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mix RMS

Post by Zygomorph » Sun Apr 27, 2008 12:59 am

When mixing, does anybody else aim for an average of 0 dbVU, treating digital overs on a case-by-case basis?

I do nowadays; it seems to help my process in a sane sort of way.

Or to put it another way, where on?some sort of standardized level?do you place various dynamics for a typical mix of a certain genre of music?

For example, on a typical rock track, I establish the majority average of the song as 0 dbVU (I guess I work with -15 dbFS = 0 dbVU) and then place the loudest and softest parts in some relation to that.

Since I'm classically trained, I imagine 0 dbVU = mezzo forte at about 85 dB (at the mixing position).

Does anybody else feel that most things don't "feel" physically "rocking" until about 90 dB? I'm just trying to establish whether 1) i'm slightly deaf on average, or 2) my chest requires more power to resonate at the kick of a drum.

I also ask all of these things of you all because I wonder, because I am weaned mostly upon live classic music, if I require of my mixes a greater range of dynamics to excite or surprise me than a person who listens mainly to recorded music?wherein I postulate that it may be the case that excitement and perception of intensity may be triggered not so much by actual dynamic contrasts so much as symbolic (that is, culturally conditioned), psychoacoustic cues, such as harmonic distortion, dynamic use of artificial reverberation, and so on.

Though I suspect that anybody who has ever been to a live rock concert, or a performance of Mahler or Tchaikovsky (or some similarly melodramatic symphonic setting) might have similar absolute experiences of the physically moving power of sub-bass frequencies...

I'm drunk and having played Schubert, pardon.
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Post by joel hamilton » Sun Apr 27, 2008 5:43 am

Every mix is different.

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Post by farview » Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:20 am

Because of the loudness wars, we really can't rely on actual volume dynamics to achieve impact. We have to rely on arrangement and other sonic contrasts to suprise people.

The RMS level of your mix has very little to do with how much the bass drum kicks you in the chest. That has more to do with your playback system and it's overall volume and frequency response.

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Post by Zygomorph » Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:21 am

Yes. And no.












I'm interested in hearing from people who have ever used a loudness meter while mixing, on the points of:

1) thoughts and ideas concerning the dynamic range of your mixes

1) psychophysical sensations at various absolute loudnesses

1) your methodologies for fitting the dynamic range of a recording comfortably with the dynamic range of your medium of choice.

(not particularly in that order.)





















One of my favorite books is called Transcendental Magic: Its theory and practice. The first section is about numbers, history, salamanders, sylphs, undines and the like. The second section warns the readers away from black magic, and provides information on invocation, banishing and divination. Sometimes the author purposefully misleads the reader in order to 1) obfuscate the secrets of initiatory mystery lodges, or 2) cause an expansion in the mind of the reader through cognitive dissonance. In any case, the book is 500 pages long, curious, intriguing, and possessed of an acknowledgment of that universal dyad of all human works: theory and practice.
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:35 am

Zygomorph wrote:Yes. And no.





(this space left intentionally blank)






I'm interested in hearing from people who have ever used a loudness meter while mixing, on the points of:

1) thoughts and ideas concerning the dynamic range of your mixes

1) psychophysical sensations at various absolute loudnesses

1) your methodologies for fitting the dynamic range of a recording comfortably with the dynamic range of your medium of choice.

(not particularly in that order.)











(As well as this one)









One of my favorite books is called Transcendental Magic: Its theory and practice. The first section is about numbers, history, salamanders, sylphs, undines and the like. The second section warns the readers away from black magic, and provides information on invocation, banishing and divination. Sometimes the author purposefully misleads the reader in order to 1) obfuscate the secrets of initiatory mystery lodges, or 2) cause an expansion in the mind of the reader through cognitive dissonance. In any case, the book is 500 pages long, curious, intriguing, and possessed of an acknowledgment of that universal dyad of all human works: theory and practice.
I think you are lost in the numbers. The music, it does not know what it is, how loud it is, or what you think of it. The music, it simply is. Listeners will react according to the music, not how loud it is. Any deviation from this simple truth will send you spiraling into an abyss of uncertainty, which in the end will cause the demise of the Music.

