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  #1  
Old 02-15-2010, 11:04 PM
Mt.Everest Mt.Everest is offline
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Default Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

Hello,

I tried the ol' search thing, but the results are always so tedious or completely OT. SO..

I've never really explored the VCA group feature in PT much. When it was introduced, I already had my way of mixing that worked fine using regular groups, and I have to admit I never said to myself, " Man, i wish I had VCAs! " But I prob said " Man, I wish there was a way around...XYZ..! " And the answer may very well be VCA groups.

Ive used VCAs for many years in the analog world, but I can't really think of many uses for them in PTs. But maybe Im missing something that would better my work flow if I incorporated VCA groups.

Normally, I feed regular groups to Aux's, which house my FX sends and any overall plugin processing I want for that group. When I bring a track down inside that group, it also decreases the level it feeds to the main reverb send. Perfect. The group of tracks is hitting my compressor just how I like it, but overall, the group is too loud so I bring down the Aux master. Perfect.

The only thing I can think of, off the top of my head, that messes me up sometimes is when I need to put discreet sends on individual tracks within the group.
For example, I have a send on a track going to a delay. I like the level Im getting on the delay return. Great. Later, I feel that the entire group that track belongs to, should be quieter. So I pull the Aux down that those tracks are feeding. Uh-oh, that one track is quieter [plus everything else in that group], but the delay return is the same, obviously, since that track itself, feeding the delay, was not physically turned down.

So Im guessing THAT is a scenario where a VCA would be useful?

Can someone expand on that? And also give some more examples of how using VCA groups makes PT mixing more flexible?

I read the manual on this, but it only really says how to set them up, but not much on application or ' tips and tricks with VCAs ', which is what I'm looking for. I haven't thought about them much since they were introduced but Im ready to start playing with something new- new to me at least :)

Of course I can, and will, just experiment and do some googling, but I prefer the plethora of informative, real-world input as always, found on the lovely DUK....
Thanks!
MT
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  #2  
Old 02-16-2010, 12:46 AM
Abomb97 Abomb97 is offline
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Cool Re: Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

Quote:
the existing system can cause problems with post-fade effects. If you are adding reverb to individual tracks from a post-fade send, and use a conventional group channel and fader to bring down the level of all those tracks, you will end up with a wetter signal, because the gain has been reduced in the dry path but the wet path has stayed the same.

If, however, you use a VCA group, the group fader is changing the gain of each channel, so the amount of signal fed to the post-fade send also reduces by the same amount and the dry/wet balance is maintained.

Another advantage of VCA groups is that you can 'group' channels that are routed to different outputs, which would be impossible using conventional grouping and group faders.

as taken from:
http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/sep0....htm?print=yes

J
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  #3  
Old 02-16-2010, 01:41 AM
Mt.Everest Mt.Everest is offline
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Default Re: Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

Quote:
the existing system can cause problems with post-fade effects. If you are adding reverb to individual tracks from a post-fade send, and use a conventional group channel and fader to bring down the level of all those tracks, you will end up with a wetter signal, because the gain has been reduced in the dry path but the wet path has stayed the same.
Yeah I read that article as well. The above is clear... but...

Quote:
If, however, you use a VCA group, the group fader is changing the gain of each channel, so the amount of signal fed to the post-fade send also reduces by the same amount and the dry/wet balance is maintained.
That I don't quite get. With a regular group, you would just lower the tracks themselves linked together in that group, rather than lowering the Aux Master, thus maintaining the dry/wet balance. However, you are then changing the level feeding the AUX and any plugins on that AUX.

Is this saying with a VCA, it will lower the tracks as I said above, but NOT change the level feeding the AUX? That doesn't compute in my head or seem possible. Im still missing how lowering a VCA group fader is any different than lowering one fader in a standard group which is LINKED to its brothers in said group.

Can someone rephrase what the SOS article is saying here? Or what I am missing?

