2020-AUG-01 Info: The Rule Books have been updated. Please get acquainted with the updates and changes prior to joining the next competition of your choice.

Mix Challenge - Rules and Guidelines

Collection of the official Rules and Guidelines, plus Addenda
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Mister Fox
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Mix Challenge - Rules and Guidelines


Post by Mister Fox »

These are the official rules for the "Mix Challenge"

All changes to the rules will be handled in here. The thread is linked from each challenge and the corresponding sub menu from the main page.

The rule set is split over the course of the following posts, for easier understanding and simplicity in terms of finding. Please consult the appropriate sub-point if you want to read up on the rules and limitation:

Post 1: Introduction Post
Post 2: General information about the challenge and time frames
Post 3: TL;DR Rules (not implemented yet)
Post 4: Rules and Guidelines in Video Form (not implemented yet)
Post 5: Song Provider Guidelines
Post 6: Rules for participants of the Mix Challenge
Post 7: Rules for the Evaluation Process
Post 8: Rules and General Information for winning goods
Post 9: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions

If there are any questions, feel free to ask them in the Q&A and Gossip Area. Take note that the rules can be modified at any time(!) - though we will inform the contestants of the changes.

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General information about the challenge, time limits, etc


Post by Mister Fox »


What is this about (concept and idea):
The Mix(ing) Challenge is aimed to be a friendly competition with the focus on handling a multi-track mixdown. The idea (and twist) is to create a realistic client-to-business (C2B) scenario. Fixed time frames and maybe additional set rules will force you to be creative within boundaries, something that you might not encounter when working freely at your own pace and discretion.

Furthermore, the concept is to post documentation of what you did with the song. Documentation can be as simple as various screenshot of your setup, or an in-depth listing of plugins/modules and settings being used. This is not to steal your knowledge - but to actually expand on it, and to train yourself for the real world, where "session recall" and "re-editing" is a requirement. This is adding to the learning factor of understanding possible mistakes and/or for others to benefit from your findings, ideas, not to mention gather some new inspiration from your type of mixing. Nobody can improve if you can't learn anything.

The competition time frames:
  • 21 days for mixing and submitting (1st of the month until 21st of the month)
  • after 1st Mix Round: evaluation by the client (ideal maximum time frame: 14 days, considering 50+ entries)
  • 5 days: resubmission period of minimum 10, or up to 15 selected entries (Mix Round 2)
  • after 2nd Mix Round: evaluation by the client (ideal maximum time frame: 7 days)
Currently, the MC is held on a monthly basis, with the exception of January (vacation month)

The challenge always starts on 0:00 (UTC+1/CET) of the 1st of the month and runs until 21st of the month at 23:59 (UTC+1/CET). There might be exceptions due to special events (like Winter Holidays) - which will be made clear with each corresponding challenge. Due to the dynamic nature of the participant amount, there can be no set date range given for Mix Round 2.

Confused with the times, use this tool and select "Berlin (Germany)" as Location 2:

Alternatively: the global world clock at the top of the forum, the Global Countdown via the Mix Challenge homepage, or the timer on the index page

Thread for questions, giving feedback and OT talk: Q&A and Gossip Area

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Post by Mister Fox »

TL;DR - the rules it's shortest form:
This post will be updated with a simplified "Too Long, Didn't Read" version of the Rules and Guidelines

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Rules and Guidelines in Video Form [PLACEHOLDER]


Post by Mister Fox »

Placeholder for a video tutorial playlist

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Song Providers Guidelines, information how to provide multitracks


Post by Mister Fox »

If you want to provide the "Mix Challenge" a song for overhauling/mixing, please take note of the following notes and helpful guidelines.

If you have questions, or are unsure what to do (this post does look a bit intimidating!) - please feel free to contact the staff and you will be guided through every step of the process. You will not be left hanging.

