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Topic: Mixing audio

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  1. #1
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Mixing audio

    I blame Randy, (just kidding) because on his kind advise now I am trying to bounce my MIDI tracks to audio tracks, separately each instrument involved in the project.
    All seems OK, except I have a chronic problem of very low volumes coming out of the MIDI project, so, that without boosting the view of the waveforms I can see only a straight line....
    I could go back and re-mix my MIDI, but I am lazy (and old) to re-do all my automation.
    Would you do this (overcoming the natural hate to work hard), or, export all to individual wave files, boost them in Audacity one -by one, then import them back for final mixing? Sonar X1 has a Boost11_64, which works nicely, but I do not believe my laptop would deal with 11 instances of that program.
    I was tempted to ask this directly from Randy, but I think some other person can learn from a good answer, so here I am...

  2. #2

    Re: Mixing audio

    Quote Originally Posted by tedvanya View Post
    I blame Randy, (just kidding) because on his kind advise now I am trying to bounce my MIDI tracks to audio tracks, separately each instrument involved in the project.
    All seems OK, except I have a chronic problem of very low volumes coming out of the MIDI project, so, that without boosting the view of the waveforms I can see only a straight line....
    I could go back and re-mix my MIDI, but I am lazy (and old) to re-do all my automation.
    Would you do this (overcoming the natural hate to work hard), or, export all to individual wave files, boost them in Audacity one -by one, then import them back for final mixing? Sonar X1 has a Boost11_64, which works nicely, but I do not believe my laptop would deal with 11 instances of that program...
    Hi, Ted - That's OK -go ahead and blame me for your misery! hehe.

    Proof that you're not alone with this issue is on another current thread where MichaelUK reports having low volume on his bounced tracks also. We started off on that thread on the issue of MIDI controllers in Finale and Sonar, but later included the topic of bouncing audio. He brings that up in post #15, and I pass some things on to him in my reply:

    CCs and Bouncing Audio


    For you to get only a straight line on bounced tracks indicates something is going completely wrong in your bounce. The audio renderings of your MIDI tracks should be exactly like the live MIDI playback. If you have healthy volume when you're playing your project before bouncing, that's what you should be getting on your bounces.

    Here's a tip for previewing what you're actually going to get on your audio tracks. On all of the Buses there's the icon of a waveform. Hover over it and you'll see "Waveform Preview." When you turn that on, the audio from your MIDI tracks going through that Bus will be displayed, just as it will be when you bounce. That should pretty much be filling up the vertical space on the loud moments. It's a great tool for making volume adjustments - knowing when you are peaking out, and for making some mixing decisions. Of course you have to be using some Buses to avail yourself of that. But you have to at least have a Master bus - so try that.

    As for the Bounce to Track dialogue box - There's really nothing much to it. The defaults work fine, except for changing the Source Category to Tracks so you can get individual tracks for each instrument. Clicking OK there should cook up all of your tracks in just a few minutes - no fair saying you're too lazy to re-do if it doesn't work right the first time!--we're talking about mere minutes when all you need to do is go to the fridge for a beer and come back to the tracks bounced.

    There's no way you want to be boosting them in Audacity one by one--If you need to boost a track, or a portion of one, you just use the tools that are right there in Sonar. Process>Audio> both Gain and Normalize are available. Very easy to figure out - Just set what you need, try it out, if you don't like it, use Ctrl Z to un-do. But you never need to exit Sonar to make adjustments like that. BUT, as I'm saying, you shouldn't need to be boosting your tracks on a routine basis. You're just adding noise to tracks that weren't rendered correctly in the first place.

    Also, never use Boost 11. That's a horrible compressor. They made it attractive to use because there are only 2 controls in it - But it's an audio shredder. Don't let your music near it.

