Video - Home Recording- Five Key Things You Need?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by DonnyThompson, Sep 24, 2015.

  1. JayTerrance

    JayTerrance Active Member

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    Mic's and Pre's and AD's are important but my first thought (with the exception of the artist) has usually been the Room. That is:

    1) Sounds/samples brought into the mix with no/limited natural room sound are always more than difficult to get sitting realistically and ever be 100% satisfied with. Even great reverb hardware is not the Holy Grail - although it provides a lot, there is an unexplainable "element of realism" that is still missing to astute listeners. This "element of realism" would likely be defined as real air/reflections that are bound to the musical source at the time of micing and/or specific room mics set up to capture natural depth and non-axis reflections. And secondly;
    2) Sounds tracked with a bad room regardless of the skill level (nearly 100% of all residential homes) are just...well...bad. And lastly;
    3) Samples with embedded room sounds are not providing 100% realism because of repetition. That is, the exact same room reflection pattern is being produced hit-after-hit or note-after-note. And yes, different velocities in some samplers will produce a different room reflection pattern from each hit to hit (or note to note), but a true room reflection pattern is a "performance of continuity". That is, reflections from previous hits or from previous notes are still interacting with the reflections of the current hit or note to produce the complex realism that our minds accept in a true room recording/performance of continuity. Our human brilliance detects this lack of realism from samples and grows wary of it quite quickly.

    Unfortunately for most home hobbyists a pro sounding LIVE room is highly unlikely. So even with great tracking equipment, some of these people are still not completely satisfied with their sound quality from microphone applications even after their wallets are a bit thinner.

    We're only as good as our weakest link? And my guess is the Room is culprit a significant percentage of the time.
     
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  2. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    I have a theory about that. Samples (at least the ones I buy today) sonically sound much better than most studios will ever achieve. So, like you and so many, blame the sample when it really is lack and ability to sonically achieve the level of the sample, which inevitably gives the impression that it is the samples fault.
    I'm not saying this to spark an argument but its not something I will ever be convinced otherwise.
    When you use samples that you create in your own studio, they always blend into you tracks. That's the dead giveaway. ;)
    If you've ever used a Bricasti, no room will ever compete with what you can achieve with it today.

    Being said, I think you might be confusing sonics with performance in this thread. Sonically, a sample is exactly a clip of a performance. The key is knowing and being able to blend so if your gear isn't up to the level of the sample, you will a;ways have difficulty getting things to glue.. Its a mixing skill.
     
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    LOL... I never said that getting great sound was cheap, Actually, it's never been "cheap". Go back to the 70's and 80's and price an SSL, or a Trident, or a Harrison. Big money. Pro-sumer tape decks like Tascams and Otari's were a lot cheaper than Studer's and MCI's.

    There will always be that chasm between pro sound and pro-sumer sound. Do I think the width of that divide has decreased over time, as technology has made amazing strides? Yes... it's not quite as wide as it used to be. But it's still there. There's still a separation between pro and home in terms of sound quality.

    And again, I don't believe that not having that pro caliber gear should ever stop creative people from exploring their creativity. I never said - or even implied - that someone shouldn't do what they do just because they don't have a cabinet filled with Neumann, AKG and ADK mics, or a Neve 9000 Series console, or a rack of Millennia pre's and Antelope or SPL conversion. Of course people should use what they have, what they can afford, and, do so in the best way that they can.

    But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that budget gear in a bedroom or attic can produce a sound quality that is on the same level as the gear that is being used in the big rooms, (or that is being used in those very rare home studios that have the nice gear and tuned environments). And yes, those big rooms do cost money to record in, because the studio has to pay somehow for their investments - of having built the great sounding room, having accurate monitoring, the great sounding gear, and having skilled engineers who know that room and that gear inside and out.

    Quality is never "cheap", it never has been... and that can be said for all kinds of things; whether it's recording gear, or musical instruments, or cars, tools, or cameras, or finely crafted firearms and knives... you get a quality commensurate to what you pay.

    For me, I find that I'm never really 100% happy. I think that I often get about 75%, maybe 80% of the way there. I've been on a quest for great fidelity since I started this journey over 35 years ago, and I've touched that quality more than a few times times along the way, when I've had the opportunity to use the pro caliber stuff, but I've never been 100% satisfied with the fidelity I get at my home studio. I've done some "okay" sounding work, some might even say that it's nice-sounding work... but nothing that I've ever felt couldn't have sounded better at the same time. Is it because of my skill as an engineer? I don't think so. I've been doing this for quite a few years now...I know which end of a fader is up - LOL - so I think it's safe to say that I know what I'm doing; my skill level is higher than your average home recordist.

