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How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby Sheikyearbouti » Sun Jan 11, 2015 10:07 pm

OK, I've not seen the book GC is talking about, but it should be something that will bring further light on the subject..
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby kindafishy » Sun Jan 11, 2015 10:14 pm

giancarlo wrote:[...]It is something not new for 3rd party, so if there is not enough info on it I cannot help!
On acustica side, we NEVER applied gain staging - apart acqua plugins, here the reason for our lacking of infos
Each developer applies the gain staging he prefers

Okay, so there is not a standard approach that needs to be taken with each library and we need to read the documentation from that third party developer?

Fair enough and well understood.

This information is sometimes not available though.

For example, I think it is available for Alex's programs. I just looked through the manual for MFC. It recommends to be careful of gain staging since programs are close to the hardware and mentions -18dBFS being 0dBVU. Okay, so can I interpret this to mean that we never want to go over -18dBFS peak?

Conversely, the documentation for Tim P's programs make no recommendation for gain staging.

Similarly, I just checked the AITB EAR documentation and it also makes no recommendations.

So, what do we do in these cases? Always normalize the audio to -18dBFS/0dBVU peak, then start hitting Nebula? This is what sheik is suggesting as a starting point as well.

Sorry if I am being dense. If there is a comprehensive source for this information with a definitive answer that I have just not become aware of at this point, I'll be happy to reference that instead of pestering the forum.
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby giancarlo » Sun Jan 11, 2015 10:21 pm

yes and no

yes: each developers applies the rule he prefers. If no rule is explained, it means the preset is not based on it.... like most of plugins. Gain staging was introduced recently in plugin's world

no: nothing is wrong above it. Most hardware is SUPPOSED to work on this sort of headroom, but you have less linearities. You can push S*L and N**e quite a lot, and they sound amazingly.
But if you are looking to calibrate you audio to an emulation, supposing you are using it as it was real hardware, and you need to know which reference was used... this is the reference!
In general lower your gain of about -18 and you have the new reference (peak value); now even if you go hot you have still plenty of space before the real digital clipping
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby mathias » Sun Jan 11, 2015 10:32 pm

i was about to write a long comment, but you guys just touched it all while i was writing ... :D
nothing to add to the above.
system 1: windows 8 32 bit - samplitude prox, tracktion6, reaper
system 2: mac osx yosemite - reaper(32+64bit), tracktion6(32+64bit)

both systems on: macbook pro (late 2009), core 2 duo 3,06 ghz, 4 gb ram, graphic: nvidia geforce 9600M GT 512 MB
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby mathias » Sun Jan 11, 2015 10:33 pm

other than:
yes it's a moving target.
system 1: windows 8 32 bit - samplitude prox, tracktion6, reaper
system 2: mac osx yosemite - reaper(32+64bit), tracktion6(32+64bit)

both systems on: macbook pro (late 2009), core 2 duo 3,06 ghz, 4 gb ram, graphic: nvidia geforce 9600M GT 512 MB
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby kindafishy » Sun Jan 11, 2015 11:27 pm

Thanks all!
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby RJHollins » Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:48 am

It would seem helpful if within the Nebula GUI the real-time INPUT levels could be correlated to the active kernel # that is activated. Just a simplistic idea, I know.

BTW ... anyone following the multitude of discussion throughout the audio boards will agree that this topic has generated much discussion, along with plenty of confusion. I don't expect it to cease anytime soon :roll:

Regard to Nebula, it certainly does not help that each 3rd party dev can determine their own 'operating level'. There may be a good, mystery, reason to have to allow this ... but leads to confusion.

This IS, or USED to be, a scientific standard applied to engineering ... even if preceded by the the area called 'Audio'.

Calibration is based on scientific measurement ... not artsy interpolation. Once the working system is calibrated ... then we can play with the art side.

The BS that there are 'No Rules' is just that ... BS.
You would have been laughed out of Electrical Engineering with that nonsense.
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby mtalavera » Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:22 am

RJHollins wrote:It would seem helpful if within the Nebula GUI the real-time INPUT levels could be correlated to the active kernel # that is activated. Just a simplistic idea, I know.

