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The Art of Pro Tools
Old 1st November 2002
  #1
Lives for gear
 
Renie's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The Art of Pro Tools

Hi Charles and all,

Charles, I wonder what you think are the key elements to the art of Pro Tools working. It seems like a lot of people struggle initially to get the sound they desire, for many this seems a very difficult road. Fingers point to the mix bus, poor plug-in quality, etc..etc. Expectations are possibly too high for quick results..?

When I first turned to Pro Tools 2 years ago I had the biggest 'sound' learning curve of my life. Now I feel I've come a long way to mastering it and I'm always aspiring higher. I'm not really sure what caused the change, I think probably it's a gradual process of combinations -little by little- the quality of my convertor's, plug-in's and hours spent reading forums and working away at it.

Did you wrestle with Pro Tools at the beginning, or were you in full sail from the start? Do you feel that there is any room still for improvement in your PT work? If so, is that your individual issues or concerning gear, power, stability etc..?

Thanks!
Old 1st November 2002
  #2
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Renie,

For me, the key to working in Pro Tools is understanding what it does and does not do. The soundtrack we all have in our mind's ear that we compare our work to is made up mostly of records made on analog gear. To get comparable results on PT (or any digital recording medium) we have to either add that kind of color going in (with the analog gear discussed on most of the forums on this site) and/or by adding it with saturation plugs (DaD Valve + Tape, Analog Channel, the soon to be released Crane Song Phoenix, etc.).

When mixing on PT the same applies. The PT mix bus does not add any character or warmth to the mix, but pretty much everything you and I compare our mixes to was mixed on an analog console and has that analog punch to it. So, when I mix I usually use at least one or more analog style plugs across the stereo bus. My current fave is Analog Channel AC1 with the Console 1 or Console 3 presets as starting points.

AC1 emulates solid-state console saturation, and it really helps glue the mix together. But it works best if I put it across the stereo bus at the beginning and mix though it, instead of completing my mix and then inserting it. When inserted afterwards it seems so subtle that it almost does nothing, or it seems to smooth out the mix in a slightly detrimental way. On the other hand, when inserted first and all mix decisions are based on how it affects each track, it really brings things together much quicker. By "pushing" a mix through it, it drives the stereo bus in a different way than when inserted afterwards. At the end of a mix if I bypass AC1 the mix will often fall completely apart, because I was driving AC1 so that it colored the mix in a way that influenced my EQ, compression, FX's and automation. The sound difference is actually quite dramatic.

For an even more analog type of sound when using AC1 on stereo faders - especially the Master Mix Fader - use it in Multi-Mono instead of Stereo mode. This emulates more closely the way that analog stereo busses work, because they are actually two mono busses. The left and right channels each saturate independently, and Multi-Mono AC1's emulate that type of saturation.

Did I wrestle with Pro Tools at the beginning? Yes, my PT mixes turned a corner when I discovered Ren EQ + Ren Comp, and DaD Valve + Tape (thanks to my Pro Tools guru David Frangioni). (You may be noticing a trend here. The three most important things in a Pro Tools mix are: saturation, saturation, saturation).

Do I feel that there is any room still for improvement in my PT work? Every single day I grab my trackball.

If so, is that your individual issues or concerning gear, power, stability etc..? Definitely, there is always room for personal improvement. I still think there could be more variety with the high-end reverb and chorus/flange plugs; on most mixes I still run out of DSP (but we'll see with my new HD system); and with stability I'm pretty satisfied, but I usually work on single operator systems. I'm looking forward to PT 6.

Thanks for the great questions.
Old 1st November 2002
  #3
Gear Nut
 
Diginerd's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Thanks for the insight.

Do you ever stick AC1 on most of the tracks in your mix?

I find I tend to mix with AC1 & AC2 on the Mix Bus, and AC1 on everyting else except my FX returns.

