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Author Topic: How can I prevent recordings with vocals in one channel and band in the other?  (Read 2589 times)

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Offline jj69

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Sometimes when stealth taping (with cards clipped to shirt collar), I end up with very "unbalanced" recordings.  For example, with drums/guitar/bass heavily favoring the left channel and vocals almost entirely in the right channel.  I assume this is the result of the sound reaching my left mic before the right one, and with the vocals (in this case coming off the right channel PA monitor) reaching my right mic first.  This results in a mess that I cannot correct.  If all instruments favored a single channel, that's easy enough to correct by delaying the favored channel by few samples, thereby centering everything in the middle of the sound field. The room in question has the stage set up along the long wall of the rectangular shaped room.  The left and right channel PA monitors are therefore some distance apart.  The room could really use a center fill channel, but I'm not holding my breath that will ever happen. 

Sometimes in this room, I make a nice, well balanced recording, but other times, I end up with an unbalanced mess like this.  Is there anything I can do to prevent this?  I try to stand in the dead center of the room, as far back as possible.  Should I try to orient my card mics so they're both facing straight ahead, or should I try to toe them outward in a more ORTF-like configuration? 

Any other suggestions?  I don't suppose there is anything I can do in post??? 

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I'm trying to picture the geometry here: You're centered in the room, but the vocals are reaching you from the right PA well before the left?

Offline Gutbucket

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Less directional mics or a more parallel arrangement of directional mics might help.

The Izotope RX remix algorithms are getting better all the time, but are only in the advanced version and so rather costly.  They aim to isolate vocals and specific instruments from a mix so that you can do whatever you like with each of them, such as re-panning their stereo image placement. I've not used them and am not sure if their quality is up to this task yet, but there is good potential here if the latest routines are able to avoid producing objectionable artifacts.

You might try a simpler stereo image rebalancing tool that splits content into a few frequency ranges and provides controls to modify the stereo width, center balance and panning of each range independent of each other.  If you are able to isolate the primary vocal mid and upper midrange material sufficiently in one control band you might be able to shift it to a more centered position.  That will effect all content in that frequency range though so tread lightly, its easy to make even more of a mess of things with those kinds of tools.

If nothing else works and the lopsided imaging is too odd and objectionable as it is, you might try something a bit more radical- Use the channel with the strong vocals as Mid channel and the other as Side channel into a Mid/Side decode matrix.  Adjust the balance between the two channels to suit. This will center the vocal (along with everything else that is dominant in that channel) and spread the stuff which is dominant in the other channel out to the sides somewhat amorphously.  It will destroy whatever discrete Left/Right aspects exist and and replace them with a sort of pseudo stereo effect of solid center with more spacious sides.  You get more of a sense of depth-stereo than left/right-stereo, but that can remedy the radical panning problems.  It has worked for me in the past to get something listenable out of overly lopsided recordings.

Lastly, decide if it might be acceptable to a listener to have the vocal all the way to one side.  That's not typical but can work sometimes.  It can be more difficult to accept as the recordist than a random listener since you were at the event when the recording was made and have a mental image of how things were laid out at the live situation and a conception of how its "supposed to sound".  Try to listen to it like a stranger.  That can help when assessing the Mid/Side trick thing too.  Don't compare too much with your concept of how it's supposed to sound, but find something that is simply enjoyable and avoids drawing the listener's attention to the original problem.
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Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

Offline jj69

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Gutbucket,

Thank you for the thorough response!

Conicidentally, I just tried using RX7 to isolate the vocal in the right channel and paste it into the left. The result is actually a big improvement.

However, I'm intrigued by your pseudo mid side suggestion.  What is the best workflow to accomplish that in Audition 3.0 and/or RX7?

Less directional mics is a no go. The cards are barely enough to suppress the screaming of the usual drunken idiots that frequent these rock clubs...

Offline Gutbucket

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You can either do it manually in your DAW software, or with a free plug-in.  Some DAWs provide a useful shortcuts to do it easily.. Its been a while since I used Audition so I can't recall specifics there. 

