08 JANUARY 2018
written by Mike
MY CURRENT DAW SETUP
I get asked a lot about my workflow and what exactly I am using to produce Casefile and other projects. I’ve already explained the way I work in my book “How to Start a Podcast” however, I’m always on the lookout for the improvement and I update my system as often as I can.
In my opinion, it’s important to shake it up every few months. Otherwise, there is no progress.
When I was a student, I used many different audio sequencers with multiple plugins. If there was a new demo, trial version or a deal – I wanted it. I wanted as many as possible.
The truth was, I never used 90% of them, I was a classic example of a hoarder. I think that the more ‘stuff’ – equipment, gear, options we have, it gives us an illusion of choice. The more we have, the more we can do, right?
It may be true in some instances, but when it came to sound production, I realised that the old Pareto’s rule was on the point. The so-called 80/20 rule indicates that usually, 20% of tools bring 80% of results.
A few years ago I sat down, and I wrote down what exactly I am using for work, how and why. I decided to simplify my system and my workflow radically; I wanted to learn few tools inside-out – to become an expert.
By limiting my choices I wanted to be free of the illusion, and only if I needed something else, to add it to the existing selection. So far it worked. My system and tools are very few, but high quality.
Let me go through the list with you.
My primary tool is surprise surprise, a computer. At this moment in time (January 2018) I’m working on 27 inch iMac with upgraded RAM. The screen is enormous and the processing power more than enough to handle my workload. Apple systems are more expensive than Windows but most audio industry professionals use them. Therefore I followed the same rule at home. Of course, select what you feel is most viable for you – for example, video game sound designers work almost solely on Windows.
I’ve owned a pair of Adam A5X speakers for a few years now. They sound great, and I know them well. Apart from listening to music during work I use them to reference the mixes.
For podcast mixing I use headphones. The leading pair is Sony MDR-7506, amazing closed-cup phones with a clear sound, perfect for editing. I also have a range of earphones – from very cheap ones to a decent pair. Most people listen to music/podcasts on their earphones so I make sure my final masters sound good on them.
Recently I bought a small Audient iD4 interface. Not only it’s a fantastic tool for production, but it also has a control surface functions. The main volume knob can be used for controlling various aspects of the audio sequencer. I’m using it for volume automation during a mix. I’m planning on buying a proper control surface for mixing in the future, but I want to hone my craft by using just one knob – limiting my choice again.
I’ve used many different sequencers in the past but in my quest to minimalist workstyle I’ve decided to focus on just one. Avid Pro Tools is a standard in music and post-production industry, so it was quite clear that it was the one I needed to stick with. I knew that the MIDI functions are not the best, but it was much easier to learn how to use PT for everything rather than using multiple sequencers to do the work, as I’ve done in the past.
Plugins were the central area where I had to downgrade. I’ve used iZotope’s tools when I worked at the movie studio, so I knew these were top quality. I’ve deleted all of my 3rd party plugins and started using only iZotope products.
I currently use Neutron, Ozone and Alloy. (I also have Eventide Ultraverb on dialogue tracks for reverb).
When it comes to composing music, especially inside your DAW, the choice is limitless. There are so many synths and virtual instruments that for the rest of your life you could be learning a new one each week (*not official stats, but there is a lot of them!).
At some point, I decided to get rid of most of the ones I had, also deleting a 500GB Kontakt library and just stick with one company – Spectrasonics. At the moment of writing this paragraph I only use two synths from them, Omnisphere 2 and Keyscape.
Do I wish I had more options, for orchestral sound or bass? Yes, and I will expand in the future. However, for now, these two synths are more than enough to produce good work.
Limitation is freedom. It sounds so paradoxical, but in podcast production it is true. By freeing ourselves of choice paralysis, we are free of anxiety and burdens that come with limitless options.
This way of thinking does not apply to every aspect of our life, however, think about your work, day to day life and habits. Maybe some areas would be much better and more comfortable if you set some boundaries and rules?
The decision is up to you.
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