KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Winners announced

How to do this, that and the other. Share, learn, teach. How did X do that? How can I sound like Y?
jhkennedy5
KVRist
34 posts since 7 Sep, 2014 from Allen, TX

Post Thu May 28, 2015 2:29 pm

I agree with westcoast's reply. I don't think they were all necessary in this case, but they were easily grouped and managed (I have seen many more, as you say). I find that fixing pervasive timing issues is much more tedious and time consuming. :)

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H-man
KVRian
638 posts since 26 Dec, 2007 from Australia

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Thu May 28, 2015 8:55 pm

Hi all,

First, thanks for taking the time to get to know my little Frankenstein of a track :) The One Synth Challenge is a great creative outlet and as you will have seen, the process of creating these tracks can be quite random at times and certainly, very different to a live recording session.

I do appreciate that it may not be a standard task of the Mixing Challenge to be grouping and bouncing the actual instrument sounds into usable tracks however this is staple for the One Synth Challenge as this aggregation of sounds is often essential for depth and realism. So I have to say it was my idea to strip out my group tracks and provide everyone the "warts-and-all" version and again, thanks all for taking it on.

I'm not on the payroll for Urs but I found it quite cool that this whole project, the 50 instances of Hive (including all of the Group and Master track FX) runs live (Realtime) in REAPER on my modest i7 CPU.

Nice :tu:

I will commence evaluating the tracks now and it is my intention to provide feedback for all of them which I hope to have completed in the few days afforded to me for this stage.

One thing I would ask is that everyone makes sure that their track available for download. If there is any problems with that then PM me the link.

Cheers,

BH

Kolyev
KVRist
62 posts since 25 Aug, 2014

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Fri May 29, 2015 12:00 am

I actually enjoyed this one because it was so very different. I'm here to learn and and thus projects like this are perfect for me.
Mixing this track was kind of tough in the beginning due to the sheer amount of directions one can take and as it is a bit unclear which elements should be focussed on and which not.

But I did not find sorting the project and grouping the channels tedious at all. It took me no more than 15 minutes from importing the files to grouping the different elements. But this may be because I mostly produce trance so I am quite familiar with the concept of layering synths.
Adjusting the different layers was a lot harder and I used some drastic Eq cuts on the individual channels to sculpt the sound (the group channels were then further processed).

But one thing that kind of puzzles me is that my mix seems to run slower than the original track and most of the other entries (Fender 19's mix seems to have the same tempo as mine). Most end at around 3:20 , while mine (and Fender's) end at around 3:38 (last drum hits).
I downloaded the original mix from soundcloud and imported it into my Cubase project for comparison and it is definitely faster. So I downloaded the stems again and imported them into a second project (set to 192 bpm) with the same result. Or am I completely paranoid?

Compyfox
KVRAF
14279 posts since 19 Oct, 2003 from Berlin, Germany

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Fri May 29, 2015 4:53 am

H-man wrote:I do appreciate that it may not be a standard task of the Mixing Challenge to be grouping and bouncing the actual instrument sounds into usable tracks however...
Grouping, Arranging, properly naming tracks, layering/adjusting tracks to each other (chorus to solo instruments for example)...

All this is(!) part of the mixing process.
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westcoast2
KVRer
22 posts since 28 Jun, 2010

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Fri May 29, 2015 7:59 am

"Grouping, Arranging, properly naming tracks, layering/adjusting tracks to each other (chorus to solo instruments for example)...

All this is(!) part of the mixing process."

Of course though how would you normally expect an instrument track, apart from drums, to be presented?

For example, would expect to be given 6 individual string tracks that you put together to form the whole guitar? This would contrast with a single guitar recorded by several different microphones.

Multi-part single instrument sounds, of this type, have not been a standard part of the mix challenges I have taken part in until now. This was a big part of the challenge for me. Had I not persevered I would not have realised the process involved in dealing with them is, at a very basic level, the same as any mix.

The orchestral example given earlier is of multiple complete instruments. The process described, grouping etc all apply at the higher, microphone, level. So at what level does sound design stop and mixing begin? If there is no distinction, can we look forward to 88 tracks for a piano some time :)

Compyfox
KVRAF
14279 posts since 19 Oct, 2003 from Berlin, Germany

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Fri May 29, 2015 10:45 am

Sorry, but in this case we have to differentiate.

