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Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

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Mister Fox
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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#211

Post by Mister Fox »

Mork wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 13:08 CEST
As for loudness I would say take the tolerances out of the rulebook and simply say "aim for -16", and don't publish any numbers after round 1(too much effort, not worth it imo). Even if someone is at -15.5, they obviously aimed for -16, same goes for -16.4. At something like -14.7 (who would do that?) the case is clear.
This is why the tolerances are not written in the "Rule Book" yet. But might be for the Song Providers and/or an Addenda in the near future (updating takes time as well).



Mork wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 13:08 CEST
On the other hand, if you wanted to pinpoint me on numbers I would suggest -2dBTP +1dB; -16 dB LUFS +/- 0.5 LU.
This challenge is still open for beginners, allow them to not hit the target exactly.
The absolute maximum to target (for the time being) is -16LUFS ILk (Integrated, k-weighted) - one should not exceed it. As mentioned before - if we talk EBU R-128 and/or ITU-R BS.1770-4 in terms of used measurement tools, then we talk an allowed "tool specification tolerance of +-0,1LU" (else, the tool is not accurate).

Extending to +-0,5LU instead of (only in the PDF mentioned) +-0,3LU, would open doors for endless debates again. True Peak on the other hand is a whole different topic (also see this PDF - page 21), indeed.

I'll have to think about these values. And, again, take another deep-dive at currently available/popular tools.

cpsmusic
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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#212

Post by cpsmusic »

Hi All,

Firstly thanks to those involve in setting up the competition.

I have a couple of general questions that I can't find answers to in the Rules section. Just wondering where the right place to ask them is?

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#213

Post by Mister Fox »

Post them in here then, please

cpsmusic
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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#214

Post by cpsmusic »

I have a couple of general questions about the Mix Challenge that I can't find answers to in the Rules section.

1. Do we need to be concerned with the mono compatibility of the final mix? If so, how important is it?

2. I've noticed that most pro mix engineers will have a limiter on their mix bus that they use for referencing what the mastered mix will roughly sound like. They switch it on from time to time to check that the mix balance will still sound ok after mastering. I know that Mix Challenge competition is for mixing and that there are loudness specs, however is this something we should consider? Something I've found when experimenting with this is that a mix that behaves well when limiting is applied is different to one that is only mixed.

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#215

Post by Mister Fox »

Those are good questions where there are no definite answers, neither can I set "rules" for that.

cpsmusic wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 01:41 CEST
1. Do we need to be concerned with the mono compatibility of the final mix? If so, how important is it?
Even though we're mostly listening to stereo these days (headphones being the biggest value from various stats), one should always keep mono compatibility in mind.

While we do not specify a "device target", watching from a tablet, seeing an ad at a cinema, having a kitchen radio, listening to music while in the car... if you go a bit too wild with stereo placement, the listening experience would suffer. Kick Drums and Bass should ideally always be in center at bar minimum (orchestra being different, of course). We also don't know if one of the Mix Challenge mixes will be negotiated (in the future) to be put on to tape or vinyl, here a good mono compatibility is important.


cpsmusic wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 01:41 CEST
2. I've noticed that most pro mix engineers will have a limiter on their mix bus that they use for referencing what the mastered mix will roughly sound like. They switch it on from time to time to check that the mix balance will still sound ok after mastering. I know that Mix Challenge competition is for mixing and that there are loudness specs, however is this something we should consider? Something I've found when experimenting with this is that a mix that behaves well when limiting is applied is different to one that is only mixed.
To me, that is a workflow question.

The Mix(ing) Challenge allows "summing bus treatment", as long it is considered to be "artistic" and not to for the purpose "make things louder". Summing bus compression is definitely not a new concept, and both Rock and Electronic productions can definitely benefit from that. But it shouldn't turn into a bigger deal.


To me, mastering is (and always has been for me) just adding "final touches" - as in, cleaning up some rogue frequencies, giving a slight enhancements (like: making the track a bit wider, keeping the lowend in check), setting proper fades, setting up the final format/medium for release, etc. The "Limiting" is then only for setting the absolute maximum. Mastering" back in the days was really just that - "fairy dust" and "safety mechanics" prior to a mass release.

If you use a "Limiter" to only clip away rogue transients - that is one thing. But if you push things... maybe you should look into properly A/Bing your edits. Example: your mix is in -16LUFS, but you run it through a mastering array and the output suddenly reaches -8LUFS. Pull down this "mastered track" by same same value you've pushed (in this case, 8LU), A/B to the "unprocessed" material. If you hear things that could be improved in the mix, do so. If it sounds worse at the same loudness - you went too far.

A track should be able to stand on it's own, no matter the perceived loudness. A "mastering limiter/array" (dynamic compression) will always influence that - compact things even more, make it more "In your face" and then sound subjectively better (louder = richer, fatter, better).

The Mix(ing) Challenge tries to teach you how to just focus on the song, how you can portray a certain feel. I can guarantee you that overly squashed material will usually always sound worse.



Which brings me to this good old Youtube video from 2006 (or rather the 2016 re-release), giving you a no-nonsense demonstration on "brickwalling and it's negative side-effects" in less than 1:30min (well... 2:30min if you watch the following Youtube video from start to finish). I think this should help answer your question.