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Post by Zygomorph » Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:40 am

farview wrote:Because of the loudness wars, we really can't rely on actual volume dynamics to achieve impact. We have to rely on arrangement and other sonic contrasts to suprise people.
I think that's a very astute observation. However, I plan never to have to play that game. Also, imagine for a moment that you aren't mixing for some abstract mean of listeners, but for your own pleasure and enjoyment. What are your own expectations when it comes to things like dynamic range (certain psychoacoustic properties of which are, as they always have been, mitigated by the fine art of orchestration... EQ'ing is a sort of orchestration...)
The RMS level of your mix has very little to do with how much the bass drum kicks you in the chest. That has more to do with your playback system and it's overall volume and frequency response.
Well, yes. I understand that RMS is not directly related to absolute loudness.

Here's another way to put what I'm asking all you engineers: have you ever observed how your own subjective notions of "soft" and "loud" translate in absolute loudness, and for specific contexts (since the perception of loudness, per above, is frequency dependent)? Thoughts, feelings? Feel free to be poetical, mathematical...
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Re: mix RMS

Post by JGriffin » Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:45 am

Zygomorph wrote:When mixing, does anybody else aim for an average of 0 dbVU, treating digital overs on a case-by-case basis?

For example, on a typical rock track, I establish the majority average of the song as 0 dbVU (I guess I work with -15 dbFS = 0 dbVU) and then place the loudest and softest parts in some relation to that.


"Good" levels in the analog realm are generally between -5 dBVU and +2 dBVU. So 0dBVU would be a good average target, yes.



Zygomorph wrote: Since I'm classically trained, I imagine 0 dbVU = mezzo forte at about 85 dB (at the mixing position).
In the music mixing world, 0dBVU has nothing to do with 85 dB, as there's no fixed standard for monitor volume settings. However, in the film world, there is a standard (due to the requirement that all movie theaters play a given film at the same volume level), and I think I remember that it's 0dBVU = 85dB. As I don't work in the motion picture industry though, I am not sure.
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Post by Zygomorph » Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:46 am

I think you are lost in the numbers. The music, it does not know what it is, how loud it is, or what you think of it. The music, it simply is. Listeners will react according to the music, not how loud it is. Any deviation from this simple truth will send you spiraling into an abyss of uncertainty, which in the end will cause the demise of the Music.
I just about categorically disagree upon every one of these points.

No hard feelings though!

:D
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Post by ashcat_lt » Sun Apr 27, 2008 9:05 am

It's got nothing to do with loudness wars. It's got to do with mixing/mastering for realistic listening environments. Let's assume you'd like for people to listen to your music in the kitchen while washing dishes, in the car, at a party. In this instance you must engineer your mix so that the most important elements (at least) will remain at a level somewhere above the ambient noise floor in these situations.

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Post by Zygomorph » Sun Apr 27, 2008 9:06 am

In the music mixing world, 0dBVU has nothing to do with 85 dB
Right, and I'm saying that I have observed that my inclination is this:

1) translate the various dynamic points of a mix into degrees of subjective loudness as provided by the tradition of classical music: pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff, etc. (though in Rocklandia one generally has f and fff...)

2) figure out where, given the context of the song/arrangement/bladeebla, each of these points should fall on an absolute scale of loudness. For example, I physically "feel" a well-recorded drum kit at about 89-90 dB. So say that I am comfortable hearing the mf bulk of some theoretical track at 83-85 dB. I will mix something so that a particularly rocking part will come out at about 90 dB relative to that. I mean, I'm not sitting at the mixing board doing math, for heaven's sake (the DAW does all of that) but I am observing that this stuff is at the back of my mind: "Know thyself."

I realize that every playback system is different, and that a good mastering engineer will compensate for this fact as best s/he can, but is there really such a wild variation in how much various amplifiers/loudspeakers will compress the dynamic range of a recording, that it's utterly silly to think like this?

Of course, you may think I'm utterly silly for any number of other reasons!

Really, in the end, I'm inquiring as to whether anybody else has similar methodologies for mixing, i.e. some way of juggling between subjective and absolute loudness.
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Post by Zygomorph » Sun Apr 27, 2008 9:17 am

Let's assume you'd like for people to listen to your music in the kitchen while washing dishes, in the car, at a party. In this instance you must engineer your mix so that the most important elements (at least) will remain at a level somewhere above the ambient noise floor in these situations.
I like where you're going with this. Very pragmatic. Though I think that, past a certain point, one reaches a certain level of insanity trying to compensate for such variables. And I had opened the thread with an appeal to sanity... of a certain sort, anyway. God, I must sound like Susan Powter...

When I'm mixing/engineering as an artist (rather than as a professional, see...), sometimes my thinking goes like this:

1) I do not care to engage in battle with ambient noise, because in doing so, this music will just become somebody else's ambient noise...

1) I make great demands both of the listener and their playback system. Oh well!

