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SirJamsalot
post Jun 7 2010, 04:53 AM
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Likely a TonyMiro question, but anyone else with mastering skillz - I have a question concerning mastering something for export to either video or audio. Question is - what should the final mix-down's output level be?

After mixing down, my exports seem to be a little light on the audio.

Thanks!
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Todd Simpson
post Jun 7 2010, 06:05 AM
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Great question. What software you using?

The secret is in mixing and mastering. Once you have done your initial "mix" it's time to master! What is mastering? It's the final step in the mix down process before "Authoring" or burning, uploading etc.

Here is a link to a great Wiki article on Mastering

WIKI- WHAT IS "MASTERING" IN AUDIO?

Here is a spiff graphic to illustrate the audio meter bridge you typically see in your DAW or Editing Software


You want to try to get close to "Unity Gain" or 0 DB without going over and creating clipping or distortion in the overall signal.
One way of doing this is to use a "Mastering Plugin" there are many available. I really like the IZOTOP OZONE plugin. It sounds great and has a tone of useful presets. The presets are not perfect but are a great place to start tweaking from. Here is a look at the Ozone Interface.

Here is a link to download the demo. It is cross platform and works in most software as a plugin. Give it a try just starting with some of the presets You'll be shocked at how much it can improve your overall mix especially at first. Be careful not to overuse it though as you will compress your sound too much and crush it.
LINK TO DOWNLOAD OZONE
Todd

This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Jun 7 2010, 06:23 AM


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SirJamsalot
post Jun 7 2010, 06:26 AM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Jun 6 2010, 10:05 PM) *
Great question. What software you using? Generally folks try to work in audio near "unity gain" which is about Zero on your software meter bridge. When you transition in to your video software, you may notice you need to push the volume up to +1 or +2. It can bump in to the yellow but try to keep it out of the red.


I'm running Cubase 5sx.

QUOTE
There is a lot of debate in the audio community about the "Loudness Wars". This is the trend in mastering to crush dynamic range and go for increased overall volume. It's just another back and forth really. It comes down to what your ears tell you.


Yeah, I read the thread on that topic as I thought it might answer my question but it seemed more centered on adding compression and other mastering stuff - I'm more interested in just the correct end-product volume setting.

QUOTE
When you reach the mastering stage, what plugins are you using? In order to get enough level and keep from peaking, most folks will add a compressor or mastering plugin such as Ozotope Izone, or BBE, or TRAX or any one of hundreds. It's a way to put the final touch on your audio before publishing. Most plugins will let you run them in your video software. For example, if you edit in Final Cut Pro, you probably want to get some plugins that are FCP compatible so you can use them while editing.

I like the Izotop Ozone plugin for it's sound quality and cheap price. But everybody has a fav.


I'm not using any post-production software. I think I might have Ozone or something that sounded like it stock in Cubase, tho it's probably a limited til you pay edition but I haven't used it yet. So far, all I've been doing is just exporting audio tracks after adjusting the mix-volume a bit.

So lets say that I have recorded a guitar track into Cubase and it's overall volume is pretty low compared to the rest of the mix, and I bump its volume up max in the mix-controls, but it's still lower than the rest of the mix so I have to lower all the other tracks so the end-volume is low - is there a way to bump up that track apart from the volume on that track?

Thanks!
Christian A.

Oh snap! I need to review this - thanks for posting!

QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Jun 6 2010, 10:05 PM) *
Great question. What software you using?

The secret is in mixing and mastering. Once you have done your initial "mix" it's time to master! What is mastering? It's the final step in the mix down process before "Authoring" or burning, uploading etc.

Here is a link to a great Wiki article on Mastering

WIKI- WHAT IS "MASTERING" IN AUDIO?

Here is a spiff graphic to illustrate the audio meter bridge you typically see in your DAW or Editing Software


You want to try to get close to "Unity Gain" or 0 DB without going over and creating clipping or distortion in the overall signal.
One way of doing this is to use a "Mastering Plugin" there are many available. I really like the IZOTOP OZONE plugin. It sounds great and has a tone of useful presets. The presets are not perfect but are a great place to start tweaking from. Here is a look at the Ozone Interface.

