The Virtual Mixer and Visuals of Mixes
Used in the Recording, Mixing and Producing Classes
ART OF MIXING – 2.5 Hour Video with David Gibson
This video was done in 1990 but is both extremely entertaining, useful and enlightening.
Enjoy the mustache.
VIDEOS OF MIXES
Best with stereo speakers or headphones so you can hear the stereo spread you are seeing
Panning = left/right
Volume = front/back
Average Pitch or Frequency = up/down height
Different Structures of Mixes Video
About 25 songs, each approximately 15 seconds, showing mixes of a wide range of styles of music,
different classic structures of mixes, and some visuals in real time.
It gives an incredible perspective on all the styles of mixes for different types of music.
“Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby Video – Full Song
Thomas got us the master multitrack so we could create this video
“Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby Video
The cubes are Reverb
“I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne
“Video” by India Arie
“Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
“Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones
The visuals don’t flash, but they do change from section to section to show the mix changes.
“The Way You Move” by Outkast Video
“Love the Way You Love Me”
“Time” by Pink Floyd
Although this is an earlier video and the graphics aren’t that great
it is still pretty cool.
(It also may take some time to load as it is not a Youtube video)
VISUAL REPRESENTATIONS OF MIXES
Graphics of Mixes
You can use the visuals to analyze what a recording engineer has done in different styles of mixes and songs. You then can use those techniques in your own mixes when appropriate.
Just as music theory was developed as a tool to help explain the dynamics found in music, the visuals are used as a framework for describing the dynamics that occur in a mix. Using visuals of mixes, we can now see and discuss the artistic values that people use when creating one style of mix or another. When you have a framework for remembering what is being done in mixes — you then develop your own perspective and values (or maybe your values are already developed and you just need to know how to use the equipment to get what you like). You then have complete control over the mixing process, and you can do whatever you like — because you know! This is the art of being a great recording engineer.
Basic mix with a balance of all instruments. Piano panned in stereo with 2 or more mics.
BIG BAND MUSIC
Traditionally, this is the layout of the horns (normally as they are on stage). Sometimes the drums are panned to one side as they are on stage, but normally panned left and right as drums normally are done.
HIP HOP / RAP
Upfront low Bass 808 Boom and Bass synth or guitar. Stereo miking or a little bit of fattening (short delay less than 30 milliseconds) on the key, guitar and scratching to make them more stereo.
Sparse mix with no effects. Instruments panned separately in their own places.
Large Bass and some stereo panning on the guitar and keyboard.
No effects. Each sound panned in a different place.
Wall of sound with fattening and reverb to make it even fuller. Bright and midrangy EQ so things are present and in your face.
Lots of fattening, flanging (or phasing) and reverb to create a full mix here. Notice that the sounds are not so clear but create a nice wash of sounds.
Good amount of fattening (and/or stereo miking) to fill out the mix and make it seem bigger and fuller.
No effects (though often there is still a little reverb here and there). Note the Bass is not panned in the center as usual in this mix. And, the piano is off to the left (normally it would still be panned completely left and right in stereo.
CLASSICAL MIX WITH FULL ORCHESTRA
This is exactly how a normal orchestra is panned — exactly as they are setup on stage. Seems a little strange that the Tuba, Bass Violins and Cellos are off to one side (Bass Drum and Timpani rarely play in a symphony).
BALANCED CLASSICAL ORCHESTRA
Nice balanced mix: flutes on the left, trumpets on the right. Piano on the left, xylophone on the right. Bass instruments centered. Feels really good, but might go to jail for creating such a mix.
ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC / TECHNO
Kick and 808 Boom right up front. Flanging on the strings panned in stereo. A little stereo panning of the keys. Not too many effects in this busy mix to keep the mix cleaner so you can hear every thing separately.
"THE WAY YOU MOVE" BY OUTKAST
This is the chorus section of the song. Lots going on so all the parts are quite even in volume except for the kick and clap. Note that there is lots of fattening and stereo panning so everything is overlapping creating a wall of sound effect.
"SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE" BY THOMAS DOLBY
Clean mix (not so many effects). Only stereo panning on the organ, strings and horn section (a little on the guitar and key). The mix is more sparse because not all instruments play in each section.
"SLEDGEHAMMER" BY PETER GABRIEL
Notice that even the mix has a lot going on each instrument is spread nicely from low to high frequency so they don’t overlap much. Also, notice the symmetrical panning. Lots of reverb on the snare and tambourine to make the mix seem huge.
BABYLON SISTERS BY STEELY DAN
Rhodes piano with a chorus effect on it right up front. Sparse mix with instruments playing very staccato to create plenty of room for every instrument to be heard.
