Jorito

Contra/Probotector - Oh noes, there be aliens in my waterfall! (Rock/Orchestral)

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So... while looking for some new material to remix, I found an old favorite of mine: Contra's stage 4 music, Waterfall. Because I was a bit bored with al the metal versions of the Contra soundtrack, I decided to go for an orchestral version with a strong rock groove. And because of my MSX gaming roots I picked the MSX version for inspiration of course :)

Still needs an ending, but feedback is much appreciated!

First version: https://soundcloud.com/jorito/contra-waterfall-wip/s-I07st

Final version: http://www.jorito.net/files/Contra/Contra%20-%20Oh%20noes%2c%20there%20be%20aliens%20in%20my%20waterfall%21.mp3

Source:

Edited by Jorito

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Holy crap. I love this mix. I feel a bit nitpicky about the bass frequencies which sound a bit muddied. 1:42 is beautiful to me and I love how you make such good use of the stereo field to bring out the symphonic instruments throughout the entire track. I hope you can think of an ending for this, it's absolutely stellar!

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Thanks for your feedback! Actually the mix could use a bit of work, but since Hakstock was kind enough to offer to record some live rhythm and bass guitar for this track, I will wait for that before I work on the mix. Gives me time to work on an ending first ;)

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Finally found some time to work on the song, added an ending, changed the calm part, added some variations and accents and did a bit of work on the mix. Finishing it still has to wait until the guitar parts are added tho.

Here's the new version:

http://www.jorito.net/files/Contra/Contra%20-%20Waterfall%2020140330.mp3

Again, feedback most welcome!

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To me the entire song - and most significantly, the intro - feels very stuffy (I think it has to do with the rhythm guitars). You may want to open up the higher frequencies or cut back on the lower ones, preferably the latter. If you have a spectrometer available, you may want to pull it out here to see where the strongest frequencies are located - my guess in the low to mid-low range. At 1:50(ish), it sounds much more open, but could still use some bass reduction.

I'm also throwing this in, even though it probably doesn't need stating - sans the break in the middle and the intro+outro, your mix is rather repetitive and could use some variation, both with instrumentation and note arrangement during the more repetitive parts

Edited by Anorax

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Yeah, so much for mixing on headphones after hours of working on the song. Bad idea! I'll work on the mix some more when the guitar recordings are in.

And thanks about pointing out the repetetiveness; it might be obvious to you as a neutral listener, but I have been working on it for too long and don't hear it anymore :) Also got some feedback from snappleman that I want to try and fix, so I guess I'm still not done with this one yet.

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And thanks about pointing out the repetetiveness; it might be obvious to you as a neutral listener, but I have been working on it for too long and don't hear it anymore :)

Oh, this happens all too much for me. It's waaay to easy to get caught up in a certain part of a project and lose sight of what may need fixing

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So it took me a lot of time but I finished the Contra song. Apart from some live rhythm guitars (courtesy of Ivan Hakstok), some live drums (by Erik Vreven) and a lead guitar part by Sixto I also did a lot of work on fattening up the orchestra, adding flourishes and whatnot. It also has some sneaky references to Contra's jungle track in the quiet part ;)

I think it's as good as done now, apart from maybe some mix tweaks. You can listen to it here:

http://www.jorito.net/files/Contra/Contra%20-%20Oh%20noes%2c%20there%20be%20aliens%20in%20my%20waterfall%21.mp3

So... whaddayathink?

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Hm... the kick and snare get a bit buried below it all. Also, for some reason the bass instrument sounds a bit stuffy, like it was overboosted in the low mids or something. 1:17 - 1:41 and 2:16 - 2:26 get quite muddy, but hey, bass mixing is hard. :P As a rule of thumb, I try to cut more than I boost.

The sequenced orchestra feels a bit faker than the real performances in a few spots and is a bit buried under them. Overall this feels slightly lo-fi and a little muddy.

Biggest issues for me were the bass mixing and the sequencing of the orchestra coming off as faker than the live performances while also being buried under them.

Edited by timaeus222

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Some good tips there, thanks. I'll try to check the mix with these pointers in mind.

I can understand your comment about the muddiness, but care to elaborate on the lo-fi-ness you hear?

About the fake orchestra sounding faker than the live instruments, not too much I can do about that I guess :)

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Some good tips there, thanks. I'll try to check the mix with these pointers in mind.

I can understand your comment about the muddiness, but care to elaborate on the lo-fi-ness you hear?

