How to produce a live concert video on a budget – Audio post production

Now that you’ve got all of your tracks captured it’s time to mix them. Here’s where your advantage comes in over most of the standard concert video clips that you’ll see on the web. The subject of mixing is far beyond the scope of any blog so I’ll assume that you’ve got some basic skills and share some of the techniques that we applied. Luckily, our bass player Mik has lots of experience recording and mixing over the years and is set up to do this at his house. So this allowed us to divide tasks. I would get straight to work editing video while Mik pulled together the audio mixes. Mik’s DAW of choice these days is Apple Logic Pro. We captured the audio in Cakewalk SONAR Producer, but since we used an external drive it was as easy as handing the drive over to Mik so he could fly the wave files into Logic. All audio was recorded at 24 bit/48kHz. Mixing 16 tracks can be done in just about any DAW these days. SONAR, Logic, Ableton Live, Cubase, Pro Tools, Studio One, etc… Including the lighter versions of these. If you have no budget for software try Audacity on PC or Mac, or If you’ve got a Mac you’ve probably already got Garage Band. These have their limitations but they can be used to mix a 16 track project. I may ask Mik to contribute some specifics to this post, but for now here are some general things to consider:

Apply panning to match the actual stage setup. Our keyboards and saxophone were on stage right and the guitars were closer to center  or left. When the visual matches the audio it makes the whole thing a little more realistic. You may still want to keep things like bass drum and bass guitar center to avoid sending too much or too little low frequency energy to one side or the other.

Check and adjust for bleed. Live tracks will often have lots of bleed from all of the other sounds on stage. This isn’t always a bad thing, but in most cases you will want to try and reduce it if possible. Often this can be accomplished with an EQ. For example, the guitar amp is bleeding through on the bass drum track. Try a high cut or low pass filter on the bass drum track. This will cut out any of the higher frequencies coming through (guitars, cymbals), and since the bass drum resides in the lower frequency range, you won’t lose much of it.

Blend some room sound in to give it a real live feel. The sound of the room can put back some of the excitement of the live vibe back into the video. It’s also nice to hear the applause after songs. We used a matched pair of mics to capture a stereo recording on two tracks through the mixing board. This is blended in to taste.

Beyond these, the standard considerations for a good mix apply. Since the captured audio tracks are raw, there is room for compression and EQ. Reverb will also need to be added. Try placing your reverb on a bus and bringing it into your individual tracks using sends. This method will apply a similar reverb to all of your tracks and “glue” the overall sound together a little more. Mastering is a consideration, but since our end goal is video for the web, extensive mastering isn’t necessary. We applied some EQ and slight limiting to control the overall mix. The overall volume was hot enough and we’re ready to bring it into the video editor.

About Dan Abreu

Music, Audio, Video, Technology and other fun stuff
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