Here is a link to download the demo. It is cross platform and works in most software as a plugin. Give it a try just starting with some of the presets You'll be shocked at how much it can improve your overall mix especially at first. Be careful not to overuse it though as you will compress your sound too much and crush it.
LINK TO DOWNLOAD OZONE
Todd


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Todd Simpson
post Jun 7 2010, 07:27 AM
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I don't use Cubase but in general terms the answer is yes. Once you run out of "head room" you have to start pulling tricks out the bag if you want to keep using that track. However, at that point you are going to be pulling the noise floor up as well so if it's just to quite you may not have gotten a good track and it may be a good idea to re record it and try and get more level as you go in.

However, if that's not an option, it's time for the trick bag.

1.)Compression-Most audio software supporst some type of per track compression. This can be used to bump up the gain of a signal and keep it from over modulating. Compression is an art unto itself and take time to master.

2.)Double the track- you can copy and paste the track in to another empty track, then off set it just slightly in the timeline, just a few milliseconds, and pan each 15 degrees from center. One left, one right. This will give you a fuller sound as well as louder.

3.)Re-Amping - you can use an amp modeling plugin to simulate "Re-Amping" or going out of your computer, in to an Amp/cab re recording the signal and bringing it back in.

Each of this will bring up the noise floor so you will need to use a noise gate, and some eq. If you consistenly don't get enough level on your guitar tracks, it may be a good idea to look at your input chain. Getting god levels going in is critical.


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Staffy
post Jun 7 2010, 07:54 AM
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I will say that the final level is depending of what You shall use the master for, eg. shall it be used for Youtube, a CD, or converted to MP3, sent to a mastering engineer?? However, if You shall try to do the final product on CD, I will definitely suggest using multi-band compression. Some plugs I used with great results is T-Racks and AMT Max Warmth, the latter I found even better. the goal here is to compress the audio and move the headroom as close to 0 db as possible. However, it shall NOT be over-used since it kills some (or all) the dynamics of the music.

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SirJamsalot
post Jun 7 2010, 08:00 AM
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QUOTE (Staffy @ Jun 6 2010, 11:54 PM) *
I will say that the final level is depending of what You shall use the master for, eg. shall it be used for Youtube, a CD, or converted to MP3, sent to a mastering engineer?? However, if You shall try to do the final product on CD, I will definitely suggest using multi-band compression. Some plugs I used with great results is T-Racks and AMT Max Warmth, the latter I found even better. the goal here is to compress the audio and move the headroom as close to 0 db as possible. However, it shall NOT be over-used since it kills some (or all) the dynamics of the music.

//Staffay


Are any of those recommended plugins free by chance? I've already made bacon out of my piggy bank for this quarter! lol. I'm not certain what the final cut will be for - but basically anything I do for REC will be web - but eventually I want to cut my own CD for a keep-sake - so my grand-kids will know how much of freak their grandfather was ^.^


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Staffy
post Jun 7 2010, 08:11 AM
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QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Jun 7 2010, 09:00 AM) *
Are any of those recommended plugins free by chance? I've already made bacon out of my piggy bank for this quarter! lol. I'm not certain what the final cut will be for - but basically anything I do for REC will be web - but eventually I want to cut my own CD for a keep-sake - so my grand-kids will know how much of freak their grandfather was ^.^


No, they are not, but there shall be free demo versions of them. However, they are not the most expensive ones... smile.gif

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Todd Simpson
post Jun 7 2010, 08:48 AM
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You can demo versions of most of the plugins mentioned that work perfect for a bit then cripple themsleves. I put the link to download the OZONE mastering plugin in my last post. This will get you started on mastering and on using these types of plugins but long term you will need a working version.

