Academy Dashboard Forum Production Mixing Can we talk about the master bus chain, please?

  • This topic has 39 replies, 8 voices, and was last updated 5 years ago by Just Lisa.
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    James Gorman

      I had a left field thought - since your having trouble with your master buss I printed a couple of tracks with the master turned off so you can play with them. I am wondering if the peaks of your drums are too peak-y and need trimming, maybe you can have looks at you peaks when you print without your master buss processing and compare that too.

      (BTW, I normalise all my tracks to -3dBFS so I can run them hot into my emulations)

      face (chris) Janton

        I am merely an egg. Growing up as a "live musician" I always expect things are being played as they are intended to be. There's no man behind the curtain adjusting the instruments and voicing during the performance. I still find it harder to work with tracks with an unknown "creation story" - meaning is everyone in the room playing and adjusting, or are these asynchronous things that need putting together.

        These days I start by "region normalizing" in Logic - single command, all the regions, set the peak on track-by-track basis to -12 dB. All faders get set to -6 dB to start as well. I bus things to my taste, drums, bass, vox, bvox, etc. and start from there. Turn down the master, play the tracks, let the meters follow along, mostly to see where the busses get to. I don't listen to anything until this part is done.
        I use my control surface and headphones to work on rough levels. I set markers from the control surface as well. Anything that stands out, gets lost, makes me wonder, gets a marker. I don't look at the computer screen during any of this. I like it.

        Balancing and panning are done through an empty mix bus (Ozone 8 turned off), limiter set to no gain, -1 dB ceiling. So far so good.
        This is serving me well with recordings I have made live, and seems to give me a decent starting place for multi-tracks that I get.

        All that being said, I get happy client results way faster this way, and it takes far fewer passes to get a good result.

        Now I need to get busy and start working with new recordings...

        Oh, yeah, if it needs to be louder I just turn the big knob on the monitor controller 😉

        Jason Davenport

          Sorry, forgot to include the ratio and attack and release settings. On the SSL Gcomp I have a 2:1 ratio with the slowest attack time 30ms, and the fastest release time of .1ms. The needle doesn't move at all during the verses, and only hits the 2-3db gr at the loudest peak of the song. I use this compressor for glue, and it just has a sound that I like!

          All these numbers are just what works for me... As I read this thread, it proves one thing to me. Everyone has a different way of getting to the same place. What matters is the end result, not how you get there. There is no right or wrong in mixing, so finding what works for you is the only way to go 🙂

          Just Lisa

            Agreed, Jason.
            Map is better than wandering around just hoping you might find your destination by accident, though.
            Stopping and asking for directions? What's that? (I NEVER do it, so it's funny to us in our family.)
            I'll be checking all of this stuff out for awhile (maybe over the next two years).
            : )

            Just Lisa

              James: Left field rocks! Fantastic idea.
              Same files, same file rate, my DAW, my headphones...
              It's the closest thing to apples to apples we can get.
              Although I'm always impressed by how the good the third hand tracks sound for FF videos, it's not the same as a listen on Soundcloud, and this is different still.

              And I know we're not supposed to mix with our eyes or put too much faith in the minutia of waveforms, but getting a good look at yours, mine, Phil's and Warren's all lined up together is very informative wrt levels and density.

              Peak-y -- good call. Definitely an issue. (Your snare in Of This I'm Sure is one major factor for me liking your mix and not Phil's.)
              We have to talk about mixing cymbals sometime.

              Much to digest.
              Thank you.
              : )

              Jason Davenport

                Definitely good to have a map 🙂

                Just Lisa

                  Hey all,
                  I mixed side by side again today.
                  It's different.
                  If this doesn't suck, I'm making progress.
                  It seemed easier or I felt more confident, so thank you very much.
                  : )

                  Just Lisa

                    Hi all --
                    I hope you don't mind me bring this up again...

                    So, I read the manual for the Klanghelm SDDR2 yesterday and came across this fun thought: the mix needs to be hitting the plug in at 0db for the best results.
                    So, it follows then that the plug in's effect on my mix is minimal at the beginning and is changing more dramatically as my mixes get louder and I'm automating. Sigh.

                    Also, having an L1 on the Mix Bus...

                    Both of these have different ever changing effects on the mix.
                    When you set up your Master Bus chain, do you think about this? When do you turn the plug ins on? How often do you think to tweak them as you are working.

