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Starship Krupa

Really fundamental question about exporting

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Background, TL/DR folk please skip:

I only started using Cakewalk by BandLab when it was first issued in April 2018, and had only the online documentation, no Reference Manual, and only the old forum with a broken search engine to go on.

My previous DAW was Mixcraft, which prides itself on simplicity of use, and they achieve that goal pretty well, to their credit. I was ready to "graduate" to something with a deeper feature set, and jumped right in with Cakewalk. Mixcraft has obviously been inspired by some of Sonar's features, so it wasn't difficult.

One thing that I had trouble nailing down, and still, over a year and a half later need the help of an external program to complete, is export of my final mix.

The Reference Guide and online help are good about describing the many options in the export dialog, but IMO, they fall short on suggesting defaults. "Here is what you will select when you want to export your full mix, here is what you will select when you want to export stems with effects, here is what you will select when you want to export stems with no effects" and so on.

I had to figure all this out stumbling about in the dark, and I'm still not sure I'm making the most of the options. One issue that I would like to address is that after I export a full mix, I find that I need to open my files in Sound Forge for normalizing to get the levels hotter.

With Mixcraft, all mixdowns come off the Master bus, period. There is a separate dialog for stem exporting. Less versatile, but easier to deal with because fewer decisions.

TL/DR part:

My process currently is that I mix with the Master bus as the final bus, with its output going to the Hardware out.

At export time, I export from the Hardware out. Initially, I was exporting from the Master bus, but was getting odd results, my mix wasn't sounding like it did over the monitors.

So my first question is: how do you export your mix? I mean, what options do you choose in the Export Dialog? Where do you take the output from?

Second question: how can I best get a "what you hear is what you get" export? Should I create an Aux bus and send the Master to that and export from it?

Third question: how do I get  the level of my exported file up to the point where it's peaking at about -1 or -2 dBFs so I don't need to  normalize it in Sound Forge? I have good metering plug-ins, Meldaproduction, dpMeter, Youlean, TB, etc., but they seem concerned with loudness and I need level.

Bonus round: why is the documentation so vague and how did you figure it out?

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Thanks.

I was doing that for a while, but  I can't find an explanation in the documentation of what bus that "entire mix" comes from. Is it the Master Bus? Post fader? Pre fader? That's where I was getting the odd variable results.

At least coming off the Hardware output I know what I'm getting. If I knew where that "entire mix" was being routed from, it would give me a better idea.

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Entire Mix is all hardware outs, which can be problematic if you have a headphone/monitoring mixes going to other outputs.

If you have everything going through the Master, and no FX  or level adjustments happening after that (standard operating procedure and best practice), then you can just export the Master bus (choose Source = Buses, and un-check all buses except the Master) with nothing selected in the project.

What I personally like to do is bounce the Master bus to a ' Master Bounce' track that routes direct to Main Outs, group the mute on that track in opposition with  the Master bus mute, A/B the two to confirm the bounce matches the 'live' mix, and then select and export that track. 

One benefit of this is that you have a copy of the rendered Master saved in the project.

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Thank you David for the in-depth, detailed explanation.

Yes, I always have a "Cans" bus, and I have 4 sets of monitors, so who knows which speakers I might have had selected at mixdown time when I was choosing "Entire Mix?"

10 hours ago, David Baay said:

What I personally like to do is bounce the Master bus to a ' Master Bounce' track that routes direct to Main Outs, group the mute on that track in opposition with  the Master bus mute, A/B the two to confirm the bounce matches the 'live' mix, and then select and export that track. 

I'm going to have to read that a few times to be able to digest that, but now that I know what "Entire Mix" does, I might be able to use it properly, or set something up of my own.

Maybe my third question about how to get an optimum level should wait until I have that set up.

First I'm going to try setting up a Mixdown bus that will be post Master bus, and have nothing on it but metering plug-ins and do nothing but set level. During mixing, the Master bus will route to that, and it will route to whichever hardware out I'm using to monitor. At mixdown time, I'll get the levels set properly using the metering on my my Mixdown bus and do the Export directly from it.

That way I don't need to clutter the FX rack in my Master bus with the metering and analyzer plug-ins. And I'll know that what's coming off that bus is the mix that I want, not a combination of whatever hardware outputs I may have left turned on.

Sound feasible?

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I mix all tracks - routed through various sub-buses to the Master Bus - down to a single stereo track. Then I insert mastering plug-ins in the FX bin of that track and export it through a stereo hardware out - several times with tweaks to the FX as needed.

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My guess is that you have some tracks not getting routed to the master bus, which is why when you export the master it sounds different. It really is fairly straightforward.

Regards,
Dan

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21 hours ago, BRainbow said:

I mix all tracks - routed through various sub-buses to the Master Bus - down to a single stereo track. Then I insert mastering plug-ins in the FX bin of that track and export it through a stereo hardware out - several times with tweaks to the FX as needed.

Thanks. This is what I have been doing up until now, with my issues being the final level of the exported audio, and my not knowing precisely how it worked. I don't like having blind spots on something this critical. Getting input from other users on how you all do it is great. As usual in the Cakeiverse, barely any two are alike.

13 hours ago, dcumpian said:

My guess is that you have some tracks not getting routed to the master bus, which is why when you export the master it sounds different. It really is fairly straightforward.