    But my gear isn't of the same quality as you would find in a real studio; and as mentioned many times here before, the quality you get is only ever as good as the weakest link in the chain. The difference between my home studio, and say, somewhere like Ocean Way, is that their chain is top-notch quality from start to finish. There is no "weak link" anywhere. They have a great sounding room, great mics, beautiful consoles with great pre's, highly accurate monitoring, the highest quality converters and signal processing... how could I ever compete sonically? The answer is, I can't. The difference between me, and someone who may be convinced that they can get a pro sound with their budget rig, is that I know I can't. LOL.
    But, that doesn't stop me from recording, and it shouldn't stop anyone else, either. As long as they aren't kidding themselves into thinking that their Tascam pre/converter is gonna deliver the same quality as that of truly professional grade equipment. ;)

    I would take Jay's reference to samples one step further, and apply it to home recordings as well. If you are recording live tracks in a poor-sounding environment at home, that room sound is going to be printed on all the tracks you record, and over time, as more tracks that are recorded in that same environment are added, the cumulative negative effect of the room will start to mess with the overall sonics of the recording/mix. Perhaps one could get away with one track under these conditions, maybe two, but when you start adding a plethora of tracks - which were recorded using the exact same mic, in the exact same problematic environment, you're bound to run into some serious sonic issues eventually.

    IMHO of course.
     
  4. JayTerrance

    JayTerrance Active Member

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    I have a Bricasti and use it quite a bit (actually always). However, I also track in mostly one "live-room" that sounds very nice. The realism and depth that I get from the initial tracking/micing is first and foremost. I view my Bricasti as a compliment to those nicely mic'd raw tracks because the Bricasti is only providing an enhancement to the primary reflection pattern (some would say color) that has already been captured at the time of micing. What I'm trying to say is that I don't see the Bricasti as a competitor of a great sounding live-room. And I think others need to get into the mindset of not conglomerating those 2 things.

    As for samples, what I am saying is that the "realism" of the room reflection pattern is not accurate. Say for example you throw a stone in the lake (or a coin in the bathtub). It will create a pattern of waves. Now immediately throw a 2nd stone/coin in the water. Will you get a separate wave pattern from the 2nd stone/coin while retaining all of the wave pattern from the first stone/coin? Of course not. Instead, you get a more complex blended pattern of waves. This is the problem with samples...they faithfully produce a reflection pattern from each (and only each) drum hit or piano key, or whatever sound they are sampling. And while the sample itself is meticulously recorded and sounds great on its own, it cannot faithfully reproduce a complex room reflection pattern when a performance of samples is put together. That is because a wave reflection pattern is it's own performance of continuity when performing an instrument in a room. Now if you're arrangement is simply a sampled snare with a single hit on 2 & 4 in a slower ballad, the snare sample will work just fine. But if you've got a complex snare pattern with ghost hits and the like, you won't get a realistic room reflection pattern from samples alone. A true and realistic complex reflection pattern is "imbedded" into the mics on your initial tracking of a performance in a live-room. So you can begin to see how vital a great sounding live-room becomes.

    In my experience (& to recap what I'm saying) is that samples do sound excellent. I don't have anything against samples at all. I use them for lots of things. However, if you are looking for the ultimate in realism of a performance in your finished mix...you will also need a great sounding live room right from the start...IMHO. And I have lots of experience with my Bricasti, and it is a fantastic hardware unit. However, I don't equate this great reverb unit as a substitute that tracking with a good mic/chain in a great sounding room provides because a Bricasti provides reflections secondarily. The primary reflections are only captured at the time of tracking.
     
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  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    I build rooms, so I know a couple things about it. How does a home recordist go about getting great room sounds? Build or rent. The cost of screws for a decent room is more than a lot of people have invested in their entire rigs.

    Pretty much since '78 sampling has been around and used in one form or another since. Whether it's tape editing or digital punch ins, to synthesized sound and drum replacement. Wether it's complete replacement or for reinforcement, if it's a commercial song from the last 40 years, it's likely got samples on it. I'm not talking about jazz Ect, but pop/rock.

