Helpful ReplySound effects with orchestra

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jkoseattle
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2017/02/27 10:19:34 (permalink)

Sound effects with orchestra

I'm working on a piece scored like a piano concerto, full orchestra with piano front and center most of the way through. However, I'm also incorporating a lot of sound effects as well - airplanes, traffic, weather, cuckoo clocks. My orchestra is EastWest Symphonic Gold. At this point I haven't started layering in the sound effects. The orchestra and piano sound great, but I know that the effects are going to be very tricky to add in without cluttering the mix, and I am dreading countless hours of fiddling with levels, panning and EQ once I start adding those in, and probably never being totally satisfied with the results.
 
I can hear in my head that a professional recording job would have the orchestra sounding full and great, and when the effects come in they would be clear as a bell as well, and it would never sound muddy or cluttered. How would you go about mixing this? Should I rely mostly on EQ, panning, orchestration, or what? The effect I'm aiming for is as if this piece were a soundtrack to a movie, and you could hear the movie but don't know what's actually on screen. This is a piece of music though, not a soundtrack, and plenty of time there will be no sound effects, so I can't go around simply sliding levels up and down.  (Btw there will be no dialog the listener will need to make out, this is just sounds).

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#1
sharke
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/02/27 11:08:06 (permalink)
Maybe send the orchestra to its own bus (if it isn't already) and notch out a frequency or two to accommodate the sound effects as they happen. You could even automate it so that the frequencies are only notched out when the effects are sounding. If you make the cuts small enough I guess it wouldn't affect the sound of the orchestra too much. I'm just trying to imagine how a movie sound engineer would fit music behind the dialog - I'm pretty sure there's some notching going on there. I guess it all depends if you want those sound effects to take center stage as they happen, or whether you want them to "gel" with the rest of the orchestra. 

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Leizer
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/02/27 11:54:11 (permalink)
+1 what James said. Maybe pan sweep some longer effects can make them more hearable.

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Jeff Evans
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/02/27 18:25:38 (permalink)
The best way by far is to look at what the orchestra is doing at the time of the sound effects. I have scored music for films for example and sometimes in cues that were effect laden. They used to give me a version of the video edit with the effects in. The trick is thin out what the orchestra is doing at the time of the effects.  If it was a massive explosion then you had to drop things down to almost nothing behind it.  In the sound dubs the effects always got the first priority so if the orchestra was full on at that point then they would drop the music right down. Better to drop the orchestra right down to only a few things going on instead and still have the music turned up.
 
Same with dialogue. If I was doing a cue that was under dialogue its dumb to have complex oboe lines and melodies going on. They will only mix that right down and have the dialogue up. So what you do is very underscored like with string sections and softer brass things not stating too much. Then they can keep the music up louder. Sounds better.
 
Listen to the effect too for eq and stuff. If the effect has lots of mids going on then keep the mid range things in the orchestra out of the way just in those seconds. If the effect is bass heavy then keep the low end of the orchestra out of the way. Think of the effect itself as being a melodic statement. 
 
What you DONT do is try to make the orchestra really busy at the time of the effects and then try to carve out EQ and stuff to make room for them or panning either. You will never get it right, only chasing your tail. By all means create the music first but then you have to alter the music to allow room for the effects.  Just to add, even half way through the effect as it is dying away you can start bringing orchestral stuff back in, that way it won't be obvious that sections of the orchestra have dropped out while the effects are present and suddenly when the effect is over the whole orchestra is back in. 
post edited by Jeff Evans - 2017/02/27 22:29:50

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jkoseattle
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/02/28 23:17:58 (permalink)
Thanks for these responses. Thought maybe there was some slick sly trick to try, but I guess not. Notching and being effects-aware in my composition were the two things I was hoping not to have to rely on. No shortcuts though, I guess.

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Jeff Evans
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/02/28 23:25:37 (permalink)
It is not hard. You have got an effects track obviously and then you place the effects in the correct position. Now you look at all the tracks above the effects track (or below depending how you arrange things) and see what you can silence, mute or drop out at those points. Actually you can take things out bit by bit under the effects. What you will find is you don't have to take that many things out before the effect starts becoming very clear. 

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patm300e
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/01 12:13:41 (permalink)
sharke
Maybe send the orchestra to its own bus (if it isn't already) and notch out a frequency or two to accommodate the sound effects as they happen. You could even automate it so that the frequencies are only notched out when the effects are sounding. If you make the cuts small enough I guess it wouldn't affect the sound of the orchestra too much. I'm just trying to imagine how a movie sound engineer would fit music behind the dialog - I'm pretty sure there's some notching going on there. I guess it all depends if you want those sound effects to take center stage as they happen, or whether you want them to "gel" with the rest of the orchestra. 



