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How much automation do you use?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by JohnTodd, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    My question is about automation. I know how to use it and have before. But I was wondering, how much automation do the pros typically use? I'm including anything and everything - riding vocals, guitars, individual drums, reverb sends and returns, VST plugins, you name it.

    If you automate it, tell me about it and why. Some here seem to automate almost everything; they are looking for the perfect mix/recording. But aren't we all?

  2. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    In the end Everything is automated, so two years later I can still tweaking a customers file. Provided my 'time capsule' computer still runs....
  3. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    Actually, I don't use automation that extensively.
    When editing I rather cut and crossfade the tracks or set the volumes with the event handle ( Nuendo). This is just as flexible and tweakable
    as using the, btw, excellent automation in my DAW. Advantage: I can give the clips offline processing and I can move them if needed, all in one.
    If it comes to FX and EQ, etc., the automation is, of course, the the winner. Can't be done without and it is a breeze to use.
    So, within a normal production I have maybe 15 channels automated with 1 to 3 functions.
  4. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I only automate spot mics to bring them in and out. But I'm working on different projects than you're discussion. I have had to use automation to correct poor imaging due to differing chamber groups floating the center point of the stage across a concert.
  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Everything is automated as well as the automation itself.

    Love watching the mix do its thing.....And the blinking lights are fantastic.

    Its also about recallability at a later date. So all moves, plugs, ect. are stored with the album on a dedicated drive. Just in case someone wants to sign the band and remix the record. The remixer will thank me for a tidy organization of moving parts and tones. And hire me for their projects.....Theory #1.
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Dave, what's your process? When I used to do rock/blues I would set things into "write" mode and ride the faders through the tune. Then I would go back with the mouse and control surface and tidy up. Do you do it all with a mouse or do you manually write any of the automation?
  7. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    One of my goals this summer is to learn to use automation more extensively. I do some now, but Alice is much better and much quicker at it. Time for her to pay back some tuition and teach me.
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Bob, do you have a control surface as well as the 002?
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    No. But I do a lot of things like cutting and cross fading like Big K mentions above. These really could be done with animation much more quickly and efficiently (if I were quick and efficient at animation).

    A control surface would definitely change my workflow. Not sure if for the better or the worse.
  10. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    Lots of automation for me too. Although I also do a lot of it in editing too. I think my approach is that if I have to edit a lot then I'll do some volume adjusting while I'm there. but I prefer to not edit so much and just mix, which ends up being mostly automating things. I think its easier to do fader rides and knob turns with a physical fader or knob but then I almost always go in and edit the automation so that things happen exactly at the right moment. and I take out a lot of the written steps from the start of the move to the end of the move, but I think that has to do more with an OCD issue than listening. I'll usually make a move one solid line and then if the move needs to change speed during the move I'll draw that back in. I think I developed this approach after repeatedly failing to get the move right with the fader or knob. so I started just doing it once and then editing it to work. maybe I'd be better off just drawing it from the beginning but for some reason thats just not as much fun.
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I have an 003 surface so I can automate most things 48 tracks deep. Just installed PT9 today so that went up a bit in track count.... When I mix at the Big Studio, he has a D command...or is it an Icon??? Anyway, theres a lot of mouses on it so I can pretty much do what I envision. At home, I do have to mouse around and clean things up. I'm really a novice at this but I'm not a novice at knowing WHAT I want to fix or not... so its the process for me at this point that needs a better understanding. I'm getting it!

    I think I will go after a young upwardly mobile musician that really knows this stuff but doesnt have a room. We can both learn a lot in the process. He/she can record their record, and I get an apprentice while being one myself. Its amazing how much real appreciation someone who's very serious about their music has for some old fart that really knows where the sweet spot is for sources.

    Right now, and in previous projects, I will write the automation for each track in real time. Usually I'll already know how its going to sound by simply hearing it till I'm sick of it.....Then I'll go back and rewrite parts to smooth out any bumps or bruises.

    I like to sub-group my instruments. Some might call this 'stem mixing'. I like a stereo master on each set of sounds I deem to be close enough in tenor to be related. This also has a lot to do with the arrangement.

    For those who dont really know, when you "mix" something, you are effectively building an arrangement. Being a musician has both its good and bad at this juncture. Your arrangement sensibilities may not be what the artist had envisioned. So its good to have that conversation before beginning.

    All that being said, sometimes I use zero automation. I still have the HD24 and analog studio within the new stuff. For a quick demo or even a full length, I'll just stay in the HD24 and do everything like I've always done. If it needs an edit fix I'll dump it into protools, clean things up and come back out and mix by hand or by committee.
  12. rwogh

    rwogh Active Member

    I use automation quite a bit in mixing. A lot of times there may be a subtle nuance in an otherwise great tracked take and automation can kick in to help mask/fix it and turn off before a listener can even hear the change.

    For example if a string was bumped in a guitar track and it caused a quick harmonic, you can roll off the high end to eliminate this, but only have that EQ on for a brief second.

    In Pro Tools, the automation feature allows you to control almost ANY parameter of ANY plug-in which is an unbelievable amount of control.

    I also use automation to create cool effects. One of my favorites is starting with a low-pass filter and slowly raising the frequency at which the signal is cut off until the full spectrum comes into play. Very cool sound! Automation is a great creativity tool to play with.
  13. rwogh

    rwogh Active Member


    As a young DAW user, I actually prefer to use the automation drawing tool in Pro Tools. It gives more linear and specific results for what I want and doesn't rely on my "performance" of moving knobs (I also don't have a mixing board and do everything with keyboard/mouse).

    Also, volume is just the tip of the iceberg for automation. I use it for a TON of plug-ins. Wet/Dry mix is an awesome parameter to automate (reverb, distortion, etc.). A lot of times I automate multiple parameters simultaneously to get the desired effect.

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