Mixing on a Board without Automation

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Al_Huero
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Mixing on a Board without Automation

Post by Al_Huero » Fri May 30, 2008 8:47 am

So I've just started mixing out of the box on a Soundtracs Topaz board I got awhile back and am really liking the results. I've been a PTLE in the box guy for years and years. One thing I'm trying to get a handle on is how people without automation handle mix recall. I run a small project studio so I don't typically have a bunch of bands on top of eachother; but I'm still running into an issue where I could use to work on the mix for two different bands with some overlap. So say I do a mix for Band A and send it out for them to listen to. In the meantime, I'd like to start the mix for Band B; but I'm concerned I'll get comments back from Band A and will be unable to recreate the original mix if I've changed things around working on the Band B stuff.

Anyone have unique workarounds for this sort of thing? I'm figuring I could create a track sheet and write down settings for everything on the board, which might be the best bet. Just curious what others do.

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Post by T-rex » Fri May 30, 2008 9:00 am

Well I have mixed OTB on a few projects and I just use the automation in Cubase. It works great and you have instant recall of the automation. It's not as cool as automating with a real fader (and depending on your console and how you are running to outboard gear there could be a sonic difference) but that is the trade off you get for full and recallable automation. Of course if you're not using PT at all, then disregard.
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Post by centurymantra » Fri May 30, 2008 9:00 am

I feel your pain...I'm in the same boat.

I take notes on the console and outboard gear settings, but have accepted that there is no such thing as a 100% recall for my setup. You can get pretty close, but it's never quite the same...more like a very close approximation, which will inevitably be tweaked a little differently. All the subtle knob tweaks and gain structures are just a bit different, finicky outboard gear may not be fully heated up, fader moves will be just a little bit different, etc. I still love mixing OTB though. It's a PITA sometimes, but t does kind of force you to commit, and I sort of appreciate the fact that it becomes more of an organic process...something that can't just be re-created. Sorry I can't offer you any secret tricks.
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Post by Al_Huero » Fri May 30, 2008 9:09 am

Thanks for that, and no worries. I kind of figured it just comes with the territory. I'll work with it. For the most part, probably just try and mix one project at a time as much as possible.

As far as using automation in PTLE, I'd prefer not too as I've heard the best results are achieved by leaving the faders at unity.

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Post by JGriffin » Fri May 30, 2008 9:19 am

Back when I was mixing manually without automation, it was standard procedure to document every mix: we had track sheets with pictures of every fader, every knob. Photocopies of the faceplates of every piece of outboard gear. Spaces to write down what aux send went to which device, what was inserted where. So at the end of every mix there was a mandatory 15 or 20 minutes to go through and write everything down.

These days I hear people are just taking a few digital photos of all the mixer/outboard settings; that's probably quicker and easier, if you don't leave anything out or take blurry photos.
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri May 30, 2008 9:46 am

Al_Huero wrote:Thanks for that, and no worries. I kind of figured it just comes with the territory. I'll work with it. For the most part, probably just try and mix one project at a time as much as possible.

As far as using automation in PTLE, I'd prefer not too as I've heard the best results are achieved by leaving the faders at unity.
The PT faders? Or the console's faders?

I actually have had to mix on old "vintage" Neve consoles when their automation machines fail.

I then use my Mackie MCU, and write all the automation in PT.

What I do with the console then, is use the EQ, insert sends / returns, some auxes for external reverbs / effects, and always leave any open faders at unity gain.

I get really good results.

Here's an example of just that:

http://faithmp3.com/fth/viewArtists.do?artistId=3265

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Post by T-rex » Fri May 30, 2008 9:49 am

Yeah, I would leave the faders at unity, unless there was an automation move; but I hear you.

I have started taking digital photos to document mic placement etc. for myself. If you use pencil marks on the faders to show where you are automating to and take a digital photo of the board, that might help with a general idea of where the automation went.
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Post by Al_Huero » Fri May 30, 2008 9:55 am

That's actually a good idea. I'm mainly concerned with fader positions on the board along with aux pot levels--but maybe a couple of pieces of gaffer tape with marks would save some time in writing a bunch of stuff down.

And as far as which faders are at unity--I was referring to the faders in PTLE. I've read that at unity, PTLE isn't really do anything to the recorded signal. Once you start moving the digital faders around, you're doing some math on the signal which I'm trying to avoid with the whole out-of-the-box mix process.