"The Loudness War" - by Matt Mayfield Music, originally released October 2006, enhanced re-release for a Change.org petition in March 2016 (notice: broadcasting stations already adapted Loudness Normalization for about 4 years at this point, while streaming services were still uncertain regarding deciding on a unified value)

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cpsmusic
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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#216

Post by cpsmusic »

Regarding my first question, maybe this is something that could be addressed by song provider?

Regarding the second question, I think you've misunderstood my question. What I'm interested in is whether "mixing for loudness" is something that needs to be considered in the competition, as mixing for loudness tends to produce a different tonal balance in the final mix.

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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#217

Post by Mister Fox »

cpsmusic wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 04:03 CEST
Regarding my first question, maybe this is something that could be addressed by song provider?
It could be addressed by any future song provider, yes.

But always(!) assume that mono-compatibility is a thing, unless the Song Provider wants a 1950s/1960s type mix where certain instruments are in one specific channel only. Which, so far, has only been mentioned twice as special requirement in the last 6 years.


cpsmusic wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 04:03 CEST
Regarding the second question, I think you've misunderstood my question. What I'm interested in is whether "mixing for loudness" is something that needs to be considered in the competition, as mixing for loudness tends to produce a different tonal balance in the final mix.
Unless I really do not understand you... That is the beauty of it - the maximum allowed LUFS for Mix(ing) Challenge entries is -16 LUFS ILk... this value has been chosen for a reason, as this is a great hotspot for plenty of release mediums (vinyl, tape, streaming platforms, DVD-Audio, you name it).

The Loudness trend while "mastering" (pushing loudness) is currently going down. Check out one of the previous posts (see above) - the loudest streaming service for the time being (SPOTIFY Loud) uses -11 LUFS ILk (which feels about -8,5dB RMS avg/Dorrough specs) - and that is "on the fly" (as in, built into the player). So if you upload a track to Spotify that is -16 LUFS ILk, and you use the "SPOTIFY Loud" mode, your production is being pulled up, and compacted/"limited" on the fly (effectively making it feel "more impactful" due to your ears being fooled). Else, it is streaming at -14 LUFS ILk (which would be 2LU louder than the material you've provided), and there is only "peak limiting" happening, no push for loudness. So it represents the original mix way better.

"Mixing for loudness" (as in: creating different mixes for different mediums/platforms) has been a concept that is (thankfully) on the decline since the rise of the K-System during mid/late 2000s. Again - focus on creating a suitable mix that can stand on it's own, no matter what loudness it will be at in the end (release medium). Find the best balance possible for all mediums (at -16 LUFS in one fell swoop even). If you need to use dynamic processing on the sum, you can focus on it being more "artistic". Don't get tricked by mixing "for loudness".

This "return to more sane levels, for the sake of a better sound" has been the goal of many audio engineers for decades - to have way, way less work and trouble regarding handling various release mediums, their specific needs and sound alterations, etc.



Or I'm really off the mark here. Then maybe please provide some examples as to what you really mean. :thinking:

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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#218

Post by cpsmusic »

Thanks, that clears it up.

Cheers!

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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#219

Post by Mister Fox »

Glad I could clear that up for you.

But please don't forget: the Mix Challenge is still a pure mixing competition - not mixing and mastering. Focus on creating an outstanding mix where barely to no additional "fairy dust" is needed. Then the rest should fall into place. :thinking:

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Re: Mix Challenge - General Gossip Thread

#220

Post by Mork »

Mister Fox wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 05:10 CEST
The Loudness trend while "mastering" (pushing loudness) is currently going down. Check out one of the previous posts (see above) - the loudest streaming service for the time being (SPOTIFY Loud) uses -11 LUFS ILk (which feels about -8,5dB RMS avg/Dorrough specs) - and that is "on the fly" (as in, built into the player). So if you upload a track to Spotify that is -16 LUFS ILk, and you use the "SPOTIFY Loud" mode, your production is being pulled up, and compacted/"limited" on the fly (effectively making it feel "more impactful" due to your ears being fooled). Else, it is streaming at -14 LUFS ILk (which would be 2LU louder than the material you've provided), and there is only "peak limiting" happening, no push for loudness. So it represents the original mix way better.
It's funny that you metion this, I had no idea that Spotify had different loudness profiles and ACTUALLY BRINGS STUFF UP, until recently. I was listening to a solo piano and it was compressed af. Even though it was from a soundtrack I couldn't imagine that anyone in their right mind would go that berzerk. Absolutely no impact left. This wasn't even on the loud setting but normal. There is a third setting (this is on iPhone) where it says the dynamics will stay the same, why that isn't the default... we'll never know. I had high hopes that the days of "automatic sound wizardry" were over... always had to covince my DVD player to give me full dynamic range, or laptops to not absolutely nuke the headphone output :exhausted:

As for mastering levels, I know that at least the chart guys here in germany still are aiming for -9 LUFS, which is VERY loud, about -6 to -5 RMS (this comes directly from such a guy). Luckily that's not everybody. It's interesting to disable the loudness matching in Spotify from time to time to see where different records sit. And indeed most chart stuff is aroung -9 LUFS (or even louder) while something like Judas Priest - Firepower is smoothely metalling along at around -11. They turned it down to 11, what would Spinal Tap say? :hihi:

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