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Why is MIR / VEP such a bad first experience
Last post Tue, Feb 16 2021 by Dietz, 20 replies.
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Posted on Sun, Feb 07 2021 15:10
by Milan_B
Joined on Sun, Jul 19 2020, Tallinn, Estonia, Posts 6

Hi,

One of the things I love about Synchron player is that it instantly delivers sensible defaults for everything. You add basses, they sound from the place where they would likely be on a stage. Cool! So I thought, let's see this famous MIR they love to use in the videos.

(0) (skipping the usual "downloader bug can't activate old instruments, have to do it manually" and "MIR doesn't come with any sound packs in the basic installation, have to download that separately and restart the DAW once again")

(1) So... I have to drag & drop MIR into every single instrument? Okay well, I guess that is as good as it gets without some whole-new way of integrating reverb plugins with a DAW. Clunky, but okay.

(2) Oh. It calls all my instruments "Condenser". Okay well, again, DAW doesn't tell a simple insert plugin what patch I have in the instrument above, but... that half defeats the purpose? Okay yes, the reverb sounds great, but now I have to manually select the instrument, find out that the "natural volume" is useless as it makes everything 4x quieter than it already was, and it doesn't position the instruments on the stage.

So... not that I wouldn't know where instruments belong, but still. Clunky.

(3) OK, so let's try to install this Vienna Ensemble Pro that is supposedly an integral part of some famous people's workflow. Uhm. Why does it say version 6.5 when I installed version 7? Oh right - after 20 minutes of cringing - it's because I have installed version 6.5 before, but cannot uninstall it now, because it's not in the Windows list of installed apps - and the program names don't have versions in them. And the icons look the same. So "Vienna Ensemble" is 6.5, "Vienna Ensemble Pro" is 7.0. Awkward and clunky.

So at this point I've already spent an hour of messing with nonsense and not making music.

(4) So I intuitively try to drag & drop the VEP VST into my insert effects, like I did with MIR, because software should be intuitive without reading manuals. OK, yes, my bad. After another half an hour of trying to see why there isn't any server - and running 6.5/7.0 32 and 64 bit server versions - I opened the manual, inserted VEP as an instrument, and now it showed a list of servers. Why??? Is there a separate server for effects and separate for instruments? Why doesn't it detect the running server and tell me something useful?

(5) Still with the manual open, I'm now wondering why would I ever want to complicate my life so much that what previously was inserting an instrument (1 drag&drop) and opening a patch (one double click) is now (5.1) inserting VEP (5.2) connecting to a server (5.3) duplicating the instrument lanes (5.4) selecting audio outs for each of the tracks (5.5) inserting instruments in VEP, and...

(6) Realizing that MIR doesn't correctly detect instruments. This was literally the whole reason why I even bothered with VEP. It detects Strings Pro viola section as one viola, and puts it smack next to double basses. I add Clarinet in B♭ and I cannot hear it. Why? Because it's four hundred meters away from the Synchron stage! Why would a €645 software position an instrument, by default, four hundred meters away from the stage, outside of the screen borders?!

(7) So here I am, several hours into shaking my head and asking "why????" every 5 minutes. I get it, I'm not the actual target audience of VEP, I will never have a small cluster of workstations rendering a project with 500 tracks, but the whole idea of taking things away from my DAW, which comfortably will always have more  generally useful features than VEP, offloading half of the nice, polished DAW features into a separate, clunky software, and it still cannot even have sensible defaults, detect its own instruments properly, and position players around on the stage?

(8) And it's not even a good UI once I have a few instruments laid out? Separate windows floating up and down, cannot see the instrument and MIR and the same time, cannot edit MIR settings for several instruments at once... this is truly disappointing. I am always blown away with quality of VSL libraries, but so far I cannot say the same about MIR, VEP and their DAW integration.

I do know that making software is hard, but things shouldn't be this clunky. As far as I can tell, this kind of workflow can only make sense if you spend dozens of hours preparing templates that combine DAW MIDI in / audio out mapping, and setting up MIR for each instrument individually inside VEP in advance. (Which is a waste of time in the demo version, because I cannot save it.)

Not to mention, again, because half of the work is now done outside of the DAW, it's impossible to automate (half? most? all?) settings of the instruments and reverb.

Again: awkward and clunky. Why isn't the initial experience any better? In 2021?