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Post by Aquaman » Fri May 30, 2008 10:38 am

Once you start moving the digital faders around, you're doing some math on the signal which I'm trying to avoid with the whole out-of-the-box mix process.
This is not accurate at all. I don't have the technical answer at my fingertips, but leaving the PT faders at unity to avoid "math on the signal" is a total myth.

Maybe some smart guy can spell it all out for us.

I'd write any obvious automation to PT, and leave the subtle micro-fader moves to your fingers on the board.

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Post by Weasel9992 » Fri May 30, 2008 11:04 am

centurymantra wrote:I take notes on the console and outboard gear settings, but have accepted that there is no such thing as a 100% recall for my setup. You can get pretty close, but it's never quite the same...more like a very close approximation, which will inevitably be tweaked a little differently. All the subtle knob tweaks and gain structures are just a bit different, finicky outboard gear may not be fully heated up, fader moves will be just a little bit different, etc. I still love mixing OTB though. It's a PITA sometimes, but t does kind of force you to commit, and I sort of appreciate the fact that it becomes more of an organic process...something that can't just be re-created. Sorry I can't offer you any secret tricks.
I love the statement that mixing this way forces you to commit...that's totally true I think, and it's a good thing for me not a bad thing. Bsides, I don't feel all that limited...I do all of my automation in Cubase, but use the analog console EQ, faders, routing and inserts for mixing...works great. I can still use all my favorite ITB FX or dynamics plug ins too. I usually have a few small fader moves to do at mixdown, but that's no big deal. The whole process takes a little bit longer because I'm constantly having to take notes or alter old track sheets to keep pace with where I am...I can live with that though.

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Post by musikman316 » Fri May 30, 2008 11:47 am

I'll second leaving the faders on the console at unity. I am currently "mixing" on a Ghost, but it's really just a big summing box with EQs, inserts and aux sends... it works really well for me... less to recall, of course I only have 2 pieces of outboard gear right now, so that statement may change in the future.

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Post by rwc » Fri May 30, 2008 11:53 am

Aquaman wrote:
Once you start moving the digital faders around, you're doing some math on the signal which I'm trying to avoid with the whole out-of-the-box mix process.
This is not accurate at all. I don't have the technical answer at my fingertips, but leaving the PT faders at unity to avoid "math on the signal" is a total myth.

Maybe some smart guy can spell it all out for us.

I'd write any obvious automation to PT, and leave the subtle micro-fader moves to your fingers on the board.
Fuck math.

When you go OTB, you're doing D/A and A/D. Even with lavrys, that's 1000x more math than moving a fader.

I doubt you're using lavrys, or radar.

I would mix on a board because I am better at mixing on a board(if that were true - I am terrible on a board). Not because I was trying to "avoid math."
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Post by newfuturevintage » Fri May 30, 2008 12:02 pm

+1 for a digital camera. Also any external effects that can save patches should have their patches saved. Really, there's no work-around, just copious documentation. The more features of the Topaz you're using, the more important this becomes.

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Post by T-rex » Fri May 30, 2008 12:11 pm

When I did that workshop at Studio G we talked about the whole unity thing. Joel said, at the time that things sounded better to him at unity in PT so he left everything at zero and fed his console that way. I don't recal but i think he automated in PT, but I definitely remember him saying if he had to change a volume level he would even use a gain plug in rather than mover the fader in PT.
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Fri May 30, 2008 12:20 pm

Al_Huero wrote:That's actually a good idea. I'm mainly concerned with fader positions on the board along with aux pot levels--but maybe a couple of pieces of gaffer tape with marks would save some time in writing a bunch of stuff down.

And as far as which faders are at unity--I was referring to the faders in PTLE. I've read that at unity, PTLE isn't really do anything to the recorded signal. Once you start moving the digital faders around, you're doing some math on the signal which I'm trying to avoid with the whole out-of-the-box mix process.
This is untrue. At any point if PTLE is playing back a file, it is processing it. Why? Because you are playing back a digitized file which needs to be converted back to an analog signal via the hardware.

The Math you are referring to is more along the lines of when you are mixing two or more signals into one common output, like when you are mixing "ITB". Then the math starts to come into play.

BUT when you are playing back individual things on their own output channel, this of course does not occur, since no signal summing is happening here. The only processing that will happen is when you have an insert plug-in inside PT.

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