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This installment of Foundations of Audio explains one of the most essential ingredients in audio mixing, reverb—the time it takes for sound to bounce, echo, and decay during a live performance or recording. Reverb gives a natural richness to your recordings, which is possible to reproduce. Producer and audio engineer Alex U. Case covers the acoustic, mechanical, and digital means for creating reverb, and charts the parameters (room size, density, etc.) you'll need to know to take advantage of the original recording space and enhance it in post. He then shows how to simulate reverb digitally with effects, adding timbre, texture, and contrast, and improve the sound of your mixes with a sense of space and depth.
These techniques can be practiced with the free Get in the Mix sessions, currently available for Pro Tools and Logic Pro.
Thinking of repurposing a nearby space to be your reverb chamber? All I can say is, do it. Anyone can buy the same plugins you can, but no one will have the same chamber you do. The engine willing to go to the trouble to set up an experiment with the chamber to get a great sound will also find they've created a unique sound. Find a space that's highly sound-reflective. Concrete, brick and tile are common materials to look for. Be aware that carpet, curtains, closets with clothes, these are all sound- absorptive materials that will undermine the sound of the chamber.
Look for a space where concrete, brick, and/or title dominate. You also want your architecture to be irregularly shaped to offer some sound diffusion. Stairs, columns, bumpy stuff, nonparallel walls, these are all desirable things in reverb chambers to help you get a unique sound without ugly-sounding acoustic anomalies. Lastly, and this can be tricky in a lot of studios, we need a space that is as quiet as possible. That is, you don't want to hear extraneous ambient noise in the chamber.
When you send the snare drum to the chamber, you want to hear the decay of the snare drum down to the lowest level of sounds. You don't want to hear the hum, buzz, and whoosh of refrigerators traffic and other distractions. So we look for a space that's quiet. The same thing that makes the room sound reflective also improves the sound isolation, so thick concrete walls and sound-isolating doors, to at least doors with some weather stripping and gasketing to make something of an airtight seal, are helpful. A room without windows is probably going to be quieter than a room with windows.
And as the reverb chamber isn't a place for people to hang out, we don't actually need heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment in there, which is good, because those are noisemakers as well. With the space arranged, it's time to add the audio ins and outs. We do this in the next movie.
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