Pre-fade Level Automation

Would love to see a feature like a trim that can be inserted pre-fader that can read level info from an AAF. There would also be an option to assign fader automation to this pre-fade level automation track so multiple track could be done simultaneously.

I often get sound edits from PT users to mix and they spend a lot of time writing levels for Atmos and FX tracks for example. If this is clip base then that’s fine, that will translate nicely to N8 but if it’s fader based then it gets lost when I start writing my automation as I like to do my first mix pass in Write to End mode.

It would be great if I could copy their fader automation to a pre-fade inserted trim or even a built in trim in the mixer. This could even be handy for edits done in Nuendo with leveling done by the editors, then that leveling can be assigned pre-fade and refined in the mix with the standard faders.

I have tried using the gain function in the pre section of the N8 mixer but the levels don’t seem to scale correctly.

I thought one solution could be to use trims over the imported level automation but this would quickly lead to a problem further down the timeline if working in Write to End mode so that’s a no go.

Perhaps it is already possible to do this and I’m unaware?

  • I would first investigate why doing it with “gain” doesn’t work. If “levels don’t seem to scale correctly” then there is maybe a problem that needs to be fixed.

  • Secondly, I agree, but I’d probably just ask for Pro Tools’ function that allow you to copy level automation to different destinations. So, first step would be to “fix” gain function, and second to add something like this if it doesn’t already exist. It’s very useful sometimes to copy volume automation and paste it on a send for example. No reason the gain/trim couldn’t be included as a target for pasting.

  • Thirdly, since we’re talking about this; if it isn’t already possible it would be great if like Pro Tools we could take clip gain and convert it to fader automation, or coalesce it with fader automation, or vice versa. Very useful again.

  • Fourth; possibly then allow the clip gain to function more like automation, again like PT does. I don’t ever use it like that in PT, I always either just adjust an entire clip or break the clip into parts, but, if this was possible then yet another solution would indeed be to copy/coalesce automation that was on the fader track onto clips… maybe.

Lastly though: VCAs broke again. So I’m 99% sure I’d be super-nervous if anything new like this popped up. I have little faith in the capability of Steinberg to execute new features at this point. So one thought is for you to re-evaluate your workflow: Is there any particular reason you choose to write automation to end?

If this is so you can “pick up” as you go, you could either join me in asking for the join function to work like in Pro Tools (so many small things slowing us down in Nuendo… why not just ‘rip off’ PT???)… or, you could use VCAs to modify automation and then coalesce it .

I make a lot of changes to a lot of parameters as I go and want those changes to “stick” and not revert back to already existing automation every time I stop, so I find it if most efficient to write to end. I only do this for the initial pass of the mix then turn write to end off.

I would be nice however to be able to have the automation continue to a user defined out point but one thing at a time as you say (Let’s get those VCA’s working first). I’ve had a play with virgin territory but that seems to get a bis messy. I’m not a big PT user so I’m not familiar with the PT Join function but if this is like the Write To Next On Stop function that I think I used to use on the DSP of Fairlight (or both, can’t remember which), then bring it on… and the Write To Out Point On Stop function I just mentioned too :slight_smile:

Loop is also no good as it only captures a static snapshot of the automation and I always find I’m adjusting various parameters (not just level) in real time.

Back to point 1 though, yes, if the mixer pre-gain could use the same scale as the faders life would be one step close to peachy.

So, wait: What’s the exact problem you run into when using “trim” and “to end” on punchout?

If you pull the fader to the bottom or top in trim and write to end the fader automation after that point becomes “crushed” and irretrievable.

I also would like to be able to keep an absolute reference to what the original intentions of the editor were and once a number of trim passes occur that’s reference is gone. If I were working on a project that used many sounds on many tracks to create one designed and balanced effect then that balance could quickly be ruined by trims made be me earlier in the timeline.

It’s easy enough to keep a copy of the original tracks supplied tracks (which I always do) to check back on, but this just adds unnecessary scrolling up and down of tracks to check original levels.