ALARM CLOCK SECTION OF "TIME" BY PINK FLOYD
Everything right up front with volume so it is in your face to create excitement and fun.
"VIDEO" BY INDIA ARIE
This is the chorus section of the song. Notice the large amount of fattening on the background vocals. The lead vocal is not right out front (you can see volume by the shadow). Snare is louder than the vocal.
"BEAUTIFUL" BY CHISTINA AGUILERA
Lots of stereo panning and multiple instruments to create a wall of sound effect. Vocal right out front with and unusual EQ.
SURROUND SOUND MIXES
SURROUND SOUND MIX
Notice the fattening in the background (oblong sphere) – Short delay less than 30 milliseconds
ACAPELLA SURROUND SOUND
SURROUND WITH LOTS BASS
Notice the big bass green sphere is panned in the middle of the room.
THE ART OF MIXING
The Art of Mixing is the way that the engineer uses the equipment in the studio to enhance and bring out the magic (whatever that is to you) in the music and song. Magic can show up in any one of the components of the production:
Hooks (memorable parts)
Density of Arrangement
Quality of Recording
The Mix itself
The mix should highlight the magic without overdoing it.
The visuals show how to create various dynamics with the mix itself. Using the visuals we can embark on an in-depth exploration into the aesthetics of what makes a great mix in a simple, visual manner.
A mix can be transparent so that the music or song shines through; or, a mix can be used like another instrument — to create a musical dynamic. The mix can even be used to create tension in a song. Creating mixes that fit the music or song in a creative way is the artistic challenge of the recording engineer.
The visuals give you a way to identify what other engineers are doing in the mixes you like. With this perspective on the underlying structure of the dynamics that are going on in a mix, you develop your own values. Then, you can do whatever you want. Once you have a good perspective on what is possible, you have the power to be truly creative on your own.
Here are some examples of the different structures of mixes that can be created.
Very little volume different between the loudest and softest sounds in the mix. This type of mix is common for New Age and even Heavy Metal Music. This type of mix is more difficult to create because it requires being able to differentiate between subtler volume differences. requires more Compression and Volume Automation to even out the volumes.
The range from softest to loudest sounds if large. It’s easier to mix because there each volume level is a wide range. Sometimes done in Big Band Music, Space Rock (Pink Floyd), and even Electronic Dance Music (EDM).
Balance of panning at each frequency range. Appropriate for songs that are about peace, harmony and love.
Unusual panning. Appropriate for songs about chaotic behavior, relationships gone bad, and just FUN!
EQ where every instrument sounds completely natural — like you are standing in the room with the instrument. Appropriate for most styles of music, especially Classical Music, Folk, Bluegrass, most Jazz and Sound Healing Music.
EQ with extra highs, midrange or lows (careful not to go off the deep end). Appropriate for EDM, some Hip Hop, and just really weird and creative songs.
SPARSE MIX WITH NO EFFECTS
No effects and less instruments with not as many notes. Appropriate for Jazz, Folk and Bluegrass where you want to hear every instrument completely separately from the others.
FULL "WALL OF SOUND" MIX WITH LOTS OF EFFECTS
More Bass, more Time Based Effects (delays, flanging, reverb), and more instruments and notes. Especially effective in Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. Can also be done in some New Age mixes.
THE VIRTUAL MIXER CONCEPT
Mixing Board of the Future
The Virtual Mixer is a Graphical User Interface that displays the amplitude and frequency range of sounds on a multitrack, and then allows you to use these visuals to control various types of mixing consoles and effect units.
The primary goal of the mix window is to show audio masking (where one sound hides another) at each frequency range. The size and height above the shadow of the spheres are functions of the frequency range of the sound over the entire song. In a full featured program the computer will analyze the frequencies of each sound throughout the song. It will then use an average of the harmonic spectrum, or frequency range, to place the height and size of each sound. On cheaper systems you can choose the height and size that you think the sound should have.
MIXING IN VIRTUAL REALITY
Sitting in the middle of the Surround Mix below wearing a Dataglove.
You could then reach out and grab a sound
and place it wherever you want!
You could even throw sounds and bounce them off the walls.
With a full Virtual Reality Head Tracking Helmet,
you could then turn around and see the sounds behind you.
You can also mix in normal stereo in using 3D images.
3D helps you to see around sounds in a mix in order to control them.
3D visualization allows you to see the sounds precisely where they are between the speakers
in the world of Imaging.
This is the ideal interface for Mixing in Surround Sound
and it will be so much fun!
CLICK HERE to see examples of Surround Sound Mixes from “The Art Of Mixing, 3rd Edition.
