mixing it up in protools

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Cary Chilton, Sep 14, 2006.

  1. Cary Chilton

    Cary Chilton Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,475
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Location:
    Canada
    I read a few threads that you should try making sure your drum mono and stereo tracks in BFD's input signal (are at a starting point)be at -12db to max headroom in on verall mix. I read that the master fader fader output should only approach 0db, so like -0.3 , -0.1 etc.... I tried it and the results were better than I had before... BUT
    What about guitars, vox and bass, synth etc? Should the mic pre signal also be set hot as possible before clipping on the tracks fader and THEN setting the tracks fader level at -12db, as a good starting point with the goal of the master fader near 0db?
    BTW I when I mixed and submixed everything so that the reading on the master was near 0 db, the overall output WAS TOO quiet for my liking, but the dynamics and the clarity were nice. Bare with me, this is my first attempt at mixing.... So then, on the master, I inserted the MAXIM plug and lowered the threshold (-4db or so)and the overall mix on the master was much louder but still clear. I set MAXIM noise shaping and 20 bit. THen below I inserted POWR, at 16 bit ( should I pick 20bit?) and then selected noise 2. So far the results are pretty good. I really want to Ozone to make it better. Would Ozone essentially replace Maxim's function?
    Can anyone pros here explain what I can do better or if I did things correctly? How would I better use Maxim? I hope this thread will get out a lot of info. for many people here who I know will find this stuff as useful as me.
     
  2. suprotennessee

    suprotennessee Member

    Messages:
    149
    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    I think I am following what you are saying.

    In tracking, you want optimal gain settings from your preamps regardless of where you intend to set the mix level. So basically get your preamp level at full strength without clipping, like you said. Of course, if you are using a tube mic pre you need to listen for tube saturation. In general its a big problem to consistently over saturate tubes. So avoid that, but for special occasions.

    When mixing in Pro Tools bring up track by track. When your overall level gets too high on your master fader, select the All Group (bottom left corner), and bring everything down until your master level is within reason. I would set -3 to -5 as your upper master limit.

    The point of mixing is to get the appropriate combination of tracks. Its NOT to get the loudest level. Leave that for mastering. An overall master level of -3 to -5 leaves good head room for mastering.

    If you want to monitor through your Maxim plug in that is fine. It can give you a good idea of what things will sound like mastered. But don't print that way. Again, leave that for the mastering stage.
     
  3. NuSkoolTone

    NuSkoolTone Member

    Messages:
    1,328
    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2005
    For the most part I agree with the Previous post. I don't mix in PT (Nuendo here) but the principles are the same. Healthy levels going in is good, but IME better to go in a little light and have headroom left than chance overs.

    Don't obsess TOO much about the mix overall volume, a lot of that is taken care of in mastering like previously said. I like to work in groups with mults and parallel compression myself, this often can bring in some level and it keeps me in control of dynamics and who I want squeezed vs. the whole thing. I would stay away from the loudness maximizer type stuff, if you're sending this out you will cripple what the ME can do with your mix!

    Other options: If used judiciously, a LITTLE mix bus compression can be OK, I personally don't because in the digital world there's not much difference between Compressing at the end of the Mix stage or Beginning of the Mastering Stage. Follow? The only thing I'll typically do is roll off between 30-50hz on the Mix Bus to reclaim a little energy. Depending on the music you're doing, this may or may not work for you. This is all assuming you're staying ITB, if you've got nice outboard these assumptions might change.

    Ozone as in Isotope Ozone? IME a neat toy, but not what I'd want on my Mixes. UAD-1 Mastering plugs for me. Heard good thing about Powercore's stuf too. Maybe even the Newish SSL bus comps.

    Keep in mind I am far from a professional. This is not my day job! I record mostly Local Demos and make enough pocket change to upgrade my "studio" once or twice a year.
     
  4. Cary Chilton

    Cary Chilton Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,475
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Location:
    Canada
    So don't throw my cash into Ozone 3, better saved for UAD-1?
    My PT came with T-racks and Maxim. Which one would I best use for a quick mastering ( just for myself)?
    What is the difference between Maxim and other limiters? like limit III ( in the dyn EQ III bundle from PT?)
     
  5. elambo

    elambo Member

    Messages:
    2,362
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2005
    That's good advice. But one thing to point out is the fact the the ALL group includes the Master fader, which you will NOT want to bring down. The ALL group only affects shown tracks, so you can hide the Master fader, hit ALL, make your adjustment, turn off ALL, then show the Master fader again.

    About recording levels - it matters much less at what level your ProTools faders are set than it does how your analog gear is set. The gain structure of preamps (and guitar amps, etc.) can have a large affect on tone, so spend your time there. Slamming the inputs into PT up to the pegs actually gives you no room for things like eq, so save some room. If I average -10dbFS on the input I'm happy.
     
  6. elambo

    elambo Member

    Messages:
    2,362
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2005
    This isn't something you should do. POW-r is a great way to get down to 16 bits, and it can pull down from 24 so you don't need to set Maxim to 20. In fact, DON'T. That's 2 dithering schemes (Maxim from 24 to 20, then POW-r from 20 to 16) and you should only use 1.

    Is your mix going directly to CD and is that why you're choosing 16 bit? Mastering houses would prefer undithered 24 bit, but maybe you're not sending this to a mastering house, in which case you should print a 24 bit mix for archival purposes (just keep it in the session folder), then a 16 bit mix using POW-r for your CDs.
     