There is probably some compression built in to the software you are using. So look in to that first as you already own it. Also, I'd suggest.

1.) Go get a copy of REAPER (free to download)
*Great quality DAW, open source. Cool plugins built in.
DOWNLOAD REAPER PC/MAC FREE


2.)Sign up on indabamusic.com (also free)
*Great quality Web based DAW, also cool plugins built in and runs in any web browser.
INDABA MUSIC ONLINE RECORDING/MIXING


Now of course, both of these require you stretch a bit and learn some new software. But if you are running in to some of the
limits of cubase, don't want to spend a bunch of money on plugins, etc. These two choices are great as they will get the job done and are free.

This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Jun 7 2010, 08:49 AM


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Jun 7 2010, 11:17 AM
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The answer is partly as Staffy has said - it depends.

It depends on what the musical genre is, whether you're going to master it yourself or send it to someone else, it depends on what it is for, what you have available and know how to use properly for mixing.

All music has its own natural loudness potential. Just slamming every thing through a limiter to flattop at 0dBFS isn't the answer. What you should do, within reason, is mixing to that loudness potential and leave additional room for mastering. Let the ME get volume if required because we know how to do it best and have the equipment for it.

Genre - acoustic, jazz and classical - you tend to place the emphasis on maintaining proper and full dynamics. As such you need to keep peak at or below -3dBFS with a crest better, if possible and appropriate, of 16dB. Other genres you may have a smaller crest factor.

Master yourself/send it to someone else - you should discuss with the ME what they need and prefer. I ask for -3dB but I will accept a mix closer to 0dBFS provided it's not clipped but with the caveat that the client understands that they've reduced the options that I have to work with. If it's clipped all bets are off and I will only master it if the client insists.

At the mo and IME - we're going through a phase where the mix engineer will send audio that is recorded too hot and peak too close to 0dBFS. There are far too many mix engineers who now add a limiter to their 2 bus just to slam up the volume. If it isn't clipped then it requires the ME to re-gain stage the entire audio to get headroom to work in. Far too often even gain-staging it down still leaves us with audio that is over compressed in the mix and whilst I can do things to try to bring back the dynamics it is a lot of work and isn't 100%.


If it's clipped well you've now have digital audio with some very nasty distortion.

What it's for - +1 what Staffay has already said.

I'd also add a couple of extras - if you peak at 0 on your DAW you will almost certainly clip if you render to mp3. If you wish to render to mp3 you need to peak at around -0.5 to -1.0 dBFS to allow for the summing in the encoding and any possible intersample/harmonic. If your meters can't read and show inter overs (and the majority don't/can't) then you need to peak no higher than -.3dBFS even if you are saving to wave or CDA. Also most mixing DAWs do not have their PPL meters etc set up accurately enough to go close to 0dBFS.

Partly related to the comment about meters - what gear you have and how well you can use it.

If you have access only to mixing grade hardware/software then I'd suggest avoiding multiband compressors and limiters etc on the 2 bus and keeping the peak level down to -3dBFS and send to an ME. Beaware that monitors/speakers intended for mixing/recording are not good enough for mastering - they're are not accurate and flat enough across the full audible range from 20-22000Hz. A result of this is that some mix engineers mix the bass end poorly simply because they can't hear it properly.

If you have mastering grade hardware and software and know how to use it properly (so for instance you know and understand things like the differences between LP and MP EQ, gain staging, soft and hard clipping etc...) you may want to do things yourself.
Packages like Ozone can be helpful if you're experimenting/learning a bit about mastering. Ozone is probably the best package around but I don't know any pro ME who uses a package and definitely none of us use the pre-sets that a lot of people rely on when they do. By all means if you have the spare cash try Ozone or similar but be aware that you will not get to the same level as a pro ME.

Also be aware that recording/mixing DAWS are not ideal for mastering for lots of reasons to do with workflow, metering, editing, quality assurance, rendering, Red Book compliance, etc. This includes pretty much all the common DAWs you come across including Sonar, Cubase, Live!, Reaper etc. There are actually only a few full mastering DAWs around and they aren't the ones people normally are aware of. This isn't to say you can't use a common DAW but again just be aware that you may not get to the same result and you may have problems.

