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Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT

 
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Mustang Martigan
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Joined: 08 Jan 2017
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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 12:48 pm    Post subject: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

I've been researching gain staging lately, after realizing how import of a step this is.. initially I had the meter clipping at -18. After using this setup for a month or two I'm starting to think that there's a better way to setup it up.

I'm gonna try setting the first meter stage, dark green, to -18 and then figure out what works best with the remaining colors. I have a quick question about this setup.. would it work out better to make it -20, instead of -18? My reasoning is that the levels increase with every added plugin, so if I set the dark green to -20, it will most likely stay below, or at -18, even after inserting a couple plugins. I most always insert subtractive EQ as the first plugin, followed by compression and then another EQ for boosting and color/saturation.

What meter settings do you all use? Thanks.
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Gregg Juke
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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 3:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

It depends. Are you integrating any analog gear (with accompanying analog meters) in your digital set-up? Is everything in-the-box, or are there other (digital) outboard sources?

Whatever you settle on as your 0/peak point, I would make sure to calibrate everything (test tones and known music source). If you're going with -18, -12, whatever, make sure that all components (including plugs) are set to read the same level signal the same way. There is a difference between analog and digital metering (but you can cross that bridge when/if you come to it).

GJ
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I'm Painting Again
zen recordist


Joined: 07 May 2003
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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 5:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

here's what I do..

get a tone generator and set it for 1kHz @ 1.228 Volts on a meter by adjusting the tone gen's amplitude

feed that to each converter channel and use my converter's analog gain pot, meter magnify and reference selection to set the level perfectly there.

if your converters don't have those features the manufacturer has chosen the reference level for you

when you feed the 1kHz @ 1.228 Volts tone your converters will show you the level it operates at on their meters

usually -18 0r -20 IIRC

if your converters don't have metering at all you'll see it in the software metering


this reference point should be where the average level of your sound lives, not the peak

drums and loud transients ought to peak at something like -10 ish

(when in doubt or ya dont want to deal with it - peak half way up the meters)

I like -20 and peaks at -12 personally

this is for a tracking situation specifically - mastering would be different

the dynamic range of the program material you,re working on can dictate where you average and peak

this apart from the fact that some people say that different gear has different "sweet spots" which might have some merit considering converters are supported by analog electronics around them..

there's definitely a lot of discussion on the forums about this and going through that ought to prove rewarding

also can't hurt to give the manufacturer of your converters and or software a call and ask if they might suggest how to get the ideal results
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Mustang Martigan
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Joined: 08 Jan 2017
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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 7:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

I'm Painting Again wrote:
here's what I do..

get a tone generator and set it for 1kHz @ 1.228 Volts on a meter by adjusting the tone gen's amplitude

feed that to each converter channel and use my converter's analog gain pot, meter magnify and reference selection to set the level perfectly there.

if your converters don't have those features the manufacturer has chosen the reference level for you

when you feed the 1kHz @ 1.228 Volts tone your converters will show you the level it operates at on their meters

usually -18 0r -20 IIRC

if your converters don't have metering at all you'll see it in the software metering


this reference point should be where the average level of your sound lives, not the peak

this is for a tracking situation specifically - mastering would be different

the dynamic range of the program material you,re working on can dictate where you average and peak

this apart from the fact that some people say that different gear has different "sweet spots" which might have some merit considering converters are supported by analog electronics around them..

also can't hurt to give the manufacturer of your converters and or software a call and ask if they might suggest how to get the ideal results


I don't own a tone generator. Is there one that comes with Pro Tools (or a free, third party plugin) that I can feed into each track?

I'm using the UA Apollo DUO as my DAW (PT 12.4) interface; I'm not aware of it having converter channels or metering. I'll send UA an email asking for the converter specs, as well as the Apollo's sweet spot.

In one of the gain staging videos I watched, it's suggested to leave a minimum of 5dB for Mastering. Does this sound about right?

Gregg Juke wrote:
It depends. Are you integrating any analog gear (with accompanying analog meters) in your digital set-up? Is everything in-the-box, or are there other (digital) outboard sources?

Whatever you settle on as your 0/peak point, I would make sure to calibrate everything (test tones and known music source). If you're going with -18, -12, whatever, make sure that all components (including plugs) are set to read the same level signal the same way. There is a difference between analog and digital metering (but you can cross that bridge when/if you come to it).

