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Stem mixes and how they can be implemented into an audio production.
Old 6th January 2021
  #1
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Remoteness's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Lightbulb Stem mixes and how they can be implemented into an audio production.

As many of you good folks know, I specialize in on location live performance recording, production and broadcasting. Whether it's in some remote location or at a live concert environment, on certain projects when I'm primary audio, and have a killer mix happening during the origination, I also include my stem mixes with my individual tracks. As a point of reference, I also include the FOH mix or other ancillary mix to the multitrack masters.

These stems could be broken down as a Rhythm Section mix, a Keys mix, Acoustic (strings) mix, Acoustic (horns) mix, Backing Vocals mix, Audience mix and such.

My stems each have individual signal processing (including reverb and FX) with their own settings relative to that particular stem mix. Those processed stems then feed the master buss which then feeds the broadcast, video production, live stream, etc.

This way, by tracking my stem mixes, if everything is "everything" during the capture, and I need to do a remix, I could just rebalance the stems and add the individual tracks as needed. If I have to remix one or more of the stems, so be it.

This concept helps me keep the vibe of the origination while potentially saving time in post.

What say you?
Old 6th January 2021
  #2
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tourtelot's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
It's a really good idea. The question is, can you build your stems on a one-nighter, after a short or nonexistent sound check or is this something that takes a few shows to put together? All the multi-tracks that I have captured, I have managed to get the mics to the tracks and a mix to two more and that's about it. I'm happy to have a clean multi-track for the mixer to work with with the luxury of time to correct mistakes.

I am certain that if I did as many multi-track live performances and broadcast mixes (is my jealousy showing?), I would have the confidence to try some more tricks, or as we used to say at Clair, Castle Building.

D.
Old 6th January 2021
  #3
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Steve, can you approach it another way...let's say a live to air stereo broadcast (so, no Time-shifting it to a 'live concert broadcast' a week or two later...allowing studio mixing...but real genuine 'get it right on the night' : getting the mix solidified within the first 40-60 secs of the first song)

In this context, would you be mixing with a digital (or analog ?) desk...or control surface...where those stems you describe correspond to physical submix faders, which all feed into a stereo master output ?

Or would you be mixing via mouse alone, all entirely within a DAW (ProTools)....where there's no necessary corollary between your stems and group/subgroup faders ? I can appreciate that every individual input/track plus every sub-group or stem gets routinely recorded for later remix....but what actually gets your sole undivided attention on the actual concert/broadcast night ?
Old 6th January 2021
  #4
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Remoteness's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I definitely want to respond to your posts, but I'm busy finishing up a couple of projects. I trust I will get to these questions and observations either later tonight or tomorrow.


Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
It's a really good idea. The question is, can you build your stems on a one-nighter, after a short or nonexistent sound check or is this something that takes a few shows to put together? All the multi-tracks that I have captured, I have managed to get the mics to the tracks and a mix to two more and that's about it. I'm happy to have a clean multi-track for the mixer to work with with the luxury of time to correct mistakes.

I am certain that if I did as many multi-track live performances and broadcast mixes (is my jealousy showing?), I would have the confidence to try some more tricks, or as we used to say at Clair, Castle Building.

D.

Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
Steve, can you approach it another way...let's say a live to air stereo broadcast (so, no Time-shifting it to a 'live concert broadcast' a week or two later...allowing studio mixing...but real genuine 'get it right on the night' : getting the mix solidified within the first 40-60 secs of the first song)

In this context, would you be mixing with a digital (or analog ?) desk...or control surface...where those stems you describe correspond to physical submix faders, which all feed into a stereo master output ?

Or would you be mixing via mouse alone, all entirely within a DAW (ProTools)....where there's no necessary corollary between your stems and group/subgroup faders ? I can appreciate that every individual input/track plus every sub-group or stem gets routinely recorded for later remix....but what actually gets your sole undivided attention on the actual concert/broadcast night ?
Old 6th January 2021
  #5
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
The primary problem will always be dealing with the Hot back line influence in the primary FOH mix and the potential need to approach individual channel re-mixes. IMO any large channel count multi-track recording that is capturing a hot back line band should be based on pre amp only recording for each individual channel. Addressing the differences on this basis will require more mix time initially, however it will result in a better final two mix.

