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Balancing the Synchron instruments
Last post Mon, Apr 11 2022 by PaoloT, 11 replies.
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Posted on Sun, Mar 27 2022 19:45
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Hi.

I like to start mixing with all the fader at the same position. This is a bit like the blank page, the clean status, the zero point of mixing.

At the same time, Synchron libraries have their 'natural volume' set with the Volume slider of the Synchron Player. Programs like Dorico scramble this value, by resetting all of them to a value of CC7 = 100.

During some experiments with the Volume and Expression sliders set to max, and only the Main L/R mics activated, I've got the impression that having the same settings for these parameters result in a well balanced and natural sound in the final mix.

So, I wonder if having the Volume, Expression and Main L/R sliders all at the same level should, by design, result in the natural volume one would get when recording the orchestra at the same time.

This would let me change the mixing strategy, by not only adjusting the MIDI sliders, but also the microphone levels, to have a coherent set of controls.

Paolo

Posted on Sat, Apr 02 2022 00:14
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

I'm sorry if I don't get how it works immediately, but this is really a complicate matter.

Two things I noticed:

- Mixed various orchestral instruments, with just the Main mics turned on and set to 0dB. No additional reverb. All MIDI volume controls set at the same level. The resulting image sounds realistic, if one knows how a raw recording sounds.

- The presets supplied by VSL have different MIDI Volume settings. They also have different Main mics settings, as well as different values for the other mics. I wonder why there isn't a reference mic pair set at the same level in all the presets. Would it be possible? Would it make sense? Would it allow to set the MIDI Volume at the same level in all the presets?

If setting some reference mics at the same level (be them the Main or the Surround ones), I would probably adjust the level of all the mics proportionally, so that the reference mics are aligned between presets, and the other mics preserve the same balance as in the original presets.

As a result, I hope to get the same starting MIDI Volume in all the presets, and the same level for all the Room mics, as if they were the same pair getting the same coherent image of the orchestra.

Paolo

Posted on Sat, Apr 02 2022 17:09
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Another discover: Horn 1 vs Horn 2. The Classic Room Mix uses the same values for both instruments. With the MIDI Volume set at the same value, they are nearly perfectly balanced, according to my ears and the meter.

However, the presets have MIDI Volume = 67 for Horn 1, and = 80 for Horn 2, that becomes stronger.

I can't understand if this is just a matter of personal taste of the developer who made the presets, or there is a reason to keep this difference between them.

I'm missing a lot of the logic behind the rules of mixing a (sampled) orchestra. "Trusting my ears" is something that has to come later, after a bit of acquired awareness.

Paolo

Posted on Sun, Apr 03 2022 10:43
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Going on exploring the presets, to try to understand how they work.

- Synchron Strings Pro, Vni 1, Classic Decca Tree. Main L/R -6dB, Main C -11dB, MIDI Volume 101.

- Synchron Strings Pro, Vle, Classic Decca Tree. Main L/R -6dB, Main C -9dB, MIDI Volume 95.

- Synchron Strings Pro, Vc, Classic Decca Tree. Main L/R -6dB, Main C -10dB, MIDI Volume 95.

The common reference point might be the Main L/R mics. But then, the MIDI Volume changes it. And why the Main C channel is different in the various presets?

Paolo

Posted on Sun, Apr 03 2022 17:37
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

An experiment: an all-brass ensemble, with all MIDI Volumes set to 100, Expression starting at 110, the Main L/R mics at 0dB, the Main C mic at -3dB.

The balance seems perfectly natural to me. Still a raw sound, with no emphasis on any of the instruments, but the honest image of what you would listen onstage.

Williams, Olympic Fanfare (VSL Synchron Brass, Decca Tree only)

Paolo

Posted on Sun, Apr 03 2022 19:17
by Mavros
Joined on Mon, Apr 19 2021, Switzerland, Posts 28

An interesting investigation which becomes even more complicated if you consider the differences in let us call it starting volume of different articulations of the same instrument. When working on a classical score of e.g. a Beethoven symphony with rapid changes between long notes, legato phrases and staccato runs maybe with a tenuto note from time to time and lots of Sfz bars it is a big challenge to balance. The players balance the volume of these articulations naturally but in e.g, VSL Synchron libraries but also in libraries of other providers you have to reduce the volume (note velocity and in most cases also CC1or CC2 Modulation and CC11 Expression as I personally seldom touch CC7 in the plugin) of all short but often also long notes to balance them with the much quieter legato patches to get a natural sounding phrases. I actually also noticed huge difference in volume of the VSL Pro Strings Legato patches. Try getting Legato Espressivo to balance with standard legato in a phrase You need huge manual changes in volume parameters.