I was told that Console 1 is Based on a British Console with a 3 letter name, Console 2 on a 4 letter Desk designed by a man of the same name, and Console 3 is a an "Ideal".
Old 1st November 2002
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Curve Dominant's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Charles,

You posted,
Quote:
So, when I mix I usually use at least one or more analog style plugs across the stereo bus.
Can you clarify how you do this? Is it as simple as opening a stereo aux track, inserting the analog plug on that track, and then sending the individual tracks through that aux track in varying degrees?

Or is there a way to send the stereo master channel through the analog plug, so that the whole mix is treated? ...and is that what you're doing?

Sorry if I seem clueless, but I'm still a little new to this.

Thanks in advance.
Old 2nd November 2002
  #5
No Charles creates a 'master fader' and puts the AC1 on that.

That IS the stereo bus in PT.

Old 2nd November 2002
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Curve Dominant's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
No Charles creates a 'master fader' and puts the AC1 on that.

That IS the stereo bus in PT.
Aahhh...so he puts the plug as an insert on the master fader channel. Hell, that's even easier.

Thanks Jules.
Old 2nd November 2002
  #7
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Diginerd,

I essentially use AC1 like you do. I like to use a combination of AC1 or DaD Valve as my "pre's" (before comp + EQ) whenever a track needs a little analog rounding or smoothing—but not every track. Across the stereo bus I normally use DaD Tape for my tape plug (though not every mix needs a tape saturation plug).

I've the exact same thing about the Console presets.

Jules,

Thanks for picking up the slack. I am typing as fast as I can. I'm trying to respond to all these great questions.
Old 2nd November 2002
  #8
Lives for gear
 
adam_w's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I love DAD tape as well, but I've been wrestling with it lately..I find it adds an instantly gratifying solidness to things, I find the tape compression emulation perhaps a bit too weird to use on the master fader...The compression is pretty strange..it doesn't SOUND compressed, but check out your meters..there's some serious manipulation of your dynamics going on ! It seems like not compressing with DAD on the MF leaves more space for the mix to breathe and a lot more transparency to give yourself a fighting chance when some animal crushes you with an limiter later.. Also..what kind of level are you hitting the stereo buss with - my mixes tend to peak exactly at zero with the master fader at zero. I always reduce the input level down on DAD 1.5 db or more.. maybe I'm pushing it too hard ?
Old 2nd November 2002
  #9
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
On the stereo bus I don't drive DaD Tape too hard. I often keep the Input @ -2.6 and sometimes even lower. I then boost the Output the opposite amount. It helps open up the dynamics.
Old 2nd November 2002
  #10
Lives for gear
 
Renie's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Charles

Thanks for your reply.

Do you add real analogue colouration to your signals before they reach Pro Tools also or keep it plug-in based?

I'm developing a real interest in the analogue channel plug-in now. Thanks for your advice on it's optimal usage for you. I've already bought DUY Tape on the strength of your comments, which I love, and a couple of days ago Wide also! Which I'm really excited about.

Do you use the Aphex exciter at all?

You sound as though you rely heavily on certain plug-in's, have you ever tried 'forcing' a mix without your fave plug's, say just using the stock Digi plug's? I'm just wondering how much of your sonic calibre is due to you having reached a stage where your creative use of (any) plug-in's is what counts or how much is it the plug's themselves?...Any thoughts?


Looking forward to talking about compression EQ and fx on other threads!


I am so delighted you are moderating here this month, I'm enjoying it immensely.

Thanks

Renie
Old 3rd November 2002
  #11
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Renie,

I add as much analog coloration as is possible + appropriate with the gear available at the time of recording. It all starts with getting the best sounds possible into the system, before doing anything else to it.

I don't use Exciters much (hardware or plug) in mixing, but I have used the plug a few times and it did the job fine.

Regarding my fave plugs, I am from time to time in situations without them + I am usually not satisfied with the results. For some of the plug-ins I use, I've yet to find others that can top them for the job I use them for.

So far the great questions are giving me plenty to talk about, but I hope to start a few threads here soon.

I'm glad you're enjoying it I am as well. Thanks.
Old 3rd November 2002
  #12
Jax
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Charles,

I'm curious as to how you went about accomplishing a mix that agreed with you before PT became your mainstay. Specifically, were you an all analog mixer prior to discovering that similar/better/equal results, especially in terms of analog simulation, were achievable in PT through the use of plug-ins?