GJ


I'm not using any outboard gear; everything is performed ITB.
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I'm Painting Again
zen recordist


Joined: 07 May 2003
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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 11:33 pm    Post subject: Re: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

looking at the DUO I'd guess that you ought to have the loudest peaks hitting the -9 bar occasionally - don't have anything ever go into the yellow or red

it's not a detailed meter

--------
this is the device?

http://media.uaudio.com/support/downloads/Apollo_Twin_USB_Hardware_Manual.pdf

looked at the manual Laughing

page 16 says yellow is OK and specifically to bring the level up to the point where it's as high as it can be without the signal ever touching the red bar

----------

So they say to do it that way - to me that seems like you will have to be bringing the levels down in the daw in order to mix without clipping the master out- and that's OK but extra work

Yea I'd ask them directly and see what they tell ya'

------------

either way green or yellow you'll not have to worry

the gain staging INSIDE the DAW is what you ought to be figuring out now

watch this for the basics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDRzAcTAYjw

I think this will help out a lot ^^^
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Mustang Martigan
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Joined: 08 Jan 2017
Posts: 22
Location: BOSTON, MA

PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2017 12:51 am    Post subject: Re: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

I'm Painting Again wrote:
looking at the DUO I'd guess that you ought to have the loudest peaks hitting the -9 bar occasionally - don't have anything ever go into the yellow or red

it's not a detailed meter

--------
this is the device?

http://media.uaudio.com/support/downloads/Apollo_Twin_USB_Hardware_Manual.pdf

looked at the manual Laughing

page 16 says yellow is OK and specifically to bring the level up to the point where it's as high as it can be without the signal ever touching the red bar

----------

So they say to do it that way - to me that seems like you will have to be bringing the levels down in the daw in order to mix without clipping the master out- and that's OK but extra work

Yea I'd ask them directly and see what they tell ya'

------------

either way green or yellow you'll not have to worry

the gain staging INSIDE the DAW is what you ought to be figuring out now

watch this for the basics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDRzAcTAYjw

I think this will help out a lot ^^^


I'll definitely check out those videos.. the link you put up is not my unit; mine is just called the Apollo DUO. It's an 8 in/out rack mount with 4 mic pres.

You're talking about the input meters on the Apollo unit, right? It comes with mixer software (UA Console) so you can monitor the mic-pre input gain (going into the Apollo), as well as what's going into PT. It also lets you add UAD plugs at the tracking phase. I don't believe that you can customize the metering setup in the console software; I'm unsure of the unit's default peak meter setting.
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I'm Painting Again
zen recordist


Joined: 07 May 2003
Posts: 6885
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PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2017 10:26 am    Post subject: Re: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

ya I was going on about the metering on the interface - the software metering should be the same as what you see on the hardware

dBFS = decibels full scale is the type of meter units you get with DAWs

these are primarily PEAK meters and sometimes they will also show you RMS level

peak is the highest point achieved on a signal's wave amplitude

RMS is more like VU metering but still significantly different - it's more of an average level like VU is

0dBFS = absolute digital limit where the system will start brickwall clipping / distorting

When cats say -18dBFS is your zone to keep in mind it means this -

the average signal level should be in this ballpark - not the peaks

the peaks can go much higher

where should it be?

with 24 bit plus recording it matters way less - you can always turn all the tracks down to give you enough mix headroom on the master fader - this is the goal to start a mix / why you'd want your tracks at a certain meter level (N.B. - you wanna use a trim plug-in not the track fader to do this)

how much mix headroom you need?

depends on what kind of music and how many tracks you're summing together
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Mustang Martigan
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PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2017 2:27 am    Post subject: Re: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

According to the article linked below, 0dBFS = -20dBFS on the Apollo. It also mentions a few different UAD-2 plugins and what level they expect; usually a few dB's below -18.

What's the difference between the Trim and Gain plugins? Besides the Gain plugin being4ftr5 located in the AS pull-down menu (and needs to be rendered to the track), while Trim needs to be used as an insert.

Oh ya, rad Minor Threat logo ya got there!
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I'm Painting Again
zen recordist


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PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2017 10:07 am    Post subject: Re: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

0dBFS = -20dBFS - think about that for a second Laughing

0dBFS on all DAW meters is the very top where it ends

-20 (or wherever) is some arbitrary position along its scale the manufacturer has designated ( if the user can't calibrate) where 0VU would have its equivalent.

underlying all the different measuring units is a voltage measurement a frequency and an impedance IIRC (usually 600 Ohms?)

the minus -18 -20 (whatever) reference level chosen by manufacturer (or calibrated fo by user) typically corresponds to

0 VU is equal to +4 dBm is equal to 1.228 volts RMS

in what people call "+4" or "pro" systems

-10dBu is typically 0.775 volts in those "consumer" or "-10" systems

to add to all this either type can be balanced or unbalanced

also note dBFS dBm dBu VU all different !!! Crying or Very sad yea it's confusing


https://www.recordingrevolution.com/do-you-know-how-to-read-your-meters/

in this short article you can see how different software ( and versions) use different places for their scale



I'm not sure what the difference is between the gain and trim in PT - I'm not a regular PT user - but they sound the same to me - or at least have the same function
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Mustang Martigan
audio school graduate


Joined: 08 Jan 2017
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Location: BOSTON, MA

PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2017 2:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Gain Staging - Setting up Meters in PT Reply with quote

I'm Painting Again wrote:
0dBFS = -20dBFS - think about that for a second Laughing


Ha! Ya, that's a typo.. should have read 0 VU = -20 dBFS (on the Apollo interface). Also, here's the article I referred to (but forgot to link) in my previous post:

[url]
http://www.zenviewstudios.fr/single-post/2014/01/20/Measuring-0-dBFs-reference-level-on-Universal-Audio-Apollo-or-any-digital-gear-
[/url]
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