Web Clips for September 2005

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Looking for web clips from a different issue of Electronic Musician magazine? You can find an archive of web clips from previous issues of EM magazine here.

Web Clip 1:
This short MIDI loop is crossfaded from its original form, played by Reason's Malstrom synthesizer, to a version processed by LiveSet with Velocity splitting, transposition, and automatic chord generation.

Sound Libraries
Web Clip 1:
I created this clip using Apple Loops in several electronica styles, ranging from trip hop and old school to downtempo and electro. Their stylistic differences blur when they're played at the same tempo.

Web Clip 2:
Likewise, the Rhythm Section loops provide a palette of many different musical colors and genres. Here I've combined various elements of rock, country, blues, and jazz.

Web Clip 3:
From pipe organ to concert piano, string quartet to full orchestra, Jam Pack 4 makes it quick and easy to express a variety of musical moods. Again, this example is composed entirely of prerecorded Apple Loops.

Soundtrack Pro 1.0
Web Clip 1:
A 135 bpm Apple Loop guitar clip in F is first heard in its original form then time stretched to 96 BPM and pitch shifted to B as an audio file in Soundtrack Pro. Then final version is imported as an Apple Loop in Soundtrack Pro after time stretching and pitch shifting as a software-instrument loop in GarageBand 2.

Web Clip 2:
In this clip a drum loop (heard first) was processed with reverb and the 100 percent wet mix was subsequently processed by gating, reversing, and stereo delay (heard second). The wet and dry files were then mixed in Soundtrack Pro's Multitrack editor (heard third).

Parallel Paths
Web Clip 1
This clip begins with the dry file, which is followed by the wet-only version, followed in turn by the two mixed together in the traditional way.

Web Clip 2:
In this clip I started by splitting the wet-only version into three frequency bands-410 Hz to 690 Hz, 980 Hz to 1.3 kHz, and 1.4 kHz to 20 kHz-which were panned left, center, and right, respectively. I also offset the left- and right-panned tracks forward and backward by 100 ms to further thicken the sound. In the first variation, I added a tape delay to the center track and in the second, I muted the middle track, leaving a nice big hole in the wet file frequencies.

Web Clip 3:
In this clip I copied the wet file, reversed it, and played it along with the normal version, adding slight panning. In the second variation, I used Logic Pro's Time and Pitch Machine to formant shift two copies. One is shifted up by a value of 400, the other down by 300.

Web Clip 4:
In this clip I have lined up the vocal sample with a drum groove. The wet file has a gating plug-in applied with the drum loop feeding its side chain input. In the second version, I placed the reversed wet file on the track with the noise gate. I then removed the dry file and replaced it with the formant shifted wet file played alongside the gated, reverse wet. In the final version, I switched the two elements and played the formant shifted wet file on the gated track, with the reversed wet file on the other.

Better Late Than Never

Web Clip 1:
Thus example is a rhythm-based delay set to five sixteenth-notes (delay4em.mp3), recorded in FL Studio 5. A pattern with kick and snare is heard dry in the first two measures, then with a delayed signal mixed in, then with lowpass-filtered feedback added to the delay. A cowbell part was also added in the second half, just to make the music more interesting.

Web Clip 2:
This example demonstrates delay-based flanging, again recorded in FL Studio 5. The synth chord riff is heard first dry (with no flanging) and then repeated with a strong flanger effect.

Geared Up for Surround

Web Clip 1:
As you might expect, the gear used in full-time studios with surround capability ranges from the basic and affordable to the esoteric and costly. But a pro-quality surround system can be surprisingly easy to purchase and set up. The wide availability of powered monitors and subwoofers and the surround capabilities of digital audio applications simplify the task enormously. As long as your audio interface can route five discrete signals to five monitors you can create the most common form of surround mix, which can be encoded later onto a DVD in your chosen format.

The surround engineers interviewed in the article Studio in the Round—Eric Colvin, Patrick Yacono, Neil Wilkes, Paul Klingberg, David Collins, and David Glasser—have access to top-of-the-line equipment but typically use the same software (and in some cases, hardware) used in many project studios.