Also, if you have the means of using actual analog (read: outboard), do you prefer emulation plugs simply because they are faster to work with? What other reasons would you cite for using plugs vs. the real thing?

On another topic, I don't doubt your qualifications to moderate, but I would like a little history for those of us who are uninitiated. Otherwise, we're all assuming that everyone knows who Charles Dye is and why we might want to listen him. Where do you make your mark in the industry?

Thanks!
Old 4th November 2002
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Renie's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye

Regarding my fave plugs, I am from time to time in situations without them + I am usually not satisfied with the results. For some of the plug-ins I use, I've yet to find others that can top them for the job I use them for.

I was curious about knowing, at your level of expertise, how critical the choice of actual plug-in model is in PT. It sounds very important still.

I pulled up a Digi demo not long ago and was surprised at how good it sounded with all their own plug's!! Probably carefully chosen etc etc.

I am particular about the plug-in's I like and use, but I'm still learning to work out what really matters in a mix. What is visually seductive over aurally seductive..and what sounds right for each job regardless of the isolated or general merits (or lack of) of a plug-in.


Thanks
Old 5th November 2002
  #14
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Jackson,

Yes, I was originally an all-analog mixer. My first mixes were on a Neve VR60, a gorgeous console, and later I did mixes on various SSL's. With all the standard racks of gear (480's, LA-2A's, Pultecs, etc...). And though many of my mixes are done all inside PT today, I still also mix on SSL 9K's, Capricorns, + other large format consoles.

"Actual analog vs. Plugs:" When I'm in a studio with outboard gear, I will use both plugs + and the analog stuff. Whatever it takes + whatever works. For me it's not a plugs vs. analog issue. When I'm in a PT studio with all my plugs—I use them. When I'm in a room with outboard gear—I use a combo. There's no reason to deny myself from using everything on my plate. I'm simply a mixer. I use technology to get the results I'm after. Fortunately I'm able to get the sound I'm looking for whether I'm doing a combo mix or a plugs only mix.

I feel it's more important to know the sound you are searching for, rather than knowing the gear you need to get it. If you don't know the sound, then no matter what gear you have in front of you you'll never find the sound. But if you have the sound in your mind's ear, then no matter what gear you have, you'll be able to find it.

"A little history for the uninitiated:" I realized after reading your post that I should've included a little bit about myself in my "Greetings" post at the top of the forum. So I did, and you can read it here. As well, if you'd like you can go to my website charlesdye.com. Its main purpose is as a Pro Tools Learning Site, but it also includes my bio + discography towards the back.

I hope my answers were helpful.
Old 5th November 2002
  #15
Lives for gear
 
groundcontrol's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye
I feel it's more important to know the sound you are searching for, rather than knowing the gear you need to get it. If you don't know the sound, then no matter what gear you have in front of you you'll never find the sound. But if you have the sound in your mind's ear, then no matter what gear you have, you'll be able to find it.
Nicely said, I agree 100%.

Athough, being a gear slut, I still like to know what's gonna get me there faster and in a grander style! heh
Old 5th November 2002
  #16
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Renie,

"How critical the choice of actual plug-in model is in PT:" I definetely think plug-in choice is important. If you are asking for example, can you just use any compressor plug for compression? I don't beleive so. There are many types of compression, and some compressors are better for somethings and others for other things. And the same applies to EQ, reverb, chorus, flange, etc...

"What is visually seductive over aurally seductive:" Some of my favorite plugs are the most boring looking. So, I agree that you definetly need to ignore the graphics, + pay attention to what it's doing to the sound.
Old 5th November 2002
  #17
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by groundcontrol
Athough, being a gear slut, I still like to know what's gonna get me there faster and in a grander style!
I'm with ya there.
Old 6th November 2002
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Renie's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Charles Dye
[B]Renie,

"How critical the choice of actual plug-in model is in PT:" I definetely think plug-in choice is important. If you are asking for example, can you just use any compressor plug for compression? I don't beleive so. There are many types of compression, and some compressors are better for somethings and others for other things. And the same applies to EQ, reverb, chorus, flange, etc...


