Master Panning Window

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plingativator
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When I'm dealing with a lot of tracks in my session I sometimes lose track of how all my tracks are panned. Obviously I can go check them all in the mixer window, which I always have open, but I wish there was an easier way to see how the panning looks as a spread. Does that make sense?

What I imagine is a window that has all the different tracks listed on top of one another, and then beside that a really wide panning slider for each one. This way I would be able to compare where exactly in the spread I have each track located, and it would make managing the panning in the mix really simple.

I haven't ever seen a feature like this. Does it exist anywhere? Is this something that would be easy to set up? Is it something that would actually be helpful to anyone other than me?

If it's not clear exactly what I'm imagining please let me know and I can mock up a simple sketch.

dtk
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@plingativator:
I agree. I think, that could be helpful and would make Ardour I bit more unique.

Perhaps you should write a feature request in Mantis:
http://tracker.ardour.org/my_view_page.php

peder
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This is an interesting article about stereo fields, panning and delaying : http://www.moultonlabs.com/more/principles_of_multitrack_mixing_the_phantom_image/P0/ .

The geist of it (and the current trend seems to be adopting it) is to pan everything hard either left, center or right; LCR.

This way of working also has the added bonus that you never need to think about how your tracks are panned. If you can't figure it out just by listening you should surrender the mixing chair to somebody else :)

seablade
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@peder

Heh the author of that article discovered the fun of the Haas effect. However some work has been done by people who'se ears I trust shows that localization is determined not ONLY by timing, but also by amplitude as well, so the pan/pot is not quite as useless as it is made out to be in that article. It also happens when we move our head helps us to localize because of the shape of our ears and the interference they provide, something not touched on at all in that article.

The end result of all of this is to use your ears first and foremost when mixing. And the article is correct to point out that stereo panning can be made much more effective with minor delays(Though down to 1mS is probably slightly to low) but the flip side of this is to remember there is a natural delay occuring in the playback system as well and unless you are listening on headphones the location of your listener will always make a difference in this.

Seablade

peder
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Always mix by using your ears :)

But, as pointed out in the article, your precise pan-positioning of an instrument falls apart as soon as the listener moves the ears away from dead center.
And there needs to be at least a 3dB difference in volume to be able to notice a change in position.
I'm too lazy to look up the formula for calculating what 3dB means in pan-pot-percentage but perhaps it's more correct in that POV to talk about five "usable" positions: L, HL, C, HR and R (H=Half)

According to the article the effective delay times are below 1ms; about .1 to .7 ms.

AFAIK our ability to localize an audio source by moving our head has little (nothing?) to do with artificial stereo placement. That's more the ability to decide where a mono source is located in 3D space.

seablade
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But, as pointed out in the article, your precise pan-positioning of an instrument falls apart as soon as the listener moves the ears away from dead center.

True of any panning system, be it based on delay or amplitude or both. It is more correct to say it suffers though, not falls apart, but this is part of why designing a true and effective stereo live reinforcement system is more difficult than people assume.

What it doesn't cover however is that even though precise placement may be lost from to far from dead center, the stereo 'ghost' so to speak, may not be. That way in which sound interacts in air resulting in comb filtering that is more pleasing to our ear than if everything was panned dead mono. I challenge you to try this by the way and tell me your results, I tend to mix live off of dead center quite often, and believe me there is still a difference between mono and stereo.

And there needs to be at least a 3dB difference in volume to be able to notice a change in position.
I'm too lazy to look up the formula for calculating what 3dB means in pan-pot-percentage but perhaps it's more correct in that POV to talk about five "usable" positions: L, HL, C, HR and R (H=Half)

The percentage/placement will depend on the pan law used.

According to the article the effective delay times are below 1ms; about .1 to .7 ms.

Once again, I am not sure that is correct, or rather I am not certain how effective this .1mS is in reality. This is coming from years of aligning sound systems by ear, where in general most people have trouble differentiating when you get below 3mS, even trained ears. Again feel free to try this sometime.

AFAIK our ability to localize an audio source by moving our head has little (nothing?) to do with artificial stereo placement. That's more the ability to decide where a mono source is located in 3D space.

What exactly do you think we are attempting to do with panning then? We are trying to locate a sound in a space. The fact that we are only trying to locate it in effectively a 2D space in stereo is of little importance. We could easily go to a different panning method employing multiple speakers to locate it in a more complex manner. The reason we 'hear' the sound as coming from a specific location is specifically because of how our ears, head, and mind interact. The acoustic shadowing and delay caused by our ears, the reflections picked up by our ears, and how our mind interprets all of this are what allow us to place a sound in any field, be it stereo or 3D. When we pan in any of these methods we are typically using one of these factors(Though it can be more) to try to replicate and trick our minds into believing that the sound isn't coming from 2 speakers, but rather is coming from somewhere between those speakers depending on our panning. HRTF tries to use all of these factors, IIRC, in a panning system for the same number of transducers, which is why it is so convincing over headphones for some people, but not even for everyone there truthfully as some people's minds interact differently, or rather their different physiological factors(Different shape and size of ears/head mean their mind is trained to listen for those clues differently) mean they interpret the sounds differently.

