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Multiband Dynamics can be a daunting plugin to understand, which many producers shy away from. In this article we explain everything you need to know about this device and how to use it in your mixes!

WHAT IS IT?

Multiband dynamics allows us to split a signal into different frequency bands and apply separate dynamics processing settings to each band.

Think of it as being a hybrid between a compressor and equaliser.

We have the power to boost or attenuate certain frequency bands, but we also have the ability to compress or expand them as well. This makes the multiband compressors extremely handy for sound design/shaping purposes.

Ableton Live’s multiband dynamics has 3 bands for processing above a set threshold and 3 bands for processing below a set threshold. This means It is capable of applying 6 processes simultaneously, using 4 different dynamic options:

  • UPWARD EXPANSION
  • DOWNWARD EXPANSION
  • UPWARD COMPRESSION
  • DOWNWARD COMPRESSION

 

UPWARD EXPANSION

This is rarely used and allows us to re-introduce dynamics into a mix that have been over compressed by increasing the dynamic range above a set threshold. This can be a useful tool for mix rescue scenarios where a rack has been over compressed. If this is across a whole mix it is likely to require a number of bands each set at different thresholds, this will ensure that the correct transients are being expanded.

UPWARD COMPRESSION

Rarely used. Rather than reducing peaks above a threshold, this type of compression will achieve similar results by increasing levels below a given threshold.

This will reduce the dynamic range as well as bring up the noise floor. This is useful for adding sustain to sounds and increasing the level of elements such as reverb and pads. Parallel processing has a similar effect to upward compression despite actually using standard downward compression.

DOWNWARD EXPANSION

Commonly used and better known as a gating effect. This is increasing the dynamic range between the quietest and loudest sounds.

If the difference between quietest and loudest sounds is more than around -48dBs then effectively we will have a gate effect.

DOWNWARD COMPRESSION

The most common type of compression used by the vast majority of  compressors, this allows us to reduce transients above a set threshold.

PARAMETERS

The multiband dynamics plugin can be daunting to look at but is actually quite simple once we split it up into its different bands or compression types.

 

 

LOW & HIGH ACTIVATORS & FILTERS

The HIGH & LOW buttons turn the filters on and off. With both buttons deactivated the plugin becomes a single band compressor which operates from the mid bands controls. With the buttons activated the crossover point for each band can be controlled using the slider underneath.

BYPASS & SOLO

Each band can be bypassed or soloed. The bypass button will deactivate any gain, expansion or compression controls and send the signal through to the output.

INPUT GAIN

This potentiometer controls the amount of gain going into the device for each frequency band

SOFT/HARD KNEE

A hard knee will cause abrupt, linear gain reduction whereas a soft knee is more natural and non linear.

PEAK/RMS

This defines how the compressor reacts to the signal. In peak mode the compressor will be more responsive to fast transients, whilst in RMS mode the compressor uses more of an average algorithm

GRAPHICAL DISPLAY

the small yellow bars on the graphical display show the input signal into the device and the larger orange bars show the output signal.

The three rows on the left allow us to apply upward compression and downward expansion to the signal. The threshold can be set by dragging the column either up or down. We can also see the column change colour and small lines will show us the ratio amount. Likewise the rows on the right hand side will allow us to apply downward compression or upward expansion. Each band can be dragged separately or as an entire group.

METERING

At the bottom of the graphical display we have metering in dB’s as well as a numerical value next to each row to show the amount of gain reduction per band which can help for setting the output gain.

T/B/A 

T/B/A stands for time, below and above. The TIME button allows us to adjust the response times (attack and release) for each frequency band. BELOW allows us to set the threshold and ratio below and ABOVE lets us set the ratio and thresholds above.

Threshold, time above & time below tabs.

 

OUTPUT GAIN

Here we can adjust the individual frequency bands output gains. This is exactly the same as setting the output gain on a standard compressor, however there is no makeup gain function.

OUTPUT (GLOBAL)

This allows us to alter the gain of the device globally at the output

TIME (GLOBAL)

This allows us to adjust the attack and release times of all the bands simultaneously. This gives us the advantage of keeping the relationship between each band the same, whilst still having full control over the response times of the dynamics processor.

AMOUNT (DRY WET)

the amount sets the dry/wet of the device. at 0% there is no processing taking place and at 100% the processing is being applied exactly as it is set in the plugin.

USES

Multiband compressors are great tools for fixing frequency dependant dynamics issues. This could range from troublesome mixes that are pumping, right the way through to de-essing and anything in between.

They allow us to effect our mix with extreme precision at precise frequency ranges, which allows more loudness and control throughout our mix, with less side effects, this makes them perfect tools for things such as drum loops or even individual sounds, where we may need to chisel away at certain frrequencies to reduce masking. Multiband dynamics can achieve this in a slightly less destructive way than an EQ.

We also have the ability to alter the crossover point of each frequency band, which is very important to set correctly in order to make sure no single instrument in our mix is being compressed by two separate compressors in two different frequency bands simultaneously.

 

DISADVANTAGES

Having different attack and release times in different frequency bands can make our mix sound slightly disjointed, especially if instruments span across more than one frequency band. 

 It would also seem counter-productive to split our mix back down into Low, mid and high bands when we have just spent so long gluing all the different elements together at the sub-mix stage. 

 We suggest going back into the individual channels and sub-groups to perfect the mix before reaching for a multiband compressor, however this type of device can be extremely useful for sculpting individual sounds and for rectifying any issues as and when they arise.

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