A truly important aspect of a project (be it stereo or immersive) is the overall room ambiance within a mix. In short, it could be the difference between a standard mix and one that puts you “there”, within the overall experience.

The first tool that an engineer can have is the use of miking distance. This hip-pocket tool is often overloked in the modern studio. In short, it is the understanding of how distance can effect the ration between the source and the room sound (be it actual or manufactured in nature). It was said best in a magazine article … “if you want to get a Motown sound, just back the mic off of the source by a foot”.

Capturing the Actual Room Sound

When getting a sound, particularly if it’s during an overdub or a re-amp session, I’ll actually place multiple mics within the studio:

– One (or a stereo pair) for the direct pickup
– A stereo pair (often XY) at a semi-distant position (say 1-2 meters)
– A stereo room pair (often Blumlein) at 4 or more meters

These tracks are then individually recorded to the DAW for later use in the mix. The advantages to having the option to mix various distances together during mixdown is HUGE … and if the mix ends up being in surround or immersive audio, you’ll have the option of placing the room mics within the immersive soundfield. It’s that simple and effective!

Convolution Room Sound

None of this is sacred. Within the mix, if the room doesn’t match your needs, you can opt to add a simulated room sound into the mix. May favorite being the Ocean Way plug-in from Universal Audio.

With this plug-in (or another convolution room/verb plugin), you can change the room sound or merge it with the originally-recorded room tracks to make your drums, guitars or overall mix sound much larger.

I thought that I would start a series of blogs that relate to what I do, how I do it and what is going on in my professional life. For me, there there probably is no better place to start than with a better understanding of stereo miking techniques …

One of my most important tools for getting “my sound” is through the use of stereo imagery and the capture of the instrument’s and overall room presence. Almost without exception, the tracks on my DAW are stereo (sometimes up to 80 tracks). When dealing with the concept of an immersive mix, this helps to fill the sound out in a spacious manner.

notice that all of the tracks are stereo

I can only imagine that my love for stereo miking started during my college days at the University of Surrey in England. There, we were taught in the general techniques of room miking from a classical point-of-view. However, this idea of capturing the recorded space within a traditional modern recording studio began to make more and more sense to me. One would not generally record a piano pickup with a single mic for several reasons. One, the instrument is too big to close mic using a single pickup source … and two, the benefits of a stereo spread within a mix is obvious. However, the general benefits of capturing the overall sonic spread can apply to all instruments on so many levels.

In modern recording, when an instrument is being picked up from a single mic source, the overall sonic imagery is limited to the sounds of the room that leak into the pickup. However, the mic will usually be placed so close to the instrument, that the room is no longer a factor. This leaves us with the sole option of adding artificial reverb and delay to fill out and to create a living, breathing space.

This is all well and good, but what about the options of using the natural acoustic spread of an instrument, no matter how large or small that instrument is? For example, an acoustic guitar has a natural spread to its voice. With sounds coming from the hole, the strings, the body … even when close or semi-close miked. The use of stereo mic techniques can bring a breadth and sense of spread to the instrument that can give it a life, beyond (or in addition to) what artificial ambiance can give. Here are a few audio examples of stereo miking techniques for the guitar.

Moving beyond the guitar, the piano and drum overheads, almost all instruments can benefit from the life and spread that stereo miking can give … including vocals. When recording vocals in stereo, the natural nuances of movement, room reflections and small acoustic variations will spread the vocal out in ways that move beyond the pin-point location that a single vocal mic will give.

In addition to using stereo for close and semi-close pickup, stereo miking at a distance can add life and a dramatic sense of realism to a pickup.

The next part of the puzzle can be really fun … this happens when you combine stereo distant miking with a close stereo or mono pickup. This can be done live during the session or overdub (as with close miking a guitar cabinet, with a semi-distant pair as well as a distant room stereo mic pair) or, it can be done after the fact by playing a track back through speakers in the studio and then re-recording the room at various distances, using various mics in a re-amp setting.

Special thanks to Abbey Road Institute – Amsterdam for the above video.

How can I best convey my love for Berlin … Is it the life in almost everyone you see on the streets, is it the fashion lady that sits across from you on the u-bahn with the small grey pug that says “I’m a fashion dog, too, and I don’t care”, is it the older guy totally dressed in white (complete with matching white gloves), is it the sax player that’s wailing on a 1/2 scale sax, is it the guy playing awesome Arabic music on the bagpipes down the street … and so much more that I won’t even go into? It’s not easy being away from Dan, but he knows what this place means to me … and I’m grateful to him for that. Liebe gruss aus Berlin!

The following 22 minute video is an excellent intro into one of my favorite worlds … the world of TOUCH. First off, it’s amazing that his favorite multi screen setup (see pic) is exactly what I’m looking at right now (touch on the slant and standard monitor facing). Also … thanks to Slate, it’s been 3 friggin’ years in the making, but they finally released the Raven software that will work with Nuendo PC. I’ll finally be able to check it out.