Everything has always been routed to the Master bus, either directly or via sub mixes. That's one of the first places I look when things don't sound right.

My initial problem with it sounding "off" was with the Entire Mix option, which I abandoned in favor of the same approach that BRainbow takes.

I just tried one using the above method that I came up with after reading @David Baay's explanation, and it seems to work great. I opened the resulting bounce in Sound Forge and normalized it and it barely did anything, so I think I'm on the right track (so to speak). 😁

I don't want to come directly off the Master bus anymore because I want to set up my metering on a separate bus. I don't want to come off a Hardware out, because that's affected by where I have the hardware volume set, and I only want to  adjust that to affect my monitoring level.

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I always use the master bus as the source of the mix down. This is not the hardware outs but the buss I make that all other buses out to. I try not to have a single track go directly to the master bus. Though for a simple mix down it really doesn't matter. 

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9 hours ago, Starship Krupa said:

Everything has always been routed to the Master bus, either directly or via sub mixes. That's one of the first places I look when things don't sound right.

It's good that you checked all of that, but there really should not be any difference between the Master bus output and the hardware outputs.  With experience, you'll come to see that this is one area where Cakewalk does really well.

Dan

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8 hours ago, dcumpian said:

there really should not be any difference between the Master bus output and the hardware outputs

The thing is I had multiple hardware outputs active at the time I was experimenting with "Entire Mix," and didn't know that it was coming off of the hardware outputs. I do a separate cue mix for headphone monitoring while tracking. I also use the hardware output faders to control my monitor levels, so making a dedicated bus will work better as I won't have to be concerned with those faders affecting the level of my final bounce.

Entire Mix is not the best choice for me, which is good to know and why I asked.

It's all good, I now have a solution that will fit with my workflow and configuration.

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11 hours ago, John said:

I try not to have a single track go directly to the master bus

Sigh. I know, me too. But there's always at least one track that winds up by itself: bass guitar. I can group vocals, keys, guitars, drums, just about anything else, but that darn bass....

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Generally I send the bass to the Drum buss. Occasionally it’s routed to Guitars. An occasional old project has it routed directly to the Master, but that’s a project that I haven’t opened in a long time. 

It is annoying to deselect all busses except the Master when choosing “Busses” in the export dialog, it would be nice if the export preset reflected this. 

T

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On 9/5/2019 at 8:11 AM, dcumpian said:

It's good that you checked all of that, but there really should not be any difference between the Master bus output and the hardware outputs.  With experience, you'll come to see that this is one area where Cakewalk does really well.

Dan

Hi Dan,

The thing is that there is internally nothing special about the bus called Master. The routing is flexible and its really up to the user which bus represents the entire mix. In fact there is no requirement for there to even be a master bus since all buses get mixed down to the target hardware outs. If you look at the signal flowchart you will see that.

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2 hours ago, DeeringAmps said:

Generally I send the bass to the Drum buss. Occasionally it’s routed to Guitars. An occasional old project has it routed directly to the Master, but that’s a project that I haven’t opened in a long time. 

It is annoying to deselect all busses except the Master when choosing “Busses” in the export dialog, it would be nice if the export preset reflected this. 

T

As mentioned "Master" is just the name of one of the buses in the default template and has no special meaning. One thing we could consider doing is only select the DEFAULT bus.

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15 hours ago, Starship Krupa said:

The thing is I had multiple hardware outputs active at the time I was experimenting with "Entire Mix," and didn't know that it was coming off of the hardware outputs. I do a separate cue mix for headphone monitoring while tracking. I also use the hardware output faders to control my monitor levels, so making a dedicated bus will work better as I won't have to be concerned with those faders affecting the level of my final bounce.

Entire Mix is not the best choice for me, which is good to know and why I asked.

It's all good, I now have a solution that will fit with my workflow and configuration.

Entire Mix will sum everything coming out of ALL hardware outputs. If you have multiple outs used for headphones or are have some special routing it is probably not what you would want. Bottom line is there is no one size fits all solution. You have to pick what outputs you want to render.

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11 hours ago, Noel Borthwick said:

As mentioned "Master" is just the name of one of the buses in the default template and has no special meaning. One thing we could consider doing is only select the DEFAULT bus.

That would work for me. But every workflow is different. The beauty of CbB is it’s flexibility; it’s adaptable to any workflow. 

T

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10 hours ago, Noel Borthwick said:

Entire Mix will sum everything coming out of ALL hardware outputs. If you have multiple outs used for headphones or are have some special routing it is probably not what you would want. Bottom line is there is no one size fits all solution. You have to pick what outputs you want to render.

Since @David Baay explained it to me, I understand it. I think I'll submit a documentation feature request to mention this in the description of Entire Mix.

The Reference Guide is great and getting better. At 1700+ pages, no reason not to spell it out, right?

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On 9/6/2019 at 9:17 AM, Noel Borthwick said:

As mentioned "Master" is just the name of one of the buses in the default template and has no special meaning. One thing we could consider doing is only select the DEFAULT bus.

Totally get that. I just think it is good practice to run all signal to a single bus before you hit the hardware outputs. If done correctly, there should be no difference between the hardware output and the final summing bus, whatever you call it.

Dan

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