I though I knew the answer, but then I tested it (10.0.50) and it seems to not be what I thought:
I thought that clip envelope levels came before clip (and subsequent) plugins, while envelope fades came after the master section. But it looks like fades are pre clip plugins as well? In practice this means that one – in some cases – have to apply these as a second stage, after any other processing.
I always assumed clip fades were part of the clip envelope. In the montage you can choose to the envelopes be either pre or post CLIP FX. If the fades were after the master section that would be bad for dithering purposes. I don’t think anything has changed here in a long time.
Ideally I’d want the gain to be pre clip fx and fades to be post. As an example: if a client delivers a hot mix render, it’s easy to pull down the gain before any processing – but of course I want the fades to come after all of this. But if I can’t choose, I’ll just put the whole envelope post and instead use a gain plugin first in the chain. Where is this option? EDIT: Found it!
Follow-up question: can env after clip (and env smoothing) be set as default? I can’t see it in the options, and I can’t figure out how to do it as a template.
As for fades vs dither, I tend to put the latter in the dither slot, so having the fades after the master would be just fine
One option for now is to adjust the clip gain using the numerical values in the Clip Tab. This is what I do, and I use the Meta Normalizer first to get all the songs in a montage on the same page loudness wise. It’s very fast and efficient to use the Meta Normalizer first before getting started on a project, to get all the songs to an optimal average loudness for a good starting point. Too often, people think of normalization as an ending point.
Adjusting the Clip Gain here is non-destructive too.
As you can see in the attachment, this is a great place to manage the overall clip levels. Then, you can reserve the clip volume envelope in the montage for doing automation and fades, and you can choose this to be POST Clip FX.
As for saving a default, PG might have to say if the setting for “Envelope After Effects” is a global setting or montage specific setting. If it’s montage specific, you could create an empty montage with this setting how you like it and anything else, and then save that montage as a template and create all new montages from that template.
Btw, I’m fully with you on the ‘pre-normalisation’. I’ve been doing a bunch of compilations with tracks from a wide range of sources, and a rough pre-levelling makes the rest of the process so much easier.
Yes, for years I thought the meta-normalizer was a gimmick but it’s actually a great way to get the loudest parts of each song in a montage hitting the same average loudness which makes for a GREAT starting point. I fine tune by ear of course but it’s usually 99% right.