    When you add on to to well recorded basics with the digital samples and replacements, you start to see how it all comes together in the big budget places. None of this is budget or beginner.
     
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    sampling is no different than tape . Sampling is no different than duplicating tracks in your DAW. A DAW is a sampler. Samples are a reproduction of your room, my room etc. Using samples is no different than overdubbing or collaborating with people either. If you are using samples from other peoples studio, then you need to listen to the samples in the same way as you do when you are matching an overdub. Its no different.
    Seamlessly matching overdubs or samples in a session requires excellent skill. Again, if you sample your work recorded in your room, it matches extremely well so this is the obvious lesson that its not the sample but the skill in how you apply a sample. A sample is an overdub.

    Those that don't mix or collaborate will likely know less about this. Those who have never worked with other studios collaborating will most likely not know much about this. Most people record in their studio and have little is no experience or need to think much more about this topic, which is okay, but they are seriously missing the mark on how to mix beyond their world.

    If I am collaborating or mixing other peoples work the first thing I do is get all the rooms identified and look for one that will glue it better. Which is why Bricasti's are ideal for matching acoustic with samples you use outside your studio walls.
    I cannot collaborate and blend multiple rooms (samples) good, better, best together well, and expect different sounding studios to mix into a common song without working at it. It takes time and skill. If you are working with a group of people, its a smart and logical step to be sure you are all on equal playing ground. I mean, if you are giving me a drum track that was recorded in a boxy room, and I add a sample of a snare that is in BFD, lol. Its obviously going to sound wrong. At this point the key is learning how to downgrade to the weakest link.

    On that note, gear does matter. When it comes to collaborating, the less room in a song the easier it is to match an overdub. Its the mis matching of all the rooms that create problems which is why most home studios music sounds the way it does. That is, if they are capturing their room in the mix. I am of course taking about pop music. Not jazz, etc.

    For this part of the discussion, I think some of us are confusing performance with technology.

    Example: If I was recording a folk band, I would try damn hard to get them to record it all, start to finish and never overdub a thing.
    If I was producing a "modern sounding pop song" I would use as much electronic emulation as I could. The vocals are what I use as the bench. This is why I tell everyone. If you are giving me a vocal track, use the best gear and conversion you can get because the better the vocal sound you have, the bigger I can make your music sound. Keep your boxy room out of it because it serves you no purpose.
     
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    This is a wonderful topic full of gems.

    From a collaboration, mixer POV , this is how I often deal with more acoustic or organic music with problems (which is pretty much all recorded music at some point).
    Q: What is the goal of the production and budget for mix:
    Think of my job as plastic surgery. Vocals = the face we see most and pass judgement on.

    Example: If the folk band I mention above had tracks or stems with a bad snare, hats, , ride, crash etc that were effecting the imaging of the main vocals, I would look through the song for the best sounding examples and sample various dynamic versions of each including room reflections, input it all into my sampling arsenal (YES - our gear and sound does matter now) for replacement therapy.

    I would design my replacements (samples) to emulate the performance and room characters of the band. Sometimes I may add an outside source to help augment these samples which could include the sound of their room or a Bricasti to help "glue" it all better. Think of this as skin grafting for sonic aesthetics. I mean, isn't sound quality aesthetics too? Not to mention making sure the track is "in phase" so it will play back on important playback systems competing with industry standards.

    90% of the time, my replacement process will lift the song tracked in a bad studio up to a more open, less problematic level, thus, letting me focus on the vocal or target goal of the arrangement now.
    I choose the best takes to edit and design the track better.

    My bet, this is exactly how 1000's of other songs heard on the radio are done when a professional mixer of this caliber are commissioned into the equation. The last thing I would do (if this was the goal that is) is create an obvious footprint/ notice that I was changing the bands direction for the worse. The skill required to do this isn't something you learn over a weekend. Its as detailed as mastering, if not more. When the band, recordist whomever is part of the project likes what you did, that is when you understand what sampling and mixing for others is all about.

    If you do not believe this, then you are in the dark ages . I have been doing this for over 3 decades now. It works like a charm. ;)
     
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    IMO, sample replacement can mean the difference between a great sounding mix, and one you'd just as soon not let anyone hear.

