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How to handle a large orchestral mix?

Richarrd

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I received a very large orchestral multitrack project, which includes:
1. Mono recording with each instrument.
2. Overall ST tracks with ORTF and AB versions. There are also several ROOM tracks.
3. Decca L/C/R tracks.
4. SurrL/SurrR/Out LR/Out RF/Out RR/Out LF tracks.
5. L&R tracks, along with LL and RR tracks in the vocal chorus section.
6. Many duplicates (dup) of the same instrument.

My main questions are as follows:

1.Since I haven't done much mixing of live orchestral recordings before, mostly working with MIDI tracks, when I receive multiple versions of recorded material, what is usually done? Do you typically use one overall mix, discard the overall recording and use individual instrument recordings from the multi-tracks, or blend the overall recording with the individual instrument recordings to some extent?

2.Is Decca not commonly used in stereo mixing? Is AB more commonly used?

3.If I use AB, can I blend it with a wider ORTF? Or should they be used separately?

4.Can the ROOM tracks be considered as early reflections?

5.Are SurrL&R only used for surround sound mixing, and should they be muted in stereo?

6.What does OutLR/Out RF... represent? What does "Out" mean? What are LR, RF, LF...?

7.What do LL and RR mean?

8.Are the dup tracks meant for the mixing engineer to choose one from multiple performance versions, or can they be overlapped to create an ensemble effect?

9.If there is interference from other instruments in an individual instrument recording, how should I handle it?
 

ChrisG

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Sounds to me like they've recorded to cover all bases, and are expecting the mix engineer to choose their preferred mic placement (and/or blend between) to get a desirable result.

Are they expecting a stereo or surround mix?

Chris
 

DVDdoug

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Most of us here are consumers and music lovers.* There are some pro audio forums. I've heard of gearspace.

Personally, I do some audio editing and "playing around" but I don't know much about recording or mixing an orchestra.

It think it's usually "simple" with a pair of microphones and one of the common mic arrangements. i.e. Most "mixing" is done naturally and acoustically. ...It's the conductor's job to get a good "mix".

Plus, there might be additional room/audience mics and various solo mics, etc., with most of those only occasionally used in the mix.

Can the ROOM tracks be considered as early reflections?
Assuming it was done in a concert hall that would be all reflections (and the "early" reflections will be late compared to the reflections in your living room).

In my limited experience, the amount of natural reverb that sounds wonderful in a concert hall, music hall, or church, sounds unnatural and distracting coming out of a pair of speakers in your living room (or from headphones). (So usually the main mics are closer than the normal listening position). If you have surround, the reverb from the surround channels can be stronger.

6.What does OutLR/Out RF... represent? What does "Out" mean? What are LR, RF, LF...?

7.What do LL and RR mean?
I found this which has some different abbreviations but you can probably figure it out.



* I could say that we are "audiophiles" but most of the audiophile community is nuts this is one of the few rational-scientific sites for audio lovers. ;)
 
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Ifrit

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Build your main sound out of the main microphones array, that is, Decca Tree, ORTF, AB, outriggers and room/surround tracks. Add groups of spot mics carefully till the desired balance between groups in the orchestra. Pan the spot mics in such a way that you hear the spots in the place where the instruments located in mix based just on mains. At that point you should be close to the mix. Adjust as needed with levels, panorama, eq, reverb. Dynamic processing typically not needed for orchestral recordings, maybe very light limiting on the mix buss.
OutL/R and LL and RR usually mean outriggers, wide microphones on the left and right of the Decca Tree. Judging by the names as Out LF/RF/LR/RR they used dual output mics for outriggers, where LR is Left Rear capsule, LF - Left Front, RF - Right Front and RR - Right Rear. Example is Sennheiser MKH800 Twin, very often used in orchestral recordings.
It would help if they sent you the diagram of mic placement. Sometimes they can be confusing.
Surrounds can be used as room in the stereo mix. Only you as mixer can decide whether any recorded tracks are helpful or not.
 

