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Mixing Tips For The Balanced Soundtrack

Mixing Tips For The Balanced Soundtrack

Since we specialize in crafting the best sound for any type of audiovisual project, it was just about time for us to share some tips on how to achieve a balanced soundtrack and elaborate a bit more on what we at Enhanced Media do. The topics discussed pertain, of course, to the vast universe of film sound, but we will try to avoid oversimplifications while keeping it digestible, understandable and, why not, enticing. Be that as it may, this post is meant to be illustrative enough for you to develop your own knowledge regardless of whether it’s basic or not —learning something new will always be worth it.

Volume and Loudness

Too many people firmly believe that both volume and loudness mean the same thing; however, there’s indeed a crucial difference. When we speak about volume we mean the unit of sound that can be measured in decibels; loudness, however, is the perceived amount of volume. This depends, of course, on several factors such as frequency range and the noise. When it comes to crafting a balanced soundtrack—balanced also meaning homogeneous—both properties are no less than pivotal.

Simply put, when it comes to establishing how both terms interact with each other, we could assert that the physical volume must not be exceeded. In the vast majority of video editing programs and most multimedia software, the master volume is usually displayed with a decibels scale. It’s also important to mention that even though zero decibels can be achieved, zero does not mean inaudible, as some folks may think. Instead, it represents the maximum level before the digital clipping.

When mixing film sound, not only in the musical score but also in the dialogues, off voices and additional sounds, the master level may be at zero decibels, otherwise, the sound would go into what we call digital overdrive, cutting off the sine waves at the amplitude maxima —the highest and loudest rashes. This phenomenon is known as digital scratching, which, if you happen to work within the film or the audiovisual industry, is certainly known to you. Additionally, digital scratching ought not to be confused with confused with the popular term tape saturation, which is way older as it dates back to the time when magnetic tapes were used. Back then, and even today, tape saturation was rather a natural compression that would sound fuller and even far warmer than what is actually achievable today with software.

Traditionally, film score and music is used, and it has already been taken care of in the mixing room for immediate use and, chances are, likewise mastered —of course, that is, the soundtrack as if it was as made in the maximum volume, which allows sound editors to basically integrate it into the film or the audiovisual project. If that were the case, however, the only prerequisite for its integration is that no other plugin for artificial inflation is inserted in the master volume channel and the subsequent individual channels.

Music and its Sources

When it comes to choosing the music for your film, as a producer or as a sound editor you may as well use music from various sources. This means that you will be resorting to different soundtracks from different composers, studios, etc.; all of these tracks should have a clean level, but normally they happen to be uncommonly and excessively loud —which takes us back at the loudness and the perceived volume.

music editing.jpeg

Lamentably today, the vast majority of music producers have taken part in the loudness-war, aiming to pump up your music according to the motto: the louder the better. In the end, you just hear a shallow shriek, let’s be honest. This has its roots in the human mind, as humans and individuals seem to perceive louder musical sounds, in this case, film score or simply music, as better music. This course of action has left music so compressed and so pumped up, that nothing can be done to differentiate it from other lines of sound; however, bear in mind that reality dictates otherwise: the louder, the higher the chances for it to be utterly broken.

Today’s music, the vast majority of the stuff we hear on the radio has almost no dynamics —it’s just annoying, to some extent, but definitely loud! When it comes to filmmaking, film score and film music are supposed to support the project, not the other way around. But what if you were working on a purely technical video? Under these conditions, the goal would be to help the music support the storytelling of the images being projected. If the project begins rather quietly, the music should follow that same course of action. If there’s a sudden increase in tension, the music might as well be used to accentuate that change. Thus, you merge both volume and loudness into perfection.

*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com

AES 2017 Gear Rundown

AES 2017 Gear Rundown

The AES convention is a time where many new products are released and shown off. This year was no exception to that. If you were lucky enough to be on the floor of AES this year then you probably already saw and heard these pieces of gear. Here's some new gear announced at AES this year:

Neve 1073SPX - this is a rack unit version of the classic 1073 preamp/EQ. Previously this was only put out by other companies and Neve would require you to buy a rack to house a single unit. Read more about it here.

Transformizer Pro - This is a sound designers dream. The plugin takes one main sound and allows you to layer other sounds with it to fill it out and make it larger than life. the other sounds will adapt to the original sound in volume, timbre, pitch, and length. Read more about it here.