If the solution were to be re-calibrated pre-gains then really I’m really hoping that getting the pre-gains to translate accurately can be done easily, without upsetting any old projects pre-gain levels.

I forgot to mention also that an important part of this feature request, be it re-calibrated pre-gains or a new level fader that is either a plugin or a new in-line pre-fader option is that it be really easy to flip the mixer to control those levels with physical faders too for obvious reasons. I know I can currently flip my control surface faders to control plugin parameters but it’s a tad fiddly, it would be nice if it could be streamlined by Steinberg with their own solution.

Ah. That actually makes logical sense. If “bottom” equals “minus infinity”, then of course negative infinity multiplied by 42 = negative infinity. So from a programming standpoint it doesn’t really surprised me.

I’m starting to think that perhaps the better solution here is automation join or something like that, although maybe I’m missing something. Basically you should in my opinion be able to group (for example) your dialog together and have them controlled by a VCA. If you put the VCA in “latch” it’ll behave as you’d expect (when fixed) and it would effectively act as a trim for the dialog tracks. If Steinberg could change “join” to function like it does in Pro Tools, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t function the same way because it’s way easier that way, then if you stop play back with “auto join” enabled automatically (or triggered manually) then all parameters that were in latch write at the time you stopped playback will pick up where you left off either when you pass that point again or when you trigger it manually. So that would allow you to continuously trim the automation on the dialog via the VCA, stop when you felt like it, yet pick it right back up when you wanted to. Write to end would also work just fine if you wanted to.

It’s basically just a way to get “trim” without worrying about “crushing” automation as you describe it. Although again, we’re stuck with broken VCA + suboptimally designed “join” (or whatever it’s called in Nuendo).

I use two different techniques to deal with that and they depend on the studio I’m working in.

In one studio I pretty much resort to locking one track on the Artist Mix controller to the reference mix provided by the video editor, embedded with the reference video. That way I always have that reference mix available by quickly pressing unmute/solo on the controller. If your video editor doesn’t provide it you could just do a quick export audio mixdown of the AAF once it’s imported, and just lay that export onto a separate track. Keep it at the extreme end of the window so it’s quick to reach.

In another studio as well as at home I have multiple sources available for monitoring. So in Nuendo I either take the reference mix I mentioned or a copy of all the AAF tracks and route them to a “dead” output channel. That output channel becomes a source in my Control Room. Like the other sources I have a key command for it. The awesome thing about Nuendo is that you can solo defeat that and then have various tracks in solo or not in the mixer, and at the touch of a button you’ll be listening to the AAFs/reference mixdown. I honestly can’t find a more convenient way than that. And all of those tracks - either the ref audio mixdown or all of the AAF tracks - can be shoved in a folder track or whatever and put away. No need to scroll and find…

The VCA option won’t give me what I am asking here. I am requesting level control on each individual track, and yes, then have the option a layer of VCA controlling the whole group of tracks.

The join function does seem pretty cool, but I don’t think Join is going to help me as it seems that it has to be done in real time, and it doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with my original feature request/suggestion.

I think I may make another request of a write to out point function. Very handy for writing a long automation pass that may start with some dynamic automation, then settle into a fixed level to the end of a long scene, like an atmos track for example (but not in real time).

I agree with the monitoring source and a key command to quickly switch to the guide mix and I do exactly the same thing, and I love it… but sometimes I really want to keep the original AAF audio with supplied automation in the mix and I want to be able to just ride the shape already decided in the sound edit. I had to work on a job no too long ago where the music timings were decided in the picture edit, and rather than cutting the music out or doing clip based fades to silence, it was all done in automation. Once I imported the AAF and started mixing I ended up writing over the original supplied automation and the editor, also the director was upset that his fades and out points weren’t replicated to the second. Rather than having to match all of this stuff manually by constantly referring to the video guide mix it would have just been easier to utilize the function I have requested and actually use the original automation as a starting point for my mix. I know of a studio that successfully use this method all the time on PT, or so they tell me.

To be honest, I think it would be better if it wasn’t the gain pots being re-calibrated but a whole new level controller that matches the faders range in addition to the gain in the pre area of the mixer so as not to affect levels on any old projects that have used the pre-gain that may be thrown out with a re-calibration to the system.

