Stems

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Stems

Postby Grey Al » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:25 am

I've asked to provide a track I made years ago as stems, this is happening more and more, so I thought I'd see if I'm missing something ...

What I'm trying to do is make the stems, when played together, sound more like the original mastered track.

Any ideas on how to achieve this?

Would running each stem through a mastering strip add up to an approximation of a mastered piece, or just mess things right up?

Thanks guys!
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Re: Stems

Postby Wiz » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:48 am

Before someone with the right answer comes along................ :D


I do it like this.

Mute everything but the drums. Bounce that out ... That is the drum stem.

Mute everything but the guitars.... Guitar stem

Bass guitar stem

Main vocal stem

Lead instrument stem

Etc


These will all be stereo files.........

Stereo buss compression, I would not have on if they were going to a mastering guy.

If they were going to a collaborator ( which is mainly what I have done this for) then I would leave my bus processing on for each stem pass.
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Re: Stems

Postby gigpiglet » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:07 pm

technically correct or not...
i do the same as peter..

or if I'm lazy/ need it fast (which happens more often then not) leave everything unmuted, but assign to busses, instead of mix, take the busses out, to record in. and do all the stems at once in one pass!

doesnt let you listen/ check your work
but can "get the job done"
(if you have a console of course)
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Re: Stems

Postby Kurt » Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:15 pm

If you work in pretty much any DAW other than Protools, you can just export stems to get them all at once, with or without processing ;)
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Re: Stems

Postby Chinagraf » Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:22 pm

The problem with stems is if you have any master buss compression it reacts differently with the stems than how it does to the full mix, so you are getting different shaping on each of the stems. The only way around it is to either print a mix minus the buss compression to a pair of tracks and use that to key the buss compressor, or some fandangled routing setup, something like stereo aux channels for each stem group which are then routed to the master buss, and using a send on each of those set to pre fader to key the buss comp, then only pulling up the one fader for the stem you are bouncing each time. Something like that..
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Re: Stems

Postby Kurt » Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:44 pm

Or, trust that whoever is paying for the stems knows how to work a compressor. If they want stems they probably want to get it remixed/remastered, it seems a bit pointless trying to make it sound like it did before if they are no longer happy with it...
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Re: Stems

Postby Grey Al » Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:59 pm

Thanks for your replies ...

I can see the compression side is fraught, because something like a big kick drum would not be affecting the whole mix anymore.

But would it be safe to say that this wouldn't be as much a problem with eq though? Would it be ok to eq the whole mix and then bounce each stem through that same eq?

I'm just trying to avoid the stems sound radically different to the master they are obviously 90% happy with!
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Re: Stems

Postby Kurt » Thu Oct 10, 2013 5:25 pm

Just give them the session and let the new guy deal with it? He is going to fiddle anyway, otherwise there's no point to the whole exercise.

Grey Al wrote:Thanks for your replies ...

I can see the compression side is fraught, because something like a big kick drum would not be affecting the whole mix anymore.

But would it be safe to say that this wouldn't be as much a problem with eq though? Would it be ok to eq the whole mix and then bounce each stem through that same eq?

I'm just trying to avoid the stems sound radically different to the master they are obviously 90% happy with!
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Re: Stems

Postby Chinagraf » Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:26 pm

Kurt wrote:Or, trust that whoever is paying for the stems knows how to work a compressor. If they want stems they probably want to get it remixed/remastered, it seems a bit pointless trying to make it sound like it did before if they are no longer happy with it...


It depends what the stems are for, live playback is one thing, but if it's a mix for a film or tv etc you can never assume when you send stems. If there is any way at all possible to &%*^ up your mix, they will somehow find it.
It's not just about how loud the drums are etc, but as a composer/producer you spend a long time balancing the arrangement musically and even small level differences to what you intended can change the whole feel of the music. I've had some bad experiences, once with a full live orchestra score I spent a lot of time on.
I haven't sent anyone stems in a long time and will generally ask why they want the stems, and will do extra mixes to give them the options they need instead.
That's not to say nobody should ever provide stems, but I simply don't trust someone else to balance my music the way I intend it to be done unless I am there. I don't mean to turn this into an anti-stem rant which it kinda may be.

PS Alex, yes eq isn't a problem the way compression is.
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Re: Stems

Postby Drumstruck » Fri Oct 11, 2013 8:30 am

Hi Al,

I'd assume that if someone wants stems they've heard the mastered version and now want to mess with your mix.....

Are you talking lots of stems?

Are they greatly effected OTB?

Many plugs / much automation applied?

If the answers are "no" you could just consolidate the tracks and give them E2E .wavs and (perhaps a .ptf assuming PT) and let them have at it - easy.

If the answers are "yes", and putting on my mercenary attitude, I'd be estimating how much effort is involved in doing a mix of each track / re-record to new tracks and advising them the cost first ;-)

Mean and evil inc.
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Re: Stems

Postby Grey Al » Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:30 pm

Thanks guys,

Ian, there is a lot of OTB stuff in the mastering, it's a real hybrid ITB/OTB approach, so yes, complicated to recreate. I'm starting to think a bit of brightening eq and maybe a tiny bit of limiting on each track might be all I can get away with.

Andy, it's for tv/ web ads, I get the feeling why they really want the stems is to remove an element they don't like, like a guitar melody or string part ...I could just do that for them, but I think they want control ...what they miss out on is the character of the mastering...

I found out one guy wanted the stems to isolate and remix the woodwinds ie put his beats underneath... This might be the way the 'garage band' generation are going to want to do things!??

I think this thread highlights the need for a plugin that analyses a mastered file and applies processing to each stem so when played together...voila you have the original track again...hmmm I might be the only one who buys it??
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Re: Stems

Postby chribble » Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:51 pm

Ideally when I set up a mix, I mix into busses anyway.

This is fast way to do a stem mix later down the track as all you have to do is mute and unmute groups.

Take off your master comp when exporting.

The only real issue is send/return fx.
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