Posted on Sun, Feb 07 2021 15:32
by Dietz
Joined on Tue, Aug 06 2002, Vienna / Europe, Posts 7681

Welcome 147697,

sorry to hear that your expectations weren't met. If you dislike it _that_ much, it might just be that the Vienna Ensemble / Vienna MIR Pro environment wasn't made for you. Truth to be told, there are so many unique features and unusual technical solutions that it might indeed seem like learning a new instrument at a first encounter. 

All the best,

/Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
Posted on Mon, Feb 08 2021 15:36
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5626

MIR Pro and VE are actually very easy and intuitive, but a DAW might cause difficulties depending on how it interacts.  The easiest way to find out how to use MIR is to become familiar with the VE standalone, which automatically loads MIR for each instrument with characteristic EQ settings assigned by default.  

Posted on Thu, Feb 11 2021 15:58
by Milan_B
Joined on Sun, Jul 19 2020, Tallinn, Estonia, Posts 6

Thank you for your replies.

Dietz, as you said, it's likely that I'm not the target audience, at least not for VEP. I really do want to like MIR thought. It does sound good, but... things could be better.

I'm not a huge fan of separate desktop executable running besides the DAW, but I understand current standards (VST), to my understanding, don't have good enough integration with their hosts to be able to do everything that we'd like them to do.

However, the Synchron/VI VST itself probably could communicate with MIR desktop app directly, the same way as VEP VST communicates with a VEP server. It could register itself whenever a preset it loaded, it could communicate which instrument it is, and MIR would then load a sensible preset and instrument position.

It's maybe not a pleasant thing to develop, but it should be 100% doable. And with VEP server source code, you could probably reuse most of it. The basic reverb settings could be configured from the Synchron player itself, which could also do the DSP, and MIR UI would be only used to adjust settings and communicate them to the instruments. (Unless a part of MIR reverb calculations are also other nearby instruments, in which case yes, that complicates things.)

This way, MIR provides the best out-of-the-box experience, and doesn't get out of the way of DAWs. I mean, compare the hypothetical scenario above to whatever needs to happen now, in my case with Studio One:

  1. add an instrument
  2. open instrument window
  3. load instrument patch
  4. turn off built-in reverb
  5. go to the DAW's mixer
  6. drag&drop MIR as an insert effect
  7. open MIR plugin
  8. rename instrument, click locate button
  9. open/switch to MIR desktop app hidden under other windows that are already a part of my workflow
  10. load a preset for the instrument
  11. position the instrument

In my opinion, for people with MIR, steps 4-11 could be skipped. I get that it would be a change from people's existing workflow, but I think preference should be given to the best functionality out of the box. I mean... why not?

*Most* people are going to have a DAW-centric approach, as much as VE/VEP users might love their workflow, I'm sure.

Posted on Thu, Feb 11 2021 18:06
by fatis12_24918
Joined on Sat, Dec 16 2006, Posts 307

Hi Milan,

actually I think there's a basic misconception as a base for your disappointment: the MIR scope is to give you total freedom for positioning whatever you want wherever you want the way you want.

That's the opposite of having point 1 to 11 skipped with pre made set-up like you love in Synchron player.

But despite this total open precess being possible, you have two more different workflows available to you:

1) the semi-automatic process described by William before to get all "sound" parameters set but still free and manual positioning is requested.

2) the totally automatic set-up, including optimal positioning managed by the MIR-X function.

Obviously to learn how to use the VI instruments set-up, and the MIR-X presets you have to spend a bit of time on the instructions and accept a learning curve. Then once you get the logic and learn the shortcuts and preferences that suit your needs, it is super fast and really convenient.

But I suppose you know already that powerful and complex professional tools do have a learning curve... if you were starting today using Logic or Cubase without any background you should be in similar or even worse situation. I hope this explain the point...

Posted on Thu, Feb 11 2021 18:17
by Milan_B
Joined on Sun, Jul 19 2020, Tallinn, Estonia, Posts 6

Originally Posted by: fatis12_24918 Go to Quoted Post

the MIR scope is to give you total freedom for positioning whatever you want wherever you want the way you want.

I mean, yes, I like that, but doesn't mean it shouldn't sound like a coherent orchestra from the get-go.