General Information and Legalities
  • a song provider/a client can be anyone
  • any music genre is welcome
  • the provided track can be an old and/or already known release or even a work-in-progress production
  • Songs must not be foreign content. Meaning, as song provider you must have the rights and permission to share this song for this competition (if the track is public domain, please provide further information)
  • the clients presence during and after the Mix Challenge is mandatory - ideally through both email and the mix-challenge.com forum (see "Guidelines for Evaluation" below for further detail).
  • Song provider must agree (consent), that the provided content is used for this particular competition only(!, temporary "exclusivity of editing of the source material") and that the participants can/will make their mixdowns public
  • Edited songs are not allowed to be released through a sale of some sort by the contestants. The rights remain with the creator. The Mix Challenge audio community merely acts as a host for the competition.
  • The creator of the song is free to start a collaboration with the possible winner (congratulations to that). This will be beyond our boundaries.
  • Edited songs need a special permission to be released as part of a portfolio of the contestants! These songs are only allowed to be released as part of this competition! This will be beyond our boundaries.
  • Edited songs are not allowed to be released through SoundCloud (or similar) without the song provider's permission, especially not without appropriate file tagging and given credits. Failing to do so gives the impression that this song belongs to the mix participant and not the song provider. The rights remain with the creator.
  • the song provider has no influence how the song will turn out. He/she agrees to full artistic freedom by the participants of the competition - with certain limitations (see participant rules) or otherwise clearly stated add-on rules (like specific desired output format)
  • the song provider is not allowed to join the competition for this particular round - he/she provided this material due to the fact that he/she is obviously interested in an alternate mix / edit. A participation like a regular participant would null that. Doing a mix/master/edit "just for fun and games" is allowed of course
  • Please also take note that due to the public nature of this challenge, the source material might find it's way to bootleg pages!
  • Furthermore, chances are that there will be backups made of both the source material and the contest entries to review that material at a later state (also see voting rules below). This can be revoked any time by the song provider if there is a regular/commercial release imminent and the song creator clearly states "do not share this anymore".

Technical Aspects - How to provide a song, Integrity Check, etc
  • If you contact the staff with one or several song proposals, please provide a finished demo mix to stream (important for the challenge) and link to download (important for the Mix Package)
  • once a production has been chosen for a possible future challenge, the next step is the so called "Integrity Check", which is a routine check up process to confirm if all files are coherent, free of errors or they might need minor adjustments prior to the actual challenge. You (the client) are not left alone with this. There will always be somebody to walk you through - up until the start of the competition
  • due to technical reasons (staff size), communication can run a bit thin - apologies in advance
  • for the so called "Integrity Check", you will receive a TXT template to fill out, containing the following information
    • the full name and run time of the song
    • the speed of the track (bpm) and/or a tempo map - should there be bpm changes
    • the time signature (e.g. 4/4, 6/8 or 3/4) and/or a documentation if there are signature changes
    • the song key (if possible)
    • a couple of sentences (we call this "Words by the Song Provider") what this track is about, what you'd like to see during mixing, what are absolute no-no's, possible special rules, etc.
    • some technical details of your recording process (in form of used equipment and/or special sound sets)
    • lyrics and a translation (especially if the track is in a foreign language and not in English)
    • an info on the desired output sampling rate and bitrate. Else the mixes will be provided in the same resolution as the source material (bar minimum 44kHz/24bit, if the source was 44kHz/16bit)
  • the production needs to be provided as individual WAV or AIFF tracks (aka: multitracks)
  • please render all mono tracks in mono, and all stereo tracks in stereo (panned in center)
  • all individual tracks must start on the same bar, and should ideally end on the same bar. If the track goes from bar 2 to bar 204, all tracks should have the same length (read: consolidated files, strip silence prior to consolidating is not necessary, the mix participants handle that)
  • we do recommend to render one extra bar of silence both in front and at the end of the production, to prevent sudden cutoffs of signals (e.g. delay/reverb trails), or smeared transients at the beginning of the song
  • the source material can be at anything between 44/24 (bar minimum!) to 96/32. Though please be reasonable with the Sampling Rate, and please do not Dither or Bit Truncate anything!
  • the individual tracks should not drop lower than -24dBFS digital peak (average) and not be higher than -1dBFS digital peak (maximum) in terms of signal strength - this is to prevent high noise floors and/or clipping
  • If possible, Guitars and Bass should be provided in DI form - but please document how you recorded/treated the guitars for sound recreation
  • You can provide tracks as clean as possible (to offer maximum creativity possibilities for participants) or as processed as desired (if you created a specific sound, that others can not recreate easily). We recommend to keep the files clean, but you can provide "printed" versions as well
  • send FX, group channels and the likes should ideally be turned off. They can be added as "bonus guide tracks" in a subfolder however for the mix participants to draw inspiration from
  • Compress all files as ZIP or RAR the files, then forward it to the staff through means like DropBox, GoogleDrive or WeTransfer