    I'm sure you know what waveforms in a track should look like. Here's a screen shot of two tracks exactly the way they looked after bouncing. One is lower in volume, because that was part of my MIDI mixing before I bounced. You're also seeing Volume and Reverb Send envelopes which were done during the audio mixing phase of the project:



    Considering how theoretically easy it is to have bounced tracks identical to your MIDI output - I'm coming up short trying to understand what's going wrong. OK, one thing occurs - but it surely can't be the problem:

    --In your Project Options, under MIDI, in Sonar you ALWAYS need to have "Zero Controllers When Play Stops" UNchecked. If you don't, then every time you stop a project, CC1 volume data, all of your MIDI CC data will be re-set to zero. When you hit play again, you'll either hear nothing, or a very weak signal. - If you don't have that unchecked, then bouncing will indeed render flat line audio. But I don't see that this can be the issue - I mean, you're playing back your project while still working with MIDI. If your controllers were going to Zero - you'd be hearing the problem before bouncing.

    -- If anything occurs to me why you're having this hassle, I'll add to the thread. But meanwhile, I just don't understand what's going wrong for you!

    Randy

  3. #3

    Re: Mixing audio

    I'm sorry if I missed a thread preliminary to this... Randy, when do you advise bouncing separate MIDI tracks to audio for a final mix? In the work that I've done so far with GPO and my DAW I've worked only with the MIDI tracks. In DAW it's called "freezing" the tracks, but I don't understand any advantage to doing that, plus it would seem to take so much more memory. Thanks, John
    John Newell
    www.johnnewellmusic.com
    GPO4, Garritan World Instruments, Digital Performer 7.24, Finale 2012, Miroslav Philharmonik

  4. #4

    Re: Mixing audio

    Quote Originally Posted by John Newell View Post
    I'm sorry if I missed a thread preliminary to this... Randy, when do you advise bouncing separate MIDI tracks to audio for a final mix? In the work that I've done so far with GPO and my DAW I've worked only with the MIDI tracks. In DAW it's called "freezing" the tracks, but I don't understand any advantage to doing that, plus it would seem to take so much more memory. Thanks, John
    Hi, John - Good to hear from you, as it always is.

    Here's that recent thread on Mixing. Tons of info on the thread, some contradictory, some very subjective opinions, some objective ones - The usual kind of variety you'll find on a large thread. There are good video tutorials posted along with lots of text. Here's that thread:

    Mixing Thread

    My advice as to when to bounce MIDI tracks to Audio for a final mix is Always. But, to use the word subjective again - those of us who prefer to work that way can in honesty only say that it's our subjective opinion that it's a better way to work. Many - Many excellent MIDI musicians don't bounce to Audio, while many excellent ones do. You'll see high profile composers in the music industry who say they never go to Audio, but they're also working with banks of the highest end equipment where they can get soundtrack-ready tracks ready without bouncing. They'll say there would be no way for them to add all the extra work to their schedules.--Some of them will say that, anyway.

    So, there's no claim at all that it's universally thought to be "the best way" - Those who do bounce, like me, just strongly prefer it, and there aren't a great many objectively demonstrable reasons.

    A sketched in rap about why, like DPDAN, I always am working with Audio when I'm doing my final mix:

    --I can see the waveforms there in the tracks. For precision editing, it's great to be able to zoom in and see the precise location of a loud transient that needs to be tamed, for instance. I can see it, I can insert the nodes on my volume envelope and bring that tiny bit of transient down. That's maybe the most prominent item in the demonstrable Plus side of the argument about whether or not to bounce.

    --MIDI is imperfect. There will be variances in playback that you didn't intend. There's no real guarantee that if you just export your entire project, that you're going to end up with what you heard while working on the project.

    --I like the concept of working the way sound engineers have for decades - with audio. The mixing side of the project is exactly the same as if I'd recorded a room full of live musicians.

    --The dynamic range can be vastly improved when working with bounced tracks. No matter how much detail work I've done in the MIDI vesion of my project, without fail I find ways to dramatically improve the variety of levels when I'm mixing the audio. There's that headroom of 0 (optimum) DB. That's the loudest the MIDI tracks were playing. But with audio, I have several more DBs to work with - loud sections can become Louder, and conversely, I can bring down the quietest sections even more.