Originally Posted by: fatis12_24918 Go to Quoted Post

1) the semi-automatic process described by William before to get all "sound" parameters set but still free and manual positioning is requested.

2) the totally automatic set-up, including optimal positioning managed by the MIR-X function.

Just to be clear, for the (1) I'd need to use VEP, right? And route MIDI out from my DAW to it? I mean I guess that makes sense, but it's still jarring to get taken out of the DAW, going back and forth between DAW and VEP and all this "midi channel 17 is a flute" is so 1990s software design. Ugly ugly ugly.

Also, most of my library are not VI, but Synchron(ized) products - which, again, sound really good out of the box, but it's a little confusing why VI have MIRx and Synchron ones don't.

Posted on Thu, Feb 11 2021 18:17
by Dietz
Joined on Tue, Aug 06 2002, Vienna / Europe, Posts 7681

The automatisms you're aiming for depend on the host. There's no way for MIR Pro to know much about other plug-ins in Cubase, ProTools, Logic etc.. And even if there were means to establish communication between them, the data sent forwards and backwards between them would be only relevant for Vienna Instruments - a player that's hosted in VE Pro most of the time anyway. I don't think that VSL will put much effort into a solution that might be of interest for a small minority of users only.

That said, there _is_ room for enhancements in MIR Pro's preset management. I think it's safe to say that a next version of MIR will bring quite a few innovations in that respect, even ones you might like. :-)

Kind regards,

/Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
Posted on Thu, Feb 11 2021 18:27
by Milan_B
Joined on Sun, Jul 19 2020, Tallinn, Estonia, Posts 6

Thanks, Dietz! That's good to hear. I guess you know your user base better, but it seems unusual that *majority* of your users would only host their VSL instruments in VE Pro. Is there anything you could tell me about your user base demographics? It sounds strange that 50%+ of your customers would even own VE Pro. (Maybe if you mean "users who actually have more than $5000 worth of things, and not some people who bought a discounted instrument for $39", then I'd easily believe you.)

My line of reasoning is this - I like my DAW, I like to work with it. I like to use VSL products, and what I don't have, I pad with whatever else I have. With MIR as an insert effect, I can use it to approximate the instruments sharing a physical space. I just think it would be streamline my work somewhat if they were in VI/Synchron by default, and I could use MIR Pro UI to manage everything.

Posted on Fri, Feb 12 2021 20:32
by plowman
Joined on Sat, Dec 13 2003, Posts 1118

"...it's a little confusing why VI have MIRx and Synchron ones don't."

Synchron products are recorded in the Synchron Stage. Synchron-ized products are samples initially recorded in the Silent Stage, then processed by special IR's to be placed in the Synchron stage. 

Why would MIRx put a Synchron / Synchron-ized library on the Synchron stage when VSL has already recorded or placed it there for you? Indeed, that is why it sounds so good out of the box.

This same question occurred to me when I first read, "It detects Strings Pro viola section as one viola, and puts it smack next to double basses."  If by "Strings Pro" you mean Synchron Strings Pro, why are you asking for MIR to place it automatically? It's already there. That's the essence of the product. Placement and reverb are adjusted in the Mix tab of the Synchron Player with four or more microphone outputs. Indeed, outputting a Synchron product through a MIR plugin could countermand the spatial qualities and freedoms that you bought in the library. 

I do empathize with your struggles though, not so much with MIR, but with the general aggravation of learning new software.  Programs have a way of making sense in retrospect, as galling as that thought is in the pique of our frustration. 

By the way, I didn't fully understand MIRx until recently. And I've owned MIR since it came out. Hang in there. 

Posted on Fri, Feb 12 2021 20:47
by Milan_B
Joined on Sun, Jul 19 2020, Tallinn, Estonia, Posts 6

Ha, thanks, plowman. As a software developer, I both appreciate it, and apologize for all the bad UI I've ever made (not that any of you got to use it, luckily).

When you put it like that, yeah, it does make sense. Obviously, I turn off the built-in reverb/echo in Synchron(ized) instruments before adding MIR onto them. The reason I'm combining SY and VI is mostly because of various sales and different product offer as I'm slowly filling my toolbox, so I don't yet have the luxury of using just one of them for any project.

And I do plan to go through the MIR documentation word by word eventually (as you all were very kind NOT to suggest), I guess the main problem was the disparity between my expectation and implementation... that said, I do hope the future is bright and improvements will be made.