If you got further questions, feel free to reach out via the Contact Form or in the General Gossip Thread

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Rules for participants of the Mix Challenge


Post by Mister Fox »

These rules and guidelines are for the challenge participants and the actual competition itself. This is the most important rule set for those that want to participate with an own mix. Violation of the rules will result in an instant disqualification.

Mixing and Editing Guidelines
  • This is a mix challenge, NOT a mixing and (pre)mastering challenge. The main focus of the game is is to create a balanced mix, which can later be used for a possible mastering process
  • The contestants have artistic freedom in terms of mixing (no limits on used modules/effects, neither hardware nor software) - within given boundaries (see add-on rules of the corresponding challenge thread)
  • Drum Sample Triggering is not allowed
  • Drum Recording "Enhancement" on the other hand - like "sub bass enhancement tricks" (MaxxBass technology, sub-harmonic synthesizer, gated sine/white noise) and transient designers - are however allowed
  • It is allowed to use plugins on the summing bus, as long as they are for broad/general sound shaping (e.g. console emulation, "print to tape" sound, "mix through a compressor" trick, etc) and/or metering tools, but not for mastering purposes (see thread Rules and Guidelines Addendum: Summing Bus Treatment)
  • It is highly recommended to work with a certain reference level. We suggest to work at/around -18 dBFS = 0 VU (EBU R68 alignment level). Please consult the Wikipedia entry on Peak Programme Meters, and/or the forum entry on "Gain Staging with a VU Meter". Working and exporting within the range of -21 dBFS (RMS avg or -3 VU) for mezzo-forte to -15 dBFS (RMS avg or +3 VU) for forte-fortissimo passages, while not exceeding -2 dBFS maximum signal strength (digital peak), is considered "good practice".
  • The participants are limited to the provided source material
  • the provided arrangement must remain the same. Do not change the song key, do not add an additional beat or instruments (e.g. replay a guitar), move parts around and therefore change the arrangement. Unless otherwise stated (i.e. radio mix, loops being allowed for reordering, creative audio effects like glitching, etc). The audio demo can be a guide, but be advised that it might be a different revision from the material that has been given to you.
  • it is allowed to edit and to a certain extend even mangle the source material to improve the production (e.g. pitch correction within given boundaries, timing/phase correction within given boundaries, re-amping of bass/guitars if DI track were present, vocal comping, noise gating/strip silence, etc), as long as this does not result in drastic sound design and a complete new sound (e.g. morphing one sound into another one - example: flute into trumpet) - unless otherwise stated. Please also consult the FAQ section (most notably Q9 to Q11)
  • It is mandatory to document your mix/edit by the end of the deadline (21st of the month, 23:59 UTC+1/CET or 23:59 UTC+2/CEST). At bar minimum, focus on one particular "sound" you have enjoyed creating, and how you went there. You can also provide screenshots, but they should show off your mix console and your used inserts. You can go as detailed as you like. This is to learn good "session recall" tactics, engaging in further conversations and offers all participants to learn from each other
  • SPECIAL RULES MAY APPLY PER CHALLENGE, these will be highlighted and mentioned separately directly under the "Words by the Song Provider" paragraph of the current mix challenge thread

