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Foundations of Audio: Reverb
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Simulating space with reverb


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Foundations of Audio: Reverb

with Alex U. Case

Video: Simulating space with reverb

As reverb is in essence the sound of a space, it isn't surprising that we use studio reverb to simulate a space within our recording. Simulating space is itself a rich source of four families of effects that we talk about here: specific real spaces, generalized realistic spaces, spatial adjustments, and the creation of unreal spaces. Sometimes in music, our production challenge is to simulate a very specific real space. We might want to have the sound, the history, the feeling, the memory, the distinction, the sense of a very specific space with all the smells and sights that accompany it.
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  1. 9m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 58s
    2. What you need to know before watching this course
      2m 18s
    3. Songs you should listen to while watching this course
      2m 46s
    4. Using the exercise files
      55s
    5. Using the Get in the Mix session files
      1m 44s
  2. 6m 44s
    1. What is reverb?
      2m 35s
    2. Why do we use reverb?
      4m 9s
  3. 24m 33s
    1. Capturing reverb acoustically through room tracks
      5m 33s
    2. Creating reverb acoustically through a reverb chamber
      2m 51s
    3. Creating reverb mechanically using springs and plates
      5m 8s
    4. Creating reverb digitally via algorithms and convolution
      4m 51s
    5. Optimizing signal flow, effects loops, and CPU resources
      6m 10s
  4. 39m 10s
    1. The anatomy of reverberation
      3m 8s
    2. Mastering reverb time, predelay, and wet/dry mix parameters
      5m 36s
    3. Understanding the frequency dependence of reverberation
      4m 56s
    4. Tapping into advanced parameters such as diffusion, density, and more
      4m 37s
    5. Reference values from the best orchestra halls
      5m 40s
    6. Hearing beyond the basic parameters
      5m 31s
    7. Touring the interfaces for six reverb plugins
      9m 42s
  5. 1h 32m
    1. Choosing the right reverb for each of your tracks
      2m 17s
    2. Simulating space with reverb
      5m 42s
    3. Hearing space in the mix
      6m 33s
    4. Timbre and texture
      3m 36s
    5. Shaping tone and timbre with reverb
      5m 49s
    6. Creating contrasting sounds for your tracks
      4m 43s
    7. Using nonlinear reverb to help a track cut through
      4m 25s
    8. Emphasizing the reverb using predelay
      3m 24s
    9. Strategically blurring and obscuring tracks
      1m 46s
    10. Get in the Mix: Changing the scene by changing reverb
      7m 37s
    11. Get in the Mix: Gating reverb to emphasize any track in your production
      5m 52s
    12. Reversing reverb to highlight musical moments
      9m 36s
    13. Synthesizing new sounds through reverb
      6m 42s
    14. Get in the Mix: Supporting a track with regenerative reverb
      6m 31s
    15. Getting the most out of room tracks
      17m 39s
  6. 11m 32s
    1. Setting up your own reverb chamber: The architecture
      2m 2s
    2. Setting up your own reverb chamber: The audio
      4m 8s
    3. Using convolution correctly
      2m 32s
    4. Getting great impluse response
      2m 50s
  7. 1m 29s
    1. Next steps
      1m 29s

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Foundations of Audio: Reverb
3h 5m Appropriate for all Dec 14, 2012 Updated Jan 24, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • What is reverb?
  • Understanding how acoustic reverb works in rooms
  • Working with the signal flow, effects loops, and available CPU resources
  • Understanding core parameters, like reverb time and pre-delay
  • Simulating space
  • Creating nonlinear reverb
  • Building pre-delay effects
  • Using reverse reverb
  • Using convolution correctly
Subjects:
Audio + Music DAWs Mixing Music Production Audio Plug-Ins Audio Foundations Mastering
Software:
Logic Pro Pro Tools
Author:
Alex U. Case

Simulating space with reverb

As reverb is in essence the sound of a space, it isn't surprising that we use studio reverb to simulate a space within our recording. Simulating space is itself a rich source of four families of effects that we talk about here: specific real spaces, generalized realistic spaces, spatial adjustments, and the creation of unreal spaces. Sometimes in music, our production challenge is to simulate a very specific real space. We might want to have the sound, the history, the feeling, the memory, the distinction, the sense of a very specific space with all the smells and sights that accompany it.

