Elemental Game Soundtrack - What Happened in Our First Mixdown?
Yesterday was the first day in 2 weeks, we have got together as a group for the purpose of mixing our work. It was late, people had to work, and we were unprepared and underdeveloped on our knowledge of advanced analog signal flow. In this session, we all had the intention to take our tracks out of Ableton and mix them in Pro Tools, to create a more consistent mix of the four tracks. We were using the Neve Custom 75 console, which so far has been great for tracking and sounds incredible when the signal is summed through the master bus. Unfortunately, the research into what we wanted to do in order to set-up our tracks was under-developed. In this reflective blog, I'm going to discuss just what happened, and what we need to work on the next time the group meets in the studio.
#1. Advanced Signal Flow
Setting up the console to mix required some brain strain in the signal flow department, and I know once we go back we will slapping the proverbial forehead again saying "it was that easy?!" yeah it was Stephen. The biggest signal flow issue we had through this desk, was trying to send all of the outputs of the tracks we were using in the mix to 2 other buses, without using Pro Tools to do it. Why would we do this? It's a good way to learn analogue signal flow of course, but more because we wanted to use the 1073 EQ to process the final mix of all of our tracks. One doesn't simply step into use the Neve Custom 75, then only use Pro Tools. That would be pointless in my opinion and would teach you nothing. Although this took an hour out of our studio time, it showed us what we needed to work on. Going into the next attempt to mix these tracks, I'm going to come up with a detailed list of patching ideas and ways to improve the analogue signal flow. It also wouldn't hurt to ask one of the many professionals walking the halls, what they think could be done to improve our knowledge of the topic.
#2. Session Preparation
The session preparation of the group was not what we needed for a good start to the session, it took about 30min to convert the Ableton sessions we had into Pro Tools and when the audio files came into Pro Tools, they were Stereo not Mono audio files. This may have been a choice of preference for some members of the group, but I prefer to mix each track in its own mono bus. We could possibly look into how to send the tracks out of Ableton into Pro Tools as mono audio files, but I am still not the best at that DAW as of yet. Once the sessions were loaded up, re-named, coloured and arranged, we were on our way and it seemed if we had of started there we would have completed it.
#3. Compression and Stereo Levels
It seemed that no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't get our stereo mixes working equally through left and right with an outboard compressor. We tried using the VLA stereo compressor and to simplify it, we tried the 2254 bus compressor, but we still had issues with un-even stereo levels. I think the stereo link wasn't being used on the compressors properly, so we may need to go back to the drawing board with those units and do it right next time.
#4. What went right?
The best thing about this session is that it made us come together and critique our mixes as a group. This was the first time we had gone in and done this, and it pointed out some big problem areas of our workflow so far. It was amazing to hear everyone's mixes and the quality we have come up with and when we get back and do it all again we'll be ready for some of those issues before they show there ugly head. Getting to use the Neve desk to put your work on is a pleasure as always, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn such a great sounding machine. Stay tuned for an update on what we do in the next session. Same tracks, different method and whole lotta learning.