"All of my outboard sound devices travel in and out of a MOTU system comprised of a 2408mk3, three 24I/Os and an HD192," Colvin says. "The monitoring output of the MOTU rig travels via TDIF to a Tascam DSM7.1 monitor controller. That is where I control the playback volume with a single volume pot. The controller also allows the possibility to solo/mute each individual monitor if necessary, set trims and delays for each monitor, and downmix with the touch of a button."

For monitoring, Colvin uses an M&K 5.1 powered system made up of five MPS-2510Ps with an MPS-5310 sub. Colvin also has large collection of plug-ins including Native Instruments Komplete 2, ToonTrack DFHS, AudioEase Altiverb, Synthology Ivory, MOTU MachFive, and others as well as various hardware synths and samplers.

Big Improvements
"I monitor through a Blue Sky System One 5.1 speaker system and utilize the Blue Sky Bass Management Controller for bass management and room calibration," Yacono says. "The center speaker sits behind a 94-inch projection screen. A Digidesign Control|24 is my control surface at the moment, but I am heavily researching Digidesign's Icon D Command as an upgrade. The room is powered by a Pro Tools|HD3 Accel and a Dual 2 GHz Macintosh G5."

Yacono loves the Waves M360 mixdown plug-in. "With the click of a mouse I can hear what the 5.1 mix will sound like folded down to mono, stereo, LCRS, and 5.0. The bundle has many useful surround plugs including a software bass manager, which I no longer utilize, because the Blue Sky System covers the job nicely. I am also a big fan of the Minnetonka SurCode software for encoding DTS and Dolby Digital. When I finish a mix, I like to do the surround encoding myself to ensure proper settings and data rate for Dolby Digital. With the SurCode DTS encoder, I can make a DTS CD to listen to on my home system for quick referencing. I typically deliver a DTS, AC-3, DA88, and uncompressed AIFF file of the final mix, along with six channel AIFF files of the stems.

"For me," Klingberg says, "Pro Tools|HD changed everything. The sound quality, responsiveness, and power of the hardware and software have allowed me to work in a way radically different from the last 20 analog years. I moved into my own mixing room and invested in an HD3 system over a year ago now. I mix 100 percent inside the box—5.1 surround and stereo projects.

"I've got a great assortment of plug-ins, including the full Waves and MacDSP packages, which I believe are sonically astounding. Having the keyboard [a Digidesign color-coded one] in front of me makes it a fast and efficient way to work. I mix entirely by trackball. I'm considering getting some type of formal control surface, but I haven't made that investment yet."

For monitoring, Klingberg uses PMC AML 1's (with Bryston internal amplifiers) for the five main-channel monitors. "I use an M&K 5000 subwoofer for LFE monitoring. The AMLs are full range, closefield speakers, so I don't use any bass management in my monitoring setup. I have been using the AMLs for quite a while now and I absolutely trust them as my listening reference. Because they are closefield, my monitor setup and listening position are quite tight. It makes it a very accurate listening environment because my room is fairly small. I also use a Martinsound MultiMAX EX box for controlling volume and selecting monitor sources.

At LucasArts, Glasser uses a Pro Tools|HD system and a Control 24. "Our monitors of choice are Genelec for surround mixing." (According to LucasArts Associate Sound Designer Jim Diaz, "For L, C, and R we use three model 1031As and for LS and RS we use two model 1030As with a model 1092A active subwoofer.") "We run Pro Tools on G5s," says Glasser, "with a lot of plug-ins, of course. But in recent years we've really been expanding outwards with software, using Logic Pro for music composition, [Propellerhead] Reason for sound design and composition, and various PC apps like [Sony] Sound Forge. Often I'll throw a sound into my Mach 5 sampler, right in the middle of a mix!

"We use Altiverb for our surround reverb, and we're adding a Lexicon as well," adds Glasser. "In terms of compression, EQ, and so on, pretty much everything is software, except for our mic pres and mics. We use Minnetonka's SurCode to encode our mixes into Pro Logic II. It's nice to see that software solutions for this kind of encoding are now available. With games, the turnaround has to be very fast. It's nice to be able to save a session in Pro Tools that contains all of our automation and processing. We rent gear now and again for some really big mixes, but for the most part, we keep it digital."

