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C4DM Seminar: Brecht De Man - Towards a better understanding of mix engineering

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Date and Time
Monday, 20th March 2017, at 4:00pm

Room 2.16, Electronic Engineering building, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS. Information on how to access the school can be found at here.

Brecht De Man

Towards a better understanding of mix engineering

An essential component of music production, mixing remains an esoteric matter with few established best practices. Research on the topic is challenged by a lack of suitable datasets, and consists primarily of controlled studies focusing on a single type of signal processing. However, considering one of these processes in isolation neglects the multidimensional nature of mixing. For this reason, this work presents an analysis and evaluation of real-life mixes, demonstrating that it is a viable and even necessary approach to learn more about how mixes are created and perceived. Addressing the need for appropriate data, a database of 600 multitrack audio recordings is introduced, and mixes are produced by skilled engineers for a selection of songs. This corpus is subjectively evaluated by 33 expert listeners, using a new framework tailored to the requirements of comparison of musical signal processing. By studying the relationship between these assessments and objective audio features, previous results are confirmed or revised, new rules are unearthed, and descriptive terms can be defined. In particular, it is shown that examples of inadequate processing, combined with subjective evaluation, are essential in revealing the impact of mix processes on perception. As a case study, the percept ‘reverberation amount’ is expressed as a function of two objective measures, and a range of acceptable values can be delineated. To establish the generality of these findings, the experiments are repeated with an expanded set of 180 mixes, assessed by 150 subjects with varying levels of experience from seven different locations in five countries. This largely confirms initial findings, showing few distinguishable trends between groups. Increasing experience of the listener results in a larger proportion of critical, specific, and agreement with other experts.

Brecht De Man is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London. He has published, presented and patented research on the perception of recording and mix engineering, intelligent audio effects, and the analysis of music production practices. He received an M.Sc. in electronic engineering from the University of Ghent, Belgium, in 2012. An active member of the Audio Engineering Society, he is Vice Chair on the Education Committee, member of the Technical Committee on Perception and Subjective Evaluation of Audio Signals, and recipient of the 2013 and 2014 HARMAN Scholarships through the AES Educational Foundation. Since 2014, Brecht has been working closely with Yamaha Corporation on the topic of semantic mixing.

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