This is the sixth installment in guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production. Today Frank continues to examine how adding analog elements to digital recording can positively affect the result. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
After running our mics through tube pre’s, we then look to plugins to help enhance our mix and the analog sound, depending on how far we wish to take it in our respective DAWs.
One clever plugin that was invented out of a desire to achieve a large analog console sound is Steven Slate’s Virtual Console Collection. The idea behind it is that you can put a plugin on every track in your DAW, including the master bus, to emulate how an analog board’s circuitry acts in accordance with all the signals running through it. Having seen some of these analog consoles in action personally, I have to say the Slate VCC does bring the distinct flavor of those consoles to the mix, and being able to switch the type of console on the fly gives you some comparison flexibility to the type of sound you are going for.
One of the plugins that I find myself using the most is Nomad Factory’s Studio Channel SC-226, which contains an analog tube-emulated EQ, compressor and limiter all in one. I put those up on my individual tracks and they give the tracks another layer of subtle analog sound without the extra noise. Nomad Factory has another plugin I also like called Magnetic, which is their tape machine emulator. It does a great job of capturing that kind of responsiveness a tape machine would have while still offering detailed tweaks to EQ, tube and type of compression. Throw that on the master bus, or slam one of your tracks that you want that exaggerated sound on, and you’ll have some real character happening in your mix.
Of course there are a ton of plugins out there that achieve similar results, and it’s up to you to demo them and decide which ones get the sound you’re after. After doing my own research and demoing over the years, these are just a few suggestions that appeal to me personally.
Some people enjoy using tube summing mixers for the final mix, which is a totally subjective choice. I don’t think it’s really necessary to have a summing mixer if you spent the money on quality tube pre’s for your microphones to begin with. But nonetheless, there’s nothing wrong with summing if that’s the sound you want and your mix still seems to be lacking it. A multi-channel summing mixer for example could allow some flexibility with routing specific tracks you wish to push a bit harder than others, which can make for a unique color or enhancement to the final mix.
In Frank’s next installment he’ll discuss how scoring for video games is different than scoring for film and TV – look for the post next week!
– Frank Klepacki
Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer for video games and television for such titles as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. He resides as audio director for Petroglyph, in addition to being a recording artist, touring performer, and producer. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com