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Do you usually use volume automation?

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by LBTM, Nov 9, 2012.

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Do you usually use volume automation?

  1. Yes, I do.

    62 vote(s)
    92.5%
  2. No, I don't.

    5 vote(s)
    7.5%
  1. Nimvi

    Nimvi Member

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    The thing with automation is that the technical side of how to do it is actually really simple (unless you want to do some really wacky stuff ofcourse). The skill lies in how creative you can get with it. The idea behind automation is that you can make certain tweaks to your mix that occur at a certain point of the timeline, as opposed to being carved in stone. So literally any choice you could make for a mix could also be applied with automation.

    Some musicstyles rely heavily upon it for creating the flow of the song. A good example is Levels by Avicii. Pretty much just a simple beat with a synth on top, but listen to the individual elements in that song and notice how they are constantly changing in some way or another. Volume, panning, moving highpasses, changing reverb/dry levels, sidechain-compression from inaudible kickdrums, you name it. Even if you aren't into that music style, I think it's worth checking out if you want to get some creative ideas for possible automations.

    To the practical side:
    I don't know what DAW you use, but I use Reaper, so I'll give you a simple example from that perspective. I'm sure it won't be very different for other DAWs.

    -Let's say I have a dry vocal track that says "And now for some delay". If you just slap delay on that track, or send the track to a delay-bus, the delay will always be active. But I don't want that. I want the delay to only work on the word "delay".

    -This is where automation comes in. Start by setting up the delay like you usually would. In my case, I like to use a separate delay-bus, and I send my vocals there.

    -Okay, delay has been set up and I like the way it sounds. Time for automation! I click the automation-button on the track I want to work with (in this case, the vocaltrack). In reaper, this is a small button on the track, called "env" (for envelope). When I click that button, I get a list of possible things to automate. Standard options will usually include stuff like volume, panning, volume and panning pre-fx (very useful!), and also send-volume/panning/mute if you have a send setup. It should also include effects you have set up on that track, in case you want to automate those.

    -In our example here, "send mute" is what I am looking for. What I want to do technically, is to only send signal from the vocaltrack to the delaybus when the word "delay" is spoken. So I check the box next to "send mute", and now a bar is created under my vocaltrack.

    -This bar is a graphical indication of changes occuring over time. I can create points on it, and "draw" a line of how I want things to change. If I wanted to increase the volume at a certain point of the song, I would draw an upward curve at that point, and it would have the same effect as if I was manually moving the volumefader at that point. In our example, it is even simpler though. I want the sendlevel to be completely mute until the word "delay" is spoken, and after that I want it to be muted again. So:

    -I am going to draw this on the bar. I will create points before and after the word "delay" on this line, which will function as region-markers. Wherever I want the send to be muted, I will drag the bar all the way down, and where I want the send to be active I drag it all the way up. It's pretty much an on/off-switch. Since I created a point before and after the word "delay", I can drag the bar all the way up there, without influencing the rest of the mix, and vice versa.

    -Now listen back to the result. The delay should only become active at the point you wished for, and remain mute for the rest of the mix. The nice part is that the delaybus itself doesn't become muted once the send stops. It just trails off like it usually would. So it could still be trailing off by the time the vocaltrack is already doing something else, and it wouldn't be influenced by it.

    -People have mentioned that they prefer to copy a certain part of an instrument, put it on a different track, and put the effect on that track. As long as this has the same outcome, it doesn't matter what you pick. Both work just fine. I prefer to use automation the way I do, because I like to keep my amount of tracks to a minimum. Also, fluent changes in a mix, like a moving EQ-band or changes in reverb-wetness are very easy to do with it once you get used to it.

    Ofcourse, this was just a very basic example of what can be done with automation, and how it can be done. You can really go nuts on it if you wish. Also, many people like having a hands-on feel to their automation, so they actually record their manual changes to an element over time to get that real feel. I wanted to keep this explanation simple though, so I won't get into that.

    Just keep this in mind: with the availability of automation, you don't have to make compromises in your mixchoices, as long as you aren't lazy about it! Don't let your bass sound sucky in the chorus, because it sounds good with those settings in the intro. Now you can have your cake and eat it too.
     
  2. Terminus

    Terminus Member

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    The way I do it is different than normal. I just cut all the words apart during editing and use the pull-down volume control on each syllable's/word's wav and try to get them similar in volume rather than manipulating the actual automation channel. Keeps the wav viewer much less cluttered (in reaper). Kind of a poor man's automation, though I do know the regular way as well. And I only usually do that with vocals and sometimes more dynamic synth tracks.
     
  3. RedDog

    RedDog Humanoid typhoon

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    Why not? I mean shit. Fucking...... quit being lazy.

    YOU THINK BLAST BEATS JUST SOUND GOOD ON THEIR OWN!?
     
