DMH’s Unique Production Process
Let’s start with one premise: There is practically nothing about the making of a DMH project that follows the normal recording process. For starters, it is created from multiple electronic and acoustic sound sources (hard and software instruments, sample-based loops, personally-crafted loops, live instrumentation and personally-crafted nature sounds). Add to this the idea that each project is produced in multiple version styles:
- berlin dance (in both stereo and 5.1 surround)
- original mix (in both stereo and 5.1 surround)
- chill/relaxation mix (in both stereo and 5.1 surround)
- For the bluray disc version, you can add a 9.1 Auro3D mix to this list
Each mix version is then carefully mixed and mastered (directly within the session) at the 96kHz/24bits hi-res rate. The berlin mix involved a special process that allows the original mix to be imported into Ableton Live for further production, thereby allowing DMH to perform the project live on-stage in multiple output formats … to my knowledge, these add up to a Grammy-nominated process that’s totally unique.
Now, let’s take a look at this process in a more in-depth fashion …
Stage 1: The “chilled” initial gem of an idea
Almost always, a project will begin with a chilled core. That’s to say that it all starts with a slow composition that often rests around 51bpm (hense, the name of my record label “51bpm.com”).
Most of GAMmA was produced and recorded with the help of Steinberg’s Nuendo DAW software, largely using the UAD2 card for effects and Steven Slate’s Raven touch screen controller. The project was initially recorded using only stereo tracks (sometimes up to 80 of them) and produced from the ground-up in stereo (in the past, I’d often produce the project first in 5.1). Within the session, a great deal of sub-grouping was done, as the project was made up of several groupings of software, hardware and live acoustic instruments … I’d definitely recommend the use of grouping (and track coloring) as a way of making the process easier to identify and control.
Stage 2: Producing the “original mix”
- loop hardware
- loop software and plugins
- live instruments and originally crafted live instrument loops
- adding live drums
Stage 3: Producing the “berlin mix”
- import original mix session into ableton live
* export original mix as 4-stereo stems that can be imported to the right for up to an 8 channel gig
- composition using loops into the left-hand side of live for live triggering during a performance
- creation of a live stage or in-studio performance for the “berlin mix” production in berlin
- export files back into the original mix to create the final berlin mix
I also have the good fortune of also being able to live and produce my music in Berlin. My Wonung (apartment) is simple, but amazingly powerful. Don’t let the small size of these speakers fool you, they’re PMCs and are amazingly accurate and my Acer PC laptop doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the phrase “No, I can’t” … no matter what I throw at it, it keeps chugging along.
Once the tracks have been completed, they came back to Berlin, where the tracks were painstakingly programmed in loop form into Ableton’s Live DAW system. This allowed the project to be performed live (both on stage and in the studio). In this case, the “Live” tracks were performed at the 8th-floor studios at nhow Hotel in Berlin, being digitally captured in a way that allowed the performance to be re-inserted back along with the original mix tracks to create a dance mix that lifts the tempo and the spirits.
Veiw of nhow Hotel (left), just off the Spree River in Berlin. Notice how the studio is actually built out “over” the river, offering one of the best views of Berlin anywhere.
Stage 4: Whenever possible, re-record and import the original tracks at 24/96 back into the final session
- re-record the original MIDI tracks at 24/96
- import the original “live instrument” tracks at their original 24/96
Stage 5: Adding live drums
Once the initial electronic and live instrument tracks were added, we went into London Bridge Studios (Nirvana, 3 Doors Down, Alice In Chains’, Nickelback, etc.) in Seattle, a studio that’s known for its killer drum sound to record drums for the project, using multiple mics as well as distant room mics to add a liveness to the electronic project.
London Bridge Studios is also know for its really sweet Neve 8048 analog console, which added its usual warmth to the drum mix.
Stage 6: Importing the original project into Ableton Live in a unique manner to create a “berlin mix” version that canbe further produced and performed live on-stage.
Stage 7: Mixing the project in various mix/format versions
- 2.0 stereo (Seattle)
- 5.1 surround (Seattle/Belgium)
- 9.1 Auro 3D (Belgium)
The final mix was made by DMH and Emiliano Caballero at galaxy Studios in Mol, Belgium. This world-class studio in the middle of sheep fields in rural Belgium is home to auro Technologies 3D music mixing techniques and advanced immersive audio technologies.
Stage 8: Mastering “WITHIN” the mix
- setting levels within the session
- setting mastering plugins within the session
- setting final EQ settings with the session
- setting in- and out- timings within the mix
Stage 9: Final master exports of the various mix versions in 2.0, 5.1 and 9.1
- keeping timings EXACT is crucial to the Blu-ray mastering process (possible when self mastering)
- the “QC” process
It was quite the interesting process to master this project, but then to continue further and assemble plus do QC (quality control) for the bluray disc proved to be quite the task. In my case, I was pretty much the only person who could’ve done this, as when I found a problem with the mix, I was able to export the song tracks and then assemble them back into the continuous track files. Trust me, it wasn’t easy and generally took a day for each output format.
Stage 10: Enter metadata and cover graphics into 2.0 and 5.1 FLAC files for upload.
Stage 11: Upload stereo download FLAC versions into Bandcamp and hi-res sites.
Stage 12: Marketing and distribution