+1 That is how I would do it.  With Movie dialogue, I am pretty sure "ducking" is involved in the movies.  The dialog feeds the side of a compressor which squeezes the whole score down to allow the dialog through.
 

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Jeff Evans
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/01 17:11:55 (permalink)
When composers insist on having the whole orchestra going at the time of the effects they do often tend to duck things down but if you think about it then by only taking a few things out here and there under the effects that will actually sound better in the long run and much less ducking is required.  What do you think sounds better, the whole orchestra ducking under effects and back up again or just a few things within the orchestra not being present under effects and staying pretty well at the same volume. Less is more remember.
 
It is interesting how people still favour the idea of putting too much in and trying in a round about way to make room for still something else instead of thinning out what is happening under.  It is the same when many are producing songs and music as well. 90% of the time there is too much going on.  (same goes for music under vocals)
Once you start taking things out then clarity goes up.
 
Any good producer would be questioning every sound that is present in mix and making you justify it. (and taking them out usually!)
 
But good point about though whether you want the effects more on top of everything or blended in.  For blending in, being very careful about what is there and only taking a few things out as well will sound better.  Some of you may be thinking you have to drop out half or more of the orchestra in order for an effect to be heard.  As per my post before this it only takes one or two things to be down or out under an effect for it to be much clearer.
 
I suggest try both way and see what works better.

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Rob[at]Sound-Rehab
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/01 18:52:15 (permalink)
Jeff Evans
Less is more remember.




That's what I should live by more often ... not just in music production!
 
Thanks, Jeff, once more for sharing your experiences. I learn a lot from following your posts!

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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/01 20:46:36 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby TheMaartian 2017/03/05 19:07:12
As soon as I read the thread title, Scott Bradley's brilliant music for the Tom & Jerry cartoons came to mind.
 


 
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sharke
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/01 22:41:32 (permalink)
As usual, I guess arrangement is 75% of mixing. I imagine opera composers do a similar thing, thin the arrangement out during the singing and crank it back up in between. 

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davdud101
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/03 22:08:21 (permalink)
Would it be silly to use side-chaining for this?

 
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Jeff Evans
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/04 07:51:20 (permalink)
It depends on what you want to side chain. If you mean the whole orchestra, yes but then it could sound like it. i.e. every time an effect comes along the orchestra ducks. And then comes back in when the effects os gone.
 
You could side chain a few things in the orchestra though and leave the rest alone. The idea is to leave part of the orchestra at normal volume while the effects are present. The non distracting parts or parts that are not in the way of the effects.  The idea is to look at the tracks that may be distracting at the exact time of the effects and either drop those parts out all together or down. Often it is only a few things that are getting in the way and not allowing effects to be clearly heard.
 
Less is more. This whole process in a way is leading up to good arrangements. Not having unnecessary parts present.  You have to be not so emotionally involved with the parts. Be able to let things go that are cluttering things up. 
 
Let the effects for those seconds be the melody in the music. Think of it that way.

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dmbaer
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/04 21:08:50 (permalink)
Sounds like a perfect job for Melda Production MSpectralDynamics.  Put MSpectralDymanics on a group track of the full mix of the orchestra and use the effect sound as the sidechain.
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TheMaartian
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/05 19:07:05 (permalink)
jamesg1213
As soon as I read the thread title, Scott Bradley's brilliant music for the Tom & Jerry cartoons came to mind.
 


Terrific video. Everyone except one trumpet player in the back near the end seemed to be having a blast. Thanks for sharing!

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davdud101
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/06 17:59:29 (permalink)
jamesg1213
As soon as I read the thread title, Scott Bradley's brilliant music for the Tom & Jerry cartoons came to mind.
 



 
Now THAT was fun!!  especially so for me being a trumpeter/trombonist, GREAT orchestra!




 
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Jeff Evans
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Re: Sound effects with orchestra 2017/03/07 04:24:54 (permalink)
That clip was excellent and a great example of the music for a later effects thing or even as it is there are plenty of effects in it now. 
 
I did want to mention something which I have not. Effects generally fall into two types. One shot e.g. foley for a short time duration, or any time that is greater than a one shot the effects become  atmospheric or atmos for short.   One shot effects are great and if in say an animation someone landed on the ground hard and a short sharp powerful percussion sound was constructed by the effects guys then all of the music can actually stay in.  It would enhance any melodies going on at the time. Punctuating rhythms in the melodies.
 
What you do have to be mindful about is all the tempo modification you need to do around those hit points so the effects land on or sub divisions of beats. But that is more about scoring music and effects to picture.
 
Atmos effects do last longer and much longer often so clearing away some parts even around the start of an atoms effect will help to clarify it a bit. Things can come back in towards the end of an atoms effect thereby smearing the areas where effects end and music continues on.  These were the effects I was referring to before. 

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