  4. viralz

    viralz Member

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    Wow thanks for the info Nimvi and Linderndunch, at least now I have a starting point:)
     
  5. Nimvi

    Nimvi Member

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    Very welcome :)
     
  6. Manicompression

    Manicompression doing it for the kids

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    Automation is crucial for a great mix, but I think there is real value in trying your hardest to gel your mix elements near perfectly before going crazy with automation.
     
  7. slaytah

    slaytah Member

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    I personallly don't use it on volume (yes, I'm one of the "unholy trinity" from the poll!), but I sometimes use it on things like delay.
     
  8. Matt Smith

    Matt Smith THEOCRACY

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    Here's every single cymbal crash of a 12-minute song ridden and adjusted by hand from one of this week's mixes:

    [​IMG]

    So...yeah. :)
     
  9. crillemannen

    crillemannen Member

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    ^

    And that my friend is such an fukkin overkill haha

    And to Op:

    Yes, i use automation. Mainly on vocals. Toms get treated aswell especially when i use real toms, then i gain them when the actual hits occur. As people said automation is what makes a mix interesting. Im not to fond of OH automation though. I use it when i need it but i usually prefer the glue that a nice mic'd overhead gives you instead of using automation so you can hear every cymbal super clear right/left, sounds unnatural to me.

    But use it when you want something more pronounced, or if the mix gets another layer of guitars something else might get buried etc then automation is your friend.
     
  10. LBTM

    LBTM Proud Behringer User

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    @crillemannen the mixes on your site sound awesome!

    guys, how many dB are your automations usually?
     
  11. crillemannen

    crillemannen Member

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    Thanks man.

    It is very hard to say exactly but when everything sounds good i rarely go over 2db or so. But whatever sounds good is good :p
     
  12. Capitancambarro

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    Vocals, Bass, Kik and Snare are automated in every song I mix. Everything else as needed.
     
  13. Line666

    Line666 Fendurr

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    Mainly reverb/delay throws and section by section (louder chorus/quieter verse), I've also automated bass note for note but never felt a great difference as regards the effort. OH's can be a good one to push for choruses to add more excitement and movement.

    Vocals are really the only thing I've found useful to adjust on a note for note basis because even with heavy comp/limiting some phrases will stick out more than others.

    The main thing I've got to say though is make decisions fast and stick with them because this is the area of mixing that will consume your life if you let it - before you know it you'll be spinning in your chair wondering whether the hall reverb on the half a line of backing vocals needs pushed 0.5db at 1:24 for three hours.
     
  14. crillemannen

    crillemannen Member

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    I do that to. I usually go through the vocal tracks and adjust the volume because some consonants and breaths etc can really pop out of the whole mix when its compressed to hell and back. So its usually about keeping an constant volume of the vocals and that can varies quite a bit in terms of db's. Then after that is done it is easy to just increaseUdecrease the volume if needed on the vocal bus.
     
  15. if6was9

    if6was9 Ireland

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    I use tons of automation. By the end of a mix I'll usually have touched the automation on most of my tracks and on some groups too. Some to correct player inconsistencies, some to even out parts recorded at slightly different levels and then also for creative uses.

    I feel I have to, what are you guys doing when an instruments part is fine for one section but at an obviously wrong volume for another if you're not using automation?
     
  16. Nimvi

    Nimvi Member

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    Jup that is quickly becoming my golden rule in general.

    When I first started out mixing, I never commited to anything, thinking it was a good idea to have something to fall back on. A while ago I had to re-use a track I had done back then, so I opened up the mix session...
    HOLY HELL, the amount of choices and options left open made me feel physically ill! I could immediately feel that same annoying burning feeling in my mind that I constantly felt while mixing back then.

    Too many things to fall back on is a trap that will swallow your soul.
     
  17. Uros

    Uros Sonic Incision

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    fuck yes. automate vox, rhythm gits, leads ins and outs, cymbals, choruses...I rather automate things than eq them as well (sort of like live mixing, that's a form of automation too).
     
  18. LBTM

    LBTM Proud Behringer User

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    if only had a big console to do that :loco:
     
  19. Clark Kent

    Clark Kent Member

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    I gotta be honest and say that I try to get things working without it at first. Usually I have vocals snare and kick almost as loud as possible so if I automate anything it will be the guitars since that's the space taker in the mix. If I can't hear the vocals f.ex. I won't boost the vocals, I'll simply lower the guitar. This way I feel like the overall volume balance is better balanced through-out the songs.

    Once again if all the instruments were recorded properly with the right dynamics and play feel I don't have to automate all that much.
     
  20. ZanetheVocalist

    ZanetheVocalist Infamous Procrastinator

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    This guy uses its very extensively and to a great creative affect. Especially with bass. Gotta love that nasty grind on instrumental sections. :D
     

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