The provided tracks were not of individual guitar strings (which would be nonsnese, same with the 88 tracks for piano example) but of individual guitar "parts". Just like you'd do with actual real guitars as well.


An example:
Years ago, I was involved in a recording project covering an Audioslave track. The easiest parts were the drums and the vocals (I think we hit around 15 tracks here). But we had to pay attention to detail on the guitars. We did record 4-6 guitar tracks. One for the L side, one for the R side. Those were doubled, and we recorded add-ons and guitar FX. The Bass was a DI track and ran trough a pedal FX in parallel (distortion).

We used 3(!) microphones per guitar cabinet (which was a 4x12, two close, one room), and also recorded the DI track for backup purposes. The trick part - we had to do this recording in less than 5 hours as overdubs (no full band was present), and we had 3 additional hours to mix the whole thing. Which was a challenge in itself, as we didn't know the equipment.


How do you think we manage this?
Do you think we had 50+ tracks in the project? On a 48-track console? Not quite...

We recorded the DI track, and parallel to that the amp/cabinet with the three mics "grouped" into one mono track, plus additional EQ. We also "printed" a specific sound to tape. I think in the end, this project (with vocals, drums, bass and all guitar doubles) had about 40 tracks or so. But during mixing, it were merely 26-30 (since I omitted the DI tracks - no reamping was needed).

So instead of handling the grouping/sound design during mixing (for which we only had 3 hours), we decided to be adventurous and "blended" the tracks during recording already.



And in case of the current Mix Challenge (MC#10), you had to do this same process "post recording". And it's as normal as it can get.

My example with mixing/grouping individual orchestra parts is also fairly common. There are studios that not only record the orchestra as a "whole section" (with like 8-10 mics), but also a lot of instruments dry. So you have to(!) blend that all together during mixing in some type or form. And such orchestra recordings can easily exceed 48 tracks.



I really don't get the fuzz here?
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Fender19
KVRist
197 posts since 30 Aug, 2012

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Fri May 29, 2015 12:35 pm

I will borrow from another post I replied to on KVR earlier today - it is not uncommon to receive as many as 100+ raw tracks in a typical commercial mix these days.

Since track counts are basically unlimited the "new" way of recording is to capture everything and sort it out later. Even the song STRUCTURE isn't always clearly defined.

Sometimes the artist and producer do the "sorting out" - leaving only the desired tracks, stems, etc. - but more often it's simply handed to the mix engineer as-is.

This many seem like a lot of work - and it is - but the range of possible end results from the "sound pallet" is huge. That's why many mix engineers nowadays are receiving royalties for their mixes. The mix in these cases is the song.

westcoast2
KVRer
22 posts since 28 Jun, 2010

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Fri May 29, 2015 1:16 pm

"I really don't get the fuzz here?"

I was generalising and giving an extreme example (guitar) to try and get an understanding myself. Your explanation of a complex recording situation was very interesting. I was agreeing with what you were saying but also trying to understand the nature of the sounds.

***Aside: The piano "example" was a less than classic example of my somewhat dry humour***

Maybe I have missed something completely here. I know they were synthesized but would Gtr1,2,3 in MC10 be the equivalent to:-

a: Using 3 mikes giving 3 different representations of the same guitar sound or
b: Having 3 parts of a single representation of the guitar sound - where Gtr1+2+3 together form the equivalent of recording with a single microphone or
c: Something else?

I thought they were b:, which meant the guitar sound needed to be recreated from the three parts. Certainly gtr1 did not sound like a normally recorded guitar even a heavily fx'ed guitar.

The process remains essentially the same. The detail changes so the techniques involved may differ.

Compyfox
KVRAF
14279 posts since 19 Oct, 2003 from Berlin, Germany

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Fri May 29, 2015 3:52 pm

Think of b...

As with MC09, you have different "guitar sounds" layered on top of each other to get one "wall of sound". And this is what Ben (H-man) aimed at in the first place.

Some understood it, others found it too hard.
It is a challenge, no doubt. But this is what the "KVR Mix Challenge" is all about.



Anyway - I leave the field to Ben and his evaluation.
Maybe the next challenge will be a bit "simpler" - and yes, it's already in preparation.
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H-man
KVRian
638 posts since 26 Dec, 2007 from Australia

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Mon Jun 01, 2015 4:49 am

Hi again,

Just a quick note to say that I am in the process of finalising my review and results so not too long now.