To do it manually in the DAW's mixer without any shortcuts:
1) Break the stereo file into two separate mono tracks.
2) The channel with more vocals will be the Mid channel. Pan or assign that channel to center in the mixer (or route it to both Left and Right channels of the mix bus, which is the same thing).
3) Copy the other channel to a third mixer channel. Pan one copy of that hard Left.
5) Invert polarity on the other copy and pan it hard right.
6) Link the hard-panned channel faders together so that you can adjust their level in unison.  This pair of channels represents the Side signal.
7) Bring up the fader on the Mid channel- you'll get a mono, centered representation of the channel with more vox in it.
8 ) Bring up both hard-panned channels together and by the same amount (easy to do in an even way if they are linked, but that's not strictly necessary).  The more of this you add to the mono center, the wider and more diffuse sounding it will get.

You can further adjust things by un-linking two Side channel faders and setting their levels independently of each other.  This will make it wider on one side than the other, and also increase the level of the wide content on that side simultaneously. 

[Edit] You don't have to keep the Mid panned to center, you can pan it slightly to one side or the other as needed.  This can be helpful in combination with independent adjustment of the Side channel levels to get a good image and Left and Right energy balance.

Doing it manually like this in the DAW mixer will help you wrap your head around what is going on, making it a good way to go.  You can also do it using something like the Voxengo MSED plugin (free download) without the copying and extra mixer channels, but its not as easy to visualize what is going on that way.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2021, 03:03:24 PM by Gutbucket »
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

Offline Gutbucket

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Another option is to simply mix it to mono!  That way you control the mix of the two channels without worries about the resulting stereo image.  If nothing else works this can be the least problematic option, and will be the first option for some folks.  Mono has inadvertently been made relevant in the modern age again via playback directly from a single phone speaker or wireless blue-tooth speaker.

Can be good to try this anyway just to see if you get a better balance of instruments and vocals, and as a point of comparison with the other techniques.

If the recording is dry enough, a light touch of reverb can give a mono recording a sense of stereo, but tread lightly.  That way you level balance the content first into mono, then add a bit of stereo 'verb ambiance.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

Offline capnhook

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Mix to mono, then run it through Ozone Imager to "stereoize" it.

Better that polishing a turd....I think you'll get an acceptable result.

Make great tapes, man..

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Offline jj69

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I followed Gutbucket's instructions to make a mid-side mix, but I ended up with a mixdown that has the left channel much louder than the right.  I must be  doing something wrong? 

Offline capnhook

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I followed Gutbucket's instructions to make a mid-side mix, but I ended up with a mixdown that has the left channel much louder than the right.  I must be  doing something wrong?

Maybe too much polish?

PM me, send me the .wav, lemme see what I can do with it.

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"Don't ever take an all or nothing attitude when it comes to making a difference
and being beautiful and making the world a beautiful place through your actions.
Every little bit is registered.  Every little bit.  So be as beautiful as you can as often as you can"

"It'll never be over, 'till we learn."
 
"My dream is to get a bus and get the band and just go coast to coast. Just about everything else except music, is anti-musical.  That's it.  Music's the thing." - Jeb Puryear

Offline morst

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Sometimes when stealth taping (with cards clipped to shirt collar), I end up with very "unbalanced" recordings.  For example, with drums/guitar/bass heavily favoring the left channel and vocals almost entirely in the right channel.  I assume this is the result of the sound reaching my left mic before the right one, and with the vocals (in this case coming off the right channel PA monitor) reaching my right mic first.  This results in a mess that I cannot correct. 
Do you mean that you are standing close to the stage, on the "house left" side, and your left channel has the PA speaker "stack" and your right channel has the sound of a loud stage monitor which carries a lot of vocals? Or in a small club, vice versa, where you are on house right side, and the speaker on your right channel side has nothing but vocals, and the left side of your head (collar!) has the loud band?
Can you provide a short sample of the sound so we can hear what you mean?
If you are recording something where one side of your head (shirt collar?) gets a lot of vocals, and the other side gets a full mix then this makes sense.
Combining a mono mix with your stereo channels might be a good way to split the difference between what you have and a pure mono mix.
There are different ways to do this- panning the left and right towards center, or adding a mono summed track to your stereo pair.
I think those techniques wind up giving you the same options.

