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Visconti's non-linear dynamic reverb trick
Last post Wed, Nov 04 2020 by Macker, 5 replies.
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Posted on Tue, Nov 03 2020 14:53
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 192

Watching a video presentation by Australian gaming-composer Mick Gordon, I was inspired by a simple but powerful recording/mixing trick he mentioned that I hadn't heard of before. As described by Gordon, this method was used by the master recording and mixing engineer Tony Visconti in his work with David Bowie; it automatically imparts a non-linear, dynamic modulation to recorded live-room reverberation.

Visconti set up 3 mics for Bowie's voice:–

(1) "close", direct voice feed;

(2) about 20ft away, for "mid" live-room ambience;

(3) at the back of the room, for "far" live-room ambience.

The feeds from mics (2) and (3) were each routed through their own gate, and the set up was that whenever Bowie's singing reached intermediate loudness the "mid" gate opened up the ambience feed from "mid" mic (2), and whenever Bowie reached high loudness the "far" gate also opened up the ambience feed from "far" mic (3).

Not only does this method employ live-room ambience to enhance the musical narrative in a dynamically dramatic way, but also does so by merely exaggerating acoustic realities, rather than by adding wholly artificial adornments. This latter aspect is all too often overlooked in mixing with convolution and algorithmic reverbs, in that the reverberant response of any live room is rarely if ever perfectly linear with respect to source level; this tends to give the ear qualitative acoustical clues about how soft or strident the source sound is.

It seems to me this dynamic-reverb method is also heaven-sent for adding another valuable dimension to dynamic modulation of orchestral drama, most especially when using libraries that are well endowed with several different live-room ambience feeds, such as SySPro.

Mick Gordon's short description of Visconti's method starts at about 14:24 in this 2017 YouTube video:


Posted on Tue, Nov 03 2020 20:45
by mschmitt
Joined on Mon, Jan 01 2007, Posts 153

That's really clever! Thanks for sharing that.

Full Cube and lots of other stuff
Posted on Tue, Nov 03 2020 21:54
by Dewdman42
Joined on Tue, Feb 27 2018, Park City, Utah, Posts 642

nice post!  Thanks.  

Dietz?  comments?

5,1 MacPro 12core X 3.46ghz, 128gb ram, RX580 video, OSX Catalina on OpenCore, VSL (almost everything), LogicPro, Cubase10, StudioOne, DP9, Reaper, Dorico, Finale, MuseScore, Notion6, EW Hollywood Orch, Kirk Hunter, GPO, much more..
Posted on Tue, Nov 03 2020 22:01
by Dietz
Joined on Tue, Aug 06 2002, Vienna / Europe, Posts 7582

Yes, nice trick - but not uncommon. Many Tonmeisters try achieve this in a more predictable way nowadays, though, using automation for "scenes" and "throws" (i.e. emphasising effects for certain notes or syllables).

/Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
Posted on Wed, Nov 04 2020 00:51
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 192

Glad you all think it's a neat trick too! I was tempted to say something in my first post about the possibility of using automation to get more precise and refined results, but thank you Dietz for getting us more properly up to date!

I've just upgraded my SysPro license and I'm downloading the additional mics as I write this.

Just couldn't resist the urge to try out something like Visconti's trick with the full set of ambience feeds in SysPro. And though nowhere near as skilled as a pro mix engineer – let alone a Tonmeister – perhaps I'll also attempt some fancy automation tricks while I'm about it. If I'm off the forum for the next few weeks it'll be because I'm in paradise messing around with non-linear dynamic ambience enhancements, lol.

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