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Mixing "in the box"

From: Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering

Video: Mixing "in the box"

Traditionally, records were made using entirely analog equipment, from the tape machines that recorded the tracks to the mixers that sum them together. While there are many advantages to completely analog workflow, like the warmth, saturation, and nonlinear qualities of tape and tube gear, engineers often found it hard to edit tape-based material, recall complex mixes, or collaborate and share ideas outside of the studio. Not to mention the fact that this analog recording gear was generally extremely expensive, making high-quality recording only available to a select few.

Mixing "in the box"

Traditionally, records were made using entirely analog equipment, from the tape machines that recorded the tracks to the mixers that sum them together. While there are many advantages to completely analog workflow, like the warmth, saturation, and nonlinear qualities of tape and tube gear, engineers often found it hard to edit tape-based material, recall complex mixes, or collaborate and share ideas outside of the studio. Not to mention the fact that this analog recording gear was generally extremely expensive, making high-quality recording only available to a select few.

If we fast-forward to today, because of the speed and power afforded by modern computing, it is not uncommon for the recording process to take place entirely inside the compute--or in the box--from start to finish. While we will still continue to use many analog tools like microphones and speakers that we still need to interface with the digital realm, it is safe to say we are fully transitioned into the era of the DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation. So what is a DAW? In the DAW world, we're replacing most of the components of the analog studio with DAW software and an interface running with a computer.

So the DAW is replacing the recording medium the tape as well as the editing environment--let's say the razor blades that cut that tape--as well as the mixing and effects. So the console and the outboard gear are replaced by the DAW's mixer and plug-ins. Now there are quite a few advantages to working this way. First of all, we have complete recall ability. So that means we can be consistent. Your mix is going to sound the same today, next month, next year because we can simply save and reopen our session. And it's going to sound exactly the same.

In the analog days, recalls could take hours to patch all the cables back together. Today I can save a session and recall it a month later in an entirely different city, and it's going to sound exactly the same. And I find that this allows me to develop my mix over time. Now another thing that I really like about DAW's is the amazing automation. You can automate anything. Try automating a real 1176 or a pull tech EQ in the analog environment. You can't really do it. Now Pro Tools has probably the best automation package available in any mixing environment, both analog or digital.

The best thing about the DAW world is the price to performance ratio. Those with the right skills can make it sound like a million-dollar studio with basically a few thousand dollars and a laptop. Now some people will say there are some disadvantages--or I like to say considerations--of mixing in a DAW. First of all, the lack of tactile control that you get with the analog world-- the buttons and the knobs--is a little bit weird. Now control surfaces have allowed us to supplement this by giving us faders and knobs that allow us to change parameters in our software without having to use the mouse, but I find that a lot of my peers are just fine mixing entirely with a mouse.

So it's really about what you're comfortable with. Another knock that DAWs get often is the lack of built-in warmth or saturation that you would traditionally gain with analog gear, like tubes and tapes. For me this is not necessarily a bad thing but just a fact of working in the box. The mixer is not going to add any default coloration like an analog mixer does. So I need to add it by taste, using the saturation plug-ins and processing to get just the feel I want. And I actually prefer it this way.

The bottom line is you can get a great mix inside of Pro Tools, so don't let highbrow articles and fancy advertisements get you down about mixing in the box or not using analog gear. What works for one person might not work for someone else. At the end of the day, a strong mixer can create a great mix inside or outside the box, and no one would be able to tell either way. I used to supplement my plug-ins with expensive outboard gear, but I've been mixing entirely inside of Pro Tools for the last four to five years, as I find that I value recall ability and flexibility more than any slight advantages I gain by tying my workflow to a physical piece of equipment.

Is that to say that using analog outboard gear or summing mixers is a waste of time or money? Not at all. Everyone has to find what works best for their style and voice as a mixer. For me personally, I find that mixing in the box inside of Pro Tools offers the greatest amount of flexibility in my work for providing an excellent sounding environment to creatively shape the mix exactly how I hear it in my head.

