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Stereo imaging for stereo samples

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by Josh Fleming, Dec 31, 2019.

  1. Hi folks,

    I've been playing around with the stereo imaging of my tracks lately, and I was wondering how you experts do this. Most of my go-to libraries (e.g. EastWest Hollywood) are recorded in stereo, and while they sound nice in isolation, the full ensemble sounds very "centered" to me. I've tried playing around with widener plugins, but they start to sound really wonky when you push them, and I've noticed the general advice online is to avoid them.

    Do you use stereo panning or some kind of widening plugin? Or do you sum them to mono and apply pan / haas effect? Or some other trick?
  2. I'm certainly no expert, but I can still tell you how I do it.

    I often use the free tool "panagement" for stereo widening and narrowing. If you use it sparringly, I think that is quite harmless, and can really help blend different libraries together. There is a free "ozone imager" by iZotope, that does basically the same. Watch out though, that one has a "stereoize" option to apply a "fake widening" to even mono signals, and I would rather not use that one. I also never use haas effect panning, or binaural panning (panagement is a binaural panning plugin, but I never pan with it, only widen/narrow the existing stereo information, and sometimes play with the near/far slider for distance (which I think is only an EQ basically). I think summing to mono is pretty much the worst of the listed ideas, because that imho will cancel out for good some information in a stereo signal. I'd rather drop one of the channels if you want a mono signal, but not sum both to mono.
    Josh Fleming likes this.
  3. Thanks Martin! I'll definitely check out panagement. Do you apply it to the master bus or individual tracks?
  4. Only to individual tracks, almost never to the master. If I was using a stereo processing plugin on the master (which generally I think is not desireable), it would be a multiband stereo imager like the one in ozone (different from the free ozone imager or ozone elements).

    The key imho always is to have a reference track and comparing that to your own track "through different lenses", like comparing what soloing the mid- or side-channel on a mid/side EQ sounds like on both tracks, or comparing only certain frequency bands through the use of lowpass and highpass filters. That way even if you don't have well trained ears you can reverse engineer more information from the reference mix. Visually comparing tracks in SPAN or similar tools also can help.
    Josh Fleming likes this.
  5. Hey Josh

    ...widener plugins, but they start to sound really wonky when you push them, and I've noticed the general advice online is to avoid them.

    I believe that these plugs do what they do with phasing, which explains the wonkiness.

    I would not sum to mono and pan. I find it comical that people actually do this. Of course there is always going to be an exception, but orchestral instruments should have some semblance of stereo-ness.

    I use EastWest Hollywood Brass & Strings. The images tend to be a bit narrower than many HW film scores, but if you pan and add reverb (the latter I think essential), you can wind up with something that is not only useable, but that sounds really good. Here's what I did with the Hns:


    Sure, when you pan the instrument, you take the rt with it, but that fact is covered up by the verb, and you can easily wind up with this:

    And don't be afraid to pan the verb a little the other way, if you fell it helps. I wouldn't go too far with that, but some might be beneficial.

    Hope this helps.
    Josh Fleming and Doug Gibson like this.

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