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One more day... or 'this doesn't sound like Star Wars'

So, I've discovered something about myself. I guess it turns out that being a 'finisher' isn't always the best thing.

I'm always proud of the fact that I do finish projects and am good at keeping to my deadlines. Unfortunately for my last two projects I felt that this is not working so well for me.

I'm about to work on my first feature film, I'm about halfway through 'Music for the Media' and have just started the 'Digital Musician' course (oh, and I recommend both, by the way). As a result I'm trying to clear through a few projects to leave some room for the film.

Of late, it's taking me longer and longer to complete projects. This is for two reasons: firstly I'm becoming more demanding in terms of what I expect the finished product to sound like and secondly because I'm desperately trying to come up with some kind of workflow model that I will be able to duplicate in future.

Anyway, what I found was that I was still setting deadline dates so that I could move on to the next assignment. Given that mixing/production is one of my weakest areas anyway, I was discovering that all of my composition, arrangement and great quality sample libraries were being let down by my lack of interest/experience/tools at the mixing stage.

Also, I was so determined to get the project finished that I was convincing myself that these projects were done despite some pretty glaring issues being present.

In the last project (Fanfare) I just couldn't give it up. I wasn't happy with the mix and then I listened to the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack and realised how far away my track sounded (in terms of mix and the sounds of the instruments). Close miked samples do not sound like instruments in a concert hall or scoring stage. This weekend I realised just how much work it is to try and replicate that effect with some fairly heavy EQing!

So, I have turned over a new leaf. Firstly, I have decided that I will always sleep on a 'finished' project. If it still sounds good the next morning then I'll submit it, if not then I will do the extra work. Secondly, I've picked up a couple of new tools to help me get the best out of my mixes.

PSP Neon - a Finite Impulse Response EQ which works great for orchestras. It even gives great results on strings.

Waves S1 Stereo Imager - this is just the best way to narrow and pan a stereo image in a mix.

I'm also using Altiverb, Voxengo Elephant (mastering limiter) and Sonnox Inflator. I'll probably pick up the Sonnox Compressor and the full Waves Native Power Pack sometime soon.

So buying the samples is a long way from the end of your shopping list...

As a final note, I'd like to say that Fanfare has now been produced and mixed and the new version is on my page. It still doesn't sound like an orchestra but I feel that it's a step in the right direction.

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Comment by James Semple on September 19, 2007 at 7:02pm
Thanks there Chris! Nice to hear that people are enjoying my posts.

I have a couple of developments since then.

Firstly, I realised that the CD I was using as a reference (Empire Strikes Back) had a completely different mix to all of my other orchestral CDs. Anyway, I guess I got a little carried away trying to get the sound of this one specific mix down. I listened to a couple of my other CDs and they are closer to my regular mixes. In fact I noticed that although the panning is very accurate, I don't think that the actual front-to-back distance is that apparent. There are many occasions where the brass sounds very upfront and close. For instance, James Horner's Krull soundtrack is right up in the speakers.

Secondly, I am getting closer and closer to actually winning with my current setup. I've started using Instrument Banks within Kontakt 2 to great effect. I am also getting decent orchestral placement with Waves S1 and Altiverb.

My third point is that I have just bought WIVI instruments (trumpets, trombones and horns). These are fantastic! The tone is excellent, they are eminently playable and positioning them is an absolute dream! Also, low CPU/RAM/Disk usage. They're even a great price!

I have some great brass samples already but I often find it difficult to actually play them for melodies and the WIVI instruments respond a lot more naturally.

Anyway, I decided to write a little hybrid orchestral/sound design piece just for fun and that's working out really nicely so I'm in a good mood. Perhaps I'll post it sometime later.

cheers

James

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