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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.
Okay, in this section we're going to take a look at the mixer, and if you seen the other movie in this title about the mixer where we showed the hardware mixer, you'll notice that there's going to be a lot of similarities here. And I'll try and point out some of those similarities and then a few other differences. As we've mentioned, the mixer is essentially traffic control for all the signals moving through your DAW. And it contains channels where the signals flow through these channels. Let me open this window up a little bit more, make sure we have all the channels in the view. So again, remember that a mixture is one channel repeated many times.
So even though it looks like a lot of gobbledygook and a lot of different buttons and things to pay attention to, once you're thinking about what makes up one channel or one strip, you know what a mixer does. So a digital mixer and digital software works really pretty similar. We'll send a few tracks here and take a look at what's going on. Let's un-mute that, okay. (music playing) So we've got the meters. Again it's good to think of the mixer in three sections: the Input section, the Channel Strip section and then the Master section.
So let's take a minute and look at the Input section a little bit. So in our digital mixer we can click and decide what inputs from our A-to-D or digital audio interface we want to use for the sound input for recording. We can also pick things like bus, which is a send from another channel, and we can pick things like digital inputs, if we had here would be our SB diff digital in. It's not hooked up right now, but you can pick other inputs. So that's the Input section.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there aren't really pre-amps built into the mixer here, so we can't really adjust the input gain or the volume of the signal here the way we can on a pre-amp. So it's important to get that volume and that signal level with your external devices; in the digital mixer, we're actually just going to decide how much of the signal we get to hear back, while the volume of the signal actually is part of the digital audio file that's on the hard drive. So it's been recorded. This isn't really where we add volume, this is just where we decide how much of the signal we're going to let pass through the different channels.
So that's the Input section. Now, let's take a look at the actual channel strips. So you'll notice that the channel strips here in our software mixer look a little bit different than they did on the external mixer. But there's also some similarities. There's the fader, Mute and Solo buttons, and then a Panning control. Where it's a little bit different is that instead of an EQ section we have plug-ins. So think of this as kind of the plug-in section, and instead of there being EQ there all the time, we can decide, okay, we want an EQ here in the channel strip. So we insert it.
We plug it in. Here's an ICQ, and then we can go through and pick different EQs. So where this is different is that we're not necessarily dealing with fixed equalization and a fixed set of kind of effects or things that we can use to change the tonal character; we can plug in different things into the channel as we need them. And the reason that it was set up this way is because to use these devices takes a lot of processing power. So it's more efficient to just initiate them when you actually need them, as opposed to having them there all the time.
We can also use things like reverb plug-ins, which I've shown in some other movies, and other things like compressors. So that's kind of where the EQ section would have been. But really in our software mixer it's the insert section, or the plug-in section. Now finally, the Master section also exists here, but you'll notice it's not quite as present or as intimidating as it is on other boards, and that's because of a lot of those settings are found in other places. But we can assign each track an output.
Here we have a master fader, which controls overall output of the whole session. So we can bring down all the channels at once. Right now all the channels are feeding into our master fader. But we can go to each channel and pick a different output and send the signal from that channel somewhere else. So that's more or less the mixer. One other really convenient thing you can find in the mixers: you can decide what you want to look at and what you don't want to look at. There's always a nice little thing for comments.
So if I want to type in "SM57 on a snare drum", I can have that as a note, which is nice. I can open it and go back and see what kind of microphone I used on that track. You can also name the track. We'll call this snare. So what's nice about a software mixer is that you can customize it quite a bit. But still, the three main sections and thinking of it in those terms pays off a lot. It's just that those things don't necessarily exist in the same physical layout as they do on a mixer. But still, thinking of it in terms of the three basic sections is the way to go.
The trick is that they don't all necessarily exist in the same physical way that they do on a hardware mixer or an external mixer. In the next movie, we'll take a look at the file list.
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