Mastering Experiences

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Don Grossinger, May 2, 2003.

  1. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    I'd like to poll the membership as to their experiences in mastering. Have you brought a project to a mastering engineer? Did the mastering process improve the final product or not? Was it worth the time & money? Was the engineer responsive to your needs? Would you do it again? Do you prefer to do mastering yourself & if so, why?

    We don't have to mention specific names & studios, just a critique of the process & how it can be improved.
     
  2. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    For a long time, I thought mastering was what the disc cutter did. I didn't know. Yes, and yes, the overall product was improved, and I learned a lot from it, so much so, that my new mixes require far less EQ in mastering, with just a little limiting. The price was right, I just didn't know enough to scutinize, or tell them what I wanted.
    The over all spectrum was improved, as well as the leveling and m-s. However, there are noticable fixes that went ignored. An example would be a slight drop out on a fade in the right channel, knowing what I know now, I would have insisted on a little surgery, perhaps some cut, and paste, or wave drawing to correct this minor, but very noticable tiny glitch. Other things, in this case, would be cut-off in the fades themselves, lack of focus on detail, which should have been addressed.

    In this particular project, the ME did not maintain any records of adjustments, or back-up files, which would have facilitated a complete re-mastering.

    Yes, I will do it, again and again, and with a growing understanding of the process. I can take comfort in the knowledge that I can track and mix and know, with a reputable recommended professional mastering engineer, that my project will be to standards, edited and balanced correctly.
    The second set of trained ears is a must if I am serious about releasing any project.

    If a project is for limited distrubution, like a few copy's then no, I will tweek it myself. If it is a demo, a release for myself or someone, to pitch themselves with, or for a larger distribution and airplay, then Pro mastering, absolutely!

    --Rick
     
  3. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    Ahhhh.... now here's another topic entirely!

    DOCUMENTATION
    This cannot be stressed strongly enough. I have written hard copies of every EQ I have done here at Europadisk going back 10 years. I have left my EQ Cards behind at every studio I have ever worked for. This is important for a number of reasons:

    1) If there is ever a question of what went on at the session or what was done when client just sent in a master to be EQed, then the answers are right there. Also, the amount of studio time billed is noted. No uncertainty.
    2) If a change is requested by a client i.e.: "can you give me a little more vocal or kick or ....." at least you know exactly where you started. If a flat transfer was originally requested, you know that too. I do so much work over the course of a year that it would be impossible for me to remember what I did on a given master somewhere down the road. Documentation will solve this problem too.
    3) If something is originally cut to vinyl (for example) & then the client comes back later for a CD to be made they will match exactly.
    4) If a client is interested in what EQ was used over the course of a number of tracks (to find out what their room acoustics are doing, for example), you can make an educated answer if you have documentation.
    5) If there is ever a question about which of many mixes was used on a project, you have the answer.

    I could go on, but you get the idea!

    Document everything you do. That's why Mastering EQs & Compressors, etc have detented controls: so every move you make can be recreated with absolute precision.

    Roger Nichols has an excellent article on documentation in the current issue of EQ magazine.
    He goes one step further, stating that equipment should be documented as well: if you used a particular version of software or a certain chain of gear or a certain operating system, then you must be able to recreate that chain if necessary. The sound or the options open to you might change as the equipment changes or if you go from V.1 to V2.5 or whatever.

    You don't have to note down what color shirt you were wearing on a given day, but the more notes you take & save, the better you are serving your client. It might save an ugly situation into the future.
     
  4. OTRjkl

    OTRjkl Guest

    When do you typically do your documenting? After each song is completed? If you do multiple versions of a song (do you?) - after each take?

    If you are doing some kind of volume adjustments/fades/etc. in the DAW, do you store that file?

    Is the documenting process on or off the clock?
     
  5. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    I do my documentation after the EQ for each song is established. If I am doing edits/ fades/ moves in the Sonic Solutions then, yes, I do note what was done. I try to note the title, time & version of each finished track. I number masters so I can go back to the exact track among many takes. If multiple takes are done I do make notes for each. If revisions are done, I usually save the notes on version 1, etc. This will show the progress of a track in flux & can be helpfull.

    This is done during the course of a session so it is on the clock. I want everything to be fresh in my mind when things are noted. The process is much faster than it would appear & really takes very little of the client's time.

    Perhaps this is obsessive, but it has bailed me out of some potentially tough situations in the past, so I continue to do it.
     
  6. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    I agree with Don that thorough documentation will prove more helpful than hassle. Using a few sheets of paper or text doc and a few minutes that will definitely be a stress saver when a client comes back a week or a month later and wants a tweak.

