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Thread: Opinions on LCR panning

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    Opinions on LCR panning

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    Whats your opinions on LCR panning?
    Im just curious to what others think of the technique, personally I think its greats and gives alot of space in the mix for the vocals and other main instruments.

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    Interesting thread topic!

    First things first. Pan law in Pro Tools works like this: You have -2.5 dB, -3 dB, -4.5 dB and -6 dB pan law options. By default -3 dB is selected. For stereo tracks pan law has no effect. A stereo track that is panned hard L is at 100% gain, when either side is panned to center, the panned side's level is attenuated by -3 dB, which is perceived as a -19,4% drop in loudness. For mono tracks pan law has an effect and the effect is: For hard panned L or R, the mono track is at 100% gain. If the pan law is set at -3 dB and the mono track is at 100% hard L panning, then if the pan knob is set at center the mono sound source has -3 dB level change compared to the previous position and is now sent 50% 50% to both sides. So the amount of dB the pan law is set to attenuate by, that much signal is attenuated at the center pan position. The pan law has an effect when you touch the pan knobs. (Pro Tools) If you have the pan law at a certain setting and then change it and you don't touch the pan knobs, you'll have no impact, the state of the pan knobs must be updated for the new pan law to kick in. Yes, this means that nasty gain staging issues can occur in the middle of the project when these settings slowly morph into the mix as you touch the pan knobs on the mono tracks for the first time after a pan law change, so watch out for that. (Pro Tools)

    Now that we know that the pan knobs are speaker volume knobs with a gain behavior dictated by the type of input track (stereo/mono) and by the pan law setting, we can discuss the impact of LCR panning.

    Hard panning/LCR panning is a great default pan setting, because it means all of these sound sources are left unattenuated. The same about -2.5 dB pan law - it messes up the gain staging on each side as little as possible. Placing all pan knobs at the center position, means all sound sources have already gone -3 dB into the noise floor relative to the speaker level they were recorded at. So from a gain staging perspective LCR panning makes sense. But hard panned sound sources are extremely far out to one side and very close to the ears. The wrong frequencies and gain level here, such as a bad hi-hat sound, can really mess up a mix.

    One of the reasons why LCR panning in combination with dual mono tracks makes sense, is because it allows the scope of the L and R mixes to remain intact when you mute the non-hard panned sound sources or when you have them unmuted but don't touch their gain, meaning there is no bleed in between them when you work on each L or R mix. So this means you can improve the sound of the L mix without destroying the balance you've set on the R mix, and that's gold! Many mixes out there have very messy L and R mixes and part of the reason is that LCR panning was not used. If you want your mixes to sound great, you need to know exactly what's going on, on each side and have each in really good balance individually and together with the other side. A/B them with perception management, to get an idea of how important this is.
    Last edited by DarkRed; 08-16-2015 at 12:12 PM.

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    It's a good way to make everything feel wide, but that's the problem -- everything is wide. Especially when you want your drums to be punchy but not centered at the same time. Hard panning drums loses so much of it's punch but keeping it dead centre will mask the kick/snare a little. Just stereo widen some sounds occasionally that sound nice with a stereo delay, instead of hard panning everything left or right.

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    LCR and pan law are completely unrelated. Pan law only affects things when you use automation with your panning.
    Chris 'Von Pimpenstein' Carter - Major label mixer/producer
    http://www.vonpimpenstein.com

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    I think it's a gimmick.

    My take is that good mix engineers do whatever is necessary to make something work. As a result some percentage of tracks are made to work successfully using something like LCR panning. Then a combination of internet forces detect that some successful projects are that way and jump to the backwards conclusion by seeing a 'pattern' in the tracks the happen to pick out. Hey presto you have a fad.
    Last edited by MarcDHall; 08-17-2015 at 02:17 PM.

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    it's not new nor is it really a fad - listen to the earliest Beatles stereo recordings and you hear LCR panning at work, many others from the same period also applied LCR as the technique for creating their stereo sound stage

    It has resurgence every so often as new engineers discover the idea and take it for a spin
    Last edited by bandcoach; 08-18-2015 at 04:16 AM.
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    It's not a gimmick or a fad. Lots of mixing engineers have worked this way for a long time (and in the early days, it was the ONLY option as there were no pan pots; only switches). It's just that as audio forums and a wave of home recordists have suddenly been able to afford to get into recording over the past decade, it's being talked about among the masses of amateurs who had no clue that this was a common method of mixing... so it seems "new" to them.

    I mix almost exclusively LCR. Why?
    - generally speaking, I can get more clarity in the mix because of less phasing and phantom imaging between speakers, particularly when the consumer isn't sitting EXACTLY in the center of the image (they never are in the real world).
    - Generally speaking, people can't hear the subtle pan positions between center and left making things like panning 45% LEFT utterly useless. And if they aren't sitting in the aformentioned theoretical center, which they never are, then I promise they can't hear it even if they try.
    - you don't waste time trying to figure out useless pan positions. You just pick on of the three spots and move on to the next thing. This keeps your mojo going and prevents you from wasting creative juices on things that really don't matter.

    That said, if you are trying to make a documentary style mix, LCR obviously will not work very well. Additionally, even if you mix LCR like I do, if some part doesn't work LCR for whatever reason, just pan it where you want it. It's not like you go straight to hell if you disregard it here and there.

