Pro Tools Expert Deputy Editor Dan Cooper had the opportunity to interview Grammy Awarding winning Mix Engineer Michael Brauer for the Pro Tools Expert Community. Dan asks Michael about his partnership with Waves and the new Brauer Motion plug-in. Dan dives a bit deeper and asks a selection of questions regarding mixing and music production.
Michael, congratulations on your the new Waves Brauer Motion plug-in. Did you approach Waves with an idea for a plug-in collaboration or did Waves ask you?
Mike Fradis Software Product/Project Manager approached me. Mike wanted to do a plug-in with me so when we met I ran a few ideas by him. These are ideas that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Some will take more time than others to develop so of the three or four ideas we discussed, a spatial type panner was the one that we went with. We didn’t want to do another artist series. I just wanted to focus on a spatial panner that would go way beyond anything already done in both the hardware and software format.
What challenges did you face in the development of Brauer Motion?
There were many. It was my first time designing a plug-in so I needed to learn how the process is done. That was probably the easiest of what was to come. It was almost three years in the making so I can say with confidence that I was very particular about how it should look and sound. What we discovered along the way is they needed to develop new technology to make my ideas work on both the audio and visual side of things. I gave them a starting point with the Cyclosonic panner to help explain what one of the movements should sound like. But I wanted it way more musical than the Cyclosonic. I had other panning ideas like the X-lights that I could only describe visually. We went back and forth many, many times as they attempted to come up with the ideas that I described to them. I wanted it to do a lot of things but I wanted it to look simple to navigate. That seemed impossible and was probably the biggest challenge. But I didn’t address that until we had the different panning motions in place and working. I had them incorporate a distortion section which Mike Fradis modeled after my Akai sampler unit that I use for distortion. It’s warm and musical. Once I got to the point where the plug-in felt musical to me, I needed to address my need to make it look simple. I had many Skype sessions with Mike and his team to address that issue. Every revision got simpler and simpler looking but yet it still had an incredible amount of options right at your fingertips. I wanted it to feel instinctual to the user. I’m not very technical so I’ve learned over the years how to make something very complicated seem simple for me to use. This plug-in was going to be simple to use yet have limitless options. And then there was the look. I had a clear vision of how it should be presented. I wanted the GUI to be very 3D and I had a long conversation with the graphics designer Dani Bar Schlomo regarding how it should look. He pretty much nailed it on the first draft. And then... like I always do... I’d say “wow wouldn’t it be cool if it could do blah blah blah?" And they’d say, sure let’s try it. One of the last requests was to visually see what I was changing in regards to depth and width. That’s when it really became 3D. They blew my mind.
Why an auto-panner plug-in - why not emulate something?
They don’t need me to emulate. What I had in mind wasn’t out there. Throughout my career, I often had to wait for something to be released in order to get out the ideas I had cooking in my head. Now I had the opportunity to invent something that I wanted to hear. And more importantly, I should note that this plug-in is not just about panning it’s about spatial width and depth. You can setup wide static positions with panner 1 and 2 to give the music you’re mixing way more dynamic intensity.
Do you have plans for future Brauer plug-ins?
What are your top three Waves plug-ins? (excluding Brauer Motion)
J37 Tape, Manny Distortion, CLA Vocals, Maserati BGV’s... ok its four.
How do you approach a mix?
I listen to the rough and determine what emotion is this song trying to convey. What the rough got right I keep, what it missed I fix.
How do you know when a mix is finished?
I’m out of ideas on how to make it feel any better to me.
We've all had bad mixing or production habits - Name one of yours.
I used to always start a mix with drums and bass. That’s not necessarily the essence of a song. What are the three most important elements in each section of the song? That’s what I needed to focus on first and let the other instruments be a support.
Can you explain your multi-buss compression technique? I've read online that it's quite unique to you.
Well, individually none of these techniques are unique, they’ve all existed way before my time. What became unique I believe is how I blended all the approaches together in way that helped bring more natural movement and depth to a mix. It’s based on post compression instead of pre-compression. I used to call it multi-buss compression but I incorporated a lot of parallel and send/return compression so the term multi-buss became misleading. That’s when I changed it to Brauerize ® In a nutshell; I use 5 busses and 6 auxes to accomplish this. The function of Multiple Busses is to avoid having one instrument or a group of instruments adversely affect the level or sound of another single or group of instruments. The function of Multiple Auxes is to generate tone, fatness, attitude and urgency to a sound.
One of my top 10 albums of all time is Coldplay's Viva La Vida - It's a masterpiece. Name one of your highlights from that project.
Finding the right vocal sound for Violet Hill. Chris wasn’t happy with any of my ideas. It needed to be more haunting than anything I was coming up with. I probably have at least twenty different sounds in my arsenal and I had pretty much gone through all of them and he was still not happy so I dug way back into my early days of reverbs and added a non-linn verb to his voice and voila ! it was so obvious the second he heard it.
What excites you in the music industry?
I’m happy to see that subscription based streaming has become more popular than stealing music. It means that artists can see royalties and make a living and feed their families.
What's a typical Micheal Brauer challenge?
What do I need to change so I keep evolving.
If you could give one piece of advice to your 16-year- old self, what would it be?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, develop a second career unrelated to music. One that you also love that will generate income one day.
Michael, thank you for kindly taking time out of your busy schedule for the Pro Tools Expert Community - Dan