All About AutoMix
At NAB this year, I was talking about RƎLAY with a broadcast engineer, who pointed at the screen to the little “A+” symbol at the bottom of each fader. “What’s that?” he asked. I explained that it was the icon for AutoMix, the hands-free automatic mixing system which has been a premiere feature of Lawo physical control surfaces for years. It’s such a great features that we built AutoMix into our RƎLAY VRX8 virtual radio mixer software too. “What’s it do?” my guest asked. Well, that’s a great question, and you should find interesting as well.
It happens that we were recently invited to give an on-the-air demonstration of AutoMix at the studios of WESA-FM in Pittsburgh. As an NPR member station, WESA often hosts roundtable-style talk shows with multiple guests; anyone who’s worked the console during a live show like this knows how hard it is to keep track of who’s speaking on which mic and who is dominating the mix from moment to moment. It’s also nearly impossible to keep levels continually balanced, no matter how nimble your fingers may be.
How Does AutoMix Work?
AutoMix makes it very easy to engineer shows like this. Using RƎLAY VRX8, it’s a simple three-step setup (other Lawo control surfaces use similar controls). Here’s how to do it:
After you’ve added your sources to the AutoMix bus, the intelligent algorithm takes over, invisibly riding gain on the selected sources. Each source can be weighted when you add it to the AutoMix – give Host mics higher priority while Guest mics, phone or Skype callers or remote guests get a lower priority, so that they’re automatically ducked when the Host speaks.
But How Does It Sound?
Pretty darned great, as you’ll hear in the samples below. AutoMix is very smooth and virtually unnoticeable, without the upcutting or lag you might have experienced with other automatic mixing schemes.
Besides riding gain on multiple mics to ensure an accurate mix, AutoMix has some side benefits, such as noticeably reducing ambient studio noise during multi-mic segments. Listen to the clip below from WESA-FM’s “The Confluence” roundtable, recorded without AutoMix. You can hear the “room noise” – echo, slap and hiss – amplified by multiple open mic channels. Also note how the individual speakers step on each other when they talk, which can reduce listeners’ speech comprehension. Even the best board operator will be hard-pressed to quickly ride mics and solve this issue when three or more mic channels are active.
|Excerpts from WESA’s “The Confluence”
– without AutoMix
Now listen to a clip of the same audio recorded from a mixing bus with AutoMix in use. The first thing you’ll hear is that the room noise is gone, thanks to the AutoMix algorithm attenuating inactive mic channels. But not a word is missed once the guests on those channels begin to speak. – AutoMix mixes them at prescribed levels. Also notice how, when multiple people are speaking, the Host’s mic gets priority, while Guest mics are leveled out and overly-enthusiastic speakers are brought down in volume.
|Excerpts from WESA’s “The Confluence”
– WITH AutoMix
Some other console companies have an automatic mixing function, but Lawo’s implementation of AutoMix is unique — it works with Stereo signals, where most, if not all, other automatic mixing schemes are limited to Mono signals only. This opens up a whole new world of flexibility; a kind of “ducking 2.0”, where talent on multiple mics can talk over the same music bed or jingle.
VRX8’s AutoMix can automatically mix all eight faders at once. There’s no limit on source type – AutoMix works with voices, music or any other audio, and you can dynamically add and remove sources from the AutoMix at will. Some RƎLAY users employ AutoMix to auto-duck other content when the DJ speaks, others say it’s perfect when recording commercials to ensure the music bed doesn’t overpower the voice talent. Or, use AutoMix with delivery systems to keep levels consistent between playout channels.
How could AutoMix streamline your studio workflow? Leave a comment on this page, or drop us an email.