    But I've had a lot of success. It works for me. Your mileage may vary. There are a LOT of big name mixers who mix almost entirely LCR. But there are also plenty of big name mixers who pan stuff all over the place. it's just a different approach. You use whatever method you like.
    Chris 'Von Pimpenstein' Carter - Major label mixer/producer
    http://www.vonpimpenstein.com

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    Pan law is scoped only to mono tracks, both during panning (automation) and as a result of pan setting on each track that has been set (after the pan law has been set). When changing pan law, the impact of the change kicks in automatically for automated mono tracks and for non-automated mono tracks it kicks in per mono track that you update the pan knob position on. What I need to check is what happens during reloading a session after a pan law setting change and you have not touched the pan knob settings. In that case if loading the session sends a refresh command to the pan knobs with the new pan law settings, it would indirectly have a gain level impact on the mono tracks, which would be seriously bad so I doubt that is the case, but it is definitely worth checking in your particular DAW. Pan law and LCR panning are weakly related in the sense that hard panned mono sound sources are at full gain since they have not been affected by the pan law, while the gain level of the center panned mono sound sources have been attenuated by -3dB on each speaker caused by the -3dB pan law setting. This matters from a gain staging perspective, because in a context of stereo tracks in the mix that have not been impacted by the pan law, those stereo tracks could be negatively adjusted in gain to compensate for the pan law that is active on the mono tracks - the more center panned mono sound sources you have in the mix in combination with the more stereo sound sources you have in the mix in combination with the more attenuation caused by the pan law, the bigger that gain staging issue is. Now, in practice that gain staging issue is to some degree automatically compensated for since the engineer might actually increase the gain on the mono tracks instead of decrease the gain on the stereo tracks (and the engineer might correct this during dedicated gain staging efforts), but it is still of importance relative to gain staging. For this reason, from a gain staging perspective as little gain attenuation as possible caused by pan law, is desired, because it helps to protect the mix from gain staging issues. In practice however, the monitoring configuration will also have an impact on this, so while this is the case in absolute terms, in relative terms it might be different relative to your particular monitoring setup. In practice you might also want a more dramatic impact of the pan automation on mono tracks in the mix or have a monitoring landscape that might benefit from a certain pan law... (that a certain pan law affects gain staging and the stereo balance positively in the particular monitoring environment) So it depends on what you want to achieve.

    When LCR panning is used it makes sense to default balance the center panned and mid tracks separately (in a particular order) and default balance the hard panned and side tracks separately (in a particular order), then default balance the two, before then starting the actual balancing process which goes a lot deeper. In many cases in practice, the default balancing process does not exist or is called rough mix and the panning strategy is random. This definitely helps to make the final mix worse sounding.
    Last edited by DarkRed; 08-18-2015 at 02:25 AM.

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    Why on earth would you change your pan law in the middle of a mix? Most people don't change their pan law EVER, let alone in the middle of making a record. You set your balance by ear, not by numbers, making pan law something you don't even have to think about... unless you automate a pan from say, far left to far right because as it passes through the middle it's going to be perceived as getting too loud or too quiet based on your pan law. But even if you pan law is -3 like mine is, still context will dictate the listener's perception in the middle. Just because my pan law is -3 doesn't mean I can sweep something from left to right and it will sound the same volume to the listener. It depends on what else is going on. So I still might have to ride the fader at the same time.

    Pan law is basically something you set once and forget about it.

    But like I said, it has no bearing on LCR whatsoever. if your pan law is -0 or -2.5 or -3 or -6 or - 28.37465, you will mix the same way LCR and you will get to the same result, your faders will just be in different positions to get there. With the exception of panning automation which may require more or less fader riding depending on your pan law.
    Chris 'Von Pimpenstein' Carter - Major label mixer/producer
    http://www.vonpimpenstein.com

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  12. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
    Why on earth would you change your pan law in the middle of a mix? Most people don't change their pan law EVER, let alone in the middle of making a record. You set your balance by ear, not by numbers, making pan law something you don't even have to think about... unless you automate a pan from say, far left to far right because as it passes through the middle it's going to be perceived as getting too loud or too quiet based on your pan law. But even if you pan law is -3 like mine is, still context will dictate the listener's perception in the middle. Just because my pan law is -3 doesn't mean I can sweep something from left to right and it will sound the same volume to the listener. It depends on what else is going on. So I still might have to ride the fader at the same time.

    Pan law is basically something you set once and forget about it.

    But like I said, it has no bearing on LCR whatsoever. if your pan law is -0 or -2.5 or -3 or -6 or - 28.37465, you will mix the same way LCR and you will get to the same result, your faders will just be in different positions to get there. With the exception of panning automation which may require more or less fader riding depending on your pan law.
    A pan law change might be required in various situations, for instance if a whole pro tools session is passed from one studio into another and there are different monitoring requirements in that studio, or if for instance there is an engineer change in a project that prefers different pan law settings, or if for instance the engineer fundamentally wants the mix a little wider or more narrow in order to reach the goals and don't like the option of doing that with plugins or monitoring updates. There are cases which is why it has been added on a session basis by design, but I do agree it's quite rare. Pan law you do think of, because it fundamentally impacts on gain structure of your mix. But usually once you find a pan law that gives desired results, you tend to leave that setting unchanged because it works for you in those types of scenarios.

    It is not a matter of only the volume faders ending up at different locations due to a full compensation by ear (that's in an ideal theoretical scenario), it is more complex than that because it fundamentally changes the gain structure of your mix, so it is involved in everything from how the plugins react to the summing process, but to your ears those kinds of things are kind of in a dark zone. (which is why it is important to get right)
    Last edited by DarkRed; 08-18-2015 at 07:34 AM.

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