Now that I’ve mentioned EQ, it seems appropriate to explain the processing of orchestra sections. I’m not that experienced in mixing, and am still learning the ropes, but I’ll try to describe my workflow as best as I can. My motto is “If it sounds good already, don’t touch it.” I told you that I like Symphobia because it has that “film sound” that us composers are going for… and to be honest, I do not EQ Symphobia patches at all. But, I’m tampering a bit with LA Scoring Strings. I like the way they are recorded dry and up close, so it gives me room to EQ them nicely.
What I have noticed is that LA Scoring Strings violin patches are rather harsh in the upper register, and sometimes it really hurts my ears. So, I like to roll off the harsh frequencies (and some low frequencies) with Studio One Pro EQ.
If you are familiar with using other parametric and graphic EQs, you’ll feel at home with Pro EQ. I like to boost a couple of dBs in low-mids and high-mids to give a sense of air to the violins. In the picture below you can see how my EQ graphic chart looks like for the violin. Of course, if you have your own way of doing this, feel free to experiment.
Some people like to solo tracks and listen to them individually before processing them. That’s cool, but if you’re going to achieve a proper mix of the instruments you will have to monitor them in the entire section. Feel free to monitor your string section instruments together and try to hear where you should apply your EQ. Every string section instrument has its own frequency range and you should pay great attention to all of them. Roll off the frequencies that you don’t hear normally in the instrument group, and pay attention to those that are relevant to the instrument. Like you saw on the EQ chart for the violins: violins don’t have low frequencies, so cut them, otherwise you’ll have chaos in your mix. Double basses don’t have high frequencies, so cut those, too… and so on.
I use the same approach to my brass section as well. I monitor the entire section and roll off the frequencies that I don’t need and concentrate on those that are relevant. Tuba is in lows, of course, trombones occupy low mids and high mids, most horns are also in low and high mids, and trumpets are in the high mids and highs.
Here’s an example of my Horns section being processed with Studio One Pro EQ.
It’s the same as with the strings. I don’t process the Symphobia patch, but I pay attention to close setup of individual brass in Orchestral Brass Classic. Sometimes I even notch some of the peaking frequencies, because brass can get very loud.
I rarely use woodwinds in my pieces, so all I can say about them is that I rarely EQ them, and when I do, I notch the peaks and roll off the lows on flutes, clarinets and english horns. I don’t use bassoon that much, but I would treat it similar to double bass. If you have ideas about them, feel free to share.
As far as the percussion goes, I like to layer them as well. Some would say that it’s a bit unnecessary, but for achieving a fuller sound, you have to blend mic positions on them as well. Most of the time I use True Strike library for percussions. What I like about it is that it has three different mic positions: Close, Stage and Far. When using all three of those patches for a single instrument, you can achieve pretty nice results. A while ago I got a great tip from my friend composer Jason Graves, whose game composition credits include Dead Space, Command & Conquer: Tiberium Twilight, and Blazing Angels. He says:
“Pick a single track to have the low energy, and put a high-pass filter on the rest at, say, 300-500HZ. Try using EQ on the different instruments and see what you can scoop out of each one, preferably different freq for each inst, in the 500-5k range. Also pan them to give them space, but the really low stuff needs to be centered.”
So, if it works for him, it sure does work for me, and it will work for you as well! 🙂
Now, as far as that layering goes with True Strike, feel free to experiment with different level blends of those three mic position patches.
When it comes to choirs and vocals, I am treating them as any pop or rock producer would treat them. I like to use the presets for vocals in Studio One and tweak them a bit.
That pretty much covers the basics of orchestral EQ processing in Studio One. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for part 4, which is a more detailed topic than you may at first think: orchestral reverb!
[Update! For your convenience, here’s the rest of the blogs in this series:
Las Vegas, NV, May 2012… Join PreSonus for a very special live webcast, direct from the InfoComm Show in Las Vegas.
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The presentation will also take a look into the ever-expanding integration between PreSonus products and Rational Acoustics’ acclaimed Smaart™ audio-analysis technologies. Optimizing system EQ has never been this fast and easy.
Four 30-minute presentations will be broadcast live from the PreSonus Demo Room (N105) at InfoComm on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, June 13, 14, and 15 at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM. (All times are Pacific Daylight Time) A live Q&A from attendees will follow each session.
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So join us online at http://livestream.com/presonuslive to catch all the action as it happens, or to view it later.
To schedule an email reminder, visit us at http://presonus.com/community/presonuslive/
So, the next thing I am going to explain is how I pan the instruments properly to simulate orchestral placement for each instrument section. This is the chart I reference when panning my instruments.
