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In this first installment of the Foundations of Audio series, author Brian Lee White shows how to improve the sound of a mix with compressors, limiters, gates, de-essers, and other dynamic processors. The course explains the fundamentals of sound waves, and amplitude, explores common compressor controls, and shows how to eliminate unwanted noise using gates and expanders. The course also demonstrates best practices in compression and limiting in a variety of audio applications and covers sculpting the attack and decay of individual notes with transient shapers and applying frequency specific dynamics control with multiband compressors. Exercise files accompany the course and include special Get in the Mix session files.
It seems like a year never passes without at least a dozen new compressors, limiters, and other similar tools coming onto the market. It's no surprise that producers and engineers often become quickly overwhelmed with the number of choices. Which one should I buy? Do I need all of them to make my mix sound good? Will this year's model change my life like the advertisement says it will? Even though all the flashy interfaces, lights, and knobs may look radically different from each other, the reality is that all dynamics processors today are pretty much designed on the same principles as the ones from a few decades ago, and learning the fundamental concepts behind them and the basic techniques for using them in your mixes translates surprisingly well across both hardware and software processors.
Think about it this way. If you can drive a Toyota, you can certainly drive a Ford or a Chevy. It might take a few minutes to get used to the controls and you might not understand the full feature set the car offers, but once you know how to drive, you can pretty much drive anything and get from point A to point B. Now some cars are flashy and faster around the corners, while others are designed to be smooth and elegant. Dynamics processors are no different. Some sound best on certain instruments, like drums or vocals.
Some color the signal, adding warmth and punch, while others don't color the signal and are considered transparent-sounding. Dynamics processors can exist as plug-in-based software programs that run inside your DAW--otherwise known as in the box--or as outboard processors that are built into the channel strip of a console, or exist as separate hardware pieces in a rack. In this course, we will take advantage of some of the most popular factory- bundled DAW plug-ins included with Pro Tools and Logic, as well as the industry-standard Waves plug-ins, a popular third-party choice that works in almost any DAW. as well as many digital consoles.
We will also take a moment to look at using analog hardware-based dynamics processors in your workflow. Although we will look at a number of fantastic tools throughout this course, everything I will be showing you will easily translate to the dynamics processors you have access to. Let's get started!
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