Diaz points out, "We work primarily with AIFF and WAV files, as dictated by the project. Most shipping file sets are WAV at 16-bit, 22 kHz, but we work in 44.1 kHz, occasionally at 24-bit, and downsample before delivering. Because of the memory-intensive nature of game graphics, audio is often given little love, but with recent consoles and more powerful PCs we are seeing higher quality and more available media space for audio."

"The company is moving to a new studio," Diaz continues, "but production doesn't stop. We're very excited about the move, because we're getting all sorts of new toys: a Lexicon 960L, some more flat-panel monitors, and so on. It's been a great opportunity for us to re-think how our signal flow happens for optimum productivity. Our current surround studio is still functional, however, and I'm creating quad ambiences now for Star Wars Battlefront II."

Wilkes takes the output from his Nuendo-based system through Lightpipe into a set of external RME ADI 8 DS converters. "From there, the analog signal goes into a Midas Venice console, using six channels with direct outputs going to the Yamaha MSP5 biamped active monitors and a Yamaha SW10 Subwoofer on the LFE channel."

Power is more difficult to estimate. "We don't count in watts," Wilkes explains. "We have the whole system—in surround mode—calibrated to the K-system developed by [mastering engineer and author] Bob Katz. Each channel is outputting, at maximum, 85 dB SPL, which was arrived at by using pink noise at -20 dB. This, without getting too technical, corresponds to K-20." (For more info on the K-system, see www.digido.com.) "We have an alternative monitor gain setting for stereo that corresponds to K-14. The reason for this is to try and deliver finished masters that are not overcompressed with average levels that are far too hot, as seems to be fashionable these days."

Import Export
"I usually receive the audio in one of several ways" says Wilkes. "If it is a full mix, then the audio is usually delivered as multitrack files. Format can be pretty much anything at all as the system can read most of the usual file formats such as WAV and AIFF, but because I run on a PC system, if I get SDII files then they take a side trip through an application called [Acute Systems] TransMac [www .asy.com], which sorts out all the correct bits and pieces and gives me a WAV or AIFF file instead. I prefer to get Broadcast WAV, with timestamps embedded into the headers, so I can be certain that all the tracks are in the correct place. We can also accept AES31, OMF, and AAF. Data files can be delivered on CD, DVD, or by FTP.

"These get loaded up into Steinberg's superb Nuendo system," continues Wilkes. "Currently at version 3, we have been using this ever since it was first released around five years ago. It's a superb tool and does just about everything I need it to do. Another beauty of this application is the [add-on] Nuendo Dolby Digital encoder and the Nuendo DTS encoder. These extras ensure that I can create either a Dolby Digital file or a DTS file straight off the project timeline. No need to export and then encode with hardware or a standalone encoder, which saves a serious amounts of time.

"The Dolby Digital encoder is top quality too—it accepts files from 16-bit to 24-bit at 48 kHz, and will create a Dolby Digital file in whatever configuration I am working in, with full control over all the metadata," explains Wilkes. "It will even create a Dolby Digital WAV file, which is essentially a matrixed version that has 16-bit, 44.1 kHz headers so it looks like a straight stereo WAV file to a CD-burning application. It's a way of putting surround mixes onto a standard CD-R without having to author a DVD.

"In addition to this," Wilkes continues, "we also use a plethora of specialized tools and plug-ins, like Steinberg's Surround Edition, a bundle of six plug-ins, with a multichannel compressor, EQ, reverb, and brickwall limiter, as well as a massively useful pair of tools called LFE Splitter and LFE Combiner. Voxengo PristineSpace is an 8-channel convolution reverb tool. All I can say to anyone reading this who wants a great reverb is try it. You'll need some impulse responses but there are several places where these can be freely downloaded, such as www.noisevault.com.

"We also use some wonderful little shareware tools, available at www.cubaselessons.co.uk/surroundplugs.htm, where you will find a really nice set of Surround tools, ranging from panners, reverbs, delays, chorus effects, and all sorts of goodies. Again, well worth a good look. Minnetonka's SurCode MLP encoder is absolutely vital for lossless compression of 24-bit, 96 kHz 5.1 mixes to go on DVD-Audio discs; otherwise there is too high a bit rate for DVD players to deal with."