Panning is where all of those stereo tracks from Kontakt (see part 1) will come in handy, because these are all sections of multiple instruments within the orchestra. Some people would use mono track for a single section and pan them left or right according to the orchestra sitting chart. That is okay, but what you have to realize that what we’re doing with virtual orchestra is that we’re SIMULATING a live orchestra setup. Those instruments are panned left or right, but their sound travels and expands in multiple directions. That’s why a stereo track is more useful.
Usually orchestras are recorded by using multiple microphone positions. For example: The entire orchestra is recorded with a Decca Tree mic setup that’s positioned behind the conductor and is picking up the full orchestra’s sound. In addition, every section of the orchestra has its own stereo mic pair that is positioned very closely to the performers.
What most audio engineers are doing in a setup like this is simply layering the full orchestra sound with close mic positions, and they mix the individual sections more easily through those close mic setups. Here’s what I do:
I use the full string section from Symphobia (e.g. Sustain strings) and layer it with LA Scoring Strings sustain patches. What I like about this approach is that Symphobia has the “room sound” and LA Scoring Strings are very dry, because of their close mic setup. Now, according to the chart above, I ould pan the Symphobia strings from -100 to +100, and individual sections of LA Scoring Strings I pan appropriately to the chart (e.g. first violins from -100 to -20, Cellos from +12.5 to +73, etc).
I repeat this process for every instrument section in the orchestra. If I was using Symphobia Brass, I would pan it from -37.5 to +37.5 according to the chart, and layer that patch with individual patches of Orchestral Brass horns, trombones, trumpets and tuba panned appropriately to their position within the orchestra. I’ve noticed that Studio One doesn’t have the option for dual panning for the stereo track, so I use Binaural Pan as an insert to take care of that problem. (Note to the developers: Make sure you include this in the next patch please!) [editor’s note: We hear you!]
Although this can be taken care of when bouncing tracks by bouncing a single stereo track as dual mono, this approach introduces a problem. If you’re applying EQ on that stereo pair, you will have to insert an EQ on both mono tracks or route the mono tracks into a stereo submix, and then apply the EQ on the submix.
As a matter of fact, that seems like a good stopping point. Next time, we’ll take a look at EQing our orchestra to minimize competition between instruments for your ear’s attention. We’ll follow that up with a few words on reverb, and how to accurately re-create our orchestra’s cavernous environ.
[Update! For your convenience, here’s the rest of the blogs in this series:
Studio One is available in a number of versions: Artist, Producer, and Professional. In this video, longtime PreSonus advocate Byron Gaither breaks down not only why Studio One is right for you—but also WHICH Studio One is right for you. From bedroom producers to established rock stars, you’ve likely heard rumblings of people quitting their old DAW for PreSonus Studio One.
So, you should take a good look at this—we’ve got a version of Studio One in your size.
WAKE UP. This is important. I know that “Track Management” doesn’t have the same zing as “Transient Beat Detection,” “Groove Templates” or “Lap Dance,” but pay attention.
You kids today have too many options. One of the potential pitfalls of a DAW with unlimited tracks and drag’n’drop instrument placement is that an overzealous producer might just use too many tracks. It doesn’t take long until you have to scroll down to find your MIDI, and your audio tracks are up top, your rack tom is next to the hydrocrystalophone track, and damned if you know where the vocal is.
Proper track management avoids all this. You have a lot of options: Folder tracks, color-coding… oh, just watch the video. And go clean your room.
Byron Gaither is back, and he brought an autoclave-warm scalpel with him. This video takes a look at surgically-precise drum replacement via Melodyne, as opposed to the usual sort of dull and rusty sidechain/gate/MIDI-trigger pokery that you may-or-may-not be have developed a tolerance for. I know we’re always talking about how easy everything is in Studio One, but this strikes even me as a little ridiculous.
Seriously, don’t blink. I had to watch it twice, it went by so fast. Get yourself 50CCs of efficiency, stat.
By Nikola Jeremić
[editor’s note: Nikola is a film composer and music director who resides in Belgrade, Serbia. He came to our attention via this video which caught my attention. I invited Nikola to supply us with a blog post on composing for film… and he supplied us with enough material for about 4 posts. 🙂 Nikola, thanks for going above and beyond. -Ryan]
I know that most of you composers out there have already committed yourselves to your most favorite DAW software, and I know how hard it is to start from scratch on something new. To tell you the truth, it was the same for me as well.
Here’s a true story: I accidentally came across PreSonus Studio One from a friend of mine who bought a PreSonus AudioBox and got Studio One bundled with it. He uses a different DAW, so I took Studio One for a test drive—and boy oh boy, was I mind-blown. I got addicted from the moment I started using it.
First of all Studio One LOOKS COOL! Second, it is totally easy to use even if you’re new to it. And last, but not least, every single track that you bounce from it sounds GREAT!