Upload and Submission Guidelines
  • you enter the Mix Challenge by posting in the corresponding game thread, and linking to your edits - submitting though other means (email, private message, messages though Facebook/Twitter) is not allowed and will be ignored without further commentary
  • it is recommended to mainly only upload to a Cloud Storage drive or your own server (DropBox, Google Drive, your own server, etc)
  • Uploading to SoundCloud is not allowed (as of MC051, only relevant for the Mix Challenge)
  • You are only allowed to submit one entry per competition. Please do not upload "several revisions" or "premasters" (see "Mixing and Editing Guidelines" above). Your entry is final - no re-submissions with changes allowed unless you're selected for Mix Round 2 (see FAQ)
  • Due to the strict nature of the game, we do recommend to not send in your mix within the first 24 hours of the Challenge. Take a day off, give your ears time to relax, take another listen the next day. Additional to that, it is not recommended to submit an edit within the last 60 minutes of the challenge due to possible unforeseen server slowdowns
  • entries must be available for at least the length of the Challenge, including Mix Round 2 (the free accounts of WeTransfer and Hightail only allow accessibility up to 7 days)
  • edits must be easily available to download by the end of each deadline (e.g. 21st of the month, 23:59 UTC+1/CET or 23:59 UTC+2/CEST) without the need of any special login, a decryption key, download tools (EXE installers) or various captcha requests. Please double check prior to posting on the forum that your material can be accessed with the correct rights.
  • it is mandatory to provide an uncompressed WAV file
  • please do not provide a MP3, AAC or FLAC file (only relevant for the Mix Challenge)
  • the entries must be properly named and tagged. Please use the naming convention: MC000_ArtistName_TrackName_ContestantName.wav and MC000_ArtistName_TrackName_ContestantName_R2.wav for Mix Round 2, while the Contestant Name equals the Forum Username
  • the final mixdown / export must not undershoot -23 LUFS ILk (Integrated), neither exceed -16 LUFS ILk (Integrated), while the maximum digital signal strength must not exceed -1.0 dBTP (True Peak) - NO (Pre)MASTERING. Recommended measurement specifications are ITU-R BS.1770-2+ (ideally ITU-R BS.1770-4) or EBU R-128
  • unless otherwise stated, export in the sampling rate and bitrate the material was provided in. However, bar minimum in 24bit. Examples:
    • If a multitrack package was provided in 44/16 - export in 44/24
    • If a multitrack package was provided in 44/24 - export in 44/24
    • if a multitrack package was provided in 44/24 and the end result needs to be delivered in 48/24 - export in 48/24
  • Please try to prevent unnecessary sample rate conversion and bit truncation on both your end (participant) and the client (song provider), unless otherwise stated. Sound degradation due to resampling and possible introduced noise due to bitrate changes could be a knock-out criterion during the evaluation process. You never know how the client's equipment is set up.
  • if you are locked on the hardware side to a certain sampling rate without any chance to change that (e.g. the Allen & Heath QU-series digital mixer), please reach out to the Mix Challenge staff for possible solutions and further instructions (keep a turnaround of 72hour on workdays in mind!)

Giving feedback to each other:
  • if you didn't make it to "Mix Round 2", you can nicely ask for feedback from the song provider - but the "client" is not under any obligation to do so for participants outside the follow-up round (considering the amount of monthly participants)
  • due to this, giving feedback to each other (participant to participant) is highly encouraged. This adds to the learning process
  • please hold back the feedback until at least Mix Round 1 has ended. This is to not influence others during the current running challenge
  • the thread remains open for discussion post Mix Round 2

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Rules for the Evaluation Process


Post by Mister Fox »

The winners podium is declared by the song provider (in other words, the client) after giving feedback to the tracks after the first and second submission period. We call this "Song Evaluation Period".

