Thursday, April 10, 2014

How To EQ – Mixing and Mastering - – 12 EQ Issues Part 18

Audio Recording Issues – Multiple Microphones Setup to Track the Same Instrument and Need the Right Balancing Together Part Two

Balancing the drums is about the volume levels in comparison to the mix, but it is also about balancing the top and bottom head microphones of each drum if using both. You may have more of certain drums captured in overheads and room mics than the others.
Once you are mixing and blending things together, you may find a more intricate process developing. Let's say that the direct mic blend for the snare is perfect when it reaches a certain volume, but it tends to have too much of a certain Frequency when you feed the overheads into the mix. Or, the complex stereo capture of the overheads are great for the whole set in the context of the mix, but they lean too heavy on certain Frequencies. The Equalization decisions may be very tricky. Each drum and each mic choice may have areas that take away from other instruments. Before you go carving away chunks of great tones, consider creating an order of preferences and levels of importance. You may find that some Frequencies are best to reduce from a track other than the drum or overheads, and in other situations you may find that some Frequencies appear to stand out because of positioning or even due to timing. Often, the small delays that build up from the distance of one mic to the next can create a Frequency that results from this distance between the two. It isn't always necessarily phase, as we usually call it. Sometimes, it is more about what I call the reach of the microphone more than the timing element.
Let's pretend that I set up two of the exact same mic to record a single drum sound. Both mics are in an omni mode. The first mic is placed one foot away from the drum and the second is ten feet back from mic number one, eleven feet from the drum. Once recorded, there is not only the difference in the sound of the instrument, but its effect on the walls around and the ceiling above and floor beneath. With both mics in omni mode, they are both picking up a lot of information from their surroundings. The sound is going to travel a distance before it reaches the second mic, but also in that time, the first mic has resounded across the room, so there is an initial attack from the drum, no doubt captured with more intensity and clarity by the first mic, and the wash over, or reflections of the room, whether small, short, tight or big, long and open. That second mic will hear a residual attack very shortly after, with a different resonance and a larger blend of the room, along with the resulting room sound that the hit creates and the blend of the room from a distance. We could align these two responses in time so that the later recording is brought forward to play at the same time as the closest mic, but this is not always the best decision.
Sometimes, the mic choices lead to a phase correlation issue that is best resolved by aligning the timing of mics. Other times, it is the distance itself that we want to measure in the sound. Still other times, the range of Frequencies can be complicated by the reach of the mic, meaning that the sound waves that develop in that distance are being captured by the distant mic and not just the alignment of the time, meaning that any change in distance and position can affect Frequencies that otherwise would not exist in reality. They are a combination of the sound created, the room reaction, but also an equation of the sound captured by mic one added to the sound captured by mic two, the result being additive and sometimes the results can cancel out some Frequencies and boost others, all the while responding largely accurate to the source and distance. In this case, we can adjust timing, which can have a negative affect on the timing between other instruments or drums, or we can reduce the residual bumps in the recording from one mic or the other, or a little bit of both.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How To EQ – Mixing and Mastering - – 12 EQ Issues Part 17

Audio Recording Issues – Multiple Microphones Setup to Track the Same Instrument and Need the Right Balancing Together Part One

Learning how to Equalize Frequencies within a range of different contexts requires numerous skills and the ability to define one's style with cohesiveness. There is a single process that serves as a testing ground for a contextual series of abilities, all inclusive, and that is the process of recording a single instrument with multiple microphones.
The drumset is the perfect instrument to serve as an example for this common occurrence. Live drums have been successfully captured as part of an ensemble of instruments in a pleasant room with a single mono microphone, a perfectly positioned pair of matched stereo mic's, and with a 3-mic array. All of these techniques have been used with remarkable success and many engineers utilize these purist approaches with incredible results. More often than not, we find a more comprehensive approach taking place. Project studios may use very inexpensive dynamic mic's on the top heads only, with a pair of high quality but inexpensive cardioid condensers as overheads, and skip on the room mic's.
This same project studio may have an 8-input audio interface with decent built-in preamps employed. The high end studio aiming for the standard contemporary approach to recording a drumset may use similar dynamics on the toms and snare, on top and bottom heads, with a mic on either side of the kick drum and an expensive large diaphragm at a small distance on the kick, an expensive pencil condenser on the hi hat, a pair of room mic's, a pair of overheads, all running on boutique outboard preamps. Whether you are at the lowest budget production or at the world's finest facility, you are likely to be facing some of the same issues when it comes time to mix these drums together.
Let's fast forward and assume that we've tracked our drums and everything else in the song is ready to mix. Now, we've got to decide how this all comes together. Realize, it may be one thing to set all of those mic's up and compare levels, angles, positions, and everything else, to get the best capture of the set. Now, we have the challenge of deciding how loud the snare should be in comparison to the guitar and bass, and how much of that should come from the direct mic and how much from the overheads. Is the song calling for an open and ambient set or a tight, punchy, up-close set? Is the stereo spread and distance of the overheads consistent with the feel of the song or is it too complex sounding? Are you best to use the directs and supplement them with the natural reverb of a room and/or overheads, or vice versa? The approach to tracking and mixing largely define how the performance should be brought together. In part two, we'll take a look at how EQ helps us with this process in multiple ways.