I will say that I am really enjoying all of the tracks, there is clearly a lot of love out there for guitar tones and FX so which makes it more difficult for me to choose ...but in a good way. :)

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H-man
KVRian
638 posts since 26 Dec, 2007 from Australia

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:25 am

Warning: MEGA-POST :hihi:

First of all I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to prepare an entry. With utmost sincerity I can say that I found elements in each entry that made me sit up and say “Oh cooool”. 8)

One aspect that made the judging more difficult was the instruction to "get creative with the material”. While I thoroughly enjoyed the way parts were developed in clever and unexpected ways, it also meant that I had to take time to understand the new focus (or context) and separate this from the idea that I had done any kind of good job with the material in the first place (my original mix).

So, in an attempt to keep everything fair and provide an objective assessment, I decided to create a framework (sounds nerdy now that I write it) to help rank the tracks.

The Criteria
The following criteria were used to sort the entries. This is my own design and thus is completely subjective.

Understanding the composition
This composition had a number of obvious movements designed to keep the listener in. Emphasis and careful management of the transitions combined with consistency across all of them was deemed very important.

Big Guitars
The main objective of this track was to present a range of realistic guitar sounds, all of which were of a reasonably (if not totally) aggressive nature. Chugs, Wail, Scream, Roar and thuds were all in there (I think) so the ability to bring these out earned respect and thus a higher ranking.

The Rock Drum Kit
The big Rock drum sounds were very much the backbone of the whole track. I didn’t allow time to work on Toms (and cowbell) so there was Kick, Snare and Hats to deal with. The choice of sounds and the ability to bring these out (and not have them swamped by the growl bass at one end and the thrashy guitars at the other) earned respect.

Bass
Bass maybe the most important and most overlooked element in the One-Synth-Challenge. It is for this reason that this track contains multiple bass sounds as well as a Bass solo. It was there to be a “tick-that-box …and then some” feature. Again there are a range of Bass tones from warm to growl (put in primarily as an aggressive sub bass) to out-right percussive hard-picking, almost slap style. Bass may have been the most difficult to interpret from the stems but clever management of the bass was a major criteria.

Those Synths
I added the synth sounds to this track to add some melodic content, provide interest through the transitions and, in places, to add to the overall sense of mayhem. I admit that I don’t know much about using synths in Metal/Rock so I was looking for some creative decisions here. Managing them in the mix was one thing, bringing something new and interesting was even better.

The whole shooting match
In other words, the overall tone of the track after mixing. Call it my X-factor or whatever, this is where I awarded points for each of the mixing tasks coming together in a clear but rich and satisfying way. Maybe it was luck or maybe part of a grand design however if I liked the result as a whole it went up the list.

Technical stuff
Not so much. I don’t really know enough about mixing which is kind of why I wanted to do this in the first place. I looked at the levels, some FFT waterfalls and phase correlation etc. perhaps for a direct comparison between two tracks or to try to get a handle on what I was hearing.

Mini Reviews in no particular order

Again, you all spent some quality time with my work so I had to make sure that I did the same with yours.

Davias
Maybe the best interpretation and general improvement of the guitar tones across the track of all the entries. The “Chug” in the intro was the only area where I wanted more weight but the rest was a definite move towards realism and much enjoyed.
Drums and bass were managed pretty well, in trems of their interaction, but the kick does get lost a few times and the snare was all snap and could have used some “oosh” Not bad, but a few of the others handled this better (IMHO of course).
The bass tones were good and the synths were give a guitar-like treatment that I thought worked really well.
For the track overall, the energy and sense of mayhem was certainly maintained. However the whole mix sounds brittle. The Hi-Hats were pushed right back so it’s probably just due to the snappy snare. Not really an error but it does kill the “warmth” of the bass and guitars.

Photonic
Manfred, you know I have a great deal of respect for your mixing and sound design skills (and compositions for that matter) ..but you left stuff out of my track! haha.
Probably the best overall mix in terms of warmth and punch, the drum kit is spot on, including the Hi-Hats that I think some of the others trimmed down too much.
My only beef is that the tremolo picked (ethereal sounding = lots of reverb) guitar over the early and late sections got given a back seat. I understand that it brings quite a lot of sonic content that in turn makes it hard to place, but that was the part that kick-started the whole track so I’m not really happy to see it mixed to the back.
In all the mix was handled very well. You can listen to it loud without shredding your ears and I did appreciate a little creativity here and there as well as giving some room for the chaotic section in the middle.