Question: do you use DCAs to control your groups? I find then very handy to work with for my bigger channel count jobs.
Hugh
Old 6th January 2021 | Show parent
  #6
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Remoteness ➡️
(...)I also include my stem mixes with my individual tracks. As a point of reference, I also include the FOH mix or other ancillary mix to the multitrack masters.

These stems could be broken down as a Rhythm Section mix, a Keys mix, Acoustic (strings) mix, Acoustic (horns) mix, Backing Vocals mix, Audience mix and such.

My stems each have individual signal processing (including reverb and FX) with their own settings relative to that particular stem mix. Those processed stems then feed the master buss which then feeds the broadcast, video production, live stream, etc.

This way, by tracking my stem mixes, if everything is "everything" during the capture, and I need to do a remix, I could just rebalance the stems and add the individual tracks as needed. If I have to remix one or more of the stems, so be it.

This concept helps me keep the vibe of the origination while potentially saving time in post.

What say you?
pretty much the same here: direct outputs of undividual channel, subgroubs/matrices/stems/desk mixes all go to the multitrack since the days of the da88's (or adat for other folks).

on small to medium projects, my track list (for a full madi stream) looks like this:

trk 01-40 direct outputs of indvidual channels, off the preamp/a-d converter, occasionally including filters and/or dynamic processing (i can move the position of the direct out anywhere in the signal path).

trk 41-56 eight stereo subgroups/stems including efx

trk 57-64 surround plus stereo master including processing

larger project can occupy up to three madi streams (i'm using a rme madiface xt as my main interface) and then have more direct outputs, more subgroups/stems/matrices.

___


maybe worth noting that a) my desk allows for an almost unlimited number of channels/auxes/groups/stems/matrices/mix-minus/masters and dca's, b) even my dca's can have dsp (sic!) and c) i'm using dca's (*) and subgroups/matrices/stems in somewhat different ways:

the latter refer to 'logical' groups of instruments while the former refer to musicians: all the instruments a multi-instrumentalist is playing get controlled by a dca (or multiple dca's) while his/her instruments can also go to subgroups, depending on type of instrument.

my normal list of subgroup for rock/blues/jazz looks like this:

drums
perc
bass
guit
keys
horns
strings
voc
electronics/playback/miscellanious/spare
ambis


for classical, mostly like this:
1st
2nd
vla
celli
bass
horns
reeds
percussion
soloists
choir
organ
electronics/playback/miscellanious/spare
ambis

as a standard, i have my desk configured for 128 mic/line/digital inputs, 128 tape returns, 128 direct outputs, 12 stereo auxes, 12 mono auxes, 12 stereo subgroups, 12 mono subgroups, 12 stereo matrices, 12 mono matrices, 40 stem groups of varying width (mono, stereo, l/c/r, quad, 5.1), 2 surround masters, 2 stereo masters, 6 mono masters, 30 dca's...

...which mostly gets the job done :-)

___

in addition to stems and dca's, another layer of organization is the temporary gang feature which can get applied to every parameter and to every input and/or output in an instant: very handy not only for setting up the desk but say to adjust the hpf on al 1st violin or toms etc. or eq on rhe output so there won't be any phase shift between different arrays, to route to stems etc.

i'm also making use of my three different modes of mix-minus mixes, one of which allow for communication between artists and techs (and me monitoring) between songs without the audience getting to hear their internal communication.

finally, i can split or more precisely isolate one section of my desk for true two-operator mode - having four internal screens certainly helps to organize things too.

frankly, on very high profile shows, i wouldn't know how to do without all (or at least most of) these extra features...

Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse ➡️
Question: do you use DCAs to control your groups? I find then very handy to work with for my bigger channel count jobs.
Hugh
yes, absolutely - see above (*)

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 8th January 2021 at 08:23 PM.. Reason: edited twice for additional information
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot ➡️
It's a really good idea. The question is, can you build your stems on a one-nighter, after a short or nonexistent sound check or is this something that takes a few shows to put together? All the multi-tracks that I have captured, I have managed to get the mics to the tracks and a mix to two more and that's about it. I'm happy to have a clean multi-track for the mixer to work with with the luxury of time to correct mistakes.

I am certain that if I did as many multi-track live performances and broadcast mixes (is my jealousy showing?), I would have the confidence to try some more tricks, or as we used to say at Clair, Castle Building.

D.
I can indeed build my stems on a one-nighter, because I have a system in how things get organized before we arrive at the event for load in and sound check. My console is built prior to the arrival, and any changes will be addressed onsite. 

Like I mentioned above, on the projects when I'm primary audio, I like to include my stem mixes with the individual tracks. As a point of reference, I also include the FOH mix or other ancillary mix to the multitrack masters. 
This concept helps me keep the vibe of the origination, while potentially saving me time in post. I usually start with rebalancing the stems, then add the individual tracks as needed. 


Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➡️
Steve, can you approach it another way...let's say a live to air stereo broadcast (so, no Time-shifting it to a 'live concert broadcast' a week or two later...allowing studio mixing...but real genuine 'get it right on the night' : getting the mix solidified within the first 40-60 secs of the first song)

In this context, would you be mixing with a digital (or analog ?) desk...or control surface...where those stems you describe correspond to physical submix faders, which all feed into a stereo master output ?

Or would you be mixing via mouse alone, all entirely within a DAW (ProTools)....where there's no necessary corollary between your stems and group/subgroup faders ? I can appreciate that every individual input/track plus every sub-group or stem gets routinely recorded for later remix....but what actually gets your sole undivided attention on the actual concert/broadcast night ?
My live to air stereo broadcast mixes also use my stem mix technique for the stereo broadcast mix. Each of the stems have individual signal processing (including reverb and FX) with their own settings relative to that particular stem mix. Those processed stems then feed the master buss which then feeds the broadcast, video production, live stream, etc. 

Using my stem mix concept when when balancing a live stereo mix is an excellent way in getting the mix solidified within the first song. 

These days, I'm (pretty much) always mixing with a digital desk. In any case, those stem mixes will always correspond to physical submix faders, which all feed into a stereo master output.
When I'm tracking, and only providing a rough or monitor mix, I may use a DAW in static mode while mixing via mouse alone. This DAW (ProTools/Reaper/Harrison) would be an additional third (parked) recorder to my two digital hard drive recorders. I may include a DAW controller on large track count dates. 

Keep in mind that the stem mixes are primarily balances to help the cause and effect of the live stereo mix during the actual concert/broadcast performance. My stems, my stereo mix, and any other outside mix (like FOH or broadcast truck mix) will also be tracked with the individual tracks. The multitracks are captured accordingly, then, I build my stem mixes to feed my stereo master buss. My sole undivided attention during the capture is keeping an eye, and ear on all of the above. 

These stems could be broken down as, Band, Keys, Strings, Horns, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals, Audience, and such.
I attached an image of the stem groups I created for the Harry Connick Jr. date we did a while back.


Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse ➡️
The primary problem will always be dealing with the Hot back line influence in the primary FOH mix and the potential need to approach individual channel re-mixes. IMO any large channel count multi-track recording that is capturing a hot back line band should be based on pre amp only recording for each individual channel. Addressing the differences on this basis will require more mix time initially, however it will result in a better final two mix.

Question: do you use DCAs to control your groups? I find then very handy to work with for my bigger channel count jobs.
Hugh
I don't find a problem dealing with the hot backline influence when capturing the individual multitrack, and creating the individual stem mixes (with signal processing) that will eventually feed the master stereo buss. The primary FOH mix that I'm also recording on the multitrack recorders is there purely as a reference.

I have rarely needed to remix my stems during post production.

My small or large track count multi-track recordings are based on pre amp levels for each individual track. All the input channels are hitting the recorders pre EQ/fader. The EQ, signal processing and fader balancing is happening post fader for the stem mixes that feed the master stereo buss.