The differences in the strings example presets might also have something to do with the distances from the decca tree and other microphones of the instrument sections and the way VSL libraries handle such distances. On top of this the instrument panning also plays a role. If I understand it correctly with VSL Synchron libraries, the instruments are panned as per their location in the orchestra setup although the panning button in your DAW is in the center. 

The two Horns in SY Brass probably have not been registered at the same time and the final balancing was done in the preset. Horn 2 also has a different timbre I noticed. 

Posted on Sun, Apr 03 2022 20:44
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Thank you for your considerations, Mavros!

Originally Posted by: Mavros Go to Quoted Post

starting volume of different articulations of the same instrument.

My concerns about individual articulation levels (MIDI) come after the one about the initial recording volume (mic levels). I know I have to deal with them while writing the "expression score". Knowing in advance what the reaction of a MIDI variation will be also needs a solid and coherent initial setup of the volume and dynamic range.

 

Originally Posted by: Mavros Go to Quoted Post

The differences in the strings example presets might also have something to do with the distances from the decca tree and other microphones of the instrument sections and the way VSL libraries handle such distances.

According to my first experiments, the Decca Tree seems to give a coherent image between different instruments. It seems to me that, if the whole orchestra is listened through those mics, all set at the same level, you should get a realistic image of the orchestra, with the correct panning and depth. So, I would expect this coherence to be preserved inside the presets – but it is not this way. The same Main or Surround mics can be set differently in different presets. I think only the RoomMix is always set to 0dB everywhere (but I've not examined all the presets).

Natural panning should be already in the various room mics. But then, as you note, there is the artificial panning of the close/mid mics. But shouldn't the overall volume of the stereo/surround channels be preserved, when panning?

As for the different timbre of the two horns (but, I would add, of the other winds): this doesn't seem to impact on the volume, if not marginally. If you can check with the naked samples, maybe you can give me your impression and help me understand if I'm actually listening what I believe I'm listening to!

Paolo

Posted on Fri, Apr 08 2022 21:56
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Still experimenting and this is my general impression on the mics volume:

- The Decca Tree and the Mid microphones are all balanced in a natural way, and faithfully reproduce the position and natural volume of the instruments.

- The Close mic can vary very much in level. Probably, it is not possible to do a 'calibrated' positioning of the close mic, due to the quick variation with just minor movements of the microphone or the player.

Therefore, while the Mid and Room microphones are working well together by sharing the same level values, the Close mic depend on the individual instrument. The Close mics can't be set visually, but need careful listening to balance them.

Paolo

Posted on Sun, Apr 10 2022 17:44
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

I've done a test on some music I had. In this Wagner excerpt, I can test how the Synchron Strings pro are balanced between them.

I leveled all the MIDI volumes between sections (CC7 = 100, CC11 = 110). 

Then I selected the Ambience SurToStereo MixPresets for all the instruments, and moved the Main L/R mics to 0dB, with all the other mics adjusted accordingly. I preserved the original balance between mics as in the VSL presets (including the room mics, that in a real-world recording situation should have been al put at the same level).

I turned the presets' reverb send off, and turned off any reverb and dynamic processing on the master. 

What I decided to leave on, as another exception, are the EQ on the separate mics. These EQ (and their settings) are simply fantastic, making the sound jump out of the speakers without losing naturalness.

Pure, with individual mic's EQs on

With the EQs turned off the sound is clear, natural and very pleasant, but maybe lacking that 'pop-up' quality added by the EQ. It's really 'pure', but it might be more desirable to get advantage of to the clever programming from VSL. (Unless you want a totally natural sound).

Pure, with individual mic's EQs turned off

Paolo

Posted on Mon, Apr 11 2022 10:57
by Mavros
Joined on Mon, Apr 19 2021, Switzerland, Posts 28

I like the clarity of the second version and the nearly floating high strings in the last measures which is less the case with the EQed version.

Have you ever tried experimenting  with VSL libraries in Dorico. It lacks a bit on the mixing functionalities but that actually brings out exactly what the plugin and samples really sound like . You also have the possibility to have a note sounding longer (or shorter) than officially written in the score which gives a very natural real player sound, difficult to obtain in a DAW if you do nit want to modify the official score. e.g. at the end of phrases before the start of the next. 

Posted on Mon, Apr 11 2022 15:41
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 1341

Originally Posted by: Mavros Go to Quoted Post

I like the clarity of the second version and the nearly floating high strings in the last measures which is less the case with the EQed version.

Thank you for listening, Mavros. I'm more and more appreciating the open sound with no EQ. I have to experiment with only adding EQ in moderate amounts, if ever. Do we really need corrective EQ in sampled sounds? And, is EQ doing more bad or good, for sound shaping?

The example is indeed made with Dorico. Note attacks are modified, so that the sound doesn't start too late, shortening the shorter notes too much. But I know there is a lot of chisel work to do, both on note attacks, articulations and envelopes, to make it finally sound goo.

Paolo

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