Approaching Microphone Mixes in the SSO

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Introduction

When used effectively, microphone balance can be useful when it comes to adding depth and focus to your compositions. In this article we'll be looking into how you can combine some of these microphones to not only enhance your compositions, but to give you a better understanding of the Mic Mixer in general. The final intention being that you can then confidently adjust the mixer to your own personal preference.

By default, the SSO has 3 microphone positions: Close, Tree & Ambient. 

With the professional editions, you will get access to some extra microphones: Outriggers, Close Ribbons, Stereo Pairs & Galleries. As well as this you'll also receive the Jake Jackson stereo mixes, which are pre-mixed combinations. 

Note: Currently the additional microphones are only available in Chamber Strings Professional, with Symphonic Strings, Woodwinds and Brass Professional coming in 2019.

 


Microphone Information 

Mic Details Add on
Close This will give you closest sound to the instruments, you will hear significantly less of the hall, but much more detail, focus and 'bite'. These are pre-panned and quite narrow!      ✕
Tree The default microphone in most Spitfire libraries. This microphone is situated above the conductors head, giving a strong representation of the hall and room, whilst maintaining instrument focus.      ✕
Ambient These microphones will give a great amount of room and hall, perfect for adding ambience and depth to your mix.       ✕
Outriggers Slightly more room in comparison to the Tree mics, but with significantly more width. The Outriggers are extremely effective for use in the Brass and String families, due to their position on the sound stage.      ✓
Close Ribbon Similar to the Close in placement, but using a ribbon microphone - producing a much warmer and well rounded tone.      ✓
Stereo Pair Somewhat similar to the Tree and Outriggers in sound, but with less focus than the Tree, and not as much width in comparison to the Outriggers.      ✓
Gallery Recorded way up in the galleries, these microphones give the absolute greatest amount of room possible, a huge representation of the AIR Lyndhurst hall!      ✓
Leader Unique only to Symphonic Strings, this microphone is placed close to the leader of the section, capturing a direct signal with minimal ambience. Great to use for a smaller sounding section, or bringing in a melody in the middle of a busy passage.      ✓

 

The AIR Lyndhurst Hall & Placement

Below is a placement diagram of the SSO. You can download the image here.AIR_-_SSO_diagram.svg

Getting Started With Combinations

The best way to explain combinations would most likely be in the form of audio examples, so we'll work with a small snippet from a composition written using only the SSO. The snippet utilises each family and can hopefully display the vast differences and combinations you can achieve through the mic mixer. 

An important note when combining and balancing microphones is to imagine where the "focus" is in your composition. Do you have a solo Flute line that needs some clarity? Do you want your percussion to sit as far back in the mix as possible? Maybe it is both! A good starting point is to listen to a composition that is similar in style to your own, and really try to 'hear' where the instruments are sitting in the mix. Whilst microphones often cannot achieve all of this alone, they can certainly give you a good starting point!

 


  StandardHollywoodBanner.png

This mix focuses more on the standard 'Hollywood' sound, which has a beautiful sense of room and distance, but still maintains a good amount of clarity in all key areas of the composition. The main microphones used are Tree and Ambient, however the Brass dials in a lot of the Outriggers. As well as this, the Harp is using a large amount of the Close signal, something very common in a Hollywood mix.

 

 

Notable Settings:

MicMixSettings_standard.png

 

 

CloseBanner.png

If you are intending to use more of your own reverb, it's safe to say that a Close signal could be a good idea. The Close mics are by far the 'driest' available in the SSO, thus allowing you to apply more of your own verb without completely washing out your mix. It's worth noting that the Close mics are understandably much more narrow in comparison to the others, so dialling in some of the 'roomier' mics is still recommended!

 

 

Notable Settings:

 MicMixSettings_close.png

 

DistantBanner.png

This mix is perhaps a more extreme example of the distant sounding microphones available. It is very wet by nature, and not as focused as the previous examples. Whilst this example does give a great representation of the Air Lyndhurst hall, it will probably sound a little too wet for most people! Comparing this to the Close mix is quite staggering!