Kolyev
This was one of the slower ones. I can’t be sure but I would guess that your DAW converted the audio from 41KHz to match it’s set sample rate of 48KHz on import? Don’t worry though as I just used elastique in Studio One V2 to match it back to the others.
First I liked the sound on this one. It’s deeper and probably a bit more scooped-in-the-middle than some of the others but the result is pretty effective in terms of weight (especially on the kick) and punch.
Kick and Snare are great but again the hats are EQ’ed pretty hard (in some places only).
Whilst still being quite good, it seems that there was more focus on the drums mix and the guitars lost some of their clarity and power as a result. I think the guitar sounds are true to original material but I guess I was looking for more development. The lead sound definitely got some nice treatment which I liked.

Jim Kennedy
Okay first off …I heard this and thought that someone had just submitted my mix-down. It’s quite close.
I really liked the tone of the mix combined with the preservation of the sonic mayhem that results from all the instrument sounds going full-throttle all at once.
I won’t talk about the individual elements as they are all to my liking. Some of the others did achieve a warmer mix (this one does tend toward the “brittle” high-end that I mentioned above) I think that was done by leaving out some of the hard percussive guitar sounds that were integral to the power and mayhem of the track.
The entry has a great opening and follows with what I think is the best attempt at recreating what I had done ….but clearer.

Piranha81
This track is unique right from the first distorted bass tones and fat snare. I actually own a couple of wah-wah pedals and have always been a big fan of the effect. I have heard it said that guitarists who can’t really sing like to use wah to give their guitars a voice …maybe?
It’s a very distinctive sound and can wear out its welcome after a while so I didn’t really think it needed to come back in the middle section but is certainly effective towards the end. Could just come down to creative differences?
Also, I have tried to like the emphasis on the Growly bass (the one I intended as a sub bass) but I just found it to be too much, which is a bit of a shame because everything else is really good on this track.
The overall tone is on the warmer side and the kit is a good rock kit but that long bass note masks the kick and thus takes the punch out of it. You can hear this by contrasting the sections where the kick has space (like at the end for example).

Stonecutter
Similar to the entry by Jim Kennedy, this one seems to follow the guide track pretty darn well indeed. I like all of the sounds when I listen to them individually and the levels and placement are well done also.
But let me get right to it, this one is EQ’ed really hard. There seems (and I’m guessing here) a high-pass with a pretty steep curve on everything that is not the Kick at 250Hz (or above), as well as a broad scoop across the middle and quite a lift on both ends.
I puzzled over this one for a while and then decided to put an EQ on the track with a lift across the middle and a low-pass at about 11kHz and then played the track turning the EQ on and off. I think it sounded more balanced with the EQ on.
So really this one is not far off at all, as it stands though there is too much separation between the highs and lows.

MixedMind
One word …guitars. Actually it’s cowbell ;) and guitars with the latter certainly being the standout in this entry. It seems that realism took priority over rhythm and percussive edge but that is okay because all the guitar tones are an improvement on my original work, especially on what one might call the main riff where I was never quite happy with what I ended up with. This is really good.
One thing that puzzles me about this mix is that while I’m happy with the drums at about 1:18, they seem to annoy me at other parts of the track. It’s probably the snare that I find too snappy with not enough push in the lower frequencies. I know 60 – 300Hz is pretty crowded on the source material but I just found it hard to get used to this.
One aspect certainly worth a mention is the re-working of the breakdown part at 2:00m. This took me by surprise at first as it is a total transfer from slamming bass to roaring guitars which I have to admit appeals to me, even if I would put the bass back in.
In all, it’s good. The mix was not as polished as some of the others for sure but this entry in particular got me thinking about the chase for those guitar tones, and how mine could have been better.

Westcoast2
Interestingly the snare on this track sounds great to me but the low-end treatment is not strong. When I listen to the drums in the opening section and hear the hat and snare way louder than the kick drum (with minimal competing frequencies as well) I just can’t help but think that this one needs to go back to the lab.
Fortunately the fix could be done quite easily.
All guitars sound reasonably good with the leads and synths in particular getting plenty of attention, but again, without the bottom end the track is harder to assess for its other merits. This makes me wonder as to the monitoring setup and whether there was some aspect making the bass louder, hence the relative reduction in energy in the lower frequencies.