Charles I was posing an odd question really, as I know plug-in choice is vital but was wondering, when you get to your level, if there are other factors to mixing in PT that offset the importance of which plug-in you use. Sounds like it's the opposite the better you get the more particular you are about the plug-in's you use.

It's interesting that people using fairly radically different plug's seem very satisfied with their mixes.
Old 6th November 2002
  #19
Lives for gear
 
Curve Dominant's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Renie,

I'm sorry, but I gotta ask...

Is that an attack parrot in your avatar? There was a thread on the DUC recently about using attack parrots for studio security.

Just wondering.
Old 6th November 2002
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Renie's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Curve Dominant
Renie,

I'm sorry, but I gotta ask...

Is that an attack parrot in your avatar? There was a thread on the DUC recently about using attack parrots for studio security.

Just wondering.
LOL!!!

Yes, she's very, very scary isn't she?

Actually it's just a picture I swooped on in Jules' avatar library. Ask him, it's his bird.



PS I don't smoke.
Old 6th November 2002
  #21
FX smörgåsbord user
 
Charles Dye's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Renie,

" if there are other factors to mixing in PT that offset the importance of which plug-in you use."

Absolutely. The key for me when mixing is to know in my mind the sound I'm looking for first, and then to choose how I'm going to process it. I feel that there are definitely other factors to mixing than what plugs you use, and the first one is knowing what you want, not what you want to do it with. Then after you know the sound you can choose your plugs. And I am also quite particular about my plug-in selection, simply because I know the ones that work best (for me) for each task.

"It's interesting that people using fairly radically different plug's seem very satisfied with their mixes.

Everybody is looking for a different sound, and even if you're looking for a similar one there is always more than one way to accomplish it. The plugs you've discovered to get a sound may be different than the ones I use to get pretty much the same one. That's because once you figure out a way to get a sound there really isn't much point in finding three other ways to get the exact same sound. I'd rather spend my time learning how to create a new sound.
Old 6th November 2002
  #22
Lives for gear
 
groundcontrol's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye
Some of my favorite plugs are the most boring looking.
Then I know which manufacturer you're talking about! IMHO they could use a graphic designer...

Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye
I'd rather spend my time learning how to create a sound I've yet to discover.
You got me all confused there, it sounds like a something from a treatise on the relativity theory...
Old 6th November 2002
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Curve Dominant's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Dye:
Some of my favorite plugs are the most boring looking.
Aaaahhhh, yeah, baby...for The Curve:

That would be the Bomb Factory LA-2A.

There's something about that plugin that just LOVES the sound of this singer I'm finishing up a CD with.

That plugin just wraps itself around her voice, caresses it, makes love to it.

A little background: She's a young black singer, self-taught, no formal training at all. A diamond in the rough, but very soulful, very real and authentic.

And more than a tad insecure about her sound...that is, before I went and put the LA-2A plug on her lead tracks as an insert.

She's not complaining anymore, and neither am I. Whoah! What a difference. It's not just the effect on her voice...it makes the whole song sound like a classic now. Bear in mind I'm putting this plug ONLY on her lead vocal, not on any other of the tracks, not on the backup harmonies or clones or whatever. But it makes the whole arrangement of the song just fall into place, like a Cole Porter classic. It has that classic sound. It lets her voice "fall across the mix" in the most de-luvely way. Dang!

And the plug has that "boring" look to it: Very basic. Two knobs and two switches, and a VU meter. But I LOVE IT!

Give me boring looking plugins that sound great. Give me very simple and basic options that I can improvise with. We don't need eye-candy. We have great sounds, we just want to optimize them a little bit.

We are both completely sold on this plugin situation now. And we are f*cking loving this forum! Big ol' props to Jules for setting this up, to Charles for hosting it, and to EVERYONE who is participating! YOW!
Old 6th November 2002
  #24
Keep on topic please!

(I edited out a tiny spat)

Move forward with the TOPIC ONLY!

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