Mix Routing for People with Far Too Much Time on Their Hands
Look at this nonsense. Just look at it. I've got more aux tracks and space for stems than I do audio tracks, and there's barely even 30 of them.
I've been getting into mix templates recently, and general workflow while at Bunker. I love being able to stick my hands on the faders and move stuff around while I'm getting my basic balances, but the convenience of immediate ITB recall is something that I just can't work without. My recent discovery of the Unstoppable Recording Machine podcast and the related URM Academy has led me down this method of mixing, and I have to say that I'm loving the results. The above image is my first attempt at ITB mix routing following the method that Andrew Wade uses based on a 30 second description in the middle of an episode. Thus, it's pretty ropey, but it seems to do the job well enough so far.
The basic idea behind this method is that no audio track you want in your final mix goes directly to your mixbuss, which feeds your monitors via an aux track. Any audio you don't want in your mix, but you still want to hear (such as a click) can bypass the mixbuss and go direct to your monitors. Every audio track passes through at least one aux track, either as a mult of several mics (kick, snare etc) or as an instrument group (drums, bass and so on).
This is where things get interesting. In addition to the auxes feeding my mixbuss processing, I can mult them all out as post-fader sends to audio tracks as stems that I can print at the same time as I'm printing the mix. This saves me VAST amounts of time dealing with mix changes. I could even print a master at the same time if I was monitoring through a mastering chain. I don't, but I could.
You wouldn't believe how many times I had to draw this to get it right.
With enough processing power, I can even print common alternate up/down mixes at the same time using additional mixbuss chains and the stem prints. I can print samples, backing tracks, clicks and anything else to perfectly match the finished mix for live reinforcement.
When it comes to mix changes, there's several options.
I can adjust the raw audio and aux tracks and reprint the stems and mix completely flat as a a full song. This is useful for mix-wide tonality changes.
I can make small adjustments at given times, such as upping drum fills or specific moments of automation, just printing the sections needed before making a mix comp.
I can adjust the stems directly for minor balance adjustments. I use clip gain here, so I can keep the faders at 0, consolidating and exporting the revisions as new playlists.
For ITB mixing this is a spectacular timesaver, especially if I'm working from templates I can import with the saved routing setup as well as my basic startup plugins.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
When I'm lucky enough to be working on an analog desk with the right kind of routing to allow it, I can combine this setup with a completely ridiculous convoluted combination of using the desk faders to control my mults to the mix groups (they're printed back into Pro Tools onto new audio tracks that route to the groups) that I can monitor through while listening back to my mix processing through an analog sweetening chain (the two Neve clones at Bunker are nice for this) that plays back through an external input to the desk.
To summarise, signal flow in order:
Raw audio tracks
Raw audio mults (Digital)
Desk faders to control mults (Analog)
Desk prints (Digital)
Group auxes (including FX returns)
Mix Processing (Digital)
Mix Processing (Analog, optional)
Master processing (Usually Digital, Optional)
Desk external input (Analog)
As you can see, this method can add up to 3 extra stages of AD/DA that I'd rather avoid. Once I've printed from the desk, there's upsides to staying ITB for easy recall, but I do love printing through the Neve pre's at the studio, as well as a UREI hardware 4-band parametric EQ which sounds absolutely ace (thanks to Gregory Scott's podcast for that great trick)
So there you have it. My current mix workflow when totally ITB, or on the desk at Bunker. Send any questions to email@example.com and make sure you check out the Unstoppable Recording Machine Podcast, URM Academy and Andrew Wade. I owe a debt of gratitude to their hard work and willingness to share this method.