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Is L, R, and Vox stems? Is that bad?

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Hilary, Sep 28, 2005.

  1. Hilary

    Hilary Guest

    Hello there

    It appears that masterers don't tend to like getting what is called stems, which I believe is what people used to call submixes (you can straighten me out here if necessary).

    It seems, though, that it wouldn't be much more work and would probably come out better if customers submitted three channels: Left, right, and vocals. 'Cause heck, after the mastering happens the perceived dominance of the vocals might be in some different place than originally intended.

    Or am I just wrong? Do clients ever say that the mastering made the vocals more or less dominant than they intended? Is it ever something that they ask to be readjusted?

  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I can say that it does take longer. it becomes a post mix pre mastering process. It will not turn out better than a mix done right. If a vocal ends up in a different place than intended, then there is either something wrong with the mix or the ME is laying a heavy hand on the mix. If you turn in a mix that you are happy with and it translates more or less on other systems, then it should work great in mastering. Even if you are monitoring on sub speakers and you really like the way it sounds, then it should still turn out right. The reason why I don't like stems, is because my job is to polish the final vision. If the vision is not yet set, then I become yet another mixer and can loose objectivity and perspective. It take about twice as long to work with stems and by the end of the session i'm burnt. split it into two days and you have double the bill.
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I"ve heard the word "Stems" used more for movie soundtrack mixing than CD Audio mastering. (Dialog stems, sound effect and foley stems, etc.)

    Giving a mastering house too many decisions can be tricky. L, R and Mono vocals might not be enough anyway for remixes. granted, the lead vocal should sit in the middle, but background vocals and other effects will also be in stereo as well, and well, as Michael has already pointed out, it's often too much additional work, and costly.

    I think you may be better off giving the ME three or four versions of the whole mix (Vocal Up, Down, Way Up, Way Down, etc.) and let him/her pick the best.
  4. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    I second that 100%. I say that I rarely work with stems but when it happens, I get mostly the stereo mix without lead vocal, bass track and the vocal track. First, even with minimum amount of stems, it is still more work to prepare. And after, it is a matter of mixing taste which is not necessarely the mixing Engineer and/or producer's tastes. After this, it is time to remove the mixer hat and try to get an objective vision to Master from fresh ears imo !!
  5. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    In addition to the functional/economic problems already discussed, there is a technical issue. Delivering stems means that the audio will essentially be mixed twice. Therefore twice the processing/summing/bouncing/transfering. This usually means some reduction in fidelity, as compared to a straight mix. There are situations where stems (sub-mixes) are appropriate, but rarely do they "save the day". Mostly stems provide aggravation, increased billing, and an overall reduction in audio quality.
  6. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    If the vox balance of the mix is simply "off" or not in balance properly, a separate vox 2-bus and instrumental 2-bus works wonders in the mastering stage. I do these on occasion.

    Choices in Vox compression is a matter of taste but if the lyrics are fading in and out in the mix, this can be corrected with the appropriate 4 track...in mastering.

    If an ME decides to use M/S processing in mastering, the center vox will usually drop in level and the backing voxes (the panned ones) may go up in level. M/S must be used delicately...with this in mind.

    Remember, their are more ways to screw-up in mastering that to polish and improve!

    It all depends on how close you work with the mixdown engineer and how constructive the advice is taken. If the talent is not there in the mixdown stage (engineering) and an oppurtunity presents itself in the mastering stage, I go for it. Usually Vox/Instrumental and even the Kick/Bassline relationship...if called for and welcomed.

    Of course, a proper remix is preferable.
  7. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Print a vocal up if you think it's an issue. Much cheaper for me to go "I think the vocal need to be louder" and pick the vocal up mix instead of mixing the vocal. Stem or stripe or whatever you want to call it is more complex than just running them off. It is disjointed and you can't get away from that.

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