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tomas vtipil
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stereo image is a complex, sorta cryptic and IMHO often overrated phenomenon. the physical position of the sound source (ie. speaker) and listening environment's acoustic conditions (ie. room reflections etc.) still play MUCH bigger role than couple of degrees of the panpot and/or couple of ms of positioning delay. that's why in situations where really strong space-simulating effect is desired, like film soundtracks or sound instalations, multi-speaker setups are being used.

i'd estimate that less than 10% of potential listeners can really take advantage of our polished stereo mixes:
1) a lot of smaller home stereo / computer audio systems is not really capable of offering a clear stereo image (the speakers are usually too close to each other).
2) lot of bigger soundsystems otoh (in clubs for instance) is for some reasons set monophonic - with 2 (or more) speaker sets that are sharing the same signal.
3) big sound systems use various speaker management hardware, which changes dynamics, phase, stereo width and more - it is practically like remastering the recording, the stereo image can differ significantly from the original.
4) headphone listening is a completely different universe - stereo image for speakers WILL quite change when listened through headphones and vice versa. and yes, portable audio with its compressions and normalizations can also change the stereo experience considerably (mp3 flattens the hi-freq spectrum, which carries the most of imaging information).

please don't take this too seriously, but: quite often a good old-fashioned mono mix is the solution!

tomas

seablade
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stereo image is a complex, sorta cryptic and IMHO often overrated phenomenon.

Complex, check. Cryptic, not really. Overrated.... possibly, but it is more beneficial than not.

i'd estimate that less than 10% of potential listeners can really take advantage of our polished stereo mixes:

I disagree with your wording slightly, less than 10% of reinforcement systems possibly, but considering that so many people still use headphones/earphones I would say that is somewhat underrating things. While I agree listening over headphones is a different experience(As you mentioned farther on) it is still capable of stereo, or more complex panning as I mentioned above.

2) lot of bigger soundsystems otoh (in clubs for instance) is for some reasons set monophonic - with 2 (or more) speaker sets that are sharing the same signal.

Heh you are hitting on my home turf here. The reason is related to what I alluded to above, properly designing a stereo reinforcement system can actually be much more difficult than people realise. Keep in mind for stereo imaging you have to have full coverage of the entire listening area, and on top of that, as the Haas effect goes into, you have to have coverage that is also constrained by time as well. As a result, simply putting up two speakers pointed at the same area isn't always the solution.

3) big sound systems use various speaker management hardware, which changes dynamics, phase, stereo width and more - it is practically like remastering the recording, the stereo image can differ significantly from the original.

Speaking as someone that designs systems that go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.... No they don't. Or at least not nearly in the way you seem to be thinking. With speaker management systems, you generally are accomplishing several things. You are time aligning sounds so that you are using the Haas effect to your advantage to maintain the imaging of the sound, maintain phase of the sound to avoid as much phase cancellation, and use equalization to provide as perfect a reproduction as possible. It isn't really very close to remastering the audio at all, it is trying to bring that sound through to the audience's ears as accurately as possible.

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tomas vtipil
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@seablade:
thanks for comment/correction. you probably realized my previous post being slightly hyperbolic :) but yes, sometimes i'm really a mono-fan!

doesn't mean i think stereo is useless, of course i use it, too. when doing live sound, i'm usually not trying to reproduce realistic image of the band, but use panpots like some kind of balancing tool, ie. if snare and guitar tend to strugle in the same freq band, i put them on opposite sides, etc. not sure if this can be considered "correct", but works fine for me.

my comment on speaker management system is based on a quite recent experience - my mix was played through a big soundsystem with huge speaker management rack (some dbx stuff i think) and the stereo sounded really strange - almost like some m/s switch - what was intended to be in the center was on sides and vice versa. perhaps the hardware was wrongly used.

anyway, we moved kind of OT here.

@plingativator:
the discussion indicates that rather than super-accurate panpot window, some kind of psychoaccoustic tool could be useful, which would allow to visually feedback / manipulate the stereo field WITH haas effect taken into account.
maybe some good plugin exists already?

tomas

seablade
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doesn't mean i think stereo is useless, of course i use it, too. when doing live sound, i'm usually not trying to reproduce realistic image of the band, but use panpots like some kind of balancing tool, ie. if snare and guitar tend to strugle in the same freq band, i put them on opposite sides, etc. not sure if this can be considered "correct", but works fine for me.

'Right' and 'Wrong' are somewhat up to the person doing the listening here. Here is the basic question though that should always be 'YES' when doing sound reinforcement if you are not doing it wrong...

"Can all your audience hear the entire performance clearly and at reasonable levels?"

How you accomplish this can vary. Panning like you describe can be correct, so long as both the snare and guitar are still audible by the entire audience. If panning them causes part of the audience to only hear the snare, and part to only hear the guitar, then it is a safe bet that you are doing something wrong.

Now in sound, there is obviously a wrong way to do things(Sometimes more than one wrong way), but often times there are many RIGHT ways to do things as well. In your case EQ may be a better option, making certain everything is in phase going through the mixing process, using gates if needed to cut the snare when it is not being hit, double checking effects to make sure that it is not negatively affecting things... etc. I am not saying that your way is wrong at all, see above, it is just one way of doing things and as long as you can answer that above question with yes, it is not what I would consider wrong. I may think there is a better way to accomplish it, but it is hard to answer such questions without hearing the mix in question.

my comment on speaker management system is based on a quite recent experience - my mix was played through a big soundsystem with huge speaker management rack (some dbx stuff i think) and the stereo sounded really strange - almost like some m/s switch - what was intended to be in the center was on sides and vice versa. perhaps the hardware was wrongly used.

That sounds very much like some routing and/or processing was set up incorrectly for your use. What exactly the problem was, I obviously can't say without having been there, seeing the system, its programming, and hearing your mix. Like anything else, a tool applied incorrectly can do more harm than good at times.

Seablade

plingativator
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Thank you for the excellent discussion about panning. Obviously there is a lot I still need to learn and this is some really great information that changes the way I'll think about my mixes in the future.