Adam_firegate
This track was quieter than the others with peaks hitting -12db. This doesn’t really matter I suppose but I did end up Normalising the audio due to the fact that I just got tired of maxing out the faders.
With the volume up you can easily hear how punchy the drums are and for some reason I cannot quite pin down (again …sry), I like the HiHats on this mix. It could be the EQ-ing or the reverb on them but I definitely took notice.
One point I would like to make here is that there was one cymbal with a quite resonant sound in the track (first turns up at 0:46s) that I added just to provide some more energy to the guitars as a kind of “trick the ear” type thing. Each time I hear it up front in the mix I feel like I want to get rid of it. Not to say it is wrong to have used it, but when it almost completely drowns out the snare roll (2min 30s) I come back to thinking it could have been mixed back a bit.
The mix overall is punchy and warm, mostly due to the nice drums and respectable guitars however to me it feels like this entry tries to achieve clarity by just turning down a lot of the elements that compete for space on the spectrum. One for debate perhaps.

VasDim
Crunchy sounding mix. Out of curiosity I would like to know some details of the FX used on this track as it seems that almost every sound got some sort of FX. Fortunately the result is an enjoyable, sonically rich track.
Starting with easily the most creative drum kit of the batch, this track sets off with plenty of high-end sizzle and all the power and punch I originally intended which makes it all pretty exciting. There is good control of the frequencies through the mayhem section in the middle of the track and mostly I was appreciating the different and interesting FX on the guitars.
The only major downside is that this track also falls into the bass-trap, where what I call the growl bass (or sub bass) almost completely wipes out the kick drum. This can be heard simply by comparing the kick in the different sections.
Definitely my favourite of the creative tracks where the guitars were less real but more enhanced if that makes any sense. Just that bass thing is more than a gripe IMHO and would need to be re-worked.

Fender19
With maybe the best synth breakdown after the first section, this is another entry that brings a lot more creativity to the track. As stated earlier, these ones take a few more listens to get used to the shift in focus across the sections but it is refreshing at the same time and so worth the extra listens.
That said, this is another track that I would send back to the lab to re-work the low-end, and in this case bring in some of the discarded sounds.
There is some good sound design on the leads for sure but this track possibly more than any other suffers from hot and cold spots. Consistency is important while the mid-section was fine, the two main melody sections that book-end the track were dealt with a little too heavily IMHO. You can hear (and see on the waveform) and example of this contrast at about 1 minute into the track.
I am sure this goes beyond creative differences. Maybe it is due to the lack of compression on the tracks …not sure but happy to discuss further though.


So there you go. Really hope I didn't miss anyone out. I'm not really sure whether we have time for a round two or if anyone would want that so if you could let me know Compy that would be cool.

mixedmind
KVRist
47 posts since 15 Sep, 2014

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:34 am

thank you for the detailed review. I appreciate that a lot!

cheers,
mixed.mind

westcoast2
KVRer
22 posts since 28 Jun, 2010

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Tue Jun 02, 2015 10:54 am

Thanks for the feedback - excellent.

The Bass comment is interesting and useful. "Fortunately the fix could be done quite easily.". Good, I wonder how long it will take me to figure it out :)

Compyfox
KVRAF
14279 posts since 19 Oct, 2003 from Berlin, Germany

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Tue Jun 02, 2015 12:57 pm

H-man wrote:So there you go. Really hope I didn't miss anyone out. I'm not really sure whether we have time for a round two or if anyone would want that so if you could let me know Compy that would be cool.
It's your call. The other MC's will run in parallel regardless.

If you say "the following 5 to 7 people need to overhaul their tracks" (we had 10 entries, to 3 winners out of 5 for Round 2 should be possible), then we go into Round 2.

If you say "the following top three, in order of appearance are the winners", then MC10 is officially finished.
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Fender19
KVRist
197 posts since 30 Aug, 2012

Re: KVR MIX CHALLENGE - MC10 May 2015 - Submission period ended, in evaluation

Post Tue Jun 02, 2015 4:05 pm

H-man,

Thank you for the review and I agree with everything you said. It was an incomplete work on my part. I wasn't planning to enter the contest but decided to give it a go the night it was due - mixed on a laptop (I was on travel).

I hope I at least illustrated that the mix can be taken in different direction than what you may have originally intended. There is a lot of material here to mix up numerous different versions.

If you have any other comments please post or PM me.

Thank you,

Fender19
Last edited by Fender19 on Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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