Here’s the video on the latest update to the raven touch software …

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So, I was talking with Dan this morning at breakfast about surround sound delivery. There are three consumer categories:

1. hi-end audio
2. home theater
3. gamers

There are basically three ways to deliver media:

1. Bluray
3. MP4 video

My real hope over the last 5 years, would be for the 5.1 (non-classical) music community to stop goofing off and court the gamer community. They are the ones that probably have the largest installation (actually, I’m banking on better cooperation with the VR community).

Regarding the delivery media, even though it has no copy protection, I find FLAC to be the most logical delivery media. Most hi-end systems can play 24/96 5.1 FLAC from a dongle without any difficulty. My Android phone can easily play 24/96 2.0 files.

Any thoughts or comments? FYI, when you buy any of my project mixes, you’ll get an additional full set of 24/96 mixes that can be played on your system in 5.1.

DMH Bandcamp Music Store

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Parallax n. – (an apparent change in perception of an object when viewed from a different direction or viewpoint)
Eden n. – (any delightful place or state; a paradise)

The general theme of Parallax Eden can be found above in the dictionary definitions of the words themselves. As a musical work, it seeks to transport the listener to another place. This place can be serene and chilled, thick and sonically lush or it can be energetic and rhythmically driving … depending upon the mix that you’re listening to.

In its beginnings (as with many of DMH’s project’s), Parallax Eden started out as a relaxational piece, which can still be heard in the “Chill Mix Version”. This generally involves nature sounds (that were recorded by DMH himself) with lush synthesizer pads (often from hardware synths), which are combined with live instrumentation to create a soothing ambient space.

The next phase in the process, takes the nature/chill tracks and combines beats, original rhythm tracks, hard- and soft-synths, as well as beats, loops and live instruments to build up tracks that are lush and energizing … but not overly-so. These mid-tempo mixes make up what is known as the “Original Mix Version”.

From a technical standpoint, much of these tracks are made by DMH in his production facility in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, using Steinberg’s Nuendo and Ableton Live as his main DAW software tools of choice.

Once the original mix versions have been completed, these session tracks are then meticulously added to an Abelton Live session, such that if you were to press Play in Live, the original tracks would play the 4 separate stereo “streams” (being made up of the instrumental/vocal tracks and a special mix version of the surround 5.1 mix tracks).

Add to these original session mixes an extra dose of harder-hitting (and yet still melodic) groove loops, soft synths and about anything that can be imagined … and you come up with a series of grooves that can be played and “performed” to the original tracks. These dance tracks are then composed and assembled into the Ableton Live session in Berlin, in a creative musical environment (above is a pic of my smaller Berlin studio setup … home away from home).

Once completed the Live session is ready for performance. This is often done at one of Europe’s top music hotels, the nhow Hotel in Berlin (their main SSL studio is shown in the picture above). These live mixes are then performed live on-stage or in the studio, which then can then be transferred very carefully back into the main studio DAW to become the “Berlin Remixes”.

A Word on Touch Technology

One of the newer aspects in DMH’s life is touch technology, which he embraces with open arms and flying hands. Where to start? … First, all of the computers in the studio(s) make full use of touch screens. This allows for direct on-screen mixing and software interaction (with the main screen being a full 27” raven touchscreen.

Next is the integration of the iPad into the studio. During production, the iPad acts as a MIDI device, providing software synths, tools and various musical toys that are definitely part of the overall process. However, once the original version of the project has been mixed, the iPad becomes a central part of the production process through the use of Touchable, a touch, wireless control interface to Ableton Live that allows him to compose, perform and experiment in the studio and live on-stage.

Once the compositions are done, the mixing process begins at DMH’s studio facilities in both 2.0 (stereo) and 5.1 (surround sound). With the use of Steinberg’s Nuendo and various effects plug-ins (most notably from Universal Audio, DMH then crafts the mixes into their final musical form. Moving further, DMH then visits to his other musical family, Galaxy Studios in Mol, Belgium. Here, DMH goes about the task of mixing in 9.1 Auro3D® for the final release product. In this case, the Auro3D® mix is made up of a full 5.1 mix on the ground and an extra set of quad speakers in the air, giving an expansive sense of height to the mix.

The final Bluray Disc product is unique (probably the first of its kind) in that it contains not only several mix formats, it also includes several mix and remix music versions. Just choose your color on the Bluray remote control…

YELLOW (Berlin 2.0 Remix) This is not a “fold-down”, but a separate stereo mix that has been crafted with tender loving care.
GREEN (Chill 2.0 Mix) Take away the dynamic dance tracks and you are left with underlying chill tracks that are the foundation of these songs.
RED (Berlin 5.1 Remix) The surround mix is where the action is. Quite literally, the l, r, c, lfe, ls, rs soundfield envelopes the listener from all speakers to create an immersive 5.1 experience.
BLUE (Original 9.1 mix) This Auro-3D® mix adds an extra 4 channels of overhead height information, for a total of 9.1 channels!

In addition to being unique and bold in format and mix options, these mixes have been mixed quite boldly … the surround mixes literally surround you with instruments and effects, placing you in the middle of it all. Bold and innovative enough that it won a Grammy nomination.

Parallax Eden can be purchased here:
Auro3D Creative Bluray Edition
Stereo mix download versions

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