Mastering Process or workflow

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by DogsoverLava, Aug 24, 2016.

  1. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Using Reaper: Decided to do a quick master as a proof of concept/workflow and just wanted to review it. Here's what I did:
    1. Took my latest mix and rendered it 44.1, 24bit with the Master bus fader on Zero (null) to a .wav. which produced a track with the following info on analysis
      - Stairway-MichellePV7: -30.2 LUFS, Range: 14.4 LU, True peak: -10.7bBTP, Maximum short Term -23.6LUFS, Maximum momentary -21.6LUFS
    2. Brought that track into Reaper and applied some EQ, some compression, some multi-band compression on the master bus, monitored the levels and decided it sounded good (for the purposes of example)
    3. Bumped up the Master Bus Fader until my peaks were visibly -2ish... (I had to really push that fader up)
    4. Rendered that track as a Mastered track in 44.1, 24bit.wav file with following stats
      - MasterStairwayMPV7: -20.6 LUFS, Range: 12.6 LU, True peak: -1.1 dBTP, Maximum Short term -14.1LUFS, Maximum momentary -12.3LUFS
    Now provided my tracks sounded great --- and that this mix carried over well and I didn't need or want to get back into the stems and remix/remaster --- is this it? From the way I read those levels that -12.3 LUFS looks pretty good to me with respect to the standard. I didn't do any normalizing - so my question is in it's most basic form -- would this be considered correct or at least "mastered"? Or have I missed something even more basic in my basic approach?
  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I generally start with a good eq on the track and a good mastering limiter* on the main bus. I may do more than that if needed, but the mastering limiter is always the last audio process beside dither/truncate.

    *NOT a generic limiter and NOT compression in the normal sense.
    Sean G likes this.
  3. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    I'll look into dithering and limiting --- listening to the Sheppard stuff and reading everything I can find. Those numbers I posted - do they mean anything to you?
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I suggest you let the master fader to zero db at all time when exporting/rendering.
    The simplest way is to use a LUFS meter after the limiter (which should be last in chain) to check the levels. if you need a higher or low LUFS output, ajust the output of the limiter.
    Playing with the master buss volume will only create too much guessing when mastering multiple songs...
    My humble opinion ;)
  5. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I think -12 LUFS is a common target for a CD so -20.6 seems a bit low. I just ran one of my recent mix/master jobs through the Klangfreund meter and it gave an overall (I=integrated?) level of -12.5LUFS with a range of 5.0. That same file reads -11.8dB RMS in the TT DR Meter and -14.8dB RMS in Sound Forge. The Sound Forge measurement has been my reference point for a decade or more and when I hit -15dB RMS on a rock song it usually a good balance between loud and dynamic.

    With an actual mastering limiter you won't have to mess with the master fader. The mastering limiter will add the gain and ensure no peaks go beyond a set level, typically with a few simple controls. Then it's up to you to hear when you're pushing too far. I don't pay too much attention to meters when I'm limiting, however I do check once I think I've got it right. Mostly I just compare loudness by ear to a collection of commercial recordings.
  6. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Where do you get the extra gain from? The limiter? Just the gain setting? Would you then be intentionally driving the gain until the limiter actually starts limiting? Those numbers I posted above - do they tell enough of the story with respect to what I've achieved (in the example)?
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Yes, but... it's about even gain structure, too. If you are pounding the input gain to the limiter to the point of distortion, (or vice versa - sending gain that is too low for the limiter's detection circuit to kick in, resulting in you using extreme settings to get the GR to work), then you're going to have issues.*

    As Boulder mentioned:

    And, as Boulder also mentioned, using a GOOD limiter is the key. Samplitude's AM-munition limiter is a good one, ( supports M/S as well), as are Fabfilter, Ozone, and IK Multimedia ( T-Racks Stealth).
    (I know there are those who prefer the Waves L Series limiter plugs ... I've personally never been a fan, but that's just my opinion).

    I'm not saying that these processors mentioned above are the only good ones available, either... these are just the ones I have personal experience with; but I certainly haven't used every mastering limiter that's out there... I'm sure there are other very good mastering limiters available that my colleagues could recommend. And, to be fair, I do very little of my own mastering. I prefer to use an actual ME, someone like Tom Bethel( @Thomas W. Bethel ) or Cass Anawaty at Sunbreak; both ME's whom I know I can trust to know their gear, respect the dynamic range, monitor through nice speakers, and monitoring in an acoustic environment that has been tuned for this kind of critical listening work.
    The other benefit to using an actual ME, is having a pair of professional fresh ears to objectively listen, and make the necessary changes; it's a big plus; because we as mix engineers can get burnt-out after awhile, and lose objectivity on a project.

    *As a side note, I think it's pertinent to mention here that there are mix engineers who will mix into a mastering limiter - as opposed to inserting one on the master bus after the mix is "finished", or working with a 2-mix file, as Mastering Engineers would usually do.
    ( You may want to talk to Chris ( @audiokid) or Bos ( @Boswell) to learn more about this workflow).

    Should only be used when converting the bit depth to a lower value ( such as 24 bit down to 16 bit for CD/Redbook specs) and it should be the very last thing you do upon creating/exporting your 2 track master for broadcast or replication in its final format form..

    More here:

    FWIW, ;)
    audiokid and Sean G like this.
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

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