Mastering the Mix first hit the scene with the brilliant Levels metering plugin in 2017. A relatively new upstart in the plugin marketplace, the company turned heads and ears with their unique mix bus tool.
While metering options are numerous in most DAWs, Levels excels at dramatically streamlining the utility and experience for measuring mix balance. Of course, eagle-eyes and ears are a must for any engineer. But Levels provides the opportunity to at least offload a bit of the responsibility.
Hot on the heels of Levels success, Mastering the Mix returned with Reference. A complimentary mix referencing tool that made light work for level-matching and comparing frequency balances with the unique Trinity display.
Personally, I found Mastering the Mix's initial entrance into the plugin market a unique and smart one. There seems to be no end to new EQs, Compressor and Channel Strips. But metering plugins that dissect and inform the mix balance in an efficient and straight-forward way? The Stereo Output has been pining for this level of innovation!
But now Mastering the Mix has decided to not just assess, but dig into the mix itself with their newest addition – Animate.
What is Animate?
To break Animate down to its core, it’s primary function is that of expansion. However, the more interesting and compelling story is that Animate can expand and improve different aspects of your mix based on 4 different modes:
Expand for increasing the volume of specific elements
Punch for helping transients cut through the mix
Ignite for introducing harmonics
Grow for maximizing the stereo width of certain frequencies
Each mode of Animate can work in solo or in conjunction with the other elements. We have a Threshold slider on the right-hand side to cue Animates effects on the signal in each mode. There's Attack and Release along the bottom of the plugin, with a Sensitivity slider to finesse Animates relationship with transient activity. The large middle section dials up your chosen flavor of Animate. With a scale of 0 to 300%, Animate can reach dizzying heights.
What I find most fascinating and exciting about Animate is what lies on the other side of the GUI with the Filter section. With it, you can isolate specific parts of your track or mix to fine-tune Animate’s processing. If that wasn't enough though, we're treated to an especially informative visual display that makes it easy to isolate specific elements in a track or mix.
For example, throwing Animate onto an instance of Drummer is a delight to work with. Information related to the kick, snare and cymbals are easily identifiable in the Filter's visual display. What's more, I've found Animate is quite exceptional at isolating specific instruments in a full mix for processing. The Filter section is a joy for quickly sorting out where you want Animate to deliver the goods.
I especially enjoy coupling the Filter with the handy Solo section, noted by the Headphone icon. When in Solo, Animate reveals only the processed portions of the signal. This can be great for 2 reasons:
When you're having a tough time trying to isolate a certain frequency or instrument, Soloing can make light-weight of a tough situation.
Soloing based on Filters can also allow for an exciting opportunity to "reverse engineer" an outcome.
In my assessment, I found Animate quite easy to throw on and dial in. And it’s ability to unearth different mix elements is both transparent and surprisingly exact.
What Do You Get?
At the time of this writing, access to Animate has dramatically increased! You can either jump in with the "complete" version of Animate, or dig in "ala carte."
The full version of Animate comes with all the modes I described. Or you can cherry pick your favorite modes individually at a reduced price tag. And like any plugin company worth its salt, Mastering the Mix offers a 15 day free trial for you to test drive.