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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
When we start a mix in Pro Tools, the parameters in the mixer are by default static. That is to say, once you set them at a specific value or state, they will remain fixed until you decide to manually change them. This may be fine for a simple composition with fewer instruments but often presents a problem as the track count or the arrangement complexity increases. Automation allows us to record changes in the mixer state over the course of this session. Which is great, because it gives us the ability to react dynamically as the arrangement or project evolves, expanding or contracting with the progression of the tune.
So let me give you an example. The lead vocal, right. You have a basic verse-chorus, verse- chorus structure like I've here in Take Me Down. Now what happens as I go from pre- chorus to chorus, as you can see just by the waveforms here, is that the density of the arrangement increases. So if we listen. (Male singing: ...darting down my spine.) (Male singing: So take me down, take me down and my feet will follow, wherever my heart goes.) Now the problem that this presents in terms of keeping the lead vocal upfront is that if we just left the fader static on the lead vocal track, there wouldn't be one level in the session where it would fit with the whole song, because elements come in and elements come out.
And so we really need to be able to change the volume as the mix progresses. So if I look here on the lead vocal track, there's actually quite a bit of automation in different sections to kind of push that up and pull it back down as the arrangement changes. And so automation is going to give the mix a complete control over the mixer's parameters throughout the entire mix and this is going to help inject interest, dynamics, tension and release, and bring an overall fluidity to the mix.
Now another example that you might not be familiar with or consider is in post-production. In post-production of audio for video, automation is critical in helping create perspective and bring more believability to the dialog, sound effects, and ambience tracks. So in most productions, especially big budget ones, the dialog is re-recorded from what happened at the shoot. Generally, the mikes and what was recorded on set can tend to be a little bit muddy or noisy because the set is often outdoors or in an uncontrollable area.
So what happens is they come back in the studio and they do what's called ADR. They will actually rerecord lines that were obscured or misperformed by the actors and then re-sync them to the video. Now it's the post-production engineers job to take and recreate or match the camera perspective and the ambient characteristics of the space that the film was shot in. And so automation is critical not only to balance the rerecorded dialog in context with the other sound elements, but to help bring back some of the perspective to the viewer.
So often times things like Reverbs are automated along with EQ, Level and Pan to help the re-recorded dialog match the original scene and restore its sense of reality to the viewer. So if you've ever watched a poorly dubbed Kung Fu flick, you know exactly what I'm talking about. So in the past, automation was reserved only for the most exclusive large format consoles, but today most modern DAWS feature some form of automation package. Fortunately, Pro Tools has an industry leading automation package geared towards both music and post-production.
So, what we'll find is that in Pro Tools almost every mixer parameter can be automated from the basics like Volume and Pan to complex plug-in parameters. Automation can be recorded in both real- time using the mouse or a control surface, or edited graphically using tools like the Grabber or the Pencil. In the next couple of videos I'm going to walk you through the basics of automation in Pro Tools and throw out a few tips for using automation effectively in your mixes.
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