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The search for a better sounding Virtual Instrument (the basics)

Following some discussion of this on another thread I thought it would be good to start this one afresh.

Trying to keep it as simple as possible so as any novice may gain something from any member wishing to contribute any tips and tricks I don't want to talk about preferences in this or that DAW or NS or this or that expensive VST plugin be it eq or compression etc etc.

The basic operation and use of the effect doesn't change.

Here is a graphic example of the C3 on a viola section library. In this case Cinematic Studio Strings but its easy to give examples from other libraries showing approximately the same low frequency noise. If this viola section was the only sample set playing that noise would probably be irrelevant to the listener but when we add the other instruments and sections of the orchestra all having this noise I'm sure you understand it will have an effect on the clarity of the whole sound.

no high and low pass filtering

removal of the low level noise

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Flat-response monitoring speakers are vital. If you mix/master on anything else you'll cut or boost frequencies that your speakers are already cutting or boosting without knowing which, your mix will be inaccurate, and it'll sound too muddy or too light or too warbly on other systems. If you mix with headphones the odds are you'll create an unrealistic stereo image. Mixing using a sub woofer would likely be a disaster. Maybe for occasional reference but it will bias how you feel your mix sounds. The point of monitoring speakers is that if you get the music sounding good in them, it'll sound good on any decent system.

And then you're getting into acoustic treatment territory - if your speakers are too close to a corner your mix will seem bassier than it is so you'll cut bass unnecessarily and a light mix will result. If your speakers aren't well-isolated or at the right height or pointing the right way, you'll be mixing based on an inaccurate reference. It's a minefield.



Ingo Lee said:

So then since a lot of people have sub woofers, if we intend our recordings for a wide audience we should have sub woofers also and set our system balance by comparing it to a commonly accepted recording of the same genre, as Ray says? Otherwise there can be stuff happening that we don't know about since the human ear can hear down to 20hz., no?

We are talking here about giving virtual instruments the best chance of sounding reasonably good together. The variables in how different sample libraries are recorded has a bearing but I'm not going there in this discussion. I'm trying to keep it at the lowest common denominator.
As far as really low frequencies are concerned, we can't control or balance sound we can't hear or feel but that's not a major problem in orchestral music. Once you get into hybrid ensembles that include synths etc. It then becomes a big issue.
Vienna Instrument libraries have been recorded as direct sound only (no room effect) where as Spitfire Audio libraries are the opposite where all sections have been recorded in the same space but with multiple microphones from close to far from the instruments.
In other words once you get past the basic concept of cleaning up the mix there are no presets. Every time it will be different depending on these variables.
Absolutely, speaker type/placement/room treatment is a whole other thing. Just wanted to nip mixing with a sub in the bud.

Yes Dave, trying to keep this thread as addressing the basic issues involved, the most important thing about whatever we use, or for the lucky people choose to monitor our musical productions on, we need to know what they do. I won't ever tire in saying reference is king. Listen and listen again to the sound from your monitors of whatever quality Pro recordings of the orchestral sound you are trying to match. Obviously once you get away from standard orchestral section positioning relative to each other, the goal posts have moved but by then you have an idea of how to go with them.

and just one more annoying point. Always check how it sounds in mono.

MONO CAN EAT A DICK

I've got some specific queries about widening and placing VSTs in a virtual space if that's cool. They still pertain to the basics, no unique software.

In live music you "hear" the noise of a single room. In sampled music you get noise from every single track, and it piles up to incredible levels. Rest assured, letting the noise stay untouched in low range instruments while removing it from everything else won't make it sound completely synthetic. And it cleans up the sound, a lot.

Ingo Lee said:

At the same time though HS, if real flutes and violins are making some of those noises, and there's always going to be room noise,  then that's what we hear when we hear live music isn't it?

Dave,
Personally, I think placing by specific panning positions in the stereo image is overrated other than left, centre and right.
Depth however is slightly more important.
Do we want to hear what it sounds like as the conductor or from a few rows back in the stalls?
Again, reference pro recordings you enjoy and learn from them.

Concerning the low frequency noise build up when creating virtual instrument orchestrations here are three screenshots showing the noise of one sampled instrument section (sticking with C3 on viola).

The first is Close mic position which should be the cleanest and apparently is.

Second, the Stage mic positions where they are further from the section.....more noise.

Third the surround mic positions where the noise floor is higher.

Just think of the build up of noise when playing back all the instrument samples together when there is this much when mixing differing mics to place one section.

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I remembered I wanted to reply here and this thread, as an actual useful resource, deserves more oxygen than some of the recent nonsense.

Perhaps the very precise panning (not panning, but tbc) I use is a bit redundant - such small increments could become placebo in nature rather than being noticeable - but simply left, right and centre isn't subtle enough for me and I feel I get results out of a wide range of directions that I couldn't otherwise. As for panning, I stopped using that ages ago as it aggressively cuts the source from the side you're panning away from. Logic's direction mixer is very good and far more natural-sounding.

I listened to some ongoing work with earbuds recently - the absolute death test for music imo - right after some Star Wars, and the recording of my own orchestral music. Surprisingly, my mix and direction usage didn't suffer too much in comparison. It had the wide sound I want which I couldn't achieve in L, R and C increments. As you said, reference recordings you enjoy, and right from the start I've stuck to a pretty particular seating arrangement common to soundtracks.

Ray said:

Dave,
Personally, I think placing by specific panning positions in the stereo image is overrated other than left, centre and right.
Depth however is slightly more important.
Do we want to hear what it sounds like as the conductor or from a few rows back in the stalls?
Again, reference pro recordings you enjoy and learn from them.
Yes Dave, the left right and centre only, relates mainly to mono tracks rather than stereo. I think I've already said I use DMG TrackControl for positioning in the stereo image here but there are other such tools. With most of these plugins it's what gives the best result from the least cpu and ram usage. Especially in high track numbers as in full orchestra if not using slave computers for the libraries. I used to have such hooked up over LAN and Vienna Instruments Ensemble software but now I satisfy my musings by everything coming out of the one box. :)

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