Tips & Tricks — Ocean Way Studios Plug-In
The Ocean Way Studios Plug-In rewrites the book on what’s possible with acoustic space emulation. By combining elements of room, microphone, and source modeling, Ocean Way Studios moves far beyond standard impulse response players and reverbs — giving you an authentic dynamic replication of one of the world’s most famous recording studios. In this article, I’ll be providing a few tips and tricks to get started with this powerful room emulation plug-in.
Learning Re-Mic Mode
First off, it’s important to know how and when to use the two different modes of operation — Re-Mic and Reverb. These modes process signals in fundamentally different ways. When Ocean Way Studios is in Re-Mic mode, the original signal itself is completely replaced. The processed sound inherits the sonic characteristics of Ocean Way's acoustics, source dispersion patterns, and microphones with more accuracy and realism than is possible with typical reverb processing.
The concept is similar to that of guitar reamping, where previously recorded guitar tracks are routed out of the DAW, into a guitar amplifier, and then re-recorded using a microphone. The original guitar track is then replaced in the DAW with the new track, inheriting the sonic characteristics of the amp, room and mic.
You should note that Mic proximity and bleed will be much more present when using Re-Mic mode, and that using the multiple mic pairs (Near/Mid/Far) requires more attention to possible phase issues — just like it would with actual multi-mic recordings. Experiment with the Mic Distance encoders and the Polarity buttons to shape your optimal sound and avoid phase issues.
Tracks processed with Re-Mic mode should be set up as an individual insert, or as an auxiliary group if you are processing multiple signals.
Using Reverb Mode
In Reverb mode, the Ocean Way Studios plug-in behaves like most artificial reverb processors — such as the EMT 140 or Lexicon 224 — where the "direct" source-to-mic signal component is not actually part of the processed signal. During mixing, this processed ambience is then blended with the dry sound. Fantastic results can be obtained with this method, and it may be exactly the sound you're looking for. Reverb mode should be set up as a traditional send/return effect or as a dedicated insert on an individual track. I recommend the former, as it gives you the ability to apply many sources to just one instance of the plug-in. We recommend using Reverb mode when recording in real time through Apollo audio interfaces.
A more in-depth video on the difference between Re-Mic and Reverb modes can be found here:
Experiment with Different Audio Sources
A variety of audio sources (dispersion patterns) were modeled for Ocean Way Studios. The Source menu sets the optimum placement of the source within the room, as determined by Allen Sides, who was at the helm of Ocean Way Studios for more than two decades.
Each source placement is optimized for their respective labeled instrument (drums, strings, etc.). For example, the guitar cabinet sources are perfect for adding room depth and speaker color to your afterhours, bedroom-recorded DI electric guitars. But any type of audio source can be used with any Source selection, so feel free to experiment!
Adding Room Mic Compression For Extra Punch
Compressing room mics is a tried-and-true trick that can give outstanding results by adding increased energy and room depth to your mix. Compression can be applied in the same way with the Ocean Way Studios plug-in. As a rule, the further the mic is from the source, the “bigger” the sound.
Check out these drum sounds examples to get an idea of what a big difference a little compression can make.
Here’s the original drum overhead source:
Then, here’s the same drum overhead sample re-miced with Ocean Way Studio B:
And finally, here’s the previous re-miced example with added compression courtesy of the 1176 Classic Limiting Amplifier Plug-In and its famous “all-buttons-in” mode:
Handy Shortcuts and Key Commands
The Ocean Way Studios plug-in has built-in key commands and label buttons that can save you some time:
- Shift+Click can preserve mic distances. Once you've heard Allen Sides' favorite mic selections in their default positions, you may want to swap in a different mic pair. To do this, simply Shift+Click on the new mics in the pulldown menu.
- Quickly cycle through different mic pairs. Rather than using the menu to audition new mic pairs, you can simply click on the mic icons to cycle through the options. The above Shift+Click shortcut works with Mic Select Cycle as well.
- Shift+Click can also preserve your current mics. Say you like your current source and mic selections, but want to try your setup in the other studio. Shift+Click on either Studio A or B from the pulldown menu to bring your favorite mics with you.
- Get back to home base with the RTZ (Return to Zero) and RTD (Return to Default) buttons. Certain parameters’ associated labels will work as RTZ or RTD buttons. Clicking the distance labels will place the mics back to the default positions, clicking the balance labels will re-center the knobs, and clicking the Gain labels on the Master EQ or the "0" labels for the Gain faders will return the gain to 0dB.
Removing Mic Distance Delay
When recording a sound source with a microphone, there’s an inherent delay between the source and the microphone. The farther the distance is from the source to the mic, the longer the delay time — approximately 1ms per foot.
By clicking the Distance knob, the microphone pair(s) in Ocean Way Studios can be set to “aligned." This removes the inherent delay between the source and the mic. The setting is useful when source audio signals need to remain time-aligned, for example.
Keep in mind, however, that inherent source-to-mic delays provide subtle yet important auditory cues that listeners use to interpret the acoustic space. So the most realistic room emulations will be achieved when “aligned” is switched off.
This is just the beginning of what Ocean Way Studios can do. For a deep dive, check out the Ocean Way Studios UAD Plug-Ins Manual. And of course, have fun simply exploring the space of these virtual studios on your own.
— Will Shanks