BTW - the wiki description of mastering is a bit out.



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Gus
post Jun 7 2010, 01:24 PM
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Great replies. I learned a lot. smile.gif

Is there any topic or wiki page where one can get kind of walkthrough on how to make high quality recordings?

I mean, something that can be done without going to a professional studio, but that would have quality enough for making demos (for myspace, sending out to venues, etc)


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Staffy
post Jun 7 2010, 01:48 PM
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I think there's plenty of info in the recording forum, even that I never saw a complete roadmap from scratch to final result. It also depends on what You wanna do - eg. record a whole band "live" or building up an arrangement step by step with a lot of overdubs etc.
I have done a lot of recording in my days, and Tony is just an outstanding pro, so just shoot some questions !!! smile.gif

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Saoirse O'Shea
post Jun 7 2010, 03:10 PM
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Just to add to what Staffay's said above I think Ivan posted a link to some Cubase recording videos as well...

The UK magazine Sound on Sound runs a regular, monthly article that looks at what a mix engineer did on a particular famous recording and that may give you some good insights in to how the pros go about their work and why. (You can get an electronic subscription to SoS so you can read it on the www.)

As you can't go to a pro studio listen to as much commercially recorded music and deconstruct it. Try to work what the mix engineers did and why.

If you're happy with technical material about audio, electronics etc then maybe consider a student membership of AES or similar.

Finally - practice, you'll learn as much about mixing by doing it and working out what worked and why as you will reading about it.


One other thing (never believe me when I say 'finally' wink.gif )

- really good mixing requires really good tracking/recording since the maxim of garbage in=garbage out is pretty much true. Spend time learning about, and practicing with, gain staging, mic placement, room acoustics, etc.


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SirJamsalot
post Jun 7 2010, 06:00 PM
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Thanks guys! I'm going to investigate that Sound on Sound mag - sounds like a great learning experience. Todd - I already have Cubase - why download Reaper? I don't want to have to load too much stuff on my computer - I already have a ton of stuff on it and I"m trying to keep it as lean as I can.

This thread could be a wiki of its own!
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Saoirse O'Shea
post Jun 7 2010, 06:41 PM
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Back OT about levels for mix down for mastering...

Just received in the last few days 2 albums from a British indie label to master. One is acoustic and the peak is -12dBFS and the rms sits at about -20. Very well recorded and mixed album and the 'low' volume level isn't an issue.

Compared to those I had to advise someone last week that his stuff was not IMHO opinion suitable for mastering because he slammed the mix 2 bus and the RMS sits up around -6dBFS - the whole audio file is flat top'ed pretty much digital distortion start to finish. A UK ME I know reckons he's now getting 1/4 of all stuff sent to him that sit with the peak very close to zero and occasional overs. We get maybe 2/10 and of those I have to say 'no' to about 80% and a lot of those are 'mixed' professionally.

I even know of some pro mix engineers advising people to slam the 2 bus for maximum level before sending the audio for mastering. I use the word 'professional' in their case advisedly rolleyes.gif .



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Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

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We use professional, mastering grade hardware in our mastering studo. Our hardware includes:
Cranesong Avocet II Monitor Controller, Dangerous Music Liasion Insert Hardware Router, ATC SCM Pro Monitors, Lavry Black DA11, Prism Orpheus ADC/DAC, Gyratec Gyraf XIV Parallel Passive Mastering EQ, Great River MAQ 2NV Mastering EQ, Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ Shelf, Maselec MLA-2 Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Mastering Compressor, Eventide Eclipse Reverb/Echo.
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post Jun 7 2010, 07:03 PM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Jun 7 2010, 07:05 AM) *
You want to try to get close to "Unity Gain" or 0 DB without going over and creating clipping or distortion in the overall signal.
One way of doing this is to use a "Mastering Plugin" there are many available. I really like the IZOTOP OZONE plugin. It sounds great and has a tone of useful presets. The presets are not perfect but are a great place to start tweaking from. Here is a look at the Ozone Interface.