The next step is to place images and sounds inside the body
THE MIX WINDOW
As you move the sound left to right with a mouse, touch-sensitive screen or dataglove the program sends out MIDI information (or any other type of automation information) to the actual mixer (whether it be software or hardware) and pans the sound in real time as you move it.
Volume is front to back. If you want it louder, bring the sound image forward. If you want it softer, put it in the background. The grid on the floor is calibrated to the fader. You can tell exactly how loud each sound is by where the shadow is. In addition, whenever you move the sound front or back a tiny window pops up on the shadow showing the exact dB level.
Each sphere actually represents a channel on the console. Effects Return channels will also be displayed; however, the icon will correspond to the type of effect and panning being used (instead of spheres).
You may also import any type of images that you desire. Sphere’s are meant to show masking the most realistically. However, you could use “instrument icons,” visuals of the band, or any set of images you like.
THE EQ WINDOW
The EQ Window consists of two parts:
1. The Spectrum Analyzer
2. The Equalizer
The Spectrum Analyzer shows all the frequencies of each sound spread in stereo. The volume of each frequency is a function of brightness and density — therefore, when two sounds overlap in the same frequency range it will appear darker in that frequency range. You can then tell if a band’s arrangement is bad — such as too many guitars or keyboards in the midrange hiding the vocals. You can say to the band that it isn’t your fault that the mix is bad.
With the EQ, you can turn up the volume of a frequency by putting your finger on (or clicking on) the right side of the frequency band. Click on the left side to turn the frequency’s volume down. As you turn the volume up, the frequency band gets brighter. As you turn it down it gets dimmer.
You can also reconfigure the bandwidth of each frequency band, making it narrower or wider.
The way that the EQ functions (number of bands, bandwidth settings, etc.) is based on the actual EQ that you are controlling in software or hardware.
THE EFFECTS WINDOW
If you want an effect on a sound just drag it over and drop it onto the sound. This window may be used to add an effect or processing to a sound as an Insert or using an Auxiliary Send. If using an Auxiliary Send, volume is still front to back. By dropping the effect on the sound it assigns the effect to the particular auxiliary send.
To see the parameters, or settings, of an effect you click twice on the effect in the effects pallet on the left or right side of the screen in the effects window. To see the parameters of an effect — click on the effect below.
The way that the EQ functions (number of bands, bandwidth settings, etc.) is based on the actual EQ that you are controlling in software or hardware.
The mapping of audio parameters to visuals is based on our common perception of imaging between the speakers. The primary design consideration has been to show masking (where one sound hides another sound) visually. Of course, the second design consideration was to create an intuitive interface that is calibrated to the settings on a mixer so that a Professional Engineer will still have precise control.
Fader level (volume) is mapped out as a function of front to back, so that louder sounds appear closer (and therefore, a little larger), and softer sounds appear more distant. The grid on the floor is calibrated to the faders on the mixing console. Panning is naturally mapped out as left to right placement. The average pitch of the sound over the entire song is mapped out as a function of up and down. Higher pitch sounds appear higher; lower pitch sounds appear lower (just as they do in a mix). Also, hi frequency sounds are smaller because they take up less space in a mix. Low frequency sounds are larger because they mask other sounds more in a mix. You can also call up windows that show equalization and auxiliary send levels visually.
The next step is to put on 3D glasses and have the images floating in 3D right where the sounds seem to be between the speakers. In such a virtual environment the mixer uses a dataglove to move the sounds around in the mix. If you want a sound louder pull it toward you. If you want it in the left speaker put it over there. You can even toss sounds back and forth (and bounce them off the walls). Watch out, here comes an electric guitar sound. In 5.1 surround sound mixing, the visuals would be floating throughout the room.
FORMATS AND VERSIONS
The Interface is being developed for a wide range of mixing equipment — hardware and software products including:
Digital Audio Workstations: The program is being developed to work on PC and Macintosh computer formats as a plugin for TDM, RTAS, and VST systems. This includes Cakewalk, Cubase, Logic Audio, Ableton Live and ProTools. The Virtual Mixer will show up as an alternative to pictures of a mixing console and may be used to control the volume, panning and all of the automation parameters of the other plugins on each of the channels.
Digital Consoles – Yamaha, Roland, Tascam, Soundcraft, Mackie, Panasonic (Ramsa), and all future digital consoles. A software program will be developed to run on a separate computer. It will interface to the Digital Console by way of MIDI and Digital Audio. Sold for $400. Ultimately, it is assumed these companies will license the interface and incorporate it as an alternative to pictures of a mixing console on the computer screen.
Major 100% Automated Consoles: Euphonix, Sony, AMS NEVE, AMEC, and SSL. Price range will vary depending on the manufacturer.
