogue fetish stuff worthwhile. I suspect I'm not entirely alone in this.
     
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  16. Steve Ouimette

    Steve Ouimette Tele-Holic

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    Big is right! It cost me $250 just to get the machine downstairs by having to hire movers. Then of course the machine had to be completely realigned after the move. So much cost. Don't forget the $750 crating fee on top of the freight across the country!
     
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  17. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Tele-Afflicted

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    [​IMG]
    On a Neve 8058, '82, 28 channels and reverb returns, no automation, Lexicon 224 Reverb, Lexicon Prime Time Delay, note outboard UREI EQs

    [​IMG]
    On a Neve 8024, '84, 24 channels and reverb returns, no automation. The remote for the EMT Gold Foil was right on the console. Lexicon 224 Reverb, Lexicon Prime Time Delay, Orban Parametric, Lexicon Delta-T delay, Allison Keypex expanders. An Ampex MM1200 with 23 perc cards and a wide-band SMPTE card is to our right at the end of the row of three Ampex ATR-102s. We had a second MM1200 down in engineering that was routinely "picked" for cards. Note broadcast carts in a stack. We recorded the entire "look"(320 voice-overs such as "Coming up next..., and Tuesday) for a TV network and delivered each one on a cart. We performed audio post-production for video and soundtrack work there as well.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    End of a session on the SSL 4048, 2003, 48 channels and reverb returns, note Fairlight workstation in the background.

    [​IMG]
    We were on last-generation Sony APR-24 with Dolby SR and ATR-5003 two track machines. They are still in the machine room and are used for archival materials.

    [​IMG]
    Yamaha DM-2000, several years ago, 96 channels, Nuendo workstation screens in front of me, turret rack with Neve and other preamps to the left.

    Something that hasn't been mentioned is that those wonderful consoles were the audio equivalent of a high-end sports car or a race car - they required lots of maintenance. As they aged, there were lost-time casualties regularly, probably once a month minimum. The Yamaha console above has been in service fifteen years with only one lost-time incident. It ain't sexy, but it is really clean.

    I miss all my knobs, but because of the instant resettability, utter flexibility, and ability to automate everything, I wouldn't go back either.

    Incidentally, the new hires we have who have never mixed analog have the problem mentioned above - too many options and too much perfectionism. I'm used to narrowing down my options to a manageable number by envisioning the end result in a way that most of the guys who entered the field in the DAW age struggle with. I don't know if that results from years of mixing bands live for network TV or working with limited resources due to budgetary restrictions of the analog format. For instance, in the SSL age above, we worked with a two-machine Lexicon 480 reverb, an Eventide 3000S/B, and six multi-effects units. For a typical session we had to limit ourselves to maybe four-to-six reverbs. In that environment, the difference that makes no difference is no difference. These days a guy can get obsessed and assign a separate ambience to every instrument if he wants.

    [​IMG]

    I also miss being able to warm my hands over the console!

    Bob
     
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  18. DavidSchwab

    DavidSchwab TDPRI Member

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    I do everything, including guitar amps, in the box with Logic. I even track and mix with headphones. Everyone compliments my recordings.

    I mix via automation. It works great. I used to use external gear, but what’s the point? I guess I could get a MIDI fader control surface, but it’s just as easy to program the mixes.

    I read that article too. He’s been doing it his way a long time. I respect that. When I first got a DAW (Deck II) back in the 90s I treated it like a tape machine.

    These days I copy and paste sections of songs and all other manner of non linear editing. Why go backwards?
     
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  19. Matt G

    Matt G Tele-Afflicted

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    What an epic story, Bob. Quite an interesting snapshot of your life in recording.
     
  20. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

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    I mixed for 15 years all ITB. I got to a point that I just didn't like the results because I missed "the glue" of analog. I realized, because of the infinite options of ITB that I was spending 3 or 4 times longer mixing than when I was doing it analog. With so many options, it turned every mix into a science experiment. Now I track entirely analog and EQ with mics, maybe a little bit with hardware i.e. roll off filters. Subsequently I quit buying plugins about 3 years ago. I mix hybrid using the automation of Protools out to 12 channels of a summing mixer. These 12 channels have inserts where I can apply external compressors and external reverbs via 3 patchbays. The final mix comes out the summing mixer into an external EQ (pair of 1073s), external compressors (Portico 5043 or C1LA) back into Protools. This preserves the stereo width and depth and makes it sound like a record, the ultimate goal.

    I discovered, as good as the best plugins are, when you layer them they collapse the width and depth. In particular ITB compressors and reverbs can narrow and flatten the image. ITB is however much clearer and defined but less vibey. Would the average listener know, probably not. When I started treating Protools, or any DAW for that matter, like a recording device, I started enjoying recording music again. The overall process was better, it limited the number of tools required to mix, and the results were better for me. Too each his own however because depending on the type of music, either way can work.
     
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