Here is a link to download the demo. It is cross platform and works in most software as a plugin. Give it a try just starting with some of the presets You'll be shocked at how much it can improve your overall mix especially at first. Be careful not to overuse it though as you will compress your sound too much and crush it.
LINK TO DOWNLOAD OZONE
Todd

Dude, thanks a bunch! I just downlaoded the Demo and used some presets on one of my projects. One on the master track and then on all seperate tracks, and it sounds a lot more living smile.gif


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SirJamsalot
post Jun 7 2010, 07:11 PM
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QUOTE (tonymiro @ Jun 7 2010, 10:41 AM) *
... I use the word 'professional' in their case advisedly rolleyes.gif .


I can relate. My wife is a professional photographer, and ever since photography went digital, everyone who can afford a new "professional" digital camera considers themself a professional because of the equipment - despite the fact they don't know what they don't know because they haven't been exposed to it - like proper ligthing, printing, color management etc. She's now competing with amateur "professionals", and the sad part is - the general public doesn't seem to appreciate the difference because they too have never experienced true professional quality before.

Seems to be a growing phenominon. I wrote an article on it actually - what people don't know people don't miss - and quality suffers for it. When people's only sensory input is dulled because of poor input devices and their only exposure to mediums of art are low quality, they couldn't possibly know what quality really is because their only way of seeing it is limited.

Anyways, this is OT, but I've seen it manifesting itself in the digital photography arena, and in the audio arena too (mp3 quality versus vinyl, etc.). Makes one wonder what the benefit of being an experienced professional is except for maybe improved work-flow! sad.

Christian A.


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post Jun 7 2010, 07:30 PM
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QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Jun 7 2010, 08:11 PM) *
I can relate. My wife is a professional photographer, and ever since photography went digital, everyone who can afford a new "professional" digital camera considers themself a professional because of the equipment - despite the fact they don't know what they don't know because they haven't been exposed to it - like proper ligthing, printing, color management etc. She's now competing with amateur "professionals", and the sad part is - the general public doesn't seem to appreciate the difference because they too have never experienced true professional quality before.

Seems to be a growing phenominon. I wrote an article on it actually - what people don't know people don't miss - and quality suffers for it. When people's only sensory input is dulled because of poor input devices and their only exposure to mediums of art are low quality, they couldn't possibly know what quality really is because their only way of seeing it is limited.

Anyways, this is OT, but I've seen it manifesting itself in the digital photography arena, and in the audio arena too (mp3 quality versus vinyl, etc.). Makes one wonder what the benefit of being an experienced professional is except for maybe improved work-flow! sad.

Christian A.


Sorry for trolling/hijacking but I REALLY do relate and sympathize with your observation.
Some people - and unfortunately it´s a real hype nowadays with things like Twitter/Facebook and similar web 2.0 apps - mistake personal opinion with professional (i.e. learned & experience tested) skill.
I really hope it´s just a hype but........I´m not so sure sometimes. huh.gif

Sorry again - just had to chip in my 2 Cents!
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Saoirse O'Shea
post Jun 7 2010, 08:09 PM
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QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Jun 7 2010, 06:11 PM) *
I can relate. My wife is a professional photographer, and ever since photography went digital, everyone who can afford a new "professional" digital camera considers themself a professional because of the equipment - despite the fact they don't know what they don't know because they haven't been exposed to it - like proper ligthing, printing, color management etc. She's now competing with amateur "professionals", and the sad part is - the general public doesn't seem to appreciate the difference because they too have never experienced true professional quality before.

Seems to be a growing phenominon. I wrote an article on it actually - what people don't know people don't miss - and quality suffers for it. When people's only sensory input is dulled because of poor input devices and their only exposure to mediums of art are low quality, they couldn't possibly know what quality really is because their only way of seeing it is limited.