Posted on Fri, Feb 12 2021 21:04
by Milan_B
Joined on Sun, Jul 19 2020, Tallinn, Estonia, Posts 6

Actually, one more question - the built-in reverb in Synchron player *is* algorithmic, and not a convolution reverb, right? Having SY instruments with only the default reverb, and VI with MIRx will not produce the same results as loading all instruments in MIR Pro and placing them around the stage, right?

IIRC, one of the selling points was that Synchron instruments are "neither wet nor dry", i.e. they are recorded on a stage, not in a padded room, so they sound like a real instrument in a real place, but don't have a lot of reverb baked into the samples that would get in a way. I'm not wrong to assume that MIR reverb is intended to work well with SY, VI, and 3rd party sounds/instruments/recordings, right?

Posted on Sat, Feb 13 2021 01:11
by Dietz
Joined on Tue, Aug 06 2002, Vienna / Europe, Posts 7681

Milan,

Your assumptions are correct. While MIR has been invented for the use with Vienna Instruments, I use it on actual recordings most of time for my main business (which is mixing other people's music). As long as the sources are rather dry, MIR Pro will do a great job when I want them in the same room with a good sense of spatial relations between them.

MIR is _not_ good for adding reverb to already "wet" sources, though. This is where the glassy, "unreal" tails of algorithmic reverb engines would be the first choice.

Kind regards,

/Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
Posted on Sat, Feb 13 2021 02:34
by plowman
Joined on Sat, Dec 13 2003, Posts 1118

You make a good point differentiating Synchron from Synchron-ized, as with the latter you can indeed turn off the IR and route through MIR. Personally, I have automated the IR wet/dry within Synchron-ized sounds, and I adjust it per instrument with Logic's Smart Controls. If I did send Synchronized patches to MIR, immediately I'd gain more options. 

It's ironic: just this week I have matched and compared VSL's Synchronized sounds (with their built-in Synchron IR's) to my dry VI library going through MIR -- and then I compared those to Synchron native per-mike mixes. It's quite an education. One must be careful not to press too hard for identical sounds (which is tempting when you want the liberty of using both VI and Synchron / Synchronized in the same song -- such is the source of your hope and frustration). 

I may be able to clarify two other points you have raised. Describing Synchron native sounds as neither wet nor dry is not quite accurate. Yes, the Synchron native instruments were recorded on the Synchron Stage, but they were captured with multiple microphones simultaneously. These are found in the Mix tab of the Synchron player when a native Synchron patch is loaded. 

Survey the mikes. The close mic is more or less dry, but not completely so, the main microphone is wetter, but not awash with reverb, and so on. It's a completely different paradigm for mixing and positioning, separate from MIR, distinct from the old days of bus sends.  

And I had to laugh when I read, "...the 'natural volume' is useless as it makes everything 4x quieter than it already was." The first time I used natural volume, I thought it was a bug. Only later did I realize that it's an amazing resource *when it is used for the entire orchestra.* I came at it with faders at unity gain, virtually no headroom, and if any given instrument had "natural volume" checked, it would disappear from the orchestra. Gain structures are relative. 

Posted on Sat, Feb 13 2021 19:50
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5626

Those are good points plowman,  about Synchron - it is not an artificial mixed wet/ dry sound - the hall itself sounds like that. It is a very clean sound.  The VI sound is as silent as possible, with the Silent Stage having been created to record as little ambience as possible, therefore making the instruments usable in any venue.  You're right about the "natural volume" which is a very accurate reflection of the relative levels of each instrument within a single setting.  Those levels were created so  that a piccolo is not equal in level to a tuba, or a solo violin to timpani etc.  It is impossible to do that during the recording process so it was done with these relative natural volumes later on as an aid to mixing.  It is easy to change to equal volumes however, simply by double clicking the slider.    

Posted on Sun, Feb 14 2021 16:56
by Seventh Sam
Joined on Sat, Dec 29 2018, Posts 265

Originally Posted by: plowman Go to Quoted Post

It's ironic: just this week I have matched and compared VSL's Synchronized sounds (with their built-in Synchron IR's) to my dry VI library going through MIR -- and then I compared those to Synchron native per-mike mixes. It's quite an education. One must be careful not to press too hard for identical sounds (which is tempting when you want the liberty of using both VI and Synchron / Synchronized in the same song -- such is the source of your hope and frustration). 