General Evaluation Guidelines
  • Evaluation happens after the first mix round (21 days) has ended, and after the second mix round (5 days). Please take note of the challenge time frames.
  • Post the 21 day mixing period, the song provider can and must give feedback to all of the submitted tracks. If there is a strong exceedance of 20 submissions by participants, then only for the top 15-20 productions are mandatory to be evaluated (client can give feedback to all entries if he/she so desires).
  • It is recommended that the song provider already collects entries by the time they are submitted, and is writing down initial notes. It is also suggested to bundle the feedback for the participants in one post during the (ideally) 14 days post first submission round
  • The song provider must(!) select 10-15 tracks after this evaluation period (but no more than 20!), and ask these participants for a re-submission with desired changes that will improve the edit. This marks the start of Mix Round 2
  • After the feedback period of the first mix round, the selected participants have 5 days max to overhaul and resubmit their track. Every other participant is out of the game. But we do recommend to leave the links to the submissions intact for others to learn from and collect feedback
  • Once MIx Round 2 has ended, the song provider/client must give feedback to all resubmissions again. The "Winners Podium" (top 3 entries), along with feedback to all Mix Round 2 participants, is ideally declared within 7-10 days after the game has ended.
  • The clients presence during and after the Mix Challenge is mandatory. May it be via mail, or directly on this forum
  • If the song provider is not approachable within a time frame of 45 days post submission period for either Mix Round 1 or 2, then the Mix Challenge staff will take helm and cast a decision. In case of the former (radio silence post Mix Round 1), there will be no second Mix Round.

For the client - objective evaluation with Loudness Normalization techniques

If a more objective evaluation of all entries is desired, then "Loudness Normalization" might be of interest. Please follow this thread for more information about this topic and on how to do that.

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Rules and General Information for winning goods


Post by Mister Fox »

Since we have license sponsors for this competition (mentioned separately in each corresponding competition thread), people that participate with a production have the chance to win tools or audio content. But in order to do so, we need to unfortunately set up an additional set of rules.

General rules
  • people allowed to win are participants of the Mix Challenge that sent in a track
  • the winners of the challenge(s) are solely declared by the song provider (see evaluation process above)
  • the three winners of the competition can choose from the available content by the license sponsors.
  • Since we have several license sponsors for this challenge, the first winner has the first pick, the second winner can choose from what is left available in the pool, etc.
  • Only one company per winner - if the company has already been picked, it drops out of the pool for the next winner.
  • Price distribution will be cleared/handled in public in the thread of the corresponding challenge
  • If you happen to be among the top spots but don't want to pick a license, the next winner in line can pick up what's left in the pool. You are not forced to pick up anything
  • If you happen to among the top spots, please don't let others wait unnecessarily until you made your selection -- if you do not respond within 5 days after the game has ended, it will be assumed that you do not want to pick up anything and the next person in line can select something from the available licenses

Additional information for the license winners
  • you have to pick the license in public. Picking a license is on order of the winners podium
  • the license winner then has to get in touch with the admin of the forum (that is Mister Fox)
  • please provide your contact information (full name and email address) plus what license you picked. Then either the company in question will get in touch with you directly, or the license handler (in this case, the forum admin)
  • Should you not(!) get an answer within reasonable time (7 work days bar minimum, please keep a delay in responses due to the ongoing pandemic in mind), contact the license handler again (or the admin rather, Mister Fox), and ask for a status. DO NOT CONTACT THE COMPANY OFFERING THE LICENSE DIRECTLY!
  • should you ignore this repeatedly, you'll be closed out of winning licenses in the future.
  • should you not respond via PM's within 30 days after the corresponding game has ended (requesting a license), your license offer/request will turn invalid

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Post by Mister Fox »

The FAQ?!
This section is for frequently asked questions of things that are not really clear

Q1) ARG! I don't have the time to join! I won't make it! Can you extend the time limits? Or do this every other month instead?
A1) No, but you can put away some time and join the next round of course. :tu:

Q2) I've just found the place. Can I still download old mix packages?
A2) The TL;DR: due to legal reasons and special agreements with the song provider, that is not possible. The mix package will be inaccessible after the the 21nd of the month.

The long answer: With permission by the "virtual client", the Mix Packs for the current running challenges are only available for the month in question. The material is being removed from the server once the challenge has ended. There is no further distribution of the source material. The only remaining links are to finished mixes by the mix participants.

Q3) The rules are too much - it kills the fun of the competition
A3) We hear your opinion, but we can't agree on that. Unfortunately, we have to set up fairly strict rules for everyone to be on common ground. Pretty much every challenge or competition in the music realm has this. Even if they seem like a lot (they have to be as detailed to not have any misunderstandings), at their core they are still fairly simple to understand.

Q4) I won the competition! How can I pick up my license?
A4) Please get in touch with user "Mister Fox" (currently) - he'll guide you through. But please don't wait too long for your "first pick", the other winners want to choose as well.