  7. Matt Gordon

    Matt Gordon Senior Member

    Messages:
    947
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia, USA.
    I lose a lot of dynamics using Maxim on the stereo master, but I usually dither to 16 bit for burning CD's using AIFF file types. Wish there was something better during bounce. I might have to go back to analog! :puh
     
  8. suprotennessee

    suprotennessee Member

    Messages:
    149
    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    True. And that sounds like a good way to manage the All. What I do, is I make a separate mix group for all the faders I would actually want to attenuate under such a circumstance. I leave out things such as Master faders, groups that bus together to an Aux return, and anything that is sending out to outboard. I only attenuate the actual faders that feed my mix bus directly (which fan out to an analog console, but that is another story all together).

    I also agree that compression on the mix bus is dangerous. I personally like the sound of my digital mixes free and clear of mix bus compression, through my mastering engineer's NTP Limiters (analog) first, then to tape. So I also hold off from going to tape with the final mix, leaving that for the mastering as well.

    As far as plug ins go, it is easy to become addicted to these gizmos, and at a certain point it is difficult to realize when they are complicating your process more than they are helping.

    Maxim and the brick wall limiter (or "maximizer") in T-racks, as I remember (I don't use either) are most likely pretty similar. T-racks has the further options of EQ and fancy mastering-like units. Maxim is just the maximizer.

    Again, DON'T PRINT YOUR MIXES WITH MAXIM or T RACKS. Just monitor through them. That process is a lot more delicate than it might appear. Leave that for the more objective stage of mastering.
     
  9. suprotennessee

    suprotennessee Member

    Messages:
    149
    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    Maxim and similar brick wall limiters are designed very specifically to narrow the dynamic range in favor of an over all louder mix. They cater to the obsession with "my mix being as loud as Rick Rubin's mixes on the radio" that too many people have had over the years. (Its become something of an "arms race"). There are major drawbacks to that mentality, though an appropriate amount of maximization is okay in mastering. While we don't want to mercilessly crush our mixes, there is simply no way to get a louder level without some degree of loss in the dynamics.

    Truth be told, the obsession really came to rise after these brick wall limiters were developed in the digital era. So there's not much you can do better in the analog world. Through some outboard limiting you can give your signal a jump start, then finish the task with much more conservative levels on your brick wall limiter in the end. But that is a skill beyond many of us (Again, its called Mastering).:)
     
  10. Cary Chilton

    Cary Chilton Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,475
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Location:
    Canada
    Thanks for the tips guys! Monitering through limiters/dither is something I do, after the mix is almost done. Why am I asking about mastering programs? Simple. I just want to find the best program to help me make my mixes louder and more pro sounding for my own project. If I really have something that I LOVE, of course I send those bounced 24 bit files to a good masterer. So is T-racks ( that came free with my Mbox) good enough for posting some sample mp3's on my future website, or would Ozone 3 be worth the 250 usd?
     
  11. clayville

    clayville Member

    Messages:
    183
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Boston
    I'm no pro, but when I output to mp3 I like the results I get by putting a scaled-down (i.e. not as dramatic in the low-boost) version of the T-Racks "Sweeter 2" mastering preset on the Master Fader at the end. It seems to compensate a bit for the mp3 quality loss and keeps the mix more true to what I hear in the wav versions -- the results are punchier than they would be otherwise, without going overboard.
     
  12. Cary Chilton

    Cary Chilton Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,475
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Location:
    Canada
    I gotta know.... should I buy Ozone 3 for mp3 mastering or is maxim, t-racks etc good enough?
     
  13. Matt Gordon

    Matt Gordon Senior Member

    Messages:
    947
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia, USA.
    That's a cool take on it. For some reason I always thought of it from a signal-clipping point of view, like to avoid digital overloading and clipping, one had to keep the fader level down quite a bit on individual tracks, causing the recorded source to be lower in overall level, and thus needing something to bring it back up to unity, whereas in an analog world, one might be able to record pretty hot. Guess I'm using it for the wrong reason, or at least different from what it was intended. So much to learn, so little time :confused: :crazy !
     
  14. suprotennessee

    suprotennessee Member

    Messages:
    149
    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    I really couldn't tell you. I don't know Ozone 3 at all. Mastering mp3s is not something I am familiar with.

    My guess, and you may know this already, is that you should master your aiff mix first in its entirety. Take the final master of the aiff and make an mp3 of that. As I said, though, mastering mp3s is not something I am familiar with.
     
  15. justicetones

    justicetones Member

    Messages:
    641
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2005
    Location:
    So Cal.
    elambo nailed it. Gain structure in your signal chain to ProTools is very important in the sound you achieve. Another downside to slamming your meters in tracking is that converters can and do sound different as you approach 0dbFS. Cheaper ones in my experience don't sound too good when pushed to the brink. With Apogee, and others with some high end converters with soft limiting features that is different. However as a general rule I don't push my converters hard either.

    The other tid bit that might help you is that say your peak is @ -5dbFS. At that point you are using all of the bits 24 or 16 whatever. Each bit equates to 6dB in metering. So if you run like elambo with average metering @ -10dbFS then you would be using 23 bits of resolution when recording at 24 bit. For me that to is completely acceptable. In fact for some live recording I even have run down at -12 just to make sure I don't miss something that I can't easily fix later.
     
  16. justicetones

    justicetones Member

    Messages:
    641
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2005
    Location:
    So Cal.
    On this in my experience Maxin adds to much intermodulation distortion for my tastes. I think T-racks, Ozone, Waves L2 or my Favorite the Sony Oxford Limiter are better choices. For me anything but Maxim would be the way to go. The Sony I will say I have been able to smash things pretty hard and still it does not sound as smashed as it really is. :D

    The bottom line here though is if YOU like the sound then that is what matters too. Sometimes the means to get to the end can get in the way of the creative process. That is where plugins don't help. :JAM


    Good luck...
     

Share This Page