Panning in the Stereo Field
Another aspect of mixing is panning. You can use the multipurpose fader to pan the audio of a track so that it comes out the left speaker only, the right speaker only, or anywhere in between. Making use of the pan feature adds interest to the mix; in some cases, panning adds realism to the project.
Panning Recording engineers call the process of placing the audio across the stereo field panning. In ACID (as with most traditional mixing boards), when you adjust the panning, the total amount of signal always stays constant. In other words, if you pan all the way to the left ("hard left"), the left channel contains all the audio signal. This is important because it explains why panning a track sometimes causes the Master to peak above 0dB even though the evenly panned track caused no problems.
Click the multipurpose fader label on the last track and choose Pan from the drop-down menu. Notice that all the tracks now show the pan setting. Click and drag the pan fader all the way to the left to direct the audio to the left speaker. Drag it all the way to the right to place it in the right speaker. As you drag the fader, notice that the information on the multipurpose fader label updates as well. For instance, drag the slider to the left until you see the readout display 80%. This means that 80% of the signal will come out the left speaker and 20% will be directed to the right speaker. Double-click the slider to reset the fader to the center position.
A Handy Indicator
See the rectangular slot that guides each fader? Let's call it the fader slot. You might have noticed earlier that when you adjust the volume fader, the area in the fader slot to the left (or bottom in a fader that moves up and down) of the fader is darker than the area to the right (or top.) This shading simply indicates the current distance between -Inf and the current fader position. Although some of us find that to be a neat, but not particularly useful feature, the pan fader is a different story.
In Figure 3.7, notice that, when you adjust the panning of a track, the dark area of the fader slot grows from the center instead of the left edge as it does with volume faders. This serves as a good visual reminder of just how far off center you have panned that particular track, and allows you to quickly scan your Track List to see where all the tracks fall within the stereo field.
Figure 3.7 The gray shading beneath the pan faders give you a quick visual of the panning for each track.
For the pan feature to work, you must be sure that your hardware is set up correctly. For instance, if you pan the audio right and you hear it in the left speaker, you might want to check that your speakers are properly connected and placed. If you are using an outboard mixer, check whether the pan control on the mixer is set correctly.
Solo and Mute
When mixing, there will be times you need to concentrate on a single track, for example when you are adding an effect. It might be difficult to hear the results with all the other tracks playing as well. This is a perfect opportunity to use the Solo button. When you click the Solo button on a Track Header, you simultaneously mute all other tracks. Click the Solo button again to hear the full mix again. The Solo button is a great way to concentrate on just one track, and then quickly compare how it sounds mixed in with the rest of the tracks.
You can solo more than one track at a time. For instance, if you have three tracks of horns, you might want to first hear how they are blending with each other before you hear how they sound in the full mix. Select all three of the horn tracks and click the Solo button for any of the tracks in the group; all the tracks in the group are soloed. Click any of the Solo buttons again, and you're back to the full mix. Pretty slick.
The Mute button simply takes the selected track temporarily out of the mix. Just as you can with the Solo button, you can mute more than one track at a time. If you want to hear what the mix would sound like without a particular track, click the Mute button. Click it again to un-mute the track.
Another function the Mute button provides relates to the Render As process. If you render an ACID project to a mixed file (as discussed during Hour 17, "Creating Mixed Audio and Video Files"), any tracks that are muted will not be included in the final mixed file. This is a good way to create an alternate mix without having to delete the unwanted tracks.
There is a lot more to mixing than simply adjusting track volume and panning. Effects, track envelopes, and event envelopes all play a part in the final mix. All these topics are covered in detail later in the book.