kemmler3D

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8.Are the dup tracks meant for the mixing engineer to choose one from multiple performance versions, or can they be overlapped to create an ensemble effect?
Normally (i.e. for pop mixes) you can do either, depending on the performance. In this case, not sure what the norm is.
 

dasdoing

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Since you can create several flavors with this, I would expect them to say if they want a more "ambienty" or more "close micy" result and if the ambiance should be realistic or "epic".
Since they apparently didn't you should ask them first, I would say
 

dasdoing

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can I ask you how you got involved in this project? apparently, you are not an (established) pro yet? I am trying to enter this market, too
 

howard416

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Build your main sound out of the main microphones array, that is, Decca Tree, ORTF, AB, outriggers and room/surround tracks. Add groups of spot mics carefully till the desired balance between groups in the orchestra. Pan the spot mics in such a way that you hear the spots in the place where the instruments located in mix based just on mains. At that point you should be close to the mix. Adjust as needed with levels, panorama, eq, reverb. Dynamic processing typically not needed for orchestral recordings, maybe very light limiting on the mix buss.
OutL/R and LL and RR usually mean outriggers, wide microphones on the left and right of the Decca Tree. Judging by the names as Out LF/RF/LR/RR they used dual output mics for outriggers, where LR is Left Rear capsule, LF - Left Front, RF - Right Front and RR - Right Rear. Example is Sennheiser MKH800 Twin, very often used in orchestral recordings.
It would help if they sent you the diagram of mic placement. Sometimes they can be confusing.
Surrounds can be used as room in the stereo mix. Only you as mixer can decide whether any recorded tracks are helpful or not.
Out of curiosity - since it sounds like you might know - how is the sound propagation delay normally handled between the ORTF mic position and the spot mics? Do you just delay the spot mics to keep the instruments "in phase", as it were?
 

Ifrit

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how is the sound propagation delay normally handled between the ORTF mic position and the spot mics? Do you just delay the spot mics to keep the instruments "in phase", as it were?
There are multiple ways to handle that, one of them is yes, just delaying the spots to the mains. Some theories tell you that you should delay all the mics to the farthest mics out in the hall, some go to the very elaborate techniques, such as complex formulas for calculating delay times based on photogrammetry information from multiple pictures of the microphone setup. To me, sometimes all of the methods can work, and sometimes all or some may not work, and the best sound will still be from plain mix without using delays. Highly subjective approach, I know.
 

nutzandvoltz

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Also, sometimes you get useless tracks that are not needed for a mix. Because I want to say about 90% of the time I get someone else's recording engineering to mix, they give me extra tracks because they think they are needed. Also, since you don't know how well they knew how to position mics, you might need to use phase manipulation plugins like T-racks to fix it because sometimes, just moving the track over a few samples in the DAW doesn't always fix it.
 

Waxx

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I did assist with classical recordings and mostlty 90% of the sound comes from decca tree and/or ORTF, while using the close mic tracks to fill in the gaps in the balance, and bring the solist (if there is any) to the front if needed. But you need to be used to watch classical music live, to know how it should sound and make the right balance. The broadcast company i worked for (as freelance assistant) only let older experienced engineers do that mix, often live on air (radio mostly then).

I did mix smaller ensembles of acoustic music (classic, but mainly folk and jazz). Also for smaller classical ensembles the room mics (inclusive the decca tree or ORTF tracks) are the majority of the sound, and the close micing is used to fill in the sound where the room mics lack. Classical is easy to get more or less right, but the hardest to get all the detail right. Folk and jazz are different of course.

Surely avoid compression as much as possible, and so also time effects (delay, reverb, modulation effects), mainly work with eq and balance. The dynamics are essential in this, and time effects and surely compression kills those. If you use compression, use parallel compression, not direct, and in very small ammounts. And use the cleanest compression device you have (be it plugin or hardware). The broadcast company i worked for only used GML and Maselec mastering compressors that are as clean as it get's (it was in the late 90's i did most of those jobs, so plugins were not that good yet). For classical music, you don't want to colour the sound, you want invisible processing.
 
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