We might want our recording to have the sound of acoustic icons like Carnegie Hall in New York, or huge houses of worship like Notre Dame in Paris, or small performance clubs like your favorite place down the street. We might pursue other less obvious places, your high school gymnasium, a London tube stop, the stairs at work. You have in mind a very specific real space, and you use reverb to make it happen. Any reverb processor can do the job, a chamber reverb, a spring, or plate can be hooked up and processed to help simulate the sound of a specific real space.

But you are going to find digital reverbs are best suited to the task. Algorithmic reverbs with all their adjustable parameters can be tweaked until they match the sound of your actual desired space. But of course, convolution is a great way to go here if you have the right impulse responses. Drop Carnegie Hall onto the background vocals of your mix by instantiating a convolution reverb and loading in your favorite Carnegie Hall impulse response, if you have one. I am sure you could download one if you don't.

Note to self, capture impulse responses on every location recording gig, find some quiet time when the band is taking a break and grab the impulse response. Use the Convolution reverb's Measurement feature or record the loudest short click you can using a handclap, popping a balloon, or even hitting a snare. It will let you create the sound of this room later when you might want the sound of this room but don't happen to be there. Beyond music production video postproduction presents another very common audio challenge where we need to evoke the sound of a specific real space.

If you record Robert De Niro speaking his lines in a taxi during film production and then have to do some dialog replacement in a booth in a studio later, you're going to have to make the close mike studio recording sound like the boomed mike taxi recording. So in video production it can be helpful to capture the impulse responses for all places where the film was shot, indoors, outdoors, on cars, trains, and planes. And when it's time to dialog replacement in the studio, we reach for convolution as a tool to help convert those close microphone studio recordings into something more consistent with the specific sound of the production recording.

A generalized realistic sounding space is the second motivation for simulating space with reverb. We aren't always tied to one specific space. Sometimes a similar-sounding space will do. You may not need Boston Symphony Hall, just a symphony hall. You may not require Notre Dame specifically, just a large cathedral. Here we get to relax a little bit, and we are permitted to be more creative because we're no longer obligated to match a specific space. Instead, we get to create a realistic sounding space, but one with all the sonic features and details we like best.

The third spatial motivation for reverb might be called Spatial Adjustments. Spatial Adjustments can be necessary because we so often record our sounds using close microphone techniques. The desire for isolation and the creative motivation to explore the sonic impact of close microphone placement often leaves us with little to no recorded ambience or reverberation. We might introduce a subtle amount of reverberation focusing particularly on the early reflection part of the reverb rather than the late reverberant tail to create the sound of microphones having been a bit further away.

This can diminish any unwanted razor-sharp immediacy in our closed mike tracks pushing them away from a studio sound towards a more realistic aesthetic. If the artist or producer complains that the record sounds too multi-tracked, and they wish it to sound more live and more organic, consider adding some early reflections to your close microphone tracks to take the studio, close mike, vocal booth sound out of your recording and instead make it sound a bit more realistic. We don't have to decorate the track with a long lush wash of reverberation to create the sound of air moving.

It adds a sense of liveness to the performance, and it can widen the stereo image between the loudspeakers. There is a fourth category, we've discussed specific real spaces, generalized real spaces, and spatial adjustments. The fourth motivation is maybe the most fun. We are allowed to create the sound of a completely unreal space. In these instances we are allowed to freely and creatively try pretty much any parameter setting we wish. We are not bound by the physics of room acoustics, we just choose what sounds best.

For example, we might create a reverb whose early reflections are dictated by the geometry of a large hall, while the Decay time is more indicative of a small room. And we could have extended high-frequency decay time that essentially suggests there is no air absorption. So that's a large small room with no air. That's an impossibility for live performance, certainly an uncomfortable place to go. But we can create it in our recordings anytime we like as long as it sounds right.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Foundations of Audio: Reverb.


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Q: This course was updated on 4/16/2013. What changed
A: We added a bonus chapter, "Advanced Reverb Techniques," with new movies on setting up your own reverb chamber, using convolution to simulate a space, and getting great impulse responses.
Q: This course was updated on 01/24/2014. What changed?
 A: The Get in the Mix videos have been updated to the most recent version of Pro Tools. Also, the course now includes free Get in the Mix sessions for two more DAWs: Logic Pro X and Pro Tools 11.
 
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