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  #1  
Old 11-19-2012, 08:14 AM
jmitchell1532 jmitchell1532 is offline
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Default Client conundrum

Recently hired to mix a demo for a local band. Received the tracks, took a quick listen. Now, I'm not sure if they went to a studio or if they did it themselves, but all I can say is...yikes. The levels were recorded SO hot. The drums and vocals are peaking into the red no matter what. I've tried compressing, I've done some audiosuite gain, but alas, it still sounds awful.

Here's the conundrum. I know I was hired to mix the demo. They obviously heard my work and liked what I have done in the past. But, I'm not so sure if the raw tracks are able to be saved. Do I spend the time doing my best, charge for the work, and hand back what is possibly a mediocre final product wth my name on it? Or should I just say that maybe I'm not the best fit for the situation, and pass it off to someone else?
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  #2  
Old 11-19-2012, 10:11 AM
Carl Kolchak Carl Kolchak is offline
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Default Re: Client conundrum

First thing I'd do is talk to the band, and ask them exactly those questions :

If they paid a studio, and ended up with distorted audio files, they may have some recourse - could be that there was an oversight when the engineer handed off the wrong files (there may be perfectly good ones in the original session), or if there was a fault, they may get a free re-recording session by way of compensation (though it's possible the studio will argue that the band were happy to pay, and leave with the audio they had at the time) - either way you're not to blame.

More likely they recorded it themselves - what are their expectations results-wise? Are they even aware of how over-recorded everything is (they may have stupidly tried to "normalise" everything after the fact, and again there may be perfectly fine audio files back at home) and the limitations that imposes upon you?

Worst case scenario, you end up educating them in how to make a serviceable recording, and they go home and take another crack at it...

What bit depth are the audio files? If they are 32bit float you should be able to normalise them back to 24bit, restoring their fidelity and headroom.

If they're 24 or 16bit fixed point then you've only really got four options :

1. break out the pencil tool (this will take forever, but can work miracles).

2. see what iZotope RX can do to clean up the recordings.

3. make sure the band understand how futile it is, and just do the best you can with what you've got.

4. pass on the project, and explain why, as well as what they can do for a successful second attempt.

Best of luck.
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:26 AM
jmitchell1532 jmitchell1532 is offline
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Default Re: Client conundrum

Thnks, Carl. I emailed them earlier and got a reply stating, basically, due to my quoted rate being hourly, they wanted to "save me time" by normalizing. Basically, I guess they are on a tight budget and thought they could cut corners somehow. I politely explained that it would be in both of our interests if they could send me the stems w/o normalizing, since, as long as the files are fine, I can work within their budget. I'll see what they say.

You live, you learn.
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Old 11-19-2012, 02:43 PM
albee1952 albee1952 is offline
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Default Re: Client conundrum

Since they Normalized, in theory(anyway) the audio should not be clipping, just pushed to the ragged edge. I would use CLip Gain(PT10) or the AudioSuite GAIN plugin to lower every track by 6-9 db. That would give you the headroom to start using EQ and compression, so you can start building a mix. I had a similar horror story when a client brought tracks done at another studio, where the "engineer" decided to use Strip Silence to remove bleed from the drum tracks. I had to use Drumagog and samples to create drums that sounded like....well...drums. PITA, but the end result made for a happy client. If you pull it off, you can be the hero.
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Old 11-20-2012, 05:13 AM
jmitchell1532 jmitchell1532 is offline
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Default Re: Client conundrum

So, they sent me the original files (after another request to have them actually consolidated) and it already sounds better. Now, though, when I solo out the vocals, you can hear the track bleed from the head phones. Worst part is that it certainly isn't faint, the phones must have been cranked! I'm attempting to eq and gain down the bleed-through, which is sort of working (I say "sort of" because there are some sections where the vocalist sustains a note that I don't want to cut, but the bleed is still there). Boo.

On a side note, you ever get a song from a client, and it's just...well...I feel like sometimes I'm spending more time turd-polishing than not. Lyrically, the song makes no sense. The back ground vocals are out of tune, which I would fix, but they don't want to pay me for "editing."

I'll let you know what happens.
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  #6  
Old 11-20-2012, 07:39 AM
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YYR123 YYR123 is offline
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmitchell1532 View Post

on a side note, you ever get a song from a client, and it's just...well...i feel like sometimes i'm spending more time turd-polishing than not.
yes - im glad im not the only one
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  #7  
Old 11-20-2012, 09:27 AM
albee1952 albee1952 is offline
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Default Re: Client conundrum

Quote:
Originally Posted by YYR123 View Post
yes - im glad im not the only one
Amen brothers! I make a lot of money polishing..........you know what
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Old 11-20-2012, 09:35 AM
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Default Re: Client conundrum

You mean the lead vocals were in tune!
That's a jewel
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  #9  
Old 11-20-2012, 09:42 AM
jmitchell1532 jmitchell1532 is offline
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Default Re: Client conundrum

Quote:
Originally Posted by dave911 View Post
You mean the lead vocals were in tune!
That's a jewel
Seriously, I was just as surprised.
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  #10  
Old 11-20-2012, 10:37 AM
Carl Kolchak Carl Kolchak is offline
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Default Re: Client conundrum

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmitchell1532 View Post

On a side note, you ever get a song from a client, and it's just...well...I feel like sometimes I'm spending more time turd-polishing than not. Lyrically, the song makes no sense. The back ground vocals are out of tune, which I would fix, but they don't want to pay me for "editing."

Bad song writing isn't your problem, and doesn't directly reflect on you (really, the vast majority of music is just utter dreck, that is derivative of previous dreck. It's just that over the past 5 - 8 years we have elevated the standard of gloss, sheen and polish across the board, to absolutely astonishingly high levels, but the actual content is even emptier than ever).

Re. tuning :

I recently had one (transferred from tape) where the lead vocal and the backing vocal were recorded to the same track :

In the verses the lead singer was was the sole voice (and had some pitch issues), but when it came to the chorus he was blasting out long, sustained notes, horribly out of tune - at the same time a second singer would come in with the main chorus vocal, more or less in tune, but comparatively quietly.

I ended up bringing it in to Melodyne, in polyphonic mode, and had to spend forever adjusting every fundamental, and harmonic, one at a time in order to get the two voices in tune, without screwing up all the overlaps or leaving tons of artefacts - and subtly adjusting the volume of all the blobs in order to correct the balance between the singers and reduce artefacts (re-recording the two components to separate tracks for further massaging didn't actually help in the end).

Amazingly it worked really well - there was some comb-filtering introduced, but it was pretty subtle, musically pleasing, and barely noticeable in the context of the mix.

Whilst that admittedly took almost as long to achieve as it takes dinosaurs to turn in to crude oil, I'd say it's worth the time having you tuning the backing vocals - for simply bringing a backing vocal in to tune, melodyne and auto-tune are really fast - If you can't convince them to pay you to do it meticulously, maybe do a 5 minute sledge hammer approach, and see if the crude re-tuning, artefacts and all, is an improvement over no-retuning (just don't set a president of doing extra work for free).
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