1) I wish to be contrary, sometimes in good taste, sometimes in bad taste.

1) ? chaque son go?t...

1) I'm experimenting!

1) meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow...

etc.
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Post by farview » Sun Apr 27, 2008 5:51 pm

You really sound like you are trying to outsmart yourself.

For your own listening pleasure, you can do anything you want. You can calibrate your playback system and mix your stuff so that it is exactly the way you want it.

But, as soon as you give it to someone else to listen to, the whole structure falls apart. Which isn't a big deal because their interpretation of your music will be different than yours.

As far as my methods, I just deal with relative loudness. The main arts of the song are sitting around 0dbVU, the quiet parts are relatively quiet compared to the main parts, the loud parts are relatively loud compared to the main part. The listener with the volume control will be the one that determines the absolute volume of any of it.

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Re: mix RMS

Post by themagicmanmdt » Sun Apr 27, 2008 10:03 pm

dwlb wrote:
Zygomorph wrote: Since I'm classically trained, I imagine 0 dbVU = mezzo forte at about 85 dB (at the mixing position).
In the music mixing world, 0dBVU has nothing to do with 85 dB, as there's no fixed standard for monitor volume settings. However, in the film world, there is a standard (due to the requirement that all movie theaters play a given film at the same volume level), and I think I remember that it's 0dBVU = 85dB. As I don't work in the motion picture industry though, I am not sure.
I found that when I mastered with Bob Weston, he had an adjustable scale, as well as the film reference standard - which actually made most things too loud, and I wanted to back down on the L3 limiting for loudness when hearing it. It's intresting - I think that standard would make mixes turn out softer, actually.

Also, they use DBc, not dbfs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DBc
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Post by rwc » Sun Apr 27, 2008 10:15 pm

I aim for -5 dBFS RMS, mono, and a 200-8000 hz frequency response.

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Post by Zygomorph » Sun Apr 27, 2008 11:58 pm

You really sound like you are trying to outsmart yourself.
Yes, I think it's helpful to identify and run up against the edge of one's knowledge every so often.

However, I'm more or less completely in control of all of the concepts I've brought up here, so in that sense, I am not outsmarting myself.

I am genuinely interested in what you all do, and why?not what you think I think I'm doing; I already know all about that.

I think it's a little overly pessimistic to actually think that "the whole structure" falls apart when you give a mix to somebody else to listen to. I wasn't even really positing that much of a structure.

In the end, I recognize, just like you, that the relative dynamic range aspect is what gets translated regardless of the volume at which another listener plays the mix, and that interpretation is subjective, etc. But it is precisely this subjectivity that I'm trying to tease out of myself and all of you.

So let me ask something different (but related), in order that more people might be able to respond with their ideas on the matter... because I do feel like I'm getting a lot out of this:

For those of you who have observed your mixing process with a loudness meter, at what absolute loudness (in dB) do you prefer to hear various recorded music events while mixing? For example, I stated earlier that I tend to physically feel (in my chest, specifically) a rock mix "rocking out" at about 90-91dB.

You could even just answer this from the perspective of a listener not engaged in the mixing process, viz. How loudly do you like to listen to your music, given the type of music (you could even name specific songs), the playback system, and the context (which I suppose is related to the playback system). For example, since I am such a big fan of John Cage, I tend not mind?either as a listener or as an engineer trying to guess at the habits of a "typical listener"?if part of a recording falls below the level of ambient environmental sound... in fact, I tend to find it interesting. And I doubt you'd find many engineers of classical music recordings who go out of their way to make their mixes perfectly audible from beginning to end in the context of a car with its windows rolled down.

As an aside, I think that it is a rather established fact that entirely new forms and ways of thinking about and making music have been influenced by technology and culture, however: to continue with the above statement, there are plenty of lovers of classical music who may have never had the chance to listen to a live performance, and are honestly vexed by the difficulties of listening to the huge dynamic range of a Mahler symphony on headphones in a subway.

I hope that I'm making it clear that I have not been trying to suggest that there's any sort of "ideal" method of mixing; but rather, that I'm trying to discover the varieties of theories and methods employed by engineers in managing the dynamic ranges of their mixes. On the one hand, we have the world of film sound, which sets the standard loudness at 85dB. On the other, we seem to have the wild world of popular genres of music in which people want to things to "sound good" but are very hesitant to attempt to identify what it is that sounds good to them, for reasons that aren't so clear to me.

Yes, there will be a million-and-one answers at least, and I am interested in all of them.
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