July 09, 2014
Eric Racy made his entrance into the world of high-profile mixing and producing via the underground world of dance music, a pivot that allowed him to leverage skills and perspective honed by the diverse tones and influences of EDM. He has gone on to mix Robin Thicke, Lil’ Wayne, Pharrell, and Busta Rhymes, along with dozens of other big name artists, and a host of indie and underground artists that deserve to have “big” names. His intuitive, yet technically precise mixing on Tyga’s “Faded” helped propel it to Platinum status, and his affable nature and unfailing ability to work magic with all things audio earned him mission-critical playback positions on tours with 2NE1 and, most recently, Katy Perry. He’s also half of boutique analog signal processing manufacturer Black Box Analog Design and thus aware of tone on a level transcending that of most mix engineers. Racy’s faithful reliance on Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip plug-in, which has been present on most channels on every (yes, every) song he has mixed since discovering it four years ago, speaks to ChannelStrip's unique musicality and usability.
“ChannelStrip is incredible,” Racy stated flatly. “I’ve used it on every single mix since I discovered it. Although I go out of the box for EQ sweetening on a few critical channels, everything else that needs equalization gets Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip. In fact, those critical channels often get ChannelStrip, too.” Racy has an established methodology in which ChannelStrip plays a key role. When he first opens up a new mix, he combs through each channel, carefully listening for unpleasant resonances and low or high frequency content that can be filtered out. He uses ChannelStrip to then notch out the resonances and filter the unnecessary extremes.
“I’ve tried this with a million plug-ins and outboard EQs,” he said, “but nothing is as effective as Metric Halo ChannelStrip. It doesn’t mangle the audio around the notch or filter, and it doesn’t make it sound like there’s a hole in the frequency range. It gets rid of the annoying frequencies and content, and it does it transparently.” For vocals, Racy often automates the notch frequency to keep the resonance from peeking out when the vocalist changes his or her mouth shape. “The results are well worth the effort,” he said. “Nothing else I’ve found can compare with this technique.”
Similarly, Racy claims to obtain results with the keyed gate on ChannelStrip that he cannot get with any other plug-in or hardware. “I love that I can adjust the key on the gate and that those adjustments are so effective,” he said. “I’ve been working on a forthcoming Killbot album, which involves members of Korn, Sluggo, and Tyler Blue making some aggressive rock meets dubstep. As with any live recording, there’s tons of bleed on the live drums (especially the snare and toms), and – as almost always happens with drum kits – any drum or cymbal can accidently trigger any other drum’s gate. It's a mess that often required hand-editing in the past; no other gate could get it right. But with Metric Halo ChannelStrip, I can effectively key each drum’s gate so that it only opens for its intended target. I know that other gates have that same functionality, but none of them work nearly as well as ChannelStrip.”
Racy has all of the software and hardware tools he could want in his LA-based studio, but he knew he wouldn't have access to that gear if he took the job building the audio tracks and doing Pro Tools playback on the Katy Perry “Prismatic World Tour.” “I’m a mix engineer first and foremost, and I certainly didn’t want to give that up on the road,” he said. “Metric Halo plug-ins formed one of the essential components of my mobile rig; ChannelStrip of course, but also Metric Halo’s Character plug-in. Given everything they can do, the Metric Halo plug-ins are very efficient and wouldn’t drain DSP resources on my native rig.”
He continued, “The Character plug-in is great. It models different kinds of analog signal paths, and just like real high-end studio hardware, the effect is critical, but also subtle. Placing different Character settings on a few different channels really adds up to something. It was especially useful to have on the road when I didn’t have access to my outboard gear, but I’ve continued to find plenty of uses for it now that I’m back in my studio.” Racy looks forward to dipping into the rest of Metric Halo’s Production Bundle of plug-ins as time in his busy schedule permits.
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