3D DISPLAYS AND CONTROLLERS
– Touch Sensitive Computer Screen – Makes mixing as easy as dragging the sound to where you want it with your finger.
– 3D Glasses for the Computer Monitor
– Full Virtual Reality with Head Tracking Helmet – So you can turn around and see sounds floating behind you when mixing in Surround Sound or using a 3D Sound Processor.
– Big Screen Projection in full 3D (similar to IMAX 3D). Images float between the speakers right where you hear them.
The software will work in normal stereo with volume as front to back, or in Surround with volume as a function of size of the sound visual.
We will also put out versions that will control display various waveforms and audio synthesis parameters. These parameters will also be able to be controlled visually, and in full 3D Virtual Reality. Specific textures of spheres correspond to the waveform.
One of the most revolutionary aspects of the program is the way in which automation is visualized. Time is shown as the Z-axis (back to front).
The past is in the distance and time moves forward until you get to the the present moment in the middle of the screen.
The major advantage is that you can see the relationships of all of the settings at any one moment. Current “line” automation does not show you any usable relationships between the information. The other big advantage is that you use this window to create automation in real time by dragging spheres around while the mix is playing.
When mixing in Virtual Reality this timeline will appear as a tunnel of time. You will be able to go to the past or future to change any parameter of the mix.
More Engrossing – When you see the mix visually you are incorporating more of your senses in the musical process. The more senses you use (especially in a fleeting artistic endeavor such as mixing sound) the more your entire being is engulfed in the experience. And, the more you are engrossed in all of the details the easier it is to come up with a great mix.
More Intuitive – Pictures of sounds are one logical step closer to the music you are mixing than faders and knobs on a console. Manipulating visuals of the sounds themselves is much more intuitive than pictures of a console. Pictures of sounds are more like music than knobs.
More Conducive to the Creative Process – Studio equipment is notorious for getting in the way of the creative process. Faders and knobs on a console distract recording engineers from the music they are trying to mix. Images that are flashing to the music help the user to focus more clearly on the invisible sounds they are mixing.
More Information about the Mix – The visuals provide additional information helpful for the mix. The primary goal of the visual system has been to show “audio masking” visually. Engineers can use this information to discover hidden problems, and best of all, to be able to explain the problem to the band and producer. For example, a bad arrangement becomes clearly evident.
More Perspective – The visual framework provides the engineer with a perspective on all of the possibilities available to the engineer. The framework shows each parameter within each piece of equipment in the studio and how each parameter contributes to an overall mix. With this visual perspective of all that is possible in a mix, a humongous number of possibilities are displayed in a way that puts an array of creative ideas at an engineer’s fingertips.
More Relationships – The interface shows more than just all of the settings of each piece of equipment in the studio. The interface shows the relationships of all the settings and how they work together to create a mix. After all, it is the relationships of all the settings that really count.
Better Communication – The interface enhances and simplifies the communication process between recording engineer and client (band or producer). The interface is so intuitive that even inexperienced clients will be able to follow the development of the mix and communicate effectively with the engineer.
More Fun – And of course, we mustn’t forget — Flashing 3D visuals are a blast to watch and work with.
“The nature of the tools you use affects the art you create.”
• What’s it for and what does it do? The Virtual Mixer is an interface that replaces visuals of mixing consoles on the computer screen. Instead of using pictures of faders, we are using pictures of the sounds between the mix.
• Don’t visuals distract you from listening? Actually, they help you focus more on the music you are mixing. Pictures of a mixing board on a computer screen and physical faders, knobs and buttons on a console distract a listener way more. They look nothing like music. Since you have to have some type of interface, why not have one that looks more like the music that you are actually mixing. Also, when you have more different types of stimulus involving all of the senses, you are actually less distracted.
• What’s imaging? Imaging is the apparent placement of sounds between the speakers. It is where we imagine the sounds to be between the speakers.
• How does it aid in better communication? It makes it so that people who know very little about mixing can at least see what is being done every step of the way. It also helps you to focus better on the sounds in the mix — and often helps you to notice sounds that you might be missing or have forgotten.
• How’s it a teaching tool? The visuals are currently being used in the classes at Globe Institute of Recording and Production to explain and show all of the styles of mixes in the world — and to explain how to create all types of mixes with the available studio equipment.
• Why the spheres — why not pictures of instruments? Spheres best represent the reality of the dynamics that actually go on in mixing. They show the exact amount of space that each sound takes up in a mix between the speakers. This is important because of the problem of masking (where one sound hides another). Ultimately, however, you will be able to import any type of visual that you like — from instrument icons, to clouds, to crystals.