Quote:
Another advantage of VCA groups is that you can 'group' channels that are routed to different outputs, which would be impossible using conventional grouping and group faders
.

Why is that impossible using a regular group? I have 3 tracks. Outputted to bus 1, bus 2, bus 3 respectively. I group them and they move linked together.

I must sound like a total dingbat, cuz Im really having a hard time finding the difference between having 4 tracks grouped normally vs. creating a VCA that controls those 4 tracks.

Help anyone? I must still be missing something fundamental.

Thanks!
MT
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  #4  
Old 02-16-2010, 02:16 AM
Phil Buckle Phil Buckle is offline
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Default Re: Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

Original post by Jonathan Wales that helped me out a lot......
There are some real world examples.

I hope it's cool with the OP...............

Hi Guys,

Alright now that this thread has got to this stage, let me weigh in on some of the statements / comments that have been made and try to give some real clarity to this.


The implementation of VCA control in ProTools has been done in a very clever way, but to truly understand this it is essential to grasp some of the other underlying changes that have been made to groups in the process. I will try to set out some of this here.

First, let's go back in time a little. If you imagine the way that mix groups used to behave in ProTools, they allowed the faders to be linked to each other. In that situation if you picked up one fader, all the others would follow at the same time in relation. However there were two primary problems with this. Firstly it was difficult to move one fader in relation to another (you had to do the whole "declutching" thing) and secondly ProTools was not aware of the relative positions of the faders if you moved them all to an end stop. Try it in old protools - if you group faders together in a mix group and set different positions, then pick up the one with the lowest level and move it to the top of its travel......when you move it down, all the faders are back in a straight line.

One of the major improvements in 7.2 is that this problem has been eliminated. ProTools is now capable of remembering the relative positions of faders, even after they all hit the end stop. if you wanted to try the same test in 7.2, you would create a mix group and check the button to link the faders. Set some different levels and pick up one of the faders. Move the lowest fader to the top of its travel. They all end up at the same level, BUT when you move it down again, the relative levels are preserved.


So this was the first headache that has been solved. The good news is that now we can link pans in groups as wel, they are able to behave the same way - i.e. if pans are linked together and have relatively different values, then those will also be preserved even if you hit and end stop!

Having explained this, let's look at the whole VCA concept in ProTools.

The basic idea is that you have the ability to exert control over a ProTools group with a fader. The ONLY thing that this fader will do is allow you to change the volume of all the tracks in the group as a block. It will also allow soloing and muting (and record arming and input status) for the tracks in the group, BUT THAT'S IT.

Yes panning can now be linked between tracks in the group, but this is a separate issue from whether or not the group is controlled by a VCA master fader.

So the classic mixing use of VCA faders is possible in ProTools:

1) create a group
2) Make sure that the faders in the group are NOT linked within the group itself
3) Create a VCA master track
4) select the name of the group you just created from the output pane in the mix window on the VCA master track (or select the VCA master in the appropriate place in the groups window either at the point of creation, or by doing a modify groups command)


Once this relationship is established, moving the master fader will cause faders in the group to move. If the faders in the group have different levels relative to each other, then they will be affected by the position of the VCA in the way you would expect - i.e. if the VCA master is at -10dB, then each fader in the group would be 10dB lower than its position would be if the master was at 0.

Now comes the interesting part:

The complicated portion of this type of mixing comes when you want to do crazy things like change the position of the slave fader WHILE you are moving the master, or you want to examine what happens when the master fader is fully down at -infinity.

This is where any analogies with the original VCA systems are no longer correct, and why the system in ProTools is referred to as a VCA-STYLE system. From this point on, the system in ProTools has more in common with "gangs" in a Neve environment than any other.

Let me explain.


In a traditional VCA system (SSL being the one every mixer thinks of), the level of the VCA directly affected the level of the fader in an additive way. This means that once the VCA master is all the way down there is no possibility of hearing output from a slave fader. Whilst this makes sense on one level, it has proven to have many restrictions in practise the biggest being that as the VCA master is lowered, the position of the slave fader no longer bears any relationship to its audio output level. In this respect this old behavior is the same as using an aux in protools.