Sound Radix Powair - This plugin is an adaptive compressor. This is a great tool for music and in film/tv mixing. This will allow more flexibility than traditional limiters and allow for certain things to cut through based on their transients. Read more about it here.

PACE iLok Cloud - Hate using pesky USB keys and dongles that can get easily lost or broken? Dislike having thousands of dollars on one of those? Well good news, iLok will now be a secure online system. Joining the ranks of other software developers like Waves and others who use a proprietary online system, iLok will debut this new technology in early 2018. It is undetermined if this will be free or a subscription. Read more about it here.

Great new products this year that will be very helpful in post production and music.

Waves Releases Drum Tuner Torque

Waves Releases Drum Tuner Torque

Ever record a drum set and then realize after the fact that the snare is out of tune with the song? The drums no longer gel with the music as a result. or get a mix where it's very clear the drums weren't tuned at all? Enter Waves Torque. This will tune the drum so it sits better in the mix. It can also be used for creative effects too.

Definitely a great tool to have to notch out unwanted resonances in drums and have the drums sit better in a mix overall. For more information about the plugin goto Gear News' website.

Toontrack Announces Superior Drummer 3

Toontrack Announces Superior Drummer 3

Since the 80s programmed drums has had an ever increasing growth in quality. The sonic quality of the latest offerings goes beyond anything that anyone could fathom in the early days of drum machines. Today's music world is filled with programmed drums. They are used during writing stages and in major label recordings. One of the biggest names in the drum world is Toontrack's Superior Drummer 2. They have recently announced a huge upgrade to that version with version 3.

With new features like 11.1 surround sound and audio to midi conversion, it is an all in one solution to getting drum sounds. In the past most sample replacement programs would end up with similar sounding productions, but with Toontrack's latest release allowing for simple sample replacement within their superior drummer software, which has over 230GB of samples, it seems that there are limitless possibilities for sound design. 

Read more about it on Pro Tools Expert's website.

Industry: Spotify Is Accused Of Creating Fake Artists

Industry: Spotify Is Accused Of Creating Fake Artists

Spotify was recently accused of pushing 'fake artists' in their popular playlists. They were accused of being fake because they appear nowhere else on the internet or in real life. Sometimes it is pen names for other songwriters, but what if Spotify has created AI that generates music for them? Is this ethical or right? Spotify is, in essence, paying itself royalties on top of the ad revenue that they already get. This then takes time and money away from real artists who may be struggling.

It's an interesting hypothetical idea, as it is not yet known what they are doing and why these artists are not known elsewhere. Read more about this topic at this location.

Industry: YouTube and ASCAP Share Data

Industry: YouTube and ASCAP Share Data

One of the big topics in music and video streaming right now is how to compensate music artists for their work. Currently YouTube has a content ID system in place that will flag videos for music content and then pay that artist accordingly. But what if an artist covers a song? The youtube way doesn't identify that nearly as well. mainly because it is compensating based on a recording vs covers. ASCAP is a performing rights organization that pays out to songwriters and publishers when a song is performed. By partnering with ASCAP's database, YouTube will now be able to better compensate the songwriter for the performance of their song in a virtual space using their Content ID system. BMI, another performing rights organizations, has a deal with YouTube already.

This is a huge step in fair compensation for songwriters and artists. Many artists complain that streaming sites don't pay out nearly enough. I often argue that this new technology will pay out better for most artists in the long term as a higher adoption rate is met. YouTube's partnership with ASCAP reinforces this as the deal is happening from increased revenue from their new YouTube Red subscription platform. YouTube currently pays the least of all streaming services, this development will change that for the better.

Read more about the deal at this location.

School: How Pixar Uses Music to Make You Cry

School: How Pixar Uses Music to Make You Cry

Ever wonder people get so emotional to Pixar movies? Or Why the intro to Up is known as one of the most powerful love stories ever? Their shorts rarely have any dialogue yet we feel so attached and emotionally connected to the characters. The reason for this lies in the music.

Music in story telling is very powerful. It establishes character themes, emotions within the character, danger, amongst other things. It's more than just major for happy, minor for sad, and dissonance for danger and anxiety. Youtube channel Sideways elaborates on the reasons why in the video below: