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Author Topic: Do you add elements to your mixes  (Read 4637 times)

Extreme Mixing

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Do you add elements to your mixes
« on: April 11, 2011, 06:09:51 pm »

Michael,

I'm wondering how much replacing and augmenting of sounds you do?  Do you have certain drum sounds layered into all of the sessions by your assistants, then pick and choose for yourself when you're mixing?  Or do you have a production meeting with your staff and decide what needs to be done before things are done.  Vocal tuning, drum sound augmentation, adding parts...

I'm a one man show, so I do it all for myself.  If I need drums sounds, I add it.  For the past several years, I've also been adding musical parts when I feel that the production/song needs it.  I did a mix last week for a guy who sends things over and says "Steve, do your thing".  It's an open invitation to take the song somewhere.  He even sends me his midi files in case I want to change his sounds out.  On this one, I ran out of DSP because of so many RTAS instruments.  I've been mixing for a long time, too, but this is really fun.  How much production work to you do in projects?

Ross, these questions go out to you as well.

Steve
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Michael Brauer

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2011, 11:38:56 pm »

Michael,

I'm wondering how much replacing and augmenting of sounds you do?  Do you have certain drum sounds layered into all of the sessions by your assistants, then pick and choose for yourself when you're mixing?  Or do you have a production meeting with your staff and decide what needs to be done before things are done.  Vocal tuning, drum sound augmentation, adding parts...

I'm a one man show, so I do it all for myself.  If I need drums sounds, I add it.  For the past several years, I've also been adding musical parts when I feel that the production/song needs it.  I did a mix last week for a guy who sends things over and says "Steve, do your thing".  It's an open invitation to take the song somewhere.  He even sends me his midi files in case I want to change his sounds out.  On this one, I ran out of DSP because of so many RTAS instruments.  I've been mixing for a long time, too, but this is really fun.  How much production work to you do in projects?

Ross, these questions go out to you as well.

Steve

i don't do any replacement of sounds and I don't do additional production. If I think the song is unfinished, I tell them it's not ready to mix but that rarely happens. My assistant sets up my triggers for kick/snare. I then decide if the drums need some support from samples. If it does I have a ton of samples I've compiled over the years and I build a sound to compliment the existing drums using Trigger.

If a vocal needs tuning, it'll be done prior to my printing or if it's really bending my ear, i'll take a break and my assistant will go through the song and fix. We are careful of tuning only what bothers me and we don't make everything perfect. I want it to stay human. 

I have no staff, just my main assistant and a 2nd that he is currently training.

michael
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Extreme Mixing

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2011, 12:19:52 pm »

Thanks for the clear reply.  Adding samples is the best way to augment the sound, while keeping the vibe of the original.  It can be way more effective than EQ or compression.  I agree with pitch correction of the vocals.  In other words, that's the way I like to do it, too.  I remember the days when I considered it a point of pride that no one could tell that I did anything to a performance.  It just sounded right.  Not so much for some of the mixes lately.  They want the "glitches" and the tricks.  I actually think you're lucky that you don't do that.  Oh well.

An "assistant and a 2nd that he's training" sounds like a staff to me!!!  In a good way.  I did a session at the Village Recorders in Santa Monica last night.  It came out sounding really nice, but was a big setup and the staff started off "behind" and it took about 45 minutes to get ahead of the curve.  The staff at Village was great, but I could have used a couple more hands for the set up.

Thanks again.

Steve
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rosshogarth

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2011, 01:00:43 pm »