If you imagine the situation with using an aux bus, you are sending the audio signal output from the faders through an aux before you hear it. Thus if the aux is at -infinity (i.e.off) you could have the fader at +12dB and you would never hear anything. This is the same with a traditional VCA.

The problem is that it is very difficult to do meaningful work with the slave faders in this situation because their dynamic range is truncated by the position of the aux (i.e. if the aux is at -40, you could never get anything louder than -28 out of that signal path (a slave fader at +12 feeding into the aux). It is also a problem because if you are looking on a control surface (or on the mix window) at a slave fader but are unable to see the master, you have no possible idea of what actual level of audio will be coming out at any time.


ENTER THE NEW VCA-STYLE SYSTEM:

The primary rule which applies in the VCA-style system used in ProTools is that the audio output level from a track is ALWAYS indicated by the position of the fader. Even when it is controlled through a VCA mster.

There is also no restriction on the possible offset between a slave and a master. Thus it is possible to have a track in a group controlled by a VCA master, pull the VCA master all the way down, push the slave all the way up and.......you will hear the slave fader at full level.

Now this is an extreme example, but it allows for some important mixing techniques that are almost impossible any other way.

Think for example about an orchestra. You have lots of mics set up. Some are the general "tree" mics that capture the orchestra as a whole, some are spot mics to get "close-ups" on individual instruments etc.

Using the new protools grouping and VCA masters, you could do the following example:

The mics for the tree would be members of one group, controlled by the TREE master (from this point on, the word master refers to VCA master)

The string mics are controlled by the STRING master.

The choir mics are controlled by the CHOIR master, winds by the WIND MASTER, etc.etc


Now you can take each of the masters (TREE, CHOIR, WIND, BRASS, PERC, etc) and create a mix group containing them.

Now this can be controlled by the MUSIC master.


Starting to see some power now?

Now take this one example. Imagine that there are two "room" mics that are in the tree group, and that at the end of this one piece of music, it would be great to have everything else fade out, but keep those mics up so that the natural reverb tails from the room are heard as long as possible.

If all these things were going through auxes, that would be difficult.

In this situation, no problem.

As you get towards the end of the piece, simply put the 2 room mic tracks into a writing condition (either WR, or writing in latch).
Fade down the master MUSIC fader.

Everything fades out EXCEPT the two tracks which are writing stay still, because the rule says that the position of the fader IS the audio level, and because the tracks are writing they wont move.

Now that starts to get truly useful.

Of course you can still set up auxes and have the outputs of the individual sections of the mix feed into the auxes so that you can do global EQ etc...... but this new feature gives you a whole new set of tools.

Don't forget that you can also link together plugins of the same type on the same level (i.e. same horizontal position in the mix window), so that changes made to one are made to all the others simultaneously.

Don't also forget that the grouping in protools is dynamic. This means that you can go into modify groups, link something (pan, send eq or whatever), make an automation move, go back to modify groups, unlink it.

The move will still be there, because the automation was written to the tracks in the group, but that parameter (pan, send eq or whatever) is no longer linked so automation can once again be done on individual tracks to tweak them.

Powerful stuff.

Also, remember that ProTools allows faders to be members of more than one group. Consider this:

You make a group containing all of the woodwinds. This is controlled by the WIND vca master.

However, it sucks that the oboes are too edgy. There are 2 different oboes, each with their own mic (unlikely but this is an example). You could create another group just containing the oboe tracks. Link the EQ between them. Then as you adjust one, the other follows. This doesn't change the fact the the levels are still subject to the VCA master control set up from the first group...........

Are you starting to get an idea of just how powerful this all is...........

Use it. Trust me, you will be amazed at the things you can do!