    I’ve made an excel sheet that has listed the equipment within my normal work flow with room to note variations (like de-essing or using reverb to lengthen a fade). There is space to note if EQ, peak limiting or level adjustments were done in SADiE, the 7 bands from the Weiss EQ1-LP (including freq, Q, and +/- ), the attack, threshold, multiple release times, and any input to the peak limiter in the Weiss DS1MK2.

    Because I prefer to go out of SADiE to outboard gear and record the results back into SADiE, once the client and I are satisfied, notes are all written during the time it takes to print that song. So it is on the clock, but is not adding substantially to the length of the session.
     
  7. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    The junior Mastering guy...
    Yes, I also have a sheet with several things like, type of dither, original bit depth, plugins used, backups and so.
    I keep the bounce file with me for some time. Once a guy asked me for a quick mastering. When he arrived home, he fell down and both CD masters were scratched to death. He was as crazy worried if I had deleted everything already!lol

    I had not too much luck with the Very high end pro mastering rooms here in Brazil. Not to be an ego thing, But junior mastering with a few plugins, provided me better results.
    A top facility from Rio mastered one of my clients with the "radio Sound". Even compresor attack times were wrong and so. Other times, distorted lows, etc.
    What has really helped me achieving better results were some nice advices from you guys at the web and carefully listening at different systems.

    I wished I could afford some Crane / Manley stuff.
     
  8. jdsdj98

    jdsdj98 Active Member

    I don't want to steer this thread away from its original intention, but all this talk about documentation made me realize that it could be handled far more easily and quickly than it is now. Why don't DAW manufacturers incorporate a print to file option for session documentation? I/O configurations, plug-in info, software version info, any and all other pertinent information. Seems print to file would be the way to go, as most DAW users in need of this probably don't have a printer hanging off the DAW box. After every song version, just do a quick print to file for that song. Then, once the project wraps, burn all documentation files to a CD-R to store with all other backups/masters. Less paperwork, too. Just a thought.
     
  9. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    If you use PT ( ALSIHAD) you can do that: convert to text and save to a bak CDR.Very litle file.
     
  10. omegaarts

    omegaarts Member

    I think mastering my own project would be like having myself as my own lawyer.
    BUT I never send a project I take it and sit through every minute. I don't bug the engineer while he's working but I take notes and when he says what do you think we talk.
    He always ask my opinion on fade ins and outs as he's doing them and we listen together to time placement between songs to make sure we agree on the flow of the transitions.
    If we disagree on something we talk about why we feel the way we do. Sometime I give a little (after all I hired him to do what he does) sometime he gives a little because he believes I have a good reason for my opinion.
    It's a realationship. I tell the record company I've never had a record company in a mastering session and I perfer they stay out of the studio. Never had a number one record but I still doing it after 36 years.
     
  11. vagelis

    vagelis Guest

    I know some people here who master their stuff on their own.
    Other people don't even do it. I mean they mix and master.
    Believe me their Produktions sound killer!
    I don't know how they do it.......but they do it.
    I saw it in many Pop and Metal Produktions here in Germany. I mailed with some guys there and many told me that when they Produce 2-3 songs they mix the song + com + EQ + L2 = ready.......huh?
     
  12. jdier

    jdier Active Member

    Don,

    Our band had our 1993 disk sent out for mastering by the studio that recorded it. We did not know much about what was going to happen or what was done. All we knew was our 1991 disk could not be heard on juke boxes since it was so quiet.

    The disk came back and was very loud (perhaps not by today's standards) but over time I have realized that it is not terribly easy to listen to the entire album (song writing not always the best.)

    Our last studio effort we told the engineer that we were not completely happy with the mastering process and since we were not planning on pressing any mass production disks this time we did not want to send it out to be mastered.

    On that disk, he gave us two versions one was just a mix down, the other had some very subtle eq'ing on it, and was run through an L1 (i think.) He said "this is about 1/8 the compression that was applied to your last mix, but you might find that it is a bit more present and has a little more volume." It actually turned out great.
     
  13. jdier

    jdier Active Member

    Originally posted by Don Grossinger:

    Was the engineer responsive to your needs? Would you do it again?

    Oh, yeah, your question...

    I would use a mastering engineer again, but this time I would be much more involved in the process. I would like to find someone whose work I can hear and then be present when they work on my project.

    As far as doing it myself, I am not sure I have the ear or skills to do it. I can tell you I WILL try it, to learn more about it, but if I am going to have 1000 disc's pressed, someone else will be paid to help me get there.
     

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