Old 04-23-2019, 12:17 PM   #1
mike1127
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Default make close-miked instrument sound more natural

I'm not a recording engineer - rather I produce music from VST software instruments including samplers, running inside Reaper. But I have a problem I think recording engineers would appreciate.

Mainly I listen to and compose/produce classical styles of music, with samples of acoustic instruments. I'm not a huge fan of close-miked classical recordings. The instruments sound unnatural from that close and the balance of the ensemble never seems right. Worse, sometimes they use microphones that just can't handle the powerful transients and volume at close range.

This is a separate topic, but I have a recording of Boulez's "Derive 2" that sounds not only close-miked, but every instruments sounds hardened and roughened when it gets loud.

More to the point, my classical samples sound close-miked.

So what I'm interested in doing is applying something, some kind of filter or smart filter or something that makes close-miked things sound less close-miked. A simple EQ hasn't been too successful, because what makes something sound close-miked is a combination of dynamic factors, like relative brightness at different dynamics, and the quality of transients, more than just a tonal balance.

At least *I* haven't been able to get a simple EQ to work. But advice welcome.

Mike
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Old 04-23-2019, 02:34 PM   #2
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Have you tried using reverb to effectively place the instruments in a larger space? Many sample library plugins come with reverb controls; I try not to use them but instead record them dry and put a good convolution reverb on a separate track and route all the tracks to it with varying degrees of volume in the sends so some instruments sound closer and others farther away.

I totally agree about close-miking, I don't like it in classical music. Proponents sometimes argue that if you play recordings of close-miked instruments in a good room with good speakers and put yourself a good distance away from the speakers, the listening experience should be similar to a live performance....it's not going to be very good with headphones, however. But it's really the conductor's job to control dynamic range and the balance among the instruments, and when engineers start spot-miking individual instruments they're basically taking over the conductor's job in the final mix.
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Old 04-23-2019, 10:37 PM   #3
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I've tried using reverb. My issue (and maybe it's only me) is with the kind of overly-aggressive transients on close-miked samples (which I think is not inherent to close miking but results from a mike that couldn't handle the energy without some distortion). You point out this is worse in headphones, and indeed I mainly use headphones or supply my music to people who use headphones to listen.

What I've found is that by the time I "wet up" the sample enough to reduce that "close" sound, I've reached the point of lost clarity in the counterpoint. This whole thing would probably work better if I used sample libraries more in the way they were intended, which is something like grandiose TV or video game scores, but I'm doing more intricate, contrapuntal arrangements.

Eventually I'll have more access to live instruments and that will solve my problem, but I do enjoy playing with software so I'd still like to make some progress with this.

I'm not dismissing your suggestion... I've already played with a mix of EQ and convolution reverb (Altiverb in fact ... in fact added some Notre Dame reverb recently in tribute) and one issue is that the sample library didn't do a great job of consistent volume and tonal balance amongst the instruments, so I find myself endlessly tweaking.

I'm not really very experienced with audio production so I tend to run around in circles... add a little of that, take away a little of this, round and round without much of a clear goal.

Also I'm just too damn picky. This is, for the moment, a hobby so I've had the luxury (or really, "misfortune") of no deadlines.

So maybe what I'm asking for as well, is an idea of how to tweak a mix with individual EQ and wet/dry ratios and actually have some kind of point you're aiming at and some way of measuring your progress.
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Old 04-24-2019, 05:20 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post
one issue is that the sample library didn't do a great job of consistent volume and tonal balance amongst the instruments, so I find myself endlessly tweaking.
I imagine you've checked out the (admittedly expensive) sample libraries from Spitfire Audio, but this demo in particular demonstrates what's possible (this is an orchestral arrangement but at least it does have solo violin in there as well). https://youtu.be/3gvXsaQf0Lo

The orchestra sounds a bit synthetic to me, but the solo violin is remarkably realistic.

From what I understand, most composers (including people doing film scores) use sample libraries to produce concepts for auditioning, and the final score is ultimately performed by real musicians (it sounds like this is your intent as well). But as a composer it's annoying to have samples that don't behave the way you want and thus work as impediments instead of aids to creativity.

Anyway, I wish I could provide some useful advice but my use of MIDI is very limited and I'm only using keyboard and keyboard-like instruments (harpsichord, harp, piano), and for traditional music at that, not classical.
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Old 04-24-2019, 05:25 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post
I've tried using reverb. My issue (and maybe it's only me) is with the kind of overly-aggressive transients on close-miked samples (which I think is not inherent to close miking but results from a mike that couldn't handle the energy without some distortion). You point out this is worse in headphones, and indeed I mainly use headphones or supply my music to people who use headphones to listen.

What I've found is that by the time I "wet up" the sample enough to reduce that "close" sound, I've reached the point of lost clarity in the counterpoint. This whole thing would probably work better if I used sample libraries more in the way they were intended, which is something like grandiose TV or video game scores, but I'm doing more intricate, contrapuntal arrangements.

Eventually I'll have more access to live instruments and that will solve my problem, but I do enjoy playing with software so I'd still like to make some progress with this.

I'm not dismissing your suggestion... I've already played with a mix of EQ and convolution reverb (Altiverb in fact ... in fact added some Notre Dame reverb recently in tribute) and one issue is that the sample library didn't do a great job of consistent volume and tonal balance amongst the instruments, so I find myself endlessly tweaking.

I'm not really very experienced with audio production so I tend to run around in circles... add a little of that, take away a little of this, round and round without much of a clear goal.

Also I'm just too damn picky. This is, for the moment, a hobby so I've had the luxury (or really, "misfortune") of no deadlines.