I use DCAs to control my particular channels, but not the groups. The individual channels feed the group, and I adjust the group faders accordingly to balance my feed to the final stereo mix buss. They are indeed very handy to work with for size channel count jobs.


Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➡️
pretty much the same here: direct outputs of undividual channel, subgroubs/matrices/stems/desk mixes all go to the multitrack since the days of the da88's (or adat for other folks).

on small to medium projects, my track list (for a full madi stream) looks like this:

trk 01-40 direct outputs of indvidual channels, off the preamp/a-d converter, occasionally including filters and/or dynamic processing (i can move the position of the direct out anywhere in the signal path).

trk 41-56 eight stereo subgroups/stems including efx

trk 57-64 surround plus stereo master including processing

larger project can occupy up to three madi streams (i'm using a rme madiface xt as my main interface) and then have more direct outputs, more subgroups/stems/matrices.

___


maybe worth noting that a) my desk allows for an almost unlimited number of channels/auxes/groups/stems/matrices/mix-minus/masters and dca's, b) even my dca's can have dsp (sic!) and c) i'm using dca's (*) and subgroups/matrices/stems in somewhat different ways:

the latter refer to 'logical' groups of instruments while the former refer to musicians: all the instruments a multi-instrumentalist is playing get controlled by a dca (or multiple dca's) while his/her instruments can also go to subgroups, depending on type of instrument.

my normal list of subgroup for rock/blues/jazz looks like this:

drums
perc
bass
guit
keys
horns
strings
voc
electronics/playback/miscellanious/spare
ambis


for classical, mostly like this:
1st
2nd
vla
celli
bass
horns
reeds
percussion
soloists
choir
organ
electronics/playback/miscellanious/spare
ambis

as a standard, i have my desk configured for 128 mic/line/digital inputs, 128 tape returns, 128 direct outputs, 12 stereo auxes, 12 mono auxes, 12 stereo subgroups, 12 mono subgroups, 12 stereo matrices, 12 mono matrices, 40 stem groups of varying width (mono, stereo, l/c/r, quad, 5.1), 2 surround masters, 2 stereo masters, 6 mono masters, 30 dca's...

...which mostly gets the job done :-)

___

in addition to stems and dca's, another layer of organization is the temporary gang feature which can get applied to every parameter and to every input and/or output in an instant: very handy not only for setting up the desk but say to adjust the hpf on al 1st violin or toms etc. or eq on rhe output so there won't be any phase shift between different arrays, to route to stems etc.

i'm also making use of my three different modes of mix-minus mixes, one of which allow for communication between artists and techs (and me monitoring) between songs without the audience getting to hear their internal communication.

finally, i can split or more precisely isolate one section of my desk for true two-operator mode - having four internal screens certainly helps to organize things too.

frankly, on very high profile shows, i wouldn't know how to do without all (or at least most of) these extra features...



yes, absolutely - see above (*)
Outstanding!
Attached Thumbnails
Stem mixes and how they can be implemented into an audio production.-05-stem-groups.jpg  
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
It is very important to remember the vital and game changing differences produced by the scale and venue nomenclature of any given turn key audio/video project. Hot back lines will have a much smaller impact in a large venue when all performers, be they acoustic or amped, are fed to console pre amps: as described above. This is the case when universal stems are developed for multiple distribution of broadcasting, streaming or big SR jobs that most always are manned by more than one mix engineer. They are far cry from the average small venue one man operation that generally is making an effort to balance the output of a hot back line, that needs no amplification, with vocals and acoustic inputs. Obtaining a viable post produced Multi-track for video editing under these very prevalent real world conditions demands a very different protocol. For every reader of these threads that work with remote trucks and big scale SR, hundreds of us are dealing with much smaller venues with much different needs. Keeping that in mind it is all well and good to peruse "big gig practices" however in the final analysis we must deal with our individual situations and needs. The extra effort to obtain a direct pre recording of all performers is all to often omitted and the house mix winds up on their videos. In this cases a new two mix of all pre inputs should be accommodated in post production.
Hugh
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #9
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
My stem mix concept, and how I use them to feed my stereo mix bus has nothing to do with what you have described. It's more about how I can get a great stereo mix "right out the gate" during a live performance broadcast. It's about how each stem is a mix of its own elements, where all the elements of said mix are balanced and processed accordingly for that isolated mix group. The fact that I also track these mix stems for future use is to keep the vibe and feel of the original mix, while still having control over the balance of the rhythm section, keyboards, horns, string instruments, backing vocals, lead vocals, audience mics, and such.