Offline opsopcopolis

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^^ that’s what it sounds like to me. Standing close to the stage, direct sound from stage in one mice, PA in the other. Seems the solution would be to move bak and center on the stack, even with omnis you’ll still end up with a portly balanced tape (although easier to fix than the cards
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Offline Gutbucket

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I followed Gutbucket's instructions to make a mid-side mix, but I ended up with a mixdown that has the left channel much louder than the right.  I must be  doing something wrong?

Not necessarily doing anything wrong.  That technique may or may not work well depending on the content.  Its just one potentially useful option to try.  One general problem with it is the low frequency content which tends to be phase correlated in both channels will be constructively reinforced in the left (sum) channel and destructively canceled in the right (difference) channel, unless you do additional stuff like mono the low frequencies afterward, only apply the Mid/Side (sum/difference) matrixing above the bass range, or do use other advanced techniques to create the Side (difference) channel. That's why its louder in the left channel.

It can be fun to play around with this stuff, but I think the Captain's instinct is likely best if you just want to be done with it and move on. Mix to mono and either leave it that way or do something to lightly stereoize it.  The Mid/Side rematrixing technique is essentially a variation on that, using the difference between channels to effect the "stereoization".  However, like anything else, it can often take a bit of extra massaging to get it to work right.  Its just one interesting technique to try and have available.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

Offline Gutbucket

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^^ that’s what it sounds like to me. Standing close to the stage, direct sound from stage in one mice, PA in the other. Seems the solution would be to move bak and center on the stack, even with omnis you’ll still end up with a portly balanced tape (although easier to fix than the cards

This is right. If you need or want to be in that position though, close your eyes and rotate the rig (which might be you) until you get a centered sound at the start of recording.  That will generally have you pointing directly toward the closer, louder PA speaker or on-stage source.  Don't try and compensate for being off center by facing or pointing the mics at center stage, or worse - toward the more distant PA speaker on the opposite side.  Trying to compensate that way will only exacerbate the problem.   In this way you will at least get a centered image.   To get a better stereo image that will also also centered, you'd need to move to a new position where you are exposed to about the same level from both PA speakers.  From an off center position you don't have much choice but to sacrifice good stereo image of the on-stage sound, but that doesn't mean you need to end up with a lopsided recording of the PA & stage sound.  This technique will emphasize the lopsidedness of the audience reaction a bit more, but that's an acceptable trade off IMO.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

Offline opsopcopolis

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^^ that’s what it sounds like to me. Standing close to the stage, direct sound from stage in one mice, PA in the other. Seems the solution would be to move bak and center on the stack, even with omnis you’ll still end up with a portly balanced tape (although easier to fix than the cards

This is right. If you need or want to be in that position though, close your eyes and rotate the rig (which might be you) until you get a centered sound at the start of recording.  That will generally have you pointing directly toward the closer, louder PA speaker or on-stage source.  Don't try and compensate for being off center by facing or pointing the mics at center stage, or worse - toward the more distant PA speaker on the opposite side.

I'm often the one person standing off to the side facing straight forward instead of angled toward the stage...
Mics: Berliner CM-33, CA-14 card, CA-11 card & omni, AT-853, Sony ECM-907
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Offline seethreepo

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^^ that’s what it sounds like to me. Standing close to the stage, direct sound from stage in one mice, PA in the other. Seems the solution would be to move bak and center on the stack, even with omnis you’ll still end up with a portly balanced tape (although easier to fix than the cards

The OP says he’s centered and as far back as possible so is not a stack tape / monitor situation.
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