I am a one man show too. Actually, depending on how many voices are talking in my head I can be a nice bunch a guys :)
seriously
I am very much like Michael. I rarely go much farther than supplementing drums and tuning vocals if I have too ... I hate hate hate, did I say hate ? hate tuning vocals
It is the one thing that drives me crazy when I go to mix. If the vocals are out of tune, I may actually call the client and ask them to listen to the vocals and tell me if they are done with them .. or just tune them or farm them out to a couple of guys I have that are a mouse clik away on the internet
I love supplementing drums when needed
Drums are the blueprint/foundation and it is easy these days to add extra punch to a kik or crack to a snare
I do have to say, I am mixing a new record for the Bronxx, and they're drum sounds are impossible to change
The room and leakage and parts are so unique that it is what it is and I am running with it in all its glory
When it gets to the adding of parts, thats remixing or extra production
I do enjoy that when I am given artistic license but it has to be something that we agree and I want to do. Of course it might help or even help the client but I would never hand back a mix with a new guitar track or synth pad or loop without a clear upfront conversation... just not professional
So as a rule I am a form fits function guy
Michael and I talked about this once
When someone has a rough mix they like. I want it
So then I can mix match the elements that work and then improve on the mix
Mix match and improve
this way
they already like what they have and I have not radically changed that, only improved upon it
this seems to be the easiest way to get a mix approved
so my new slogan is
mix match, improve, get the mix approved, i can make the move, to the next mix match, improve and approve
because at the end of the day
I want the client happy, and I want to move on to the next mix and record
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Fletcher

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2011, 12:06:45 pm »

I'm from another world - don't win Grammys etc... so I have a bit more latitude in the work I do.  First, I bill by the hour and not the mix so I don't mind spending a bunch of time on stuff [or I work for free - which means that I totally enjoy the music and the project and don't care how much time I spend on something].

I will from time to time blow a kik sample as there are so few "new" engineers that really understand how to record them [and far fewer who know how to tune them!!!] but it is more than rare that I'll blow a sample on anything else.  I'd rather try to figure out how to get the stuff that was recorded to work with the rest of the project as it was recorded than influence my opinion in that area [I like to reserve that influence card for other aspects  8)]

I absolutely, patently, unequivocally refuse [probably even at gunpoint] to "tune" anything.

Ever. 

Under no circumstances. 

If its twisting my head around I will absolutely use some effects to obscure the pitch and mitigate the problem, but as far as I'm concerned the recording is the recording is the recording and my job isn't to "repair" or "replace" integral bits of the recording [or rather I don't feel its my place / role in the project] that were approved by the production team that recorded the project. 

If I'm part of the production team that recorded the project there are times when I have actually fought with musicians on a project to leave something that is slightly out of tune remain out of tune - because the emotion of the performance is WAY better projected with the slight "out of tuneness" than it would be if the note were dead nuts on.  I can remember going around for a week with a guitar player who hit a clam on a section and I wouldn't re-record it for anything.  Months later when the record was released he called me up and thanked me for my refusal - guess he finally heard what I heard musically rather than hearing it as a guitar player who knew he didn't execute the written part faithfully -- happy accident!!! [and to me, really made the song special].

I will mute parts I feel interfere with the "most important event" [be that a vocal or another part that really captures the essence of the song] that might be happening in a song but will very rarely add one.  I might add a key effect that wasn't thought of during production but makes a "presentation" [what I like to call what most people call a "mix"] unique.  It is not uncommon for me to have an aux send to a Leslie or two - its not uncommon for me to have phasers and flangers that are VCO locked on the outputs of auto-panners [see pitch obscured reference mentioned earlier for details]... things may get re-amped, reverb chambers may be created in the recording room, bathroom, etc. [rather than "verb in the box" stuff] because I don't [as in DO NOT, as in won't even bother to take notes] do recalls.

If someone likes the mix - great... if they don't then we'll give it another go or call somebody else.  I will print like 10 - 12 versions for them to pick through, and as I'm very anal about printing at the same level every time have no hesitation to cut different sections of different mixes together but in my world, recalls - like "auto-tune" and the overuse of drum samples are what have killed music - made it not worth buying, and has homogenized "modern music" to have an intense lack of personality... driving kids like one of my daughters to seek out music I listened to in High School.

Especially over the past decade I have found that the records and recordings I liked have not been released on major labels -- probably for these very reasons.  They're often out of tune, not "mixed within an inch of their life", but have an energy and attitude which is what I think made the records have become "classics" have the ability to have become "classics".

Obviously - my route isn't the road to prosperity... but it works for me and works for the people that hire me.  As I'm so fond of saying... obviously YMMV.

Peace.
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CN Fletcher

mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid


"Recording engineers are an arrogant bunch
If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
Malcolm Chisholm

Michael Brauer

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2011, 12:50:56 pm »

Thanks for the clear reply.  Adding samples is the best way to augment the sound, while keeping the vibe of the original.  It can be way more effective than EQ or compression.  I agree with pitch correction of the vocals.  In other words, that's the way I like to do it, too.  I remember the days when I considered it a point of pride that no one could tell that I did anything to a performance.  It just sounded right.  Not so much for some of the mixes lately.  They want the "glitches" and the tricks.  I actually think you're lucky that you don't do that.  Oh well.

An "assistant and a 2nd that he's training" sounds like a staff to me!!!  In a good way.  I did a session at the Village Recorders in Santa Monica last night.  It came out sounding really nice, but was a big setup and the staff started off "behind" and it took about 45 minutes to get ahead of the curve.  The staff at Village was great, but I could have used a couple more hands for the set up.

Thanks again.

Steve

there are times when all I need to do is mult the kick and snare over to a coupe faders and process them to get what i need. Yah, i guess more than one makes it a staff except that a staff, you pay. Electric lady studios pays so technically, I'm all alone...poor me.

michael
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Michael Brauer

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2011, 01:17:49 pm »

When someone has a rough mix they like. I want it
So then I can mix match the elements that work and then improve on the mix
Mix match and improve
this way
they already like what they have and I have not radically changed that, only improved upon it
this seems to be the easiest way to get a mix approved
so my new slogan is
mix match, improve, get the mix approved, i can make the move, to the next mix match, improve and approve
because at the end of the day
I want the client happy, and I want to move on to the next mix and record

I've put a name to it MAI pronounced May I  Match and Improve. I won't add anything to what Ross just said because it's word for word exactly what I do and practice. I think though one needs a good strong ego and confidence in what they do for this approach to be successful. why? because you have to be humble enough to recognize what is great about a rough to leave as is and what needs improvement. Of course, sitting down with the artist and determining that is crucial to the process. This approach could be viewed and argued that it's a lazy way to get it done and maybe even lack integrity, I respectfully say to that argument fuck off. and I mean that in a beautiful way of course. let's not forget that unlike in the days of analog (where a track had to be rebalanced from a faders down position every time the song was put on the 2" from recording-mixing) a PT session comes up where you left off and often is a running master mix constantly being tweaked until it gets into your hands where making it 10% is all it needs. Where the expertise and demand for our services comes into play is not only from recognizing that fact but also knowing what the magical 10% is.
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Millice

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2011, 03:28:32 pm »

I'm from another world - don't win Grammys etc... so I have a bit more latitude in the work I do.  First, I bill by the hour and not the mix so I don't mind spending a bunch of time on stuff [or I work for free - which means that I totally enjoy the music and the project and don't care how much time I spend on something].

I will from time to time blow a kik sample as there are so few "new" engineers that really understand how to record them [and far fewer who know how to tune them!!!] but it is more than rare that I'll blow a sample on anything else.  I'd rather try to figure out how to get the stuff that was recorded to work with the rest of the project as it was recorded than influence my opinion in that area [I like to reserve that influence card for other aspects  8)]

I absolutely, patently, unequivocally refuse [probably even at gunpoint] to "tune" anything.

Ever. 

Under no circumstances. 

If its twisting my head around I will absolutely use some effects to obscure the pitch and mitigate the problem, but as far as I'm concerned the recording is the recording is the recording and my job isn't to "repair" or "replace" integral bits of the recording [or rather I don't feel its my place / role in the project] that were approved by the production team that recorded the project. 

If I'm part of the production team that recorded the project there are times when I have actually fought with musicians on a project to leave something that is slightly out of tune remain out of tune - because the emotion of the performance is WAY better projected with the slight "out of tuneness" than it would be if the note were dead nuts on.  I can remember going around for a week with a guitar player who hit a clam on a section and I wouldn't re-record it for anything.  Months later when the record was released he called me up and thanked me for my refusal - guess he finally heard what I heard musically rather than hearing it as a guitar player who knew he didn't execute the written part faithfully -- happy accident!!! [and to me, really made the song special].

I will mute parts I feel interfere with the "most important event" [be that a vocal or another part that really captures the essence of the song] that might be happening in a song but will very rarely add one.  I might add a key effect that wasn't thought of during production but makes a "presentation" [what I like to call what most people call a "mix"] unique.  It is not uncommon for me to have an aux send to a Leslie or two - its not uncommon for me to have phasers and flangers that are VCO locked on the outputs of auto-panners [see pitch obscured reference mentioned earlier for details]... things may get re-amped, reverb chambers may be created in the recording room, bathroom, etc. [rather than "verb in the box" stuff] because I don't [as in DO NOT, as in won't even bother to take notes] do recalls.

If someone likes the mix - great... if they don't then we'll give it another go or call somebody else.  I will print like 10 - 12 versions for them to pick through, and as I'm very anal about printing at the same level every time have no hesitation to cut different sections of different mixes together but in my world, recalls - like "auto-tune" and the overuse of drum samples are what have killed music - made it not worth buying, and has homogenized "modern music" to have an intense lack of personality... driving kids like one of my daughters to seek out music I listened to in High School.

Especially over the past decade I have found that the records and recordings I liked have not been released on major labels -- probably for these very reasons.  They're often out of tune, not "mixed within an inch of their life", but have an energy and attitude which is what I think made the records have become "classics" have the ability to have become "classics".

Obviously - my route isn't the road to prosperity... but it works for me and works for the people that hire me.  As I'm so fond of saying... obviously YMMV.

Peace.

Hi Fletcher,

I was just wondering about what you said regarding "Not taking notes, not doing recalls....."  I have read somewhere that when you train an up and coming engineer, that you teach them to document everything religiously.  I totally get why you don't do recalls, and I love that "live by the sword/die by the sword/own your mixes" mentality.  That is just so fucking cool to me... anyways, i got distracted, is what i just mentioned true?  and also, is there a point in your career when you just stop taking notes?  I may be totally off, but I swear i read that somewhere about you.

Thanks in advance! 

Fletcher/Brauer in 2012! 

-Dan Millice

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Dan Millice
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Gio

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2011, 04:48:16 pm »

It's nice to see I'm not the only one who feels that way about tuning vocals.  8)
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Fletcher

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2011, 01:51:21 am »

Hi Fletcher,

I was just wondering about what you said regarding "Not taking notes, not doing recalls....."  I have read somewhere that when you train an up and coming engineer, that you teach them to document everything religiously.
 

The guys "in training" are taught to take notes on damn near everything when tracking - the most important notes are things like "where" is the file that is the song [what drive? - what was the accepted take? etc.] -- "what" signal paths were used in the recording to this point [even if its an extended "lockout" session - I can't remember what I used where and on what so I want full and complete documentation of all signal paths]... but stuff like "mix notes" are only mandated for the assisting staff for the first few weeks until they learn how to do it right - and ONLY because they'll need those skills /  attention to detail if they actually make it out to the real world and start to work at a real studio [where "recall notes" are an imperative skill!!!].

I've tried doing recalls a bunch of times - unilaterally I have found the process impossible.  Unless you're one of the guys that can afford to have a bunch of gear where you NEVER touch a knob [oh, 1176 #6 isn't really working on this sound... patch it to #16 - let's hear that] it just never comes back right for me, so I'd rather start fresh... so... once the guys have mastered the skill [as an exercise] there is no real need in my world to continue with that sort of thing.

For the most part my relentless insistence on having assistants do complete documentation is mainly to have the guys learn ruthless attention to detail - AND - to develop "muscle memory" on making sure they have paid ruthless attention to any and EVERY thing that goes on during a session.  Sometimes I'll actually need the notes, most times I don't - but at the end of the day its important to learn to pay attention to every detail - especially the small ones - and documentation of the details is large step towards understanding the "attention to detail" discipline.

For the most part sessions are a very boring thing unless you're "in the chair" [or playing an instrument] my mentor [a guy named Phil Greene] once said "monitoring loud is like driving fast -- its fun to do but sucks when you're the passenger".  This can be extrapolated to doing a session in general -- the mind wanders, you're tempted to read a magazine [etc.] so by having the assistant document EVERYTHING it helps them learn the craft by keeping their minds focused on "the session" while all the horribly boring stuff is going down [my girlfriend, a gardener by trade, came to a session once [this was several years ago] -- to this day she tells other of our friends that she'll never do that again - "they kept playing the same part over and over and over - like for 4 hours and I never heard a difference"] - the idea [from my perspective] is to keep the assistant engaged in the process and not bored to tears during the process.

