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Automated Mixing (part 2)

Imagine the situation of a producer and an engineer in a good quality but non-automated studio. The producer, if he really knows what he is doing, will be saying things like, “Push the vocal now” and “Pull back the brass under that line”, and the engineer will be carrying out these requests during the many rehearsals that it takes to build up a mix...

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Do it yourself

Imagine the situation of a producer and an engineer in a good quality but non-automated studio. The producer, if he really knows what he is doing, will be saying things like, “Push the vocal now” and “Pull back the brass under that line”, and the engineer will be carrying out these requests during the many rehearsals that it takes to build up a mix. It will be apparent that once the producer has decided on a particular bit a fader riding, then the engineer is going to have to repeat that movement exactly on every subsequent rehearsal of the mix, and add new moves too. On the final mix down, everything that the producer has requested will have to be repeated accurately. While all this is going on, the engineer has concerns of his own. He has noticed that during a quiet passage during the middle of the song, the tracks where no instrument is playing are adding a significant amount of noise to the mix. Also, right at the end, where there is a definite finish rather than a fade, that the sound of some instruments decays before others, and once again noise becomes apparent. So in addition to complying with the artistic demands of the producer, the engineer has technical problems to contend with too. He will have a few tricks up his sleeve to help him out, but there can still be a lot of fader riding, and it’s not going to be easy. Now, if you are an engineer/producer all rolled into one you are going to have to do this by yourself! This brings in another problem: when you are already struggling to ride the faders during early rehearsals of the mix, how on earth are you going to be able to pay proper attention to the sound coming out of the speakers? Unless you can develop a split personality (preferably multitasking!) there is no way you are going to be able to do this properly.

The solution to all these problems is mix automation. Mix automation will solve your technical problem of noise build up, it will handle the level changes you need for artistic reasons, and it will let you get on with the most important part of the engineer/producer’s job - listening to the music! Let’s go into the nuts and bolts of automation.

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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