    --All sorts of imperfections in the MIDI tracks can be vastly improved with the extensive use of volume envelopes right there on the audio tracks. I can automate my EQs throughout a project if needed. There are all sorts of tools and procedures available when working with audio that just aren't when working only with MIDI.

    --Freezing tracks is essentially the same as bouncing. You're getting an audio track. The supposed advantage is you can un-freeze, "un-bounce" quickly and easily if needs be later in a project. I toyed with Freezing some - saw no advantage worth it for me, so I just do it the old fashioned way - bouncing to audio. If I have to re-do - that's really very simple and not time onsuming.

    --Compared to the tiny bit of storage MIDI needs, sure audio takes up much more room. I have projects that are several gigs in size - I like that. It's something I can save and go back to, without worrying if my synths are still supported and working, without worrying about any compatibility issues that come up over time - It's solid Audio - A solid archive of my work that will always be compatible and working.

    SO - That's my off-the-cuff rap about why I can't imagine doing a mix without bouncing to audio first, and those are some of the reasons. The bottom line for me is that I can easily demonstrate to myself that a pseudo "mix" sent straight out from the MIDI tracks compared to a crafted mix done with audio tracks sounds immensely better - at least when I'm in charge of the project. It just sounds better, to me. Note, however, that just to bounce to tracks, then export without Doing something with the audio won't make any difference. If you're not going to automate your volume on the tracks - there's no reason to bounce to audio.

    Randy

  5. #5

    Re: Mixing audio

    Historical footnote on bouncing:

    --Before our powerful modern computers were available, it was more common for MIDI musicians to bounce to tracks in order to do larger projects. That was quite true of me. I would get only so far in a large piece before my computer couldn't handle all the processing, so I had to bounce to tracks, mute the MIDI, turn off the synths - and then move on to recording more MIDI tracks.

    So that's an important factor about why some people got the habit of bouncing years ago. While I now work with a computer that can do large projects without buckling, I obviously thinking my old bouncing habit was a good one to get into and to retain.

    Randy

  6. #6
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Mixing audio

    I am totally ashamed. I slapped my face and kicked my own behind:
    I never bothered to look at Normalize and Gain, because (and this is my only excuse), I did not work with audio, just exported my MIDI to a wave-file, some times processed it in Cooledit, and that was it.
    However, since John piped in also, I gained a double lesson. I am getting monotonous thanking you Randy, but thanks again. You are sacrificing your Sunday to help us.
    As a comment, you were talking about MIDI playback variation. I thought I am getting deaf or my equipment is going nuts, because my MIDI mix, which sounded fine yesterday, sounded off this morning, many times, and I did not realize that .wav files always remained the same
    The little mixing I have done so far in audio, proved to me that you are absolutely right.
    Thanks and thanks again. (I'll have a shot of tequila right now, lifting my glass in your honor..

    Ted

  7. #7

    Re: Mixing audio

    Ted!

    I just want to say that you have a cool name!

    Sincerely,

    Ted

    PS. . . . I used to bounce individual tracks a long time ago. Now my happy computer can handle 50+ individual instrumental midi tracks without issue (knock on wood. . . knock on wood again!). The only time I bounce now-a-days is at final mix-down. Ain't technology wonderful!!!

    Ted (the other, Ted. . . great name! )

    LOL!
    Music and humor are healthy for the soul.

  8. #8

    Re: Mixing audio

    The very first time I considered bouncing tracks to audio was for the reason Randy stated about computing power. I ran out of ram and had to bounce them. Otherwise I never do. And now that I have a great computer, I never bounce it. But all the reasons Randy lists are excellent reasons to bounce. I have little doubt that if I was to give him stems of my work, he'd create a mix far beyond what I can export.

    Yet, still I'm purely in the camp of MIDI production straight from the DAW - I mix the midi as I go, always on the envelopes bar by bar changing and updating. The idea of jumping to audio afterwards is just too time consuming for me because there are limits to how long I have at the computer. A couple of hours of an evening if I'm lucky, that's all.