--------------------
Jonathan Wales
Sonic Magic Studios
Culver City CA
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks again to Jonathan Wales.
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  #5  
Old 02-16-2010, 04:17 AM
Stylin' Audio Stylin' Audio is offline
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Default Re: Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

What Phil said!

An additional workflow bonus for me is coalescing. For example, when doing Post I have VCA's for all the stems which allows "director approval" type adjustments to be made (less music, more ambience, ect) quite simply. After that round of approval I coalesce which gives me a clean slate of level VCA faders for the next pass/opinion (typically to change it all back ). If I was trying to do this without VCA's I would have a hard time keeping all of my previous automation intact.
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Old 02-16-2010, 07:53 AM
kava kava is offline
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Default Re: Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

Thanks a lot for that introduction!
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Old 02-16-2010, 09:07 AM
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Default Re: Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

Thank you!

I have also never fully understood VCA's having grown up mixing only in PT mostly without this function. I knew VCA's were powerful but could never get my mind wrapped around it.

I love this place!

Rubicon

PS Thanks for the SOS article as well.
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Old 02-16-2010, 10:49 AM
bashville bashville is offline
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Default Re: Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

I'm grouping all my physical outputs that go to my summing box. Since I chose one of the boxes that definitely add "character" (the SPL Mixdream XP), the master fade for the group basically becomes a "hotter" knob, and it keeps the actual music stem controls free for group rides, etc. It's nothing fancy, and maybe could be done with normal grouping, but I kind of like having the control on that one fader....
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Old 02-16-2010, 11:45 AM
Mt.Everest Mt.Everest is offline
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Default Re: Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

Phil - Wow, thanks so much for posting that post from Jonathan!

Im going to have to read it 10 times to grasp it tho! Some of the semantics get confusing so its gonna take careful, slow reads to get it all in my head.

But its exactly what I was looking for! I don't understand a few things he said so Im gonna try to contact him directly about the post.

Anyhow, thanks again for that. Very informative!

MT

P.S. Can you add a link to the full thread that that post came from? I cant seem to find it with search. Thanks!
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Old 02-16-2010, 12:06 PM
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O.G. Killa O.G. Killa is offline
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Default Re: Some real-world examples of using VCA groups ?

Another thing I use VCAs for is mix passes. After you get all your tracks basically working together sonically... when you start to do volume rides to the different parts (guitars down for the verse, drums up for the chorus, etc)... you can do them on VCAs. WHEN the artist or producer comes in and feels they can do your job better than you can (egos are usually abound! LOL), you can make your VCAs inactive and assign NEW VCAs to each group...

This lets you have "your mix" VCA's and "Artist's Mix" VCAs. With a couple right clicks you can switch between the two. And after the artist wastes half a day messing with faders and feels they have accomplished something good... you still have your VCAs in the session ready to go when the artist comes in the next day and concedes defeat, telling you your mix ultimately sounds/works better.

You can even go so far as to have a "kick, snare, rest of drums, rhy gtr L, Rhy gtr r, lead Gtr, etc" VCA to mix off of, leaving any original level settings and/or level automation on the tracks themselves intact.

And one thing that wasn't too clear in Jonathan's great explaination, is that when he says you can create a MUSIC master... you can either group the VCA's themselves and link them to another VCA (cascade style) or you can group all the individual tracks to another VCA (direct style). Either way will work in protools. What's the difference then? The automation only gets written to the VCA you are moving, not the slave tracks/VCAs. Using coalese you can write/combine the VCA automation to it's slave tracks. But if you don't coalese the automation is kept separate. So as Jonathan mentions... you are doing a ride on the MUSIC VCA that controls the section VCAs, that control the tracks. You are pulling the music down under dialogue in a Film... but notice the strings disappear... you can grab the strings VCA that is being controlled by the MUSIC VCA, and pull just the strings up a little bit as you pull everything down. The automation stays separate so you can tweak it to your liking and get teh flow just right.

The only rule is you can only have one ACTIVE VCA per group. But you can take the same tracks and make two groups for them and have two VCAs. Really sky's the limit.
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