I hope this makes sense.

Peace
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CN Fletcher

mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid


"Recording engineers are an arrogant bunch
If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
Malcolm Chisholm

Extreme Mixing

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2011, 04:12:20 pm »

Sounds like we all have our rules and our limits on what we will do.  I do too.  At a certain level of work, I don't add parts.  I spent a couple of years working with Walter A, and I respect him so much that I wouldn't dream of adding parts.  But I'm good at that part of the production process and many times, I'm invited to add stuff.  My "rule" is that, if I hear it, then a large percentage of the time, it should be there and it helps the song.  If it's not wanted, then I'll turn it off.  Really the client decides in the end, and I try not to take it personally--UNLESS they like it!

Lots of times, I'm the guy who's tuning the vocals anyway, so it's up to me.  I know when I send tracks to Mick Guzauski to mix, he expects them to be tuned and ready to go.  Last time I worked with him, he was struggling to get a kick and snare to sit right.  It had too much reverb printed with the sample.  I said why don't we just add a sample under it?  He said go ahead if you know how.  5 minutes later, Mick was a happy guy.

I love Dave Pensado's work.  I know that he replaces, or augments sounds and will add parts if he feels the song or the arrangement needs it.  So there are lots of ways to go on this subject, and we all do what we feel.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's not professional to add parts.  You do have to know your producer and what they might expect.  I don't see too much difference between adding something and muting a few parts.  Why do you place that in a safe category?

Steve
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Michael Brauer

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2011, 03:31:56 pm »

I train my guys how to recall a song perfectly and they do...everytime. The recall notes are all custom and are actually photographed first and then photoshopped so they are an exact document. I also have them notate compression(how much it's compressing) for anything being used and a few other things that insure a total recall from the 6 racks of gear i'm using. So it is possible and they know that 99.9 % of the reason my recall may not come back is because they took bad notes or they didn't do the few other things prior to my mixing that song. that is not something that is acceptable. My assistants are bad ass and are proud to have a recall come back perfectly.

I don't do additional production because it's not my thing. even if it was, I wouldn't do it without the artist's approval before hand. some artists might very well say "go for it". if they like it it stays. but in general, artists don't like their record messed with without their knowledge.  If I thought it needed a part I would tell them what I thought it lacked and have them do it and send me the stem.

The difference between muting an arrangement and adding an instrument is clear to me. What i'm muting was recorded by the artist. adding an instrument is not. Moving an arrangement around is fine if the artist is cool with it after he hears it.
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Extreme Mixing

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2011, 09:13:10 pm »

Great answer Michael.  You do very well with your strategy and I wouldn't change a thing.  I spent a fair amount of time documenting and recalling mixes, and it is indeed very possible to do, if you are careful and aware of how critical every mark is.  You have a great system.  Recalling is pretty foolproof if you are in the same room with the same gear.  Move to a different room with a now console and outboard gear and all bets are off.  You just can't trust the paint on most of the analog gear that I know of--it's different from unit to unit.

At your level, additional production is a bit like painting over Picasso.  Not a good idea as, I'm sure John Meyer doesn't need my help to make records.

Thanks for your input.  It gives me reason to be cautious and make sure that I have the invitation to change things before doing it.  It's not my intention to offend artists, that's for sure.

Steve
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Fletcher

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2011, 04:34:04 am »

I train my guys how to recall a song perfectly and they do...everytime. The recall notes are all custom and are actually photographed first and then photoshopped so they are an exact document.

Wow!!!

Very cool method - never thought of trying it that way!! 
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CN Fletcher

mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid


"Recording engineers are an arrogant bunch
If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
Malcolm Chisholm

Jim Williams

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Re: Do you add elements to your mixes
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2011, 11:33:20 am »

"Why would you want to recall a bad mix"? ~ George Harrison
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