BTW ... anyone following the multitude of discussion throughout the audio boards will agree that this topic has generated much discussion, along with plenty of confusion. I don't expect it to cease anytime soon :roll:

Regard to Nebula, it certainly does not help that each 3rd party dev can determine their own 'operating level'. There may be a good, mystery, reason to have to allow this ... but leads to confusion.

This IS, or USED to be, a scientific standard applied to engineering ... even if preceded by the the area called 'Audio'.

Calibration is based on scientific measurement ... not artsy interpolation. Once the working system is calibrated ... then we can play with the art side.

The BS that there are 'No Rules' is just that ... BS.
You would have been laughed out of Electrical Engineering with that nonsense.


I have followed this discussion here and in other places, and just can't ever get my head around where the right answer is. Maybe there is not one, but I like scientific measurements whenever possible and straightforward answers. Let my choice of gear or Nebula library, transparent or colored, EQ choices, panning and reverb usage determine the artistic aspects of my projects. How much input level to use to drive the libraries is not something I would like to leave up to personal preference for the most part. I know you can hit a N**e or S*L board hard to get certain characteristics, but I see that as different. At least you know at what point it is considered hitting it hard.


So still trying to wrap my head around this concept. I use Klanghelm's VUMT meter and I have it set to -18 for calibration and I just try to hit non-Drum tracks at the 0 point. Drums I just make sure it is not sending the little LED meter into the RED. I still haven't figured exactly what to do with drums as far as metering, but I haven't had any complaints about my mixing of drums so far (knock on wood). So I make my best guess. Weather that is right or not, I don't know.
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby jpn » Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:56 am

Hi , everybody .... this is an article taken from gearslutz ....
I think it´s nice to read !

" The Reason Most ITB mixes don’t Sound as good as Analog mixes (restored)
The Reason Most ITB mixes don’t Sound as good as Analog mixes. This is a repost from another thread. Hope you find it usefull.

Ok, I'm going to try and give you An ITB education, as my over 24 years has taught me. Here is what I try and teach to students. I'll try and keep the math to a minimum.

First, I own a high end analog setup's Via an S*L 4K with 1/2' 2 Track YADA YADA, ICON with Killer OB FX And classic Compressors, YADA YADA/ Hybrid Setup Via AWS 900w/ 24 Channels Of Xlogic Killer OTB FX and Comps YADA YADA. Point is not to impress, or brag in any way, but to let you know everyday I work on a verity of systems. This has led me to The Following conclusion.

To learn to mix ITB coming from an analog world you must revisit what Voltage reference Analog consoles work at, and make appropriate adjustments to translate this to work ITB.

The first thing we must ask is simply what is 0VU. What does it mean to us. Lets use an S*L G+ as our point of reference mainly because I work on those every day. If we put a signal into the line input of the S*L so the channel meter reads 0vu, that also, is referenced as +4 or 1.23 volts. A kick ass S*L will go out to about +24DB, so we have approximately 20 DB of headroom above the 0 VU point on the meter before the signal goes to crap.

Now let take a common situation. A Client hands you a Protools session and you spread it out over the S*L console. Like most people today every track is recorded as hot as hell. Most pro Eng's will use proper gain staging and get the now slammed meters reading around 0VU or 1.23 volts. By lowering the line trim we now have a good level into the desk so we can Compress/Gate/EQ the Signal without it overloading the processing. Sounds simple right? Remember that all outboard equipment was designed to work around the 0VU/+4/ 1.23 Volt reference. So by putting the incoming signal at around this reference, your rack equipment will work better as well.

Why use a +4 reference? Well remember that the 1.23 volt reference came from the tube days where 1.23 volts was enough voltage over the plate noise that you still had a good signal to noise ratio, but still left room above 1.23 volts to allow for normal audio operations.

Now to ITB. Lets pretend we have the same setup as we did on the S*L. Client hands you a session that’s recorded hot as hell. Now most folks mixing ITB don't understand reference levels when relating it to Digital. To have the same amount of "headroom" as we do on the S*L we must create a reference of 0VU or 1.23 volts at -20 from 0DBFS or the top of the Digital scale.

