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Reverberation and Placement

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A lot of users ask us about our thoughts on reverberation and placement of instruments.
This article aims to shed some light on what we think about these topics.

Color and Frequencies - with a focus on Strings

It mostly a good idea to use EQ on the Strings, especially in Berlin Strings, because they were recorded absolutely natural without any EQ or other processing. That is for me the best starting point, because you really are able to sculpt the sound as you like, just as an audio engineer would do with an actual live recording. On the other hand you indeed have this issue on your table and have to deal with it. There are tons of ways to color the strings, depending on the aimed color of course. To make them more silky do the following: Lower the 2k-2,5k range a bit… just so that the harshness does disappear. Don’t overdo that because it can easily sound synthetic if you cut too much. Sometimes 1 dB is enough per instrument in the context of the whole mix. Then raise – maybe with a shelf – from 9k upwards.. also only a bit, so that the noise can come up a little. That way you almost get something of the air we want to create around the actual tone of the instruments.

Then, if you want to darken the Celli… simply raise the 100-150Hz range a bit. That way they gain in “weight” but it doesn’t add up in the lower mids. Btw… you mention the Bass and the High mids are the most problematic areas of the spectrum. I think all of the mids… from 120Hz to 3kHz are the most difficult area to deal with. The Highs? Who cares… just adjust them to taste… there is nothing too interesting up here, besides air and excitement. The instruments will not fight in that region for their own “space”. And the Bass… ok.. here you have to make sure, that nothing gets in the way of each other. But in orchestral music you solve that with proper orchestration. Then its also up to your taste, how fat or open the Bass should com across. But the mids… that’s where the magic happens. That’s the region where good mixing engineers do their thing to make everything transparent but big and wide at the same time. I am still getting a headache every time I try to do that. I am still far from being good in this area, but there are a few things I can tell you. Most of the lower to midrange orchestral instruments, especially Strings, lower Woodwinds and Brass compete in the 500Hz district. Take a listen to your single instruments and try to cut a dB here and there. I especially would suggest Horns, Celli and Violas here, but also Bassoons, Trombones or very loud low Violin parts. Also take a look at the 1k Area. I don’t find myself cutting there too much… in fact I often even boost that frequency on the Master Buss… its more to make sure the high mids from 1k to 3k do “work together”. Do you have an EQ plugin, where you can listen to single Bands with adjustable bandwidth? Do yourself a favor and study those for every instrument, you find problematic. Just “solo” one band and sweep around in the frequency spectrum. You will easily find nasty areas... then just clean them up by lowering them a bit.

Space and Depth

There are 4 things to consider in descending order of their importance:

1. Volume Balance

Proper volume balancing of the instruments is the most important thing for a believeable space and environment. Luckily the Berlin Series is balanced pretty well with “itself” since Capsule was introduced, but make sure other instruments fit in here as well

2. Panning

I find myself panning instruments a lot, even if they are already panned due to the recording in their proper location on stage. So they sound realistic in their panorama… but that is not what you usually hear on soundtracks or even contemporary classical productions. Everything is “enhanced”. So why not pan the Violins (especially the close mics) a bit to the left and the Violas and Celli a bit to the right? Maybe the Woodwinds are even panned to wide in the sample mix… so narrow them. Don’t be afraid of messing around with this. Just listen constantly and – very important – make A/B comparisons between your recent parameter change and the state before.

3. Depth

Depth is not the most important aspect here, but in my opinion one of the most difficult. Luckily we recorded the Berlin Series in a way, that enables you to achieve a basic sense of depth easily be utilizing the different microphone positions. Thats the biggest power those libraries offer to achieve depth. So load at least the Tree and the Close mics in Berlin Strings for example. Move the faders around. You get a sense for the depth of the sounds quite easily this way. After that its just a matter of taste and application. If you want your strings wide and upfront, raise the close mics and extend their panning. If you want the Woodwinds to be more far away, use only the Room mics and maybe even make their panorama a bit smaller. By the way, the thing you mentioned concerning the distance between you and the guitar… That’s a matter on how the speaker cabinet of the guitar is recorded. If you want to have a distance use a speaker simulation, that allows to put it back and actually make that distance. Early reflections are the key here. They tell our ear and brain, how big a room is and how far a sound source is away from us. You can simulate that with impulse responses etc.

4. Reverb

Reverb is least important thing here, but I can tell you a good reverb can do some magic to a mix, and help glueing everything together without muddying the whole thing. Unfortunately I cannot tell you too much here how to that with this or that plugin, because apart from effects and special reverbs I only use Hardware reverb for my orchestral instruments (namely a Bricasti M7 and on occasion a Lexicon 480L). The Bricasti does that magic. It fills every little hole between all sounds, without introducing even the tiniest bit of mud or blurriness. There is no plugin that can do that. Now even the impulse responses available from the reverb can do that, but they can be useful. The Berlin Series is recorded in a nice sounding stage and especially with version 2.0 the editing team made sure, that most of that room is preserved in the patches. You might get the best results by simply using a good up-to-date algo reverb with a tail as long as you want and zero Early Reflections… ok maybe a little if you want to emulate a cathedral and need the impression of a bigger room, other than just a nice reverb tail. If you want to integrate the Soloists Series, which are not recorded on stage you can use the already provided IRs from Capsule or use a dedicated reverb/room simulation and the run that together with the other instruments through that main reverb tail.

Portions of this section used courtesy of Sascha Knorr

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