About the fake orchestra sounding faker than the live instruments, not too much I can do about that I guess :)

The lo-fi-ness just means that it sounds *as if* it is a low encoding---the uppermost treble is a little low overall. Other than the drums, there's not much above 13000Hz. Since the orchestra is samples, that treble's essentially all good; the drums' treble seems good; maybe it's just the other live performances that make it seem that way. ;)

Edited by timaeus222

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The lo-fi-ness just means that it sounds *as if* it is a low encoding---the uppermost treble is a little low overall. Other than the drums, there's not much above 13000Hz. Since the orchestra is samples, that treble's essentially all good; the drums' treble seems good; maybe it's just the other live performances that make it seem that way. ;)

Cheers, that makes sense. If I listen to my DT880s I hear what you mean, but when cross referencing on other devices (car stereo, soundbar, laptop speakers and ipad) things sounded a bit shrill so I actually toned stuff down a bit intentionally. Can't trust my ears yet I guess :)

About the muddiness at the intervals you mentioned: the first section is the timpani fighting with the bass, the second section is just the bass being obnoxious. Easy enough to fix. Again, thanks for pointing it out, it helps me learn and fix it the next time!

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Cheers, that makes sense. If I listen to my DT880s I hear what you mean, but when cross referencing on other devices (car stereo, soundbar, laptop speakers and ipad) things sounded a bit shrill so I actually toned stuff down a bit intentionally. Can't trust my ears yet I guess :)

About the muddiness at the intervals you mentioned: the first section is the timpani fighting with the bass, the second section is just the bass being obnoxious. Easy enough to fix. Again, thanks for pointing it out, it helps me learn and fix it the next time!

It's okay, mixing with live samples is hard! I haven't done it before. :)

Funny though, we have the same headphones. :P

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What I noticed right away is your strings and brass are laggy in parts compared to the drum kit, makes for a sloppy sound. Always give orchestral parts some predelay to compensate for the soft attacks these instruments have, particularly during any parts with percussion.

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What I noticed right away is your strings and brass are laggy in parts compared to the drum kit, makes for a sloppy sound. Always give orchestral parts some predelay to compensate for the soft attacks these instruments have, particularly during any parts with percussion.

Cheers, that's a useful tip! After listening to it for too many times I didn't even notice it anymore. And I might have overdone things a bit in my attempts to do more realtime playing and less quantizing :)

Care to highlight some specific problem spots you found? I think I found some, but as I said, I listened to it too many times so some pointers would be helpful.

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Well this sounds badass. :D

Dunno if it's the file or your host, but I don't get timestamps on the file. Strange. Not a big deal, though.

Orchestral elements sound a little weak, a more aggressive articulation might work better. Brass could be a tad louder, strings a bit softer. Overall a nice and tight sound.

Flows well, seems to know where it's heading. Starts well, moves well, ends well. It'd take me a longer examination of the source to sort out exactly how you've used it, but there's plenty of elements that are easy to identify. Unless it's more conservative than the brand new sound, style, genre and attitude swap lets on, I don't think source usage will be an issue.

There are nitpicks to be had, but I think the only thing that really bothers me is the orchestral elements and their lack of bite. I think this is in the clear. Nice work.

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Cheers for the mod review! Really appreciate the feedback about the nitpicks; will look into polishing it more. Mixing just isn't my forte (yet) :)

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So, I submitted the track, and the judges said "no, not just yet".

 

TL;DR version: great arrangement, great performances, but the mix is too muddy. 

Longer version: http://ocremix.org/community/topic/40815-no-contra-oh-noes-there-be-aliens-in-my-waterfall/

 

Since there's lots of cool people here with better ears than me, I'm hoping to get some feedback on how to fix the mix and clean up the track. I already did quite a bit of work on it myself, basically redoing the entire mix from scratch but feedback on the good and bad things I did is most appreciated! Hope the new mix is at least better, but I guess I will find out...

 

Submitted track: http://www.jorito.net/files/Contra/Contra%20-%20Oh%20noes%2c%20there%20be%20aliens%20in%20my%20waterfall%21.mp3

New mix: http://www.jorito.net/files/Contra/Contra%20-%20Waterfall%2020150509.mp3

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Yeah, it's definitely better. I hear more cuts were made in the bass. The bass instrument is a little clearer. I kinda get a Pokemon Heroes feel from this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld3JPWdt7JI). Maybe this can be a nice reference track for the mixing above 200 Hz.

 

The brass is more lively than before, though the marimba and harp are getting buried. You need that detail work to shine through if you want this to sound clean. This will ask for a lot of skill to mix, for sure. If you want me to help you on this, I'm willing to accept the challenge.

 

- This needs more attention to detail on the small stuff, like the buried marimba (it's okay before 0:31), and the 0:42 run thing with the... is that a buried harp? Hard to tell.

- As I'm listening to this, the staccato strings sound better and less lofi than the other strings at 0:39 - 0:47.