If I may ask, why wouldn't you want to match the sounds?  To clarify, why wouldn't you want the MIR'ed up VI instruments to sound as similar as possible (in terms of the MIR's tail length, relative dry/wet-ness, etc.) to native Synchron samples?  Wouldn't that engender more cohesion in the mix from the get-go?

To be clear, I'm not trying to pick a fight or start an argument.  On the contrary, I'm eager to learn and would love to hear your advice!

- Sam

Posted on Sun, Feb 14 2021 19:00
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5626
I think he was just warning that they don't match perfectly. They couldn't, but it would be an interesting comparison you can actually do - the MIR recreation of Synchron hall, and Synchron hall itself.
Posted on Sun, Feb 14 2021 19:04
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5626
By the way I've only done one recording using both VI and Synchron, but the combo sounded good.
Posted on Sun, Feb 14 2021 22:16
by plowman
Joined on Sat, Dec 13 2003, Posts 1118

Mr. Kersten is correct. But I'm glad you asked, because I want to clarify that I absolutely want all MIR-related elements to match as much as possible, notably the ones you mention: MIR's tail length and relative dry/wetness. 

Two points: I am prone to falling into rabbit holes, the infinite tweak, the "I'm here to compose... but I want everything to match perfectly before I begin." That's a fool's errand. One may argue (perhaps ad absurdum) that even the same orchestra in the same room sounds different from hour to hour. Certainly intonation, humidity, general human energy, and other terrestrial factors constantly change. 

But more specifically, I was fresh from the experimenting with "identical" instruments -- say, VI chamber cellos and Synchron-ized chamber cellos (where ostensibly they are the same original samples). One had a sheen, a more biting sound, and the other was smoother. Here we broach matters of EQ, the changes the developers may have made to the original material, plug-ins, etc., all compounding upon themselves. (Such things were not obvious, though, based on the mixing settings.)

Those differences, I decided, were to be celebrated as options. Many here have the chops to further homogenize them. It's not my skill set. 

But yes, regarding the length of the tail, the general room sound, and certainly the average loudness of the instrument, I very much want VI and Synchron to be as identical as possible for a convincing, unified sound. 

Posted on Tue, Feb 16 2021 19:05
by Seventh Sam
Joined on Sat, Dec 29 2018, Posts 265

Originally Posted by: plowman Go to Quoted Post

Mr. Kersten is correct. But I'm glad you asked, because I want to clarify that I absolutely want all MIR-related elements to match as much as possible, notably the ones you mention: MIR's tail length and relative dry/wetness. 

Two points: I am prone to falling into rabbit holes, the infinite tweak, the "I'm here to compose... but I want everything to match perfectly before I begin." That's a fool's errand. One may argue (perhaps ad absurdum) that even the same orchestra in the same room sounds different from hour to hour. Certainly intonation, humidity, general human energy, and other terrestrial factors constantly change. 

But more specifically, I was fresh from the experimenting with "identical" instruments -- say, VI chamber cellos and Synchron-ized chamber cellos (where ostensibly they are the same original samples). One had a sheen, a more biting sound, and the other was smoother. Here we broach matters of EQ, the changes the developers may have made to the original material, plug-ins, etc., all compounding upon themselves. (Such things were not obvious, though, based on the mixing settings.)

Those differences, I decided, were to be celebrated as options. Many here have the chops to further homogenize them. It's not my skill set. 

But yes, regarding the length of the tail, the general room sound, and certainly the average loudness of the instrument, I very much want VI and Synchron to be as identical as possible for a convincing, unified sound. 

Ah, thank you for clarifying!  So, basically, don't fall into "paralysis by analysis".  A healthy reminder, as the rabbit hole you mentioned is one I often fall into.  I can dig it.

...uhh...no pun intended...

Posted on Tue, Feb 16 2021 20:05
by Dietz
Joined on Tue, Aug 06 2002, Vienna / Europe, Posts 7681

Originally Posted by: plowman Go to Quoted Post
[...] even the same orchestra in the same room sounds different from hour to hour. [...]

Oh, they do - most definitely. A matter of course for everybody who edited recordings from real orchestras. 8-) 

/Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
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