Q5a) "Why should we not send in our mix within the first 24 hours?" and
Q5b) "I did a small mistake, why can I not re-submit my entry?"

A5) The challenge not only tries to simulate a real world scenario, but is also a competitive environment. Since you only have one chance at this, and resubmissions are not possible (unless you go into Mix Round 2), I (point of view: Mister Fox) always recommend to take a day off and listen to the content again with fresh ears - see if a severe mistake did sneak into your mix (missed an effect, wrong automation, forgot to render out one instrument). Especially if you pulled an all-nighter.

You have a time limit, but you don't need to be first in line either. Imagine what a client in a real life scenario might think if you submit a faulty mix and be like "whoops, I did mistake, need to change that" and/or a couple of hours or days later "whoops - need to change that again". That disqualifies you from possible future deals. Try to prevent that.

Q6) I don't get the reference level thing - why?! Can't we just mix how we feel like?
A6) You can, but the focus of the challenge is to mix, not mixing and mastering. I do recommend to take a look at the following threads here in this forum regarding reference levels and summing bus treatment
Gain Staging with VU meter
Q&A - Mix Challenge - rule set and reference/target levels (split from MC35)
Mix Challenge - Rules and Guidelines Addendum: Summing Bus Treatment

Interesting reads can also be found at the following places (off-site):
http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic ... 4#p5775714 (middle section)
http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic ... 8#p5845478 (and the next 3 following posts)
http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic ... 5#p5867105 (an information about Loudness and Dynamic Range Analysis // ITU-R BS.1770-x LRA vs DR Meter values)
http://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much- ... tored.html

Q7) Artistic freedom but we're not allowed to rearrange, do heavy sound design or sound replacement?! But this track has issues!
A7) If you get tracks "as is", you shall threat them "as is". You have to expand upon them, within given boundaries (see add-on rules for the challenge in question, these days, there is no limitation on FX use unless otherwise stated). You are a mix engineer in this case, not the composer / songwriter / producer or actual remixer. At least not in this particular challenge. Use your communication skills, reach out to the client and communicate about what you consider being problematic, what you'd like to do and whether or not it's acceptable. Just like in the real world: communication is key to provide a mix that you enjoyed working on, and the client enjoys listening to.

Q08) I'd like to use drum sample replacement - this kit has been really bad recorded...
A08) Short answer: not allowed. Usage of drum sample triggering will result in instant disqualification. Drum Recording "Enhancement" on the other hand - like "sub bass enhancement tricks" (MaxxBass technology, subharmonic synthesizer, gated sine/white noise) and transient designers are allowed. Please consult the rules above

Q9) Can we pitch shift the kick drum within a certain semi tone range?
A9) While this is a famous technique used in electronic music, this particular element would count to changing the "song key". Therefore - not allowed. Please consult the rules above. Adding as different pitched sound as a "subtle effect" to the original source (certain special cases like drums and sub-bass come to mind) is a completely different topic. If in doubt, ask in the thread of the corresponding challenge.

Q10) Can we micro pitch shift vocals, instruments or percussion parts? (cent range)
A10) Technically, there is no mention of "not allowed". The main question you should ask yourself "when does the editing in favor for ultimate perfection end"?!". So unless the main vocals or instrument parts are totally off, don't do it. If it's "minor corrections" ever so often, for example in a slightly out-of-tune background vocal, then pitch correction might maybe not hurt. Make it clear in your documentation however that you applied pitch correction, and why you think that was necessary. You never know if the sound you consider "out of pitch" was intentional. If in doubt, ask in the thread of the corresponding challenge.

Q11) Can we time-correct offset vocals/instruments?
A11) If it's an adjustment to fix phasing issues (for example: drum kit microphones, or different amplifier microphones, suffering from phase cancellations), then micro-adjustments are allowed. However, everything that has influence on the groove and feel of the production, should be taken into consideration. Is quantization of certain parts really necessary (human factor)? Please see Q10 - "when does the editing in favor for ultimate perfection end?"

more FAQs will be added as soon as there are more similar questions popping up...