- 1:05 - 1:17 is just missing a brighter lead. Lots of stuff is indistinct there. What happened with the strings and the brass there? Dull articulations, perhaps? Needs brighter layers on the strings and brass. Listen for more sections like this with buried or dull instruments.

- 1:40 and other places where the timpani tries to come through... it just muds up the soundscape. That's more of a writing issue than a mixing issue. Maybe you can omit a few bass notes before the breakdown at 1:41. It's not THAT bad, but it's a little bad. Also, I don't agree with Kristina there; it doesn't sound like an ending at all. There are clearly some swells on the strings to keep things going, and the drum fill worked (though the swell could be more obvious).

- Good improvement on the breakdown section; I can hear the flute and brass are a little more highlighted in the update, and the partwriting is a bit more complex.

- When Juan's guitar comes in at 2:21, there's a weird lack of upper treble. I know I said try cutting more often than boosting, but I meant in terms of stuff below the midrange. If you can hear the difference AND it sounds good, then sure. If you aren't sure, don't do it. I limit myself to doing only edits I can hear. It may seem self-explanatory, but some people have trouble with this.

- Everything's brighter overall, which is great. I think some stuff was way cluttered in the climax in the previous version. That's kind of fixed now. The last ending note is fixed too.

 

Overall, that was a nice update. There's a brighter feel overall to the EQ, and the partwriting came through a bit better. Could be even better though; I would focus on the places where the certain instruments or leads are not sticking out enough to be heard:

0:39 - 0:47 [strings, harp]

0:55 - 0:57 [marimba/xylophone]

1:05 - 1:17 [strings, staccato strings]

1:24 - 1:38 [marimba/xylophone]

2:26 - 3:11 [strings, brass, harp, marimba/xylophone]

 

especially 1:05 - 1:17 and 2:26 - 3:11. You can hear Juan's guitar just fine, but all that stuff backing it at 2:26 - 3:11 is smearing together.

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Wow, that's a lot of helpful feedback, thanks!

As for offering your help on mixing, just keep this kind of info coming since it's educational and will help my mixing skills so I can do it myself. But if you really want to play around with it, I can bounce some stems for you.

I'll do some more mixing in the coming few days to see what I can squeeze out of it. And reduce some of volume automation and the brass and strings sidechain experiment when Juan's guitar comes in :P

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As we say in Dutch: "nieuwe ronde, nieuwe kansen" (new game, new changes). Here's an updated mix with a ton of small volume automation tweaks, some different layering, rhythm guitars sidechained to the lead instruments for a bit of gain reduction and an attempt to mix with LCR panning. Oh, and some changes to the bassline around 1:17 to align it with the timpani.

 

The difference isn't as big as with the earlier ball-of-mud and although it probably could use some more refinement I'm getting pretty happy with it. I'll do some double checking on speakers (too late for that now) and unless my ears (or system) are messing with me there's clipping that I want to look into.

 

Anyway, here is a new version: http://www.jorito.net/files/Contra/Contra%20-%20Waterfall%2020150511.mp3

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Why are the strings panned further left? They were fine before, position-wise (same with the harp, flute, and other breakdown section elements). And what happened with the strings EQ (especially at 1:05)? Somehow your strings got more resonant. Did you boost the midrange (800~1000 Hz specifically) on them? Like with the pan positioning, it was fine before; you often don't need to EQ orchestral instruments (if you could in real life, real orchestras would have experimented with that before :lol:). I'm guessing your orchestral instruments came pre-panned, and maybe that's affecting your panning decisions.

 

Also, the strings are still getting lost at 1:05 - 1:17. By boosting some of the brass' volume, the strings kinda got forgotten, I think. The clutter got a bit more overboosted at 2:26 - 3:11.
 
You still have your previous version? I honestly think it was better before; less overboosted in the midrange and less cluttered. So far I think just the marimba got more audible. How are you making these mixing decisions? Are you listening to soloed tracks or mixing in context?

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I still have the previous version (really love the Alternatives feature of Logic) so going back should be a problem. I'm mixing in context, that's the only way that should make sense. The only soloing I did was for an entire section (strings, brass, etc) at times to check their individual balance.

As for panning, I knew LCR panning in this kind of track would be a bit of wild experiment, and apparently it shows :P. Didn't think it was that bad myself and I intentionally balanced the various sections opposite to each other (violins 1 to the left, violins 2 to the right, etc). But yeah, if you are used to traditional orchestra panning it's a bit weird. Unfortunately I use instruments from different libraries, and not all of them come pre panned.

Pretty sure I didn't touch the string EQ, but I did notice that one of the string trills sections sounds less good. Unfortunately the midi part for that got lost and all I have left is a not-so-good audio export that might sound bad when boosted. Will have to check.

Anyway, back to the drawing board (and previous version) I guess :P

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