So maybe what I'm asking for as well, is an idea of how to tweak a mix with individual EQ and wet/dry ratios and actually have some kind of point you're aiming at and some way of measuring your progress.
Set your pre delay to about 70 milliseconds. That way your transients will be preserved and you can add your room size to push it back in the mix a bit. Try pre delays up to 130 milliseconds
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Old 04-24-2019, 06:22 PM   #6
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Set your pre delay to about 70 milliseconds. That way your transients will be preserved and you can add your room size to push it back in the mix a bit. Try pre delays up to 130 milliseconds
Thanks, great idea! I tried this and whether the result is natural has a lot to do with the specific impulse response I'm using, so it will require some experimentation.
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Old 04-25-2019, 11:13 AM   #7
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getting sample libraries and VST instruments integrated into realistic spaces is a difficult task. You may wanna have a look at plugins like "Virtual Sound Stage" or "dearVR pro". Those can enhance the spacial realism of close-mic'ed instruments. However, even some sort of convolution plugin (SIR 1) with the appropriate impulses should yield convincing results. Sometimes, source signals need to be tamed by using a compressor or peak limiter prior to feeding them into the aforementioned spacial plugins to remove annoying transients first. In some cases, too much of unwanted existing room information in the samples or VSTi's can cause problems as it is difficult to remove/alter the character of this existing spacial information to adapt it to a given scenario.

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Old 04-25-2019, 12:12 PM   #8
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Do you have a reverb plugin that recreates physical spaces like Waves Trueverb? I'm sure there's freeware out there like that. I've used it on drum samples to good effect.

Also velocity in the MIDI editor is your friend. Also embracing the "errors" sometimes makes for a more realistic-sounding end product.
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Old 04-25-2019, 05:35 PM   #9
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I have Altiverb 7, a convolution reverb. It has very high quality impulse responses. Really beautiful spaces and something like 60 to choose from. It cost around $600 so I'd like to put it to good use before buying something else.

The samples I'm using are from both UVI (#1 their chamber music ensemble with lots of instruments and lots of extended techniques and #2 their orchestra) and Quantum Leap East West Orchestra Gold. Both of them have shockingly bad inconsistencies in level, tonal balance, mapping of MIDI velocity to volume (for example, the QL solo flute doesn't change level at all between velocity 80 and velocity 110, then jumps up 10 dB at velocity 111) (and massive inconsistencies in tonal balance, presence/closeness, extraneous noises like key noises [the solo guitar has a huge bass "plunk" at some volumes but not others]). I would expect more from a $500 library (Quantum Leap), a $300 library (UVI chamber music), and a $200 library (UVI orchestra).

Unfortunately both orchestras (QL and UVI) have a lot of room reverb in their samples. QL deliberately adds reverb tails, which you can remove but at the price of making the note endings sound synthetic.

Maybe a compressor is what I need, or maybe a compressor that allows me to adjust the frequencies it acts on. Like the solo guitar needs those pounding bass plunks on the guitar body to be taken out, but only at some velocities. Simple EQ might mess up other things.

I don't mind having to EQ the samples a lot and maybe lose some midrange beauty... consistency is more important than standards of beauty and warmth.
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Old 04-26-2019, 04:35 AM   #10
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I can't say how convincing it will turn out, but an Altiverb room plus dynamic EQ (e.g. Toneboosters EQ4) plus a tiny bit of plate might work.

I only mixed once in a studio where they had Altiverb installed and I liked what I heard. (In my studio I almost exclusively use the E.A.R. rooms in Nebula, which are sampled from a TC6000, some of them are designed exactly for what you describe. But then I almost never mix a string section without any other accompanying instruments)

I was astounded when I learned that even on classical records that were recorded in great rooms/halls, the producer sometimes decided to add a little EMT underneath. That might help with the decay portions … or not.
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Old 04-26-2019, 06:08 AM   #11
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Have you tried:
https://www.tokyodawn.net/proximity/
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Old 04-27-2019, 12:50 PM   #12
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Someone already mentioned it earlier in this thread but I will second it: Virtual Sound Stage is designed to do exactly what you're looking for.

Aside from that, it's not uncommon to use two reverbs: a convolution that is strictly for early reflections, and an algorithmic for tails. A little Haas-effect can really help liven up the stereo field of your early reflections as well, and is worth some time experimenting.

EQ can simulate distance as well, but you might find that different articulations require a different approach. Sometimes the shorts/spiccato/staccato need a different EQ/verb setting than the longs/arco, even though they're from the same library.



There's a Spitfire video on YouTube somewhere where they talk about how to blend different libraries with different ambiences, might be worth checking out. They use Spitfire libs, but the information is generally library-agnostic.

The cool thing about close mic'd samples is that we have tools to "place" them in a virtual room, whereas with the more "ambient" libraries, there isn't a whole lot you can do to take the room information out of the samples nearly as convincingly. Some devs like Sample Modeling and Chris Hein, seem to embrace this philosophy and provide bone-dry libraries that are very tonally malleable.

Unfortunately, the inconsistency you've lamented is pretty universal, and any of these orchestral sounds are going to take lots of tweaking and compromise, no matter how much you paid for them or how industry-standard they are, assuming your goal is to sound "realistic." You just have to put in the hours to learn the quirks and limitations of your tools, and either try to fix the problems or work around them.
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Old 04-27-2019, 01:37 PM   #13
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Use ReaVerb with an impulse similar to the space you would like to recreate. Roll off the highs and lows to push it back. Time the decay to the beat and you won't muddy up the mix by using it.

Trick is to raise the send until you start to notice the verb and then dial back a bit. If you do it right you won't even hear the reverb at all unless you mute it but it will put all your instruments into the same space.
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