This concept can be applied to any scale production venture, venue size or audio/video project. It doesn't matter whether it's a small or large venue operation. This approach is done by one operator, and has nothing to do with what you have described above. 

The signal processing I use for each stem mix may vary relative to the instruments and vocals that are part of the particular mix. Different compressors, reverbs and digital delays may be used to bring out the best possible mix environment for that specific stem mix or group stem if you prefer that terminology.

I appreciate the education, yet it has nothing to do with my mindset and dynamic on how and why I use stem mixes to feed my stereo bus or the reason why I like to track these stem mixes to multitrack for future remix usage.

I'm not here to pontificate what should or shouldn't be done during a live music performance broadcast; I'm just describing my approach when I'm behind the music mix console while tracking and mixing a live broadcast event. Everyone has their own way of dealing with their production projects. I'm explaining how I capture and mix my particular events, and the mindset and workflow concept behind them.

Like you have stated, "...in the final analysis we must deal with our individual situations and needs." This is exactly what I'm doing when I address all my production ventures. I'm dealing with my own situations and needs, so I can get the best out of the individual project I'm working on. Perhaps, I may not need to create a stem mix that feeds a stereo mix bus for a three piece acoustic act without vocals, but if there were the addition of drums, keys, vocals and such, I most definitely would have created individual stems to feed the stereo mix bus.

You also mentioned, "The extra effort to obtain a direct pre-recording of all performers is all too often omitted and the house mix winds up on their videos. In these cases a new two mix of all pre inputs should be accommodated in post production." You see, this is indeed the reason why an individual like myself would be hired. Guaranteeing that the original music performance is captured to multitrack for future use is mission critical in these cases.

Furthermore, the only reason why the FOH mix may end up on the origination video is because the recording engineer capturing the multitrack may not have the proper mixing situation setup and could have felt it would be best to have the FOH feed video. This is especially relevant when there is a future mix of the event being produced. This how we have handled the Newport Folk and Newport Jazz festivals since 2008. If we are broadcasting the actual set, the video department gets our music mix feed. If we are only tracking the set, video gets the FOH mix feed. For an example, when we capture John Prine's last performance at Newport Folk Festival in 2017, The FOH fed the video, and we recorded the multitracks. Back in April of 2020, when John passed, we created a tribute video by mixing our multitrack capture and syncing it to the original IMAG video footage we were provided. Newport Festivals Foundation also worked out a deal with his son, and their record label to produce a special addition double vinyl album of that historic 2017 event.

YMMV


Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse ➡️
It is very important to remember the vital and game changing differences produced by the scale and venue nomenclature of any given turn key audio/video project. Hot back lines will have a much smaller impact in a large venue when all performers, be they acoustic or amped, are fed to console pre amps: as described above. This is the case when universal stems are developed for multiple distribution of broadcasting, streaming or big SR jobs that most always are manned by more than one mix engineer. They are far cry from the average small venue one man operation that generally is making an effort to balance the output of a hot back line, that needs no amplification, with vocals and acoustic inputs. Obtaining a viable post produced Multi-track for video editing under these very prevalent real world conditions demands a very different protocol. For every reader of these threads that work with remote trucks and big scale SR, hundreds of us are dealing with much smaller venues with much different needs. Keeping that in mind it is all well and good to peruse "big gig practices" however in the final analysis we must deal with our individual situations and needs. The extra effort to obtain a direct pre recording of all performers is all to often omitted and the house mix winds up on their videos. In this cases a new two mix of all pre inputs should be accommodated in post production.
Hugh
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