    Any issues I hear in my final export are almost always from the midi data, a quick tweak, export and it's fixed.

    I'm also using a DAW that for all the great things it does and how incredibly fast I can work in it, it is incapable of bouncing multiple tracks to audio, so the option is off the table anyway.

    PS. I tried considered changing my DAW with trials of others, but always found something I hated about the others.
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  9. #9

    Re: Mixing audio

    Quote Originally Posted by tedvanya View Post
    ...I am getting monotonous thanking you Randy, but thanks again. You are sacrificing your Sunday to help us...
    NP, Ted - I'm having a great time. The Red Carpet Oscar pre-show is on, I'm working on a video project, listening to the Ding of new emails coming in - Happy to be doing it all.

    Quote Originally Posted by efiebke View Post
    ...I used to bounce individual tracks a long time ago. Now my happy computer can handle 50+ individual instrumental midi tracks without issue (knock on wood. . . knock on wood again!). The only time I bounce now-a-days is at final mix-down. Ain't technology wonderful!!!...
    And hello again, Other Ted - Right, your post speaks to my last historical note about bouncing, and how we often did that just a few years ago since it was the only way to do large orchestral projects. - Ah, Graham just posted as I was writing this, saying he used to bounce also because of running out of computing power.

    I can also happily have 50+ track projects playing away without a hitch - But that hasn't made me stop bouncing to individual audio tracks so I can do a real mix, and not just an export. It's not just for practical reasons that don't exist for most people anymore - mixes can just be worked with more finesse with audio, and as I said, I know my mixes sound better than if I just exported my MIDI. --Just wanted to point out that technology is grand, but nothing has replaced the usefulness of bouncing to tracks - for those who want to put that extra time in and make it worth the effort.

    Randy

  10. #10

    Re: Mixing audio

    Randy -

    I can also happily have 50+ track projects playing away without a hitch - But that hasn't made me stop bouncing to individual audio tracks so I can do a real mix, and not just an export. It's not just for practical reasons that don't exist for most people anymore - mixes can just be worked with more finesse with audio, and as I said, I know my mixes sound better than if I just exported my MIDI. --Just wanted to point out that technology is grand, but nothing has replaced the usefulness of bouncing to tracks - for those who want to put that extra time in and make it worth the effort.
    Honestly? I probably don't have the ears to notice the difference. For good or for bad, I treat each instrumental midi track like an audio track. In fact, I don't even think "midi" like I used to do when I had external sound generators. Even then, the sound from the external sound generator that was piped in via my audio device was also treated like an audio track as best as possible. But for me, back then, I didn't have 50+ tracks (which isn't even a lot by some people's standards) to worry about. The average number of external midi tracks was about 15 or so, and MAYBE the computer handled it without choking. Then, because my computer was less than capable, I often did "bounce" each track as necessary. Now-a-days, although much of the information sequenced in each track is midi, each software instrument (connected to the sequenced information) also has audio-like EQing capabilities, effects processing capabilities, subing capabilities, etc., etc. In the end, aint' it all digital information?? Whether its a software instrument directly connected to midi-sequenced information or a bounced software instrumental track (effectively getting rid of the midi information), ain't it all digital?? Because my happy computer handles all of this digital information, it seems too much work for me to add that extra step and bounce that software track because (if I understand computer recording correctly) it's all still a bunch of ones and zeros. It's still digital information being processed. I would think what matters the most is the quality of the processing plug-ings (EQ, Reverb, etc., etc.)

    In the end, though, what matters most is being satisfied with one's work. How one goes about achieving the "Final Product" most definitely differs from individual to individual. Some people effectively use notation software to meet their ends and be happy with the "Final Product". Me? I use my happy DAW, and usually I'm satisfied. (Still, I know that I have a LOOOOONG way to go before I would ever consider myself a "Pro" at this stuff. )

    And. . . don't mind me. I have a little time to spare and feel like rattling on about digital stuff because I like it so much.

    (The Other) Ted.
    Music and humor are healthy for the soul.

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