Is a compressor/limiter the right gear for me?

Discussion in 'Compressors / Limiters (analog)' started by MC208, Mar 30, 2018.

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  1. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    Recording a guitar into a mixer via an Acoustic Image Clarus preamp out, and out to a video camera. The problem is that the guitarist often adjusts his volume during playing, and that can mess up my signal level going into the camera. Other situation is when he plays chord melody, the signal is pretty weak. Someone told me that a compressor/limiter would solve this problem, such as the Presonus Comp16. I know nothing about these units, or any other units for that matter, and just trying to solve this volume problem. Will it help, or should I be looking for something else? I don't know if it has to do with the problem, but I always have to normalize the audio after I drop it into the computer because it sounds so weak and lifeless. Any suggestions are appreciated.
     
  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    It's best to be cautious with levels during recording and sort out the details in post anyway, so what you're doing is probably close to the ideal workflow. Compressors take some skill to use optimally. Until you have that skill you're as likely to cause problems as solve them. Compression in the digital realm is at least as good as an affordable analog compressor, and it has the added benefit of undo so you can experiment without risk.

    On top of that, some amount of manual editing may be a good idea, instead of or in addition to compression.

    If you're going to spend money, get a portable audio recorder and sync up the audio and video in post. Cameras are rarely good audio recorders. A decent audio recorder will have better noise specs and better control. I use a Zoom H5.

    What software are you using to edit your videos?
     
  3. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    Thanks for the reply! I'm using Vegas Pro to edit the videos. And I record from the main outs of the mixer ZED10FX to the XLR inputs on the Canon XA10 camcorder
    I think it would be extremely difficult o use an audio recorder because the camera is starting and stopping frequently.

    Do you think it's better to record to the camera with lower then optimal levels and continue to just normalize the audio track in Vegas?
     
  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    If you absolutely must use the camcorder, yes, it's best to avoid overloading the audio circuits or clipping the converters. Also, defeat any automatic gain control. You can control things better in post. The main downside is the audio performance of the camera itself, which may show itself with more conservative input levels.

    There's a reason they use a clapper board in film and video. It provides a clear cue for synchronizing separate audio and video recordings. Simply clapping your hands in the video frame will do the same thing. And you can slate each take with a spoken "song x, take y" followed by the clap. Since the camcorder will also have audio, it's not as necessary to have a clapper board with the take info written on it, just find the clap in the cam and audio recorder waveforms and line them up.

    Actually, syncing with audio is easy enough that I don't bother with claps (even though I have a clapper board). It's syncing multiple video angles that's more challenging. I've gotten good enough that it's not a obstacle, but I used to take still shots with a flash between each song to facilitate the process.

    I also use Vegas Pro 14.
     
  5. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    From my teaching years in college - the one audio tool that was virtually impossible to teach and demonstrate were compressors. The changes to the sound are subtle, until they suddenly become savage, and loads of people just could not hear what a skilled user can. If you use a compressor in a way that controls your levels, it sounds horrible. Guitars naturally sustain - the compressor makes this worse and you will hear the noise floor going up and down, a kind of nasty pumping action that really sounds dreadful. You simply need to manage record levels properly so the loudest doesn't distort and then any level changes will follow the player. If it's an instructional video and the watcher cannot replicate what they hear, they will not last. If the subject in the video twangs a note and it goes doooooooooooiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnng and the students guitar goes dong, they won't work it out. I personally NEVER compress a recording, I often add compression on replay, but most cameras with manual record levels cope well. Most cameras with auto recording levels mess it up anyway - so in the edit you spend time matching audio levels. This is normal, and you do not normalise, or change the dynamics. If the player has pp written on the music, and you bring it up to 'normal', then he plays the ff section and you bring it down, you ruined the music. Levels need to be appropriate and matched and considered, but never compressed, normalised and limited. Soap box mode off. Sorry.
     
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  6. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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  7. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Personally - guitar pedals are for guitars, and I leave them for guitarists who need them - I'm happy hanging a mic on a cab, or DI'ing them - but for the guitarist they are an effect, rather than a recording processing tool. Only you can tell if it's right for you? Just not something I'm knowledgeable about.
     
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  8. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    When we record video, the guitarist adjusts his volume level frequently, and sometimes plays soft, sometimes loud. It doesn't sound good on the recording when he plays soft, or with a light touch. That's why I thought a compressor pedal might be helpful to even everything out for more consistent sound during the video recording. Plus, the guitar itself, in my opinion, can sound rather small and mousy, not a big fat sound.
     
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    Paul seems to be taking a different tack than the OP. Paul is advocating a classical purist approach while the OP seems to think that technology is a substitute for talent.

    this is a performance issue, not a technical one. garbage in, garbage out .... i have to ask, if a person can't play and present themselves correctly in the first place, why are they being recorded?

    you could try recording a pass and then play it back and ask them, "See what happens when you do that?" ........
     
  10. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    What Kurt says.^^^
     
  11. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

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    Not sure Kurt? In my band, our guitarist who is a really good friend - but there is 35 years difference between us (many think I'm his Dad!) drives me nuts by doing the same thing - he plays very quietly, then plays very loudly. He's also a very good recordist but knows how he wants his instrument to sound. He would never let me add a compressor to his carefully programmed sound because it would change it. In this topic we're talking about changing a guitarists sound to make it record better? I suspect the problem is the recording technique - which I assume is simple direct to stereo - is the problem. If there are no other instruments, then why not record his processed output, complete with the flaws, and also record the dry feed with a DI before the processing - and then you could control this afterwards - perhaps re-creating his sound, but with you doing it with more control.

    It's not what we're talking about but I've never known many musicians who could change their playing style to solve a technical problem. I've heard recent graduates go up to a performer and tell them that they're too far from the mic, and either need to move closer, or play louder, and I've seen that person (with a shelf full of gold awards and record credits) look them in the eye and say very quietly. "I've been playing this way for 40 years, I'm too old to change now". There were tears in my eyes.
     
  12. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    Sorry I am not a pro with this stuff. The guitar is going into a DI box, then into a PreSonus BlueTube, and then into the ZED mixer. I'll just leave the set up as is and forget the compressor pedal since you don't seem to think it would help. I tend to think differently because when I add a similar effect in the video editor, it makes it sound better, but I'd rather record it sounding better than screwing around with it in the video editing program.
     
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    that's all fine and dandy if the results are acceptable Paul. i'm all for technique. when the guy in your band does it do you need to fix it in post? i guess no. i don't see how recording a direct to stereo technique could be the issue as long as theres sufficient level going to tape at the soft passages. to me that line of thought approaches the problem from the wrong direction. the answer to the problem is like that old joke, "Doc, it hurt's when i do this, ..... " "Then don't do that".
     
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    actually i think that is the correct approach. all i have ever gleaned out of all my years of doing this stuff is it has to be right at the source.
     
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  15. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    Rather than trying to explain, listen to a sample. The first part is a chord solo, played with fingers, and the second part when the backing track comes in (not in this sample) is played with a pick.
    This is the recorded sound, no normalization, nothing done to it in post.

     

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  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    i think that sounds pretty good actually. good player, good tone. nothing distorted. dynamic range is a good thing.
     
  17. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    That's exactly the kind of thing that needs intelligent manual adjustment (Edit: which might mean leaving it alone). It's not a case for a compressor.
     
  18. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    can we hear it with the backing track but not normalized?
     
  19. MC208

    MC208 Active Member

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    Yes, here is the guitar and backing track together. They're recorded on separate channels, left and right, but then I pan center on both when I bring them into the video editing software.

     

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  20. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

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    sounds fine. i really like the guitar work.
     

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