                    Has kind of a big impact on the whole thing.
                    It's always near the end when my mixes seem to start going south pretty fast, maybe this has something to do with it?
                    : )

                    Guido tum Suden

                      Hi Lisa,

                      Just to be sure. You know, that the manual is talking about 0 dBVU on its own VU-meter, which is set to -18 dBFS RMS so some very hard drum hits will be around -6 dBFS Peak?

                      That said, if you have plugins on your master bus chain your gain staging has to be very good. After setting up your mix without plugins and mixing it, you could put on some plugins on the master bus, but by then a VU Meter on the master bus should already show something around 0 dBVU. If you look after your gain staging when you put plugins on the channels it shouldn't change much throughout mixing.

                      As an example, with the SDDR2 gain staging is easy. If you put it on a channel which is lower than 0 dBVU you use the trim to go there. After using the plugin use the Output Gain to go back to the loudness the channel had before. You should do that with every plugin. If the plugin doesn't have input or output gains, use a gain plugin.

                      If you're not using gain staging as much, that's okay as well, but then I would engage all master bus plugins after finishing the mix.


                      James Gorman

                        Second vote to look at your gain staging.

                        I'll mix with everything on the master buss set up once I have a balance mix. There's a VU on my monitor chain and shoot for a touch over 0VU==15dBFS out of the gate (clipping when I start, -2-3dBFS at the end). I'll rarely change things after that, though I will check I'm making things better. Sometimes I'll change balance during the mix, so I have a VCA set up to control the volume on my main busses and can drive them up or down into the master if I need to. You could do the same with a trim before you master buss effects.

                        Just Lisa

                          Hi James and Guido!
                          On the SDDR2, on the master, I adjusted the calibration and the trim to get a zero reading for 'in' and then the drive and output to have 'out' also be zero. (not looking for volume increase here.) It finally dawned on me why the trim is there in the first place. I can hear the subtly between the 1 2 and 3 stages now. (the levels at the chorus!)

                          So if I've got this right, gain stage, get level mix, then start turning on the Master Bus stuff before getting to work on the details of the mix. That way, everything is hitting the Master bus at about the right level and you get a better idea of what the finished product will sound like.
                          Gain staging is something I've never really heard Warren talk about very much. Any tips? The tools for getting it done in Studio One are very easy to use, it's "why" and "how much" that are tricky.

                          I've got the L1 set up threshold around 5.5 and ceiling -.2 or 3. It's bringing up the quiet but only stomps on a couple of loud moments in the choruses, so nothing drastic.
                          : )

                          Oh, I also had a clue a few weeks ago that I wanted the digital sound and not the tube sound for my mixes -- world of difference! Oh, and James! Thank you again for the 3dB tilt clue. Bumped the bass up to 1.6. Life is going much better now.
                          : )

                          James Gorman

                            > So if I've got this right, gain stage, get level mix, then start turning on the Master Bus stuff before getting to work on the details of the mix.

                            Yep, except gain staging is what you do as you add/active your channel plugins (and your master buss plugins too). The idea is you should be able to activate/deactivate your plugins without a perceived volume change,[1] so in reality you're doing this as you go through the mix.

                            > Why?

                            To make it easy to check if you have a positive change or just a change. If you boost the level changes may just sound louder, not better, but trick you with the volume boost. And to keep your levels under control.

                            Warren tends to be pretty loose on gain staging - you'll often see him using the trim of a plugin to boost level. The only other tip is it can help to normalise all you raw tracks first to get good level going into your chains (either dBFS or VU), beyond that it's using trims to bring volume up or down as needed. Richard Furch's tutorial on ProMix Academy has some a good section on what he does (he's a stickler for it. And it's a good pop-mixing tutorial in general, and has a section on normalising!). I'd recommend it if you can afford it.

                            > I've got the L1 set up threshold around 5.5 and ceiling -.2 or 3. It's bringing up the quiet but only stomps on a couple of loud moments in the choruses, so nothing drastic.

                            This is a reasonable amount of limiting for mix. I usually use a unity gain limiter at -0.2 to stop overs, but I'm mixing 3+dB hotter, so horses for courses.

                            > Oh, and James! Thank you again for the 3dB tilt clue. Bumped the bass up to 1.6. Life is going much better now.

                            Nice. Good to know that worked.

                            [1] over a whole mix this isn't really going to work, but should for a single channel, and definitely for a single effect.

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