How to: Making a Broadcast Mix – Step by Step Part 1

Welcome to a new series this week. In light of current events and the new need to develop our studio skills I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far and talk through the process I’ve developed to build a consistent broadcast mix from week to week. To preface this entire series I do want to say that I am not studio trained. The first week of quarantine I basically watched every series and webinar I could find about mixing in the box and put together my template in Logic with every tip and trick I found. I feel as though I’ve landed on a good system that can be translated to whoever is interested. My hope is that this series summarizes not only what I learned from those webinars but also the 8 or so weeks of mixing I’ve already done and might save you some time as you continue to learn yourself. So, to help explain it and not have these be term papers, I’ve split this up into 7 weeks. Yep, 7 weeks. This first week we will talk about our recording process, what we do, how we do it, etc. Then next week and the following weeks we’ll talk about my ingest process, setting up the processing, mixing, bouncing, how I farm out the review process, and lastly some tips and tricks. It’s going to be a big series. If you need help now please don’t hesitate to email me at daniel@studiostagelive.com and I’d love to setup a meeting to help out. The way I see it we are all in this together as an audio community during this time. 

So this first week is all about recording. We have a multitracking rig that I built, that tracks literally everything for us. It can do 96 inputs at 96k (our consoles run at 96k). But if you don’t have the ability to track that many inputs, don’t be afraid to get aggressive in what you cut. Really sit down and think about what you’ll actually use. For instance, we usually have a mic on each brass piece in our drum set but we only really use the kick, snare, toms, and overheads in the mix. Also, while it would be preferable to record a stereo piano, if things are tight, just grab the mono send.  After you get your inputs squared away mic placement and strategy is incredibly important. It is unlikely that many have access to a sound stage for a super clean recording so be sure and look at and check your mics before you get started. For instance if you have a cardioid mic on a string player, be sure to put to point the null where it would be most beneficial (i.e. pointed towards the drums). Also, it’s just good to get into the habit of eyeing all your mics before you start anything whether it’s a live event, recording, or a broadcast. 

Next, it’s preamp time. As you are making your way through soundcheck, be sure to keep an eye on your preamps. Clipping is the big one. If your drummer plays harder and harder the longer you run, go ahead and dip it down a bit now. Make sure to hear that huge solo from your electric players before you start recording as well. If you have digital trim that is a great way to turn the mic pre down to ensure clean recordings and still give the artists plenty of signal in their ears. Another thing I love to do is tweak your recording DAW to show all your meters (pictured above). Whether that is in the mixer or by each channel. I then set the clips to stay lit until released so I can know whether or not something has peaked in the last run whether or not I see it happen. Once you’re preamps are dialed in, it’s time to check your DAW of choice. Be sure you’re recording at the right settings. We record at 96k because that’s what our consoles operate at but you may not be able to record at that sample rate (and that is ok). The standard sample rate for video is 48k and the standard for audio only (as in not combined with video) is 44.1k. Bit rate depth standards fluctuate but they are usually 16 or 24 bits (usually 24). Be sure to coordinate with your video team if applicable and make sure that they are following the same audio standards you are using or in their final export.

Another big thing to capture is whatever your video team is doing. At least live, as mixers, we are responding to what’s happening in front of us and in the studio we have the artists to react to but if you’re completely in the box you can easily lose sight of the musicality happening. I love bringing that video recording home, even if it’s rough and incorporating that into my DAW session (most if not all DAWs have this option). Then when I’m mixing, I can have that perspective and be mixing with the feed in mind. As you’re recording be sure to be listening as well. 

When the recording is done, in Reaper (our recording DAW of choice), I do a batch convert down to 48k right on the machine. Because we are downsampling it’s a fairly quick and painless process. Not only is Reaper very efficient at this process but also very consistent. I have never had an issue with any of our recordings over the last 5-6 years that was a problem within Reaper and that continues to hold. But, I still bring the original 96k files, the newly converted 48k files, and the broadcast feed, with me so that if I have any issues in the box I have everything I could possibly need. I could mix in the box at 96k but the processing overhead is a pretty steep price to pay. We will be down-sampling later anyway so we just go ahead and dump down to our final sample rate and enjoy the extra processing power on the back end. 

Well that’s about it for today folks. I hope this insight into our recording process has been helpful. After the post here I’m going to list our general input list so you can see what I typically record. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below, leave a message on facebook, or email me at daniel@studiostagelive.com. As I mentioned earlier, next week I’ll be going through my ingest process into Logic Pro and talking about what that first session in the box looks like. See you all next week!

Input List Template:
-Kick
-Snare Top
-Snare Bottom
-HiHat
-Tom 1 (if used)
-Tom 2
-Tom 3 (if used)
-Ride
-OVH (stereo pair)
-Bass
-EL 1
-EL 2
-ACT 1
-ACT 2
-Piano (stereo)
-Mainstage (4 stereo pairs)
-Vox 1
-Vox 2
-Vox 3
-Vox 4
-Vox 5
-Ableton (14 channels plus Click/Guide)
-Room Mic Pair
(that’s roughly ~45 inputs on the average week)

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