 

Notable Settings:

MicMixSettings_distant.png 

Taking what we know from the examples above, I spent some time with the SSO attempting to use these methods to create a convincing mockup of an already existing John Williams piece from the film "War Horse". The great thing about mocking up a real piece is that it can train your ears to 'hear' the balance, and can also help in setting up your template for use in the future. In this example, the microphone balance is somewhere between a standard and distant mix, utilizing mainly outriggers and ambient microphones. You can listen to the mockup below.

One more final thing to note: so much of this comes down to personal preference. Some people much prefer a closer mix, whereas some prefer a distant mix. The real thing to trust is what sounds good to you. There are no rules here! Experiment and have fun! 

 


Technical Tips & Tricks

CC DATA

By default, each microphone is assigned to a CC number, meaning that you can control these through faders or on your MIDI Controller. The CC values for these microphones are as follows:

Label Signal CC
C Close 22
T Tree 23
A Ambient 24
O Outrigger 25
CR Close Ribbon 26
St Stereo Pair 27
G Gallery 28

STEREO WIDTH & PAN 

Another handy tool built into the interface is that you can choose to pan and enhance the stereo image of the microphones. Above the mic mixer, selecting this icon Screen_Shot_2018-03-05_at_14.50.40.png on your interface will open up stereo width and pan, select the microphone you'd like to change and then edit away! This is extremely useful with specific families, especially woodwinds.

 STEREOWIDTHPAN.png 

 MIC SPECIFIC OUTPUTS

Another helpful tool on the interface is the ability to assign individual microphones to different outputs within Kontakt, which can come in very useful if you'd like some extra control over signals when mixing. You can access this by simply right-clicking the respective letter beneath the faders.

MICOUTPUTS.png

MIX BY ARTICULATION

When an articulation is selected, you can 'save' a specific microphone mix to it by selecting this icon Screen_Shot_2018-03-05_at_15.29.12.png on the interface. Handy when it comes to things such as dialling more close signal into your short articulations for more bite. Try it yourself! 

MIXBYARTFULL.png

KEY MODIFIERS

You can use certain keys on your computer whilst dragging the sliders to change the way they behave. 

Shift: More precise control whilst dragging.

ALT: Prevents the microphone from loading/purging.

Ctrl/Cmd: Reset to 100% levels upon release.

 


FAQ

Q: Should I still use Reverb with all these mics loaded?

A: Whilst in some of the more 'distant' mixes you may not feel you need to, you still absolutely can. A little extra 'glue' reverb can go a long way! Reverb will almost certainly be needed on a Close mix.

Q: Following this, which reverbs would you recommend for use with the Spitfire Symphonic Orchestra?

A: Christian Henson recommends "VSS3 Native" by TC Electronic, whereas Jake Jackson often favours the "Worcester Hall" preset in Altiverb. Another great choice is "Seventh Heaven Professional" from LiquidSonics. We do have a couple of handy YouTube videos on the subject, which can be found here and here.

Q: I'm limited when it comes to CPU power and/or RAM, is there a workaround?

A: There are multiple ways that you can approach this, perhaps one of the more popular would be to use a 'freeze' and 'unload' function in your DAW once you've activated the microphones. Another option is to export the stems separately for each microphone, and then do the mixing/balancing in another session - as would be done with a real orchestral mix! 

Q: Where can I hear some more examples of the SSO balanced with the microphone mixer?

A: Andy Blaney is well known for using only microphone mixes in his Spitfire demos. Look out for his demos on the product pages, as well as on the official SoundCloud page here.

 

If you have any other questions please feel free to leave a comment below!

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Comments

  • Avatar
    Kim Arnesen

    This is all extremely helpful!
    Two questions:

    1. If you used the full brass section, would they have the same mics as the solo horn?
    2. Would it work to use the mic levels to balance between different articulations, would I need separate patches for that?

