How to strike the ideal sonic balance that captivates and moves audiences when mixing sampler instruments?

drawing of Kontakt user interface

Mixing with samples

Film Composer’s Quest for Perception of depth

Some thoughts on making KONTAKT instruments with multiple signals

Film composers develop a set of tools that evoke emotions and elevate storytelling. As well as the technical mixing ability to make the music work together with the other sound elements in a movie. By time, they develop their own tools of the trade. 

Embracing Warmth, Ambience, and Distance

The pursuit of sonic perfection is a paramount goal for film composers. They need to be able to mix and master the music in a way that it doesn’t get in the way for the dialogue. And ideally add and create a depth to the imagery with the music. Sometimes be able to place the ensemble at a perceived distance. Transferring the sounds into the reverberant field is not always the optimal solution.  Because you’ll risk loosing clarity. Composers need to investigate and develop alternative methods that can complement or supplement the existing soundscape, allowing them to retain control over the sonic elements while achieving their desired results.

Manipulating Dynamics

Firstly volume adjustments. Mix the sounds so that it works at a lower level in the background.  Then an often forgotten tool is to work on ADSR – attack, or decay of specific instruments or sections within the tracks. Dymamic adjustments, as simple as it sounds, can create a sense of distance or intimacy, subtly guiding the emotional depth of the music without resorting to reverberation.

advanced user settings doublebass user interface
equalise and pitchbend option. channel strip with a reset button, left-right shift, pan, stereo width, PB and a 4-band EQ are included

EQing

It is useful to be aware of areas in the frequency range that can become problematic in the final film  mix. Especially when working with sampler-instruments. For example percussive sounds that hits the same areas that the consonants in the dialogue. 

In specific problem halls, a notable increase in reverberation occurs within the upper bass frequency range, typically ranging from 150 to 350 Hz.  This frequency emphasis can introduce challenges when working with samples and for instruments rich in the upper bass region, such as the cello in a string quartet.  This is also the area that often becomes to dense when arranging with samples. And tend to build-up in size. You may use the built-in Channel-strip EQs in Wrongtools instruments to deal with this in a detailed controlled manner. 

Artful Panning

Panning is an invaluable tool that film composers can employ to spread things out, and create distance to the focus elements. By strategically placing individual sounds within the stereo or surround field, composers can create a sense of spaciousness.  Together with the WIDTH slider, and the other controls in the wrongtools channel-strips, you’ll have some valuable tools available. These controls can help achieve the desired warmth, ambience, or distance without resorting to reverberation. 

Multi-mic Kontakt instruments

A thoughtful balance of microphones during mixing can significantly influence the image. Close techniques make it difficult for engineers to achieve depth in their recordings.

The use of the distant mic and especially the flank microphone pairs to enhances the width of the soundstage but also elevates the perception of depth, particularly in the central region. By strategically placing melodic solo-instruments on the left and right sides of the ensemble, or dead-center, a pleasing and effective artificial depth effect can be achieved.  

With the load/save function in Wrongtools instruments, you may transfer your mixes to other similar Wrongtools instruments. 

string ensemble eq and width

Instrumentation and re-arranging

But maybe the most important avenue to explore is slimming the instrumentation. Introducing additional instruments or experimenting with different timbres can inject warmth, ambience, or distance into the composition.  And this is where the sampler-world shows it greatest strength. There are no rules. And you may mix and weave together patches from all the different great sampler-developer out there. A cello from one library, might be the perfect match to a timpani from another.  If it sounds good, it sounds good.

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