So if you simply place the good old trim plugin as the very first plugin, you now have the ability to adjust your tracks to our Mixing (+4/1.23 volt) reference IE -20. Just like you did on the S*L. You have have the same amount of headroom. Now with your tracks properly gain staged, you can add EQ/dynamic plugins and not run out of headroom. You can also insert hardware and they will operate much better as they are operating at the level they were designed to operate at.

Plugins use the same reference at real equipment. Never try and drive them to the top of the Digital scale. Don't try and make your mix look like a master. You don't do that on an analog console, so why do we do it ITB?

The answer is simple. DAW meters suck Butt. There should be a meter mode in all DAW's that makes the meter at 3/4 scale equal -20 at 1.23 volts. Just like the old VU. This way, novices will quit corn-holeing their levels.

Something to think about. The noise floor of an analog desk is about -75 DB from our +4 reference. Our equivalent "problem level" below our -20 reference in digital is well over 100 DB. So please don't let people tell you analog has more "headroom" than digital. This is simply not true. Headroom is only relative to your noise floor below your reference. Remember if the volume is to low, turn up the darn speaker volume.

Running a Digital mix right to the top of the scale is like running your S*L mix buss where the VU meters are slammed all the way to the right and you are constantly hitting it at +25. No one will get a good sounding running the desk like that. You won’t get a good sounding mix in digital either.


So what does all this mean? Put simply, proper gain staging is essential to both analog and digital mixing. You just need to correlate the references between the two. Once you figure this out, I'll Guarantee your mixes will start to sound open and wide, just like the good old analog days. "
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby RJHollins » Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:42 am

Hi mtalavera,

Apologies to the Community if I came across aggravated ... we're dealing with some very difficult family health issue with Dad :cry:

Back to topic.

I also use Klanhelm's VU, and use the same -18dB cal ref for mixing. In mastering, we have to do a few things different for final level.

If it helps, I generally set source audio to PEAK at -6dBfs. This usually provides sufficient track headroom to start.

Nebula, along with choice algos, are always used throughout the chain.

My FXChain is built with VU metering between every process. I do not rely on any plugin metering, so Klanghelm is both my metering and gain adjustment [with -18db ref cal].

I also use a special 'noise generator' plugin that I've written [comes standard in my NVC controllers plugins] that I use to gain stage the entire FXChain. This maintains 'unity gain' through the entire chain. From this fully cal'd reference point, I can then make any decisions on 'drive' levels. I can also clearly define WHAT particular unit I want to drive.

The entire chain is bookend with Ian's 'Perception' plugin for A/B comparison at matched level. [note: there is also a free JS plugin that performs a similar function ... recommended}.

Unfortunately, there are 'reference level' discrepancies amongst the Nebula library collection. Personally, I would like a way for the engineer to cal THAT reference [like the Klanghelm meters] ... otherwise, it then falls on staying alert to this. How we are suppose to remember what the library was designed at is something I've not correlated, and the plain fact that I've purchased so many of them would require a lookup table to find :roll:

I guess it doesn't bother me as much about the tape libraries. I know they use a different ref compared to many of the EQ's. With tape, it does have a lot of feel factor. Back when all we had was tape, we cal'd all the decks to specific tape formulas every time. We chose what the nW/m ref level, yet all VU and plasma peak meters all worked within 'normal' deflection ranges. When 'digital' arrived, we easily calibrated it into the analogue calibration.

Although the early digital was only 16 bit, we max levels to use 15.999 of them :shock: :lol:

The transition to 24 bit was not as simple for us old fogies at it would seem. It took a lot of arm and ear bending for 'us' to drop our levels below the top ceiling. Especially for an entire tracking session ! who's project was going to be the guinea pig :o

With MIDI and VSTi's we were able to run safe test. Even though it seem to run counter to reason ... the end conclusion proved that we can indeed improve the recording working at these lower levels. Again ... this was a long, drawn out battle to prove out. But at long last, I too conceded ... and now happily 8-) :lol:

Though some have tired of talking this topic [as I have], it importance is at the foundation of our work.

which I now must return to ... 8-)
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