Since I am a composer myself, I like to make my own default template for writing orchestral pieces or contemporary hybrid soundtracks. It’s very easy to do that if you’re using Studio One. My default template for scoring consists of 6 instances of Native Instrument’s Kontakt that are loaded into Studio One. I have to point out that my PC is a bit older, so I can’t afford to load a bit more of virtual instruments because, believe it or not, I am using a 32bit Windows 7 based PC with 3.5GB of RAM and Intel Dual Core processor.
My main orchestral library is Symphobia. I’ve chosen it because it covers everything that I need, and it sounds great. I am layering the string section of Symphobia with LA Scoring Strings, Symphobia’s brass with Orchestral Brass Classic and Symphobia’s Woodwinds section with EastWest Symphonic Orchestra Woodwinds. My percussions are mostly from True Strike library, and my choir is Requiem Light.
Now then, having said that, my template is rather simple, yet very effective. Why 6 instances of Kontakt you wonder? My default template has strings, brass, woodwinds, choir & vocals, percussions and the sixth one is for other types of non-orchestral instruments. Every one of the 6 sections has its own Kontakt, and every Kontakt that’s loaded has 16 MIDI channels and lots of outputs (I’m using 16 stereo outputs in every Kontakt), so I’m using 16 instrument tracks for every Kontakt that’s loaded. And of course, they are all nicely sorted out into folders. So it’s a total of 96 instrument tracks. And here’s how my default edit window looks like when it opens up:
I’ve marked the sections of the orchestra in different colors for easier orientation. Strings are brown, brass is yellow, woodwinds are green, choir & vocals are blue, percussions are white and those other instruments are red. It’s easier to spot them when they’re in different colors if you are working with a big orchestral template. Of course, you can use your own color patterns as you see fit.
Studio One integrates with third-party VST instruments very easily. When you’ve created your desired number of tracks and sorted them out into folders, next thing that you should do is patch the instruments’ inputs into proper MIDI channels and route Kontakt patches into proper Kontakt outputs.
For example: I’ve named my string section tracks as Strings 1 – 16, and I’ve assigned them to their proper MIDI channels 1-16 to match the channels of Kontakt. I’ve also named the Kontakt instance for string section as “Strings”, so I know that it’s only using string patches. Strings 1 are using MIDI channel 1 of Kontakt, and the patch output inside Kontakt is routed into channel output 1 of Kontakt, as you can see on the picture shown. And that goes for every channel of every section in every instance of Kontakt.
Of course, I will rename the tracks properly when I have decided which articulations and which instrument from the section I am going to use for the project. And that varies from project to project. That is why I am naming the tracks as 1,2,3,4 etc. in each section. For example: String tracks are named “Strings 1”, “Strings 2”, etc. you get the point.
Next, activate those Kontakt outputs to be used as individual tracks in Studio One Console (Mixer). Here’s how you do it: You open the Console view (default is F3) and click on the bottom left side where it says “instr.”
Now the list of all of your loaded VST instruments will show. Click on the little arrow pointing down to the left of your first Kontakt and click “expand” on the drop-down menu. You have to check out all the channels of Kontakt that you want to use in order to be shown in the Console Window.
Repeat the same process for other instances of Kontakt hosting other orchestra sections and you’re good to go. When you want to save your template, the only thing that you need to do is click File/Save As Template, and name that template as you see fit. Every time you start a new orchestral session, you can load your template from the menu that opens up when you’re creating a new song. That’s pretty much how I do it.
So, to summarize it all: Create a new song and set up the options how you want it (my setup is on 48 kHz, 24 bit because that’s the standard sound setup when you’re writing music for video). Next you load a desired number of Kontakts that you want (or other samplers that you’re using), and create a desired number of instruments tracks for it. Sort out everything into folders and mark the tracks in different colors. Open the console view, select “instr.”, and check all the VST instrument outputs that you want to be active in the session. Finally, save the template and name it as you like. That’s it. Later on when you’re adding patches into Kontakt you will select the MIDI channel for the patch and assign the patch output to appropriate Kontakt output and rename the track in edit window.
Next post: we will pan our virtual orchestra across the stereo image using an orchestra chart for reference and apply reverb—and get these VSTs sounding just like the real thing!
[Update! For your convenience, here’s the rest of the blogs in this series:
Here’s just a few of the updates in Studio One v. 2.0.5… click through to the Studio One site below for the full list of updates!
• Ampire™ XT amp models were reworked for better sound
• Any command can now be assigned to any MIDI CC message.
• Markers have a Stop flag that stops playback at the marker.
• Manual now available in German, Japanese, Spanish, and French
• Exchange and Sound Set Builder now supported in Artist version
Studio One 2.0.5 update: http://ow.ly/aeMCH
GET STUDIO ONE FREE: http://ow.ly/aeMJC