So having said all of that, I would still really like to see a new feature that would allow an extra set of level controls pre-fader on each track that exactly match the range of levels on the faders. Naively, I can’t imagine it to be that difficult to implement.

Fair enough.

I doesn’t really have to be “real time”, at least not in a sense, but you’re right that if you want control over individual tracks then because it’s latch-only it won’t help.

Well, here if you have a short enough match-time you can just let it roll in trim-latch and it’ll be fine - or trigger the auto-write punch-out manually. Of course you’ll have to roll to the out point you want so it’s a bit slower.

Yeah, but this sort of stuff is tricky though. There recently was a discussion started on Gearslutz by a friend of mine about what to do with clip-gain, and it’s really the same problem with what you’re asking for: In more than a few cases deliverables require a stem with music without dips for narration and/or dialog. That’d be impossible to achieve if the editor’s rides are present pre-fader/pre-send.

What I do when I face the need for undipped music stems but have an editor’s written volume fade in/out is IF I think the fades will be important to the editor/producer/director then I just quickly (in PT) look at where the fades begin and end and trigger fades in/out to those points in the actual regions/clips. Then I ‘nuke’ the automation. That way I have the music starting and ending where it needs to according to their wishes, but the absolute level is adjusted to my taste (that’s part of why they’re paying me).

But anyway, getting back to the problem of trim: Is there really no way to work around it? I get that you want the option of copy/pasting level automation to an insert or pre-gain and I support that; I’m just thinking out loud to see if there’s a way around this for you before something like that shows up.For dialog for example I almost never trust the rides or clip-gain by editors. If they hire me I’m assuming they want my sensibilities for the dialog edit and leveling of it as well. So that leaves music & fx. As I said before, as long as there’s a chance someone wants an undipped version it’s pretty handy to level and smooth out everything within one ‘type’ relative to each other, meaning all music transitions, and all sfx against each other as well as transitions. Then I’d do the rides of both on their respective groups or possibly together on an M&E group. One benefit of this is that if you set all music to hit one target level going into the music group any recuts of the music, or replaced music cues, won’t necessarily require a complete re-ride of levels, maybe not even a trim pass. With a lot of DAWs it’s annoying to swap music on one or more tracks while retaining automation for them if the automation is on the actual music tracks themselves.

I know it sounds like I keep saying the same thing, but I’m basically just saying that I think there are other ways that are as fast or faster to tackle your ‘problem’.

Gain and backwards compatibility could partially be accommodated for using coalesce automation to gain for example, rather than a ‘pure’ copy-paste. In PT we have the option of either just copy/pasting it, or coalescing it.

Again: I support your request.

I couldn’t agree more re dialogue. I always wipe existing levelling and ask for all clip levels to be set to 0 gain. I often find editors turn clips up which sound fine on playback but sometimes I may have to render their audio and that can send clips with a lot of clip gain into digital clipping.

To be honest, I usually ignore all supplied automation entirely and do it all myself, referring to the guide when needed. As you say, that’s one of the things we’re paid for. But sometimes, we’re not paid much at all and the budget/schedule is super tight and it helps things to keep the existing automation and refine it, which is another thing we’re paid for.

The point you make re undipped mixes and stems is a great point. It’s doesn’t seem relevant for the drama mixing I’m doing but for other narration based stuff I agree entirely. I always mix with my stems passing through actual tracks, do an initial flat mix without narration, then introduce the narration and dip the playback levels of the individual stem tracks. If time is against me I’ll keep the narration up the whole time and dip the track stems playback on the run, but then I don’t really get to hear the mix minus in its full glory.

I also prefade send those stem tracks to an undipped mix minus as well as the normal track output to the full mix. Once I’m happy with the mix I can print all stems and mixes simultaneously in real time if I want, which I usually do to hear the mix one last time. I often find I’m stopping and doing tiny tweaks and drop-ins on the run at this printing stage.

Anyway, I’m waffling on now. Thanks for your thoughts and time on this MattiasNYC.