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Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering

84 video lessons · 11021 viewers

Brian Lee White
Author

 
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  1. 12m 57s
    1. Welcome
      1m 15s
    2. What is mixing? The past, present, and future
      4m 38s
    3. Exploring strategies for mixing and mastering
      5m 47s
    4. Using the exercise files
      1m 17s
  2. 47m 4s
    1. Mixing "in the box"
      4m 45s
    2. Setting up the studio: monitors
      6m 24s
    3. Setting up the studio: acoustics
      6m 42s
    4. Staying organized: labeling tracks and clips
      11m 42s
    5. Staying organized: memory locations and window configurations
      9m 28s
    6. Managing system resources during mixdown
      8m 3s
  3. 48m 42s
    1. Introducing the Pro Tools mixer
      3m 19s
    2. Understanding mixer signal flow
      3m 55s
    3. Using inserts and plug-ins
      8m 54s
    4. Working with plug-in settings
      5m 57s
    5. Using sends and creating effects returns
      9m 5s
    6. Submixing with aux tracks
      6m 4s
    7. Using groups while mixing
      5m 32s
    8. Using master faders effectively
      5m 56s
  4. 18m 12s
    1. Conceptualizing the mix and making a plan
      6m 17s
    2. Adjusting volume and pan to balance the mix
      7m 49s
    3. Knowing when to process: mix problems vs. mix solutions
      4m 6s
  5. 43m 54s
    1. Understanding the mechanics of sound
      3m 21s
    2. Learning the basics of EQ: frequency-specific level control
      3m 3s
    3. Using DigiRack EQ 3
      6m 42s
    4. Exploring EQ strategies in mixing: correcting vs. creating
      7m 19s
    5. A working example: kick drum and bass
      8m 22s
    6. A working example: filtering loops
      6m 2s
    7. Exploring mixing tips and tricks: EQ
      9m 5s
  6. 1h 23m
    1. Understanding dynamics and dynamic range
      1m 48s
    2. Working with dynamics processors
      2m 41s
    3. Using the DigiRack Dyn 3 compressor/limiter
      8m 36s
    4. Balancing and shaping track dynamics
      2m 42s
    5. Using gates and expanders
      8m 26s
    6. Using de-essers to eliminate sibilance
      6m 52s
    7. A dynamics workflow example: vocal
      12m 21s
    8. A dynamics workflow example: drums
      12m 19s
    9. Exploring mixing tips and tricks: dynamics
      10m 11s
    10. Building parallel, or upward, compression
      7m 40s
    11. Reviewing dynamics concerns: How much is too much?
      2m 45s
    12. Using Avid Channel Strip
      7m 26s
  7. 59m 21s
    1. Using time-based effects to add depth and width
      3m 49s
    2. Exploring DigiRack D-Verb
      15m 48s
    3. Using the DigiRack delays
      11m 10s
    4. Mixing with reverb
      11m 28s
    5. Mixing with delays
      10m 40s
    6. Exploring mixing tips and tricks: creating mix depth
      6m 26s
  8. 15m 14s
    1. Working with the Creative Collection
      7m 18s
    2. Building distortion and saturation
      7m 56s
  9. 56m 48s
    1. Understanding automation
      4m 10s
    2. Recording real-time automation moves
      9m 0s
    3. Viewing and editing automation
      13m 12s
    4. Using clip gain
      9m 59s
    5. Automating plug-ins
      9m 34s
    6. Exploring automation strategies for mixing
      10m 53s
  10. 39m 22s
    1. Understanding the characteristics of a great mix
      6m 23s
    2. Working with a reference track
      7m 51s
    3. Avoiding common pitfalls
      10m 59s
    4. Building healthy mixing habits
      3m 23s
    5. Crafting your mix from start to finish
      10m 46s
  11. 1h 6m
    1. Understanding mastering
      5m 13s
    2. Working with general mastering strategies
      9m 5s
    3. Using limiting and compression to maximize track level
      12m 6s
    4. Working with multiband compression
      5m 34s
    5. Bouncing the mix
      8m 4s
    6. Understanding sample rate, bit depth, file formats, and dither
      9m 0s
    7. Metering with the DigiRack Phase Scope
      7m 46s
    8. Compressing audio for the web
      10m 0s
  12. 1h 19m
    1. Evaluating plug-in processors
      6m 3s
    2. Using saturation and other analog-style effects effectively
      11m 45s
    3. Setting up side-chains
      7m 27s
    4. Master bus processing
      11m 6s
    5. Creating and using mix templates
      10m 35s
    6. Dealing with plug-in delay and latency
      12m 28s
    7. Drum sample replacing
      12m 59s
    8. Setting pan depth in Pro Tools
      6m 39s
  13. 1h 0m
    1. Mixing in Pro Tools 11: What's new
      4m 36s
    2. Understanding the AAX 64-bit plugin format
      8m 31s
    3. Configuring the Pro Tools 11 Playback Engine
      8m 36s
    4. Using new metering options in the mixer
      7m 16s
    5. Working with advanced metering options
      8m 18s
    6. Mixing shortcuts in Pro Tools 11
      5m 40s
    7. Printing a mix using Offline Bounce
      7m 6s
    8. Advanced Offline Bounce workflows
      10m 51s
  14. 21s
    1. Thank you and goodbye
      21s

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