  • Avatar
    Luke

    Hi there Kim! To answer:

    1. In the audio example there is a Tuba and 2 Trombones acting as some orchestral 'glue' from around 0:20 seconds. The microphones for these are only slightly different in that they have less Outriggers and slightly more Ambient.

    2. You could indeed do this, using the "Mix by Articulation" feature shown in the article.

    Best,
    Luke

    Edited by Luke
  • Avatar
    Kim Arnesen

    Thanks!

    Btw, did you change the mic settings in the first example?

  • Avatar
    Luke

    Hi Kim,

    Yes there were some changes! We'll be uploading all of the new mixes today that will correspond with the images.

    Best,
    Luke

  • Avatar
    Aaron Smith

    Hey, so I am wondering, since Andy Blaney uses only mic mixes in his demos, what's his favorite mix, or a mix that he uses often? It sounds like he uses the close mix, but I am not really sure.

  • Avatar
    Luke

    Hi Aaron,

    I believe that it varies from piece to piece, however I do know that most of his SSO demos are using Outriggers and Ambient as the main microphones.

    Best,
    Luke

    Edited by Luke
  • Avatar
    Kim Arnesen

    As I don't have the outriggers (yet), would you add the tree mics instead?

    Edited by Kim Arnesen
  • Avatar
    Luke

    Hi Kim,

    Generally yes, the Tree mics would be the best choice if you do not have the Outriggers.

    Best,
    Luke

    Edited by Luke
  • Avatar
    Andreas Häberlin

    How would you go about mixing SSO products with orchestral libraries by other brands? Is this a desirable scenario at all?

    Since the mic positions already exist, I assume that using SSO with MIR Pro or VSS 2 would be counterproductive?

  • Avatar
    Sandy

    Hi Andreas

    Generally when mixing libraries recorded in different spaces you will need to use some additional reverb as "glue". Christian has recorded a video on exactly this subject here: https://youtu.be/n02ZCYM_cQ0

    Thanks
    Sandy

  • Avatar
    Kevin Gibbs

    Actually, this was very helpful. If I buy the extra mic mixes, will they automatically appear in the SSO libraries once downloaded? I presume I'll have to add additional outputs in Kontakt/KK in order to isolate them on stem tracks. Correct?

  • Avatar
    Sandy

    Hi Kevin

    In libraries which have extra mics such as chamber strings professional, you will have additional instruments in the instruments folder with the extra mics and mixes, the original instrument files remain the same.

    Typically these extra instruments are "CTAO", "Alt Mics", and "Stereo Mixes"

    In most cases the original patches can simply be replaced with these as desired.

    Thanks
    Sandy

  • Avatar
    Arturo Albero Gabriel

    This article was fantastic. Being able to control the mics in using CCs allows me to work with Decorative, Core and Performance Legato as if they were one. And, if in the short passage I need more bite, I can bring up the close CC. Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Luke

    You're welcome Arturo, I work the same way!


    Best,
    Luke

    Edited by Luke
  • Avatar
    Kim Arnesen

    That’s a really lovely mock-up. Any chance for a video walkthrough on how you did that with the SSO and mixing?

  • Avatar
    Luke

    Hi Kim, which mockup were you referring to here?

    Best,
    Luke

  • Avatar
    Kim Arnesen

    Sorry, I was thinking about the John Williams Dartmoor mock-up, but both are very nice.

  • Avatar
    Kim Arnesen

    Sorry, I was thinking about the John Williams Dartmoor mock-up, but both are very nice.

  • Avatar
    Matae Jeong

    Hello! These article is great!

    Can I use these sound examples for my students or opening lecture sessions? It is completely educational use only.
    Now Im using Hz strings to demonstrate how achieving different strings sounds for my students but these samples are great too
    Please let me know thank you!

  • Avatar
    Luke

    Hi Matae,

    You can absolutely use the examples as you wish. I'm glad that it's useful!

    Best,
    Luke

  • Avatar
    Matae Jeong

    That’s good!
    Thank you!