    In most cases, when I'm given tracks to mix ( that I had no hand in the recording of), nine times out of ten, it's the drums that are the weakest tracks, followed a very close second by vocals. Some of it is due to poor mics, or poor mic placement and technique; but much of the time, it's the room in which the tracks were recorded that makes the tracks the most problematic. There are times I'm able to keep the original tracks, and it's a lot of fun to mix well-recorded drum tracks, but it doesn't happen that way very often.

    I've been able to salvage these songs going through replacement samples with a fine-toothed comb, to make sure that whatever is used doesn't do anything but to help the song. It takes some time, some patience, and some refined listening skills to get the "right" sample to work - it's nowhere near as easy as choosing just 'any" snare, and simply plugging it into the mix. It needs to work with the other attributes of the song, too - and not just the other drums, either - but also in comparison to bass, guitars, vocals, keys, etc.

    For this reason, very rarely will I ever solo-up drum tracks and rely on that type of mix while searching for replacement samples, because what may sound good unto itself, or with one other instrument - may not sound good at all when the other instruments are brought in. I'm not changing the performance ( unless that's what they want me to do) so all the fills, and grace notes are still there, exactly like the drummer played them originally... I'm only changing the sound, which, by the way, is what we all would do anyway if limited to using just EQ on the real drums, so, really, what's the difference?

    If I've done my job well, the reaction I'll usually get is "Man, I've never been able to get my drums to sound that good when we've recorded at our place before! How did you get them to sound that good?"

    But, it can often take some time to get it right. I've never been "lucky" enough to stumble on the right sample right away. It takes a lot of time spent comparing various samples, and determining what will work best, and what will sound most "natural" to the context of the song, and the band's style. I feel the time spent is worth it, at least in these cases...
    The alternative is to work with bad live drum tracks for hours on end...only to eventually come up with just an "okay" mix, but never truly being satisfied with the results.

    Remember, we're talking about working with poorly recorded tracks, here ...which usually involves a bad-sounding room; ( basement, attic, garage, shed, you name it) with a cheaper drum kit, ( with cheap cymbals - God those drive me the most nuts of all) using cheaper mics, cheap pre's, and "engineered" by someone who knows just enough to be dangerous - who can manage to get signal to the DAW, but not a whole lot more than that... certainly not enough to check for things like phase coherency.

    I wish we were talking about tracks that have been recorded at somewhere like Criteria, or Ocean Way, which have great sounding rooms, with great mics, through something like a Neve Genesys or an SSL 9000 Console, and with a great recording engineer at the helm, while Steve Gadd is playing his perfectly-tuned drums. I'd love to be able to mix tracks like that!

    But that's not what I get. I get "basement drums"....( which actually are often better than "bedroom drums", but not by much)... and that's where sample replacement can save the day.... and get me paid, and usually with more future work from the same band, too. ;)
     
  9. JayTerrance

    JayTerrance Active Member

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    That is probably where I differ in that I only mix tracks that are tracked in one live room. So I don't get into any "rescue of the mix" operations. Whatever the source is; Vocals, Drums, Guitars, Piano, Small String Sections it gets done in a room that is 26H x 33W x 40L (notice the Louden ratios). Everything is controlled and all room nodes are known/consistent from track to track.

    As an aside, some people associate vocals with small room/booth. I don't. Much less problems with mid/low-end modes in a larger sized room in my own experience.
     
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  10. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    I agree with vocals in big per rooms when possible. Often booths are really small rooms when talking professional scale.

    I don't know really what laden rations have to do with a tracking room. When talking mixing in a room that size much care has to be taken in the RT times. This is not usually a problem in the modern smallish control rooms as they don't need have enough room volume to create the RT60 decay. The obvious advantage is plenty of room for bass trapping, and development of the low end.

    Room ratios are meant as a general guideline and conversation starter for a listening room design. Based in rectangluar room which are reliably predictable. While you want a certain amount of cubic footage in a tracking room, the response is meant to be flattering, which doesn't have specified ratios. It will generally have sweet spots for different instruments, and will certainly have hot spots and nulls in the response. The splayed out walls that help reduce these anomalies and create a nice smooth sound, are difficult to predict on paper, otherwise it's a large treated rectangle which can also work well, and is more predictable overall.

    Live recording in one room is great when the musicians can hack it, and want that type of sound. It's my preferred way to track as a musician, as I dislike headphones. But ya gotta be tight, and in tune.
     
