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I was working on my "entry" for my sound design challenge today, and I realized that I hadn't bothered putting a master fader into my session. Truthfully, I haven't put one into any of my sessions in a long time. I'm referring to an actual Master Fader channel, not necessarily the functionality.

It's really because of the I/O design of my studio at work. I use an Aux track instead now, because I'm routing the main program to multiple destinations at once (control room monitors, meters, decks via AES). Master Faders are a pain in the butt in that situation. It's just a simpler workflow for me to use an Aux channel as my "master fader" now.

So, I'm wondering what your workflows are like. How many people use master faders, and how many are like me and avoid them because of their inefficiency in signal routing?

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8 Answers 8

VCAs are excellent! I use group faders still eg when printing stems and want to add limiters before the stem recorder tracks

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I mix and print all stems within Protools for TV mixes, and its easier to setup a master fader between your aux tracks (dialog, sfx, Music) and your print tracks (audio tracks) with an L1 than setting up additional aux tracks.

So:

Audio Tracks > Aux Tracks (Stems) > Master Faders (applied to your internal buses) > Print Tracks.

The actual signal flow with many different sends gets complicated but its a time saver when you can print all your deliverable s in one pass.

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My signal flow varies, but i follow this flow for most large mixes, it not only makes it digestible to combine 100's of sounds into a few minutes, but it saves cpu power.

audio track > it's stem (aux) > stem master fader > stem track > (print this, and disable all above tracks, you can go back to the later if need be) printed stems stem track* > Master Fader/s** > Final Mix

Example: Kick Drum > Drum Aux > Drum Master > Drums Track > Instruments Track (Dry) > Master Fader > Final Mixed Track

*I often use multiple out puts from the printed stem track (select track, shift+fn+control click out put, creates more than 1 output for the channel. Shown with a + sign adjacent to previously selected output.) This allows the track to get to all the other space is need it to be - outboard gear, fx stems, etc. I do the same with the master faders, as i often create mult mixes with my outboard gear, combining the clearity of digital realm, and the warmth of tube or juice of a solid state enhancer.

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I build them in to every template I use. However they're usually hidden. Mostly they're just a confidence mode, to double check my signal flow. I run a 888|24 as additional i/o. Every once in awhile it freaks out and doesn't output anything. Having that master fader in the software lets me see that, yes indeed my signal flow is right, I just need to reboot the hardware. Doesn't happen often, but when it does it saves me enough time to be useful.

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Like Steve I have them in all my mix sessions. I have an L2 set at -10 as all those outputs go to Digibeta and/or HDCAM-SR so having that safety net is the main reason.

+1 that it enables you to see that your outputs are all working too. If you run different stems (mix, m&e etc) at a glance you can tell your routing is correct as it's obvious that an output is wrong or got nothing at all.

I have an Aux before the Master fader but that's because I need to generate stems for each output so I split the Aux to the Master and an Audio Track.

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@Steve @Ian - i can see how using the master fader might be useful as a signal check. it's not so much that i'm skipping out on the functionality, i'm just using an aux as my master fader now. our system at work was built with some crazy flexibility in mind. it's awesome but it also means i have to additionally route to my meters and everywhere else it might have gone in an in-line configuration. the actual master fader channel in pro tools has become superfluous in our facility. lol –  Shaun Farley Aug 20 '10 at 22:16

I'm no authority since it's the first time I use more than one Master Fader in my session (and I'm also doing the challenge), but I find it quite useful.

It's here in case I'd like to prefade everything at once to send to an aux via a particular bus and that is enough for me to find it useful. If you've got a cooler trick, please feel free to share :)


I'm now realizing that it's silly to turn the signal down before going trough an aux. Does anyone agree with this statement? Erf, at least I can check I'm not clipping.

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@Justin - it's not necessarily silly to turn down a signal before going to an aux, it just depends on how you're using it. i can explain how i used some "nested" aux ideas on the challenge myself. i had an experiment i wanted to try, and it worked out pretty well. not enough space to describe in the comments here though. i'll work on getting a description up on my website sometime tonight or tomorrow. –  Shaun Farley Aug 20 '10 at 22:24
    
@Shaun, well, am I mistaken when saying that reducing the signal's amplitude shortens the wordlength and therefore there'll be more approximation with DSP downstream? That's the theory, I don't know how it translates in let's say a theatrical movie situation... –  Justin Huss Aug 20 '10 at 22:46
    
Not reducing the wordlength, rather ignoring part of the full scale. –  Justin Huss Aug 20 '10 at 22:53
    
@Justin - that's an area of technical detail that I'm weak on also. hopefully someone else will read that and educate us both. ;) –  Shaun Farley Aug 21 '10 at 15:01

I use VCA's aux's and master faders

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I mix for TV, mostly to DigiBeta so I use to have 2 stems: stereo PGM and stereo M+E. I use to make an Aux channel for M+E tracks an then split and route this signal through 2 stereo Master Faders. I use them to insert final dynamic control -hardware or plug-ins- and then an instance of PhaseScope. I do it this way because I like final limiters to work post-fader. Anyway they don´t require extra DSP power.

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