Anyways, this is OT, but I've seen it manifesting itself in the digital photography arena, and in the audio arena too (mp3 quality versus vinyl, etc.). Makes one wonder what the benefit of being an experienced professional is except for maybe improved work-flow! sad.

Christian A.


I agree Chris,
TBH 'home mastering' is driving down audio quality, If you listen to a lot of music that is distributed digitally a lot of recent (ie since 2005) is pretty poor vis-a-vis mastering: lack dynamics, odd eq, phase issues, distortion... you name it they've got it.

For every one who actually uses something like Ozone or similar creatively and learns how to apply it before moving on to more pro mastering equipment there are 100s who just use the presets irrespective of whether they suit the audio or not. I'm more than happy that people come in to the industry via having learnt the basics using something like Ozone. The problem I have is the ones who come in to the industry who haven't learnt anything.

I've lost count of the number of inquiries that take the form 'X will master my album for 50 dollars in his bedroom. Will you do it for 25?' 'X' of course uses pre-set vst plug ins whereas I have hardware eqs that cost over 5000 dollars; 'X' will just run your audio through his plug-in and slam on a BWL to get it loud without even listening to the audio - takes about 5 minutes to process an lp that way. Do it properly though and mastering a CD takes hours and I'm supposed to undercut him and drop my price rolleyes.gif .

A major consequence in audio production is that a lot of professional studios have gone bust. A few years ago mid-level MEs would charge about 1500-3000US dollars per album; now it's more like 500-1000. Equipment, electricity and services, and rent haven't gotten any cheaper so we end up having to work longer and longer hours or take a big net cut in our income. I used to take a paid intern each year to teach - had to cut that down to 1 every few years now.

Another potential cause is the shift to digital distribution - up to a few years ago distribution was based on a material hard copy - CD, audio tape, vinyl - and to do it in volume required that your work was pressed at a replication plant and that the master had to meet requisite standards (ie Red Book for CDA). Digital distribution has thrown that out the window and there is largely NO quality check on the mp3s etc that are uploaded and sold on most internet sites.

Added to this most people who record mp3s wonder why they're ignored by the big radio stations. Radio stations tend to use central playout computers that autolog the ISRC for the PRS return. Without the ISRC your mp3 will not get played on a big station as the playout won't accept them. Very few mp3s have ISRC embedded in to them though because most people either don't that they need ISRC or don't know how to do it. As a net result the variety of music that gets radio play gets restricted year on year despite more being available digitally.

Now I expect that someone will say that the world changes and we need to learn and move on. Maybe but it's worth keeping in mind that change is not necessarily always progress.

BTW - I have a cousin who used to be a professional fashion photographer. He gave it up a few years ago because of the issues that you cite above.


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Keep_Rocking
post Jun 8 2010, 12:28 PM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Jun 7 2010, 03:27 AM) *
2.)Double the track- you can copy and paste the track in to another empty track, then off set it just slightly in the timeline, just a few milliseconds, and pan each 15 degrees from center. One left, one right. This will give you a fuller sound as well as louder.

Very cool trick. I'll try it as soon as possible! Thanks.

BTW, Very helpful topic Christian.
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Ivan Milenkovic
post Jun 8 2010, 01:31 PM
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I just bumped to the topic, sorry for not reading everything here, but just to say couple of words too. It was probably being said, but mastering depends on the type of music primarily. What is the music/sound that you are trying to master? What's the purpose of that sound? Some music styles with peaks and tendency to sound as loud as possible like techno styles can be slammed, some need headroom to accent dynamics, like blues, classical.
I'm not that great at mastering, tony can I'm sure explain everything, he's doing it for living. Just to follow up tony's post on that link.. The video tutorials are named something like "Steinberg's Internal Mixing & Audio Mastering DVDs". For anyone who wants to use Cubase/Nuendo - they are gold. Top notch educational stuff.


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