  11. JayTerrance

    JayTerrance Active Member

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    Thanks for the info on the room. I was told to go with one of the louden/sepmayer ratios because it had a better chance for acoustic quality, even though it is a tracking room. Maybe it wasn't of much consequence for tracking...sounded good at the time. I was also told to build a natural stone fireplace up one of the walls a certain dimension because there was a certain percent of live diffusion to put in the room. Also Wood floors and ceilings but with acoustic louvers on the walls to be able to change rt's a bit. Even though the louvers will only affect mid to high Freq's. Thought was that the room is large enough that the low end is stable whether the rt's on the higher end are reduced/increased.

    Does this sound typical vs unusual from your thoughts? I'm very satisfied with it and have recorded quite a few performances with good results. The performances have been vocals, guitars, drums, piano and strings. I can't say I've had problems with any of those, other than having to replace a fixture in the room that was causing resonance early on.

    The only slight issue: I've tracked with mics from 2ft in height to 18ft in height (room mics) and was told that the higher I mic the livelier it would be. However that has not been the case that I can tell.
     
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    It sounds like your room and methods are more Pro than a home recording studio, Jay. Kudo's!
     
  13. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    It's cool that you have that much space dedicated to your craft, and spaces that size are usually fairly easy to treat.

    The room ratios are all about which dimensions have the most even modal distribution, and were based on 10ft ceiling heights. Even modal distribution translates to less sever peaks and nulls, and a more even low end response overall. Now these ratios when used in consideration for listiening rooms, are about even response at one spot. The listening position.

    Tracking rooms, you have the ability to move the mics and instruments around thru the various places in the room. While arguments can be made for neutral tracking rooms, many rooms have a sonic signature or character to them. This wasn't a,ways planned out as happy accidents occur. I think in general the idea is just for a 'fairly well controlled' area to track in, whatever that means to each person.

    As you add or remove high frequency absorbsion you proportionally increase or decrease the low end decay relative to the rest of the spectrum. Take out highs, there's propertionslly more lows hanging around, your not actually "adding lows" Not being able to see or hear your room it's tough to tell. this just comes downs to if theirs anything intrusive or not. Sounds like you got a cool thing going. I am certainly never shy with tossing a blanket over the amps of kick drums.

    A stone fireplace is great for adding life back into/ retaining life in a room, I like the look too! The whole diffusion aspect of it, and it's actual effectiveness and at what frequencies, is not really simple to evaluate. Sound scattering is beyond my current knowledge. If it sounds good the it meets its purpose. Quantifying the actual contribution of the fireplace would be tough, but I think it's highly reflective surface that may have some diffusive properties in the very high end, due to the curved and quasi random nature of the fireplace. That's my best guess.

    If your ceiling and walls are fairly absorbative, it would stand to reason you wouldn't get and overtly live sound. A lot of big rooms aren't super bright or live. A lot of famous ambiences came from a mic just outside the studio door in a hall, or a speaker pumping into a stairwell, or bathroom, or chamber.

    Big verb is simple. Just point the mic at the wall. It sounds stupid on paper, but it works. 6-8" away facing the wall anywhere from 12-?' Feet away from drums, guitars, pianos, anything you want a big club/hall/80s type sound. It's something I learned from phil Greene. We regularly mic the hallway that enters the studios main room just outside the door mics facing the walls on each side.
     
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  14. JayTerrance

    JayTerrance Active Member

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    Thank you much for that information (and the rest of it above). I enjoy hearing about how things were mic'd up in the past...so many great "distinct" ambiences that were collected back in the day.
     
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  15. JayTerrance

    JayTerrance Active Member

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    Yes - exactly. Excellent point.
     
  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    @kmetal
    Kyle said:
    " A lot of famous ambiences came from a mic just outside the studio door in a hall, or a speaker pumping into a stairwell, or bathroom, or chamber."

    Very true.

    Here's a pic of an echo chamber. Not much to look at, really, but it works, and in fact, it worked very well on hundreds of hits from some very famous bands...

    Anyone care to guess which studio's chamber this is? ;)
     

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  17. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    Abbey road?
     
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    LOL... Yup. Give that man a Cupie Doll. ;)
     
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  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    Hehe. A few years ago, I borrowed an amazing hardcover book at the library about the history of abbey road, I actually remembered to bring it back, as it was so nice (and expensive $150), it'd be sinful if more people didn't see it. Every one of the pages was a full color photo(s) thru the history of the studio. Highly amazing, and free in the US library system.
     
  20. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    kmetal likes this.

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