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Whether one is producing music, podcasts, game sounds, or film sound effects, Digital Audio Principles provides the tips and techniques that will make the project a success. Author Dave Schroeder explains the basics of digital audio production techniques and covers the essential hardware and software. He also discusses sound theory, frequency response, the range of human hearing, and dynamic range.
So, in this chapter, the Plug-ins chapter, we're going to look at a lot of these different plug-ins, what they do, all the different kind of cool effects you can use, and the kind of tools they can provide to help you improve and change your sounds. But first let's just kind of recap what they are. They're mini-applications that extend the capabilities of your software. They can come bundled with the software that you have, or you can buy third-party or additional plug-in software. What they do is they handle a wide variety of DSP, or digital signal processing, tasks, things like reverb, delay, or things like changing the volume of digital files.
There is a pretty wide range of different plug-ins out there, and some of them have pretty straightforward names, and some of them have pretty interesting and comical names. A lot of them are also modeled after hardware units that actually exist and may have existed for 20 or 30 years. A lot of the really cool compressors from the 1960s and 1970s now, you can get basically software models of those as plug-ins. So, I always think it's helpful to kind of categorize your plug-ins, or think of them in terms of categories, based on what they do.
A few kind of common categories are EQ, or equalization, which deals with kind of adjusting frequency or tonal information. Dynamics, which deals with the dynamic range or the volume of different sounds, There will be things like compressors. We'll get into all of these one at a time in the next few movies. Also, pitch shifting, which you can use to change the pitch of things, obviously, and also to correct things and auto-tune things if you have instruments that are out of tune. Reverb & delay add reflections and echoes and kind of simulate things that happen in the real world to kind of make sounds smoother, but they can also be used for great special effects.
Modulation effects, things like phaser and flanger and chorus, that can be used to add a little bit of texture or variation to a sound that might be static, or to kind of give it a little bit more body. Then finally, there are sound tools, which will help you do things like change the volume of a sound file or reduce some of the noise involved in that sound file. These are really almost kind of like utilities. They can offer a lot of assistance in terms of kind of getting the best sound possible, and enhancing your sound files. So, in the coming movies, we'll go through all of these kind of one at a time, but before we do that, I should point out that there's really two different ways, or kind of two different places where plug-ins will appear in digital audio software, and two ways to apply them to your sound files.
The first is in real time, which is when you use them as an insert in your mixing board, and you hit Play and the sound file is actually routed through that plug-in. The other is at the file level, where you're not in playback mode, but you're just simply highlighting or selecting a file and then applying the plug-in, kind of like a filter. This tends to render it, as opposed to the real-time, which affects what you hear but not how you actually change the digital file. When you work at the file level, you're actually making a new copy with the effect built in to that new file.
In the next movie, we'll take a look at using plug-ins in real time, or as inserts, and also applying them at the file level.
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