Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mastering - all about it is detailed.

Many of us fine understand process of record of music at a concert or in studio. On the carrier, whether it is a hard disk, CD or a tape you write down the audio materials, audio fragments. Then, all these slices are going to in a definitive master copy which then goes on factory where duplicating is carried out. Process of manufacturing of a definitive master copy is called as mastering. It means three stages:

1. Installation: All necessary records from tapes are transferred to the digital assembly panel. Compositions are placed in the necessary order and between them certain intervals become. The beginnings and the ends of songs are reduced to full silence or to a natural background of a concert hall, or made out according to your wishes. Claps, clicks and hindrances can be removed often at a mastering stage, depending on their source and loudness.

2. Processing: Since early days of vinyl this stage is considered process heart, during it the transparency, softness, dynamism and a sound saturation, depending on that is necessary for the given type of music can be improved. If workmanship, arrangements and records is initially good the definitive master copy will sound even better, than the shown soundtrack. It that is necessary for the sound recording companies, especially what work in the pop music market - a qualitative sound and competitiveness.

3. Output: Definitive variants of compositions are transferred on corresponding carriers for duplicating. At duplicating of cartridges most often the preference is given 4 mm to DAT-cartridges. At punching компакт disks are preferable or 3/4 inch tapes of standard "JU Matic" (still them tapes 1630 name) or CD-R (written down compact discs). The studio which is carrying out mastering makes the reference DAT-cartridge or a CDR-disk for a definitive estimation of quality the executor or the sound recording company.

Whether and mastering in general is necessary?

If your sound producer is one of those rare unique persons who can simultaneously carry out both mix and mastering then it is possible to reach quite good results by direct carrying over from the shown tape, but there are at least three reasons on which professionals send the records in studio mastering:

1. Usually it promotes considerable improvement of quality of the shown soundtrack. The market makes rigid demands. If you want, that your disk corresponded to modern requirements it should sound absolutely faultlessly. Just as in a case with expensive boots - if they are not polished, hardly probable who can estimate how much they are beautiful. Allow, that various compositions have been written down at various times in a current of week or longer period, it leads to distinctions on level of a sound and the general character of sounding. Mastering allows creating a single whole from separate musical fragments.

2. Mastering-engineer has huge experience of listening of music of various styles and possesses fresh perception of music. By then, as data come to an end, at all participating in him already press on a brain. It is difficult enough to notice any omissions after you have heard to record of times fifty. The fresh sight from the party, a new set of skills of listening adjusted on general impression estimation, instead of on a detail of compositions, can appear very pertinent. Mastering-engineer should feel confidently both in art, and in technical area of musical business. Good skill to communicate also is very important, as the large quantity of terms for the sound description is used. For example: «It is necessary that record sounded impressively, powerfully, densely, warmly, naturally, is modern, is soft and is live. It is necessary that there was air, depth, shine, a pressure, sharpness, clearness, and definiteness».

The purpose of the mastering-engineer is to understand and follow instructions of the producer or the customer and then to add or remove that is necessary, at all it is more. Often changes are imperceptible, but reaction of the producer or the client always will be such - «Wow! That takes the cake. »

3. Mastering-studio it is equipped by processors of exclusive quality which are developed specially for processing of a stereo of signals. It is obvious, one business to pass only a guitar through the terminator and an equalizer and absolutely another to pass through all of them tools. The definitive mix represents a difficult and thin thing and can be spoilt also easily, as well as is improved. The studio equipment usually does not approach for mastering. In a following question it is considered in more details.

What data are better: digital or analogue?

Many studios prefer DAT-cartridges for record data. They are convenient and provide high quality of a sound. There is other format, «Rane Paqrat» which allows you to save to 24 bats of audio of the information on Alesis ADAT or Tascam DA88, but he is used seldom enough. Now DAT is the conventional standard. Whether there are variants? DAT the tape on is considered the best format, than 1/4-дюймовая 38sm/with though if you wish to receive a dense, "fat" sound in this case the analogue format has advantages. If you have a device for 1/4-дюймовой tapes, make in parallel steam of mixes in it and on DAT, then sit down and hear to them.

What is preferable - analogue or digital processing?

On this question there is no certain answer though some authoritative engineers insist that music should not come back to an analogue format, thus, that now there is a possibility to use a digital format. Others trust only to analogue equipment. Here the unbiased approach is necessary. The analogue equipment is famous for lightness, warmth and aggressiveness. The tendency of use of analogue equipment grows, while more and more studios use digital multichannel tape recorders and digital panels.

DAT-cartridges are a standard format for data now so further we will assume that you use DAT-cartridges. As is known DAT is a 16-bit format of data storage, and he should provide a sound of the same quality as on a compact disc, but not all so is simple. In this respect there are at least three reasons:

1. Present for a minute that you carry out data by means of the analogue panel and receive perfectly sounding two-channel mix. First of all, the analogue-digital converters which have been built in your DAT-tape recorder are far from perfect. It has universal character as manufacturers of DAT-tape recorders spend money basically for other components, for example, on the tape drive mechanism and other. If you solve this problem by connection of the external analogue-digital converter you will feel a considerable difference, but it to you will cost as much, how much the tape recorder, and even is much more expensive. We will return to a reality - many studios will use the converters which have been built in the DAT-tape recorder.
Good news is that many last models of tape recorders are equipped by decent enough converters. Not most perfect, but quite suitable, especially for many styles of a pop music. So let's make one more assumption - that data are carried out in a digital format and the sound turns out satisfactory...

2. You need to dump mixes on a tape usually named by a preliminary master copy or a working tape. There is a set of digital assembly editors, and on the majority of them it is possible to receive good results if correctly to use them. It suits for direct carrying over - forming of songs in the necessary order, maintenance of due transitions between separate fragments and clearings of the beginnings and the ends of songs. Notice, that processing process has not been mentioned.

3. Processing demands involvement of much bigger computing powers, it is more than use than 16 bits of data for preservation of integrity of music. More modern 24-bit sound maps in the Macintosh or РС provide an excellent sound, and many people notice, that at the received master copies there is something that was not in initial soundtracks. What alternatives of processing? Be convinced, that in studio there are means for works realization in a digital format. But whether it is probable in general? Whether all can make digital processors? Supporters of digital equipment will respond you: YES! It is possible to agree with it. Digital processors can provide a sound of excellent quality. However, nevertheless there are some analogue processors which cannot be replaced digital yet. Their number includes some «самопальные» devices which are used for giving to music of the necessary sounding.

Anybody cannot explain it yet, however the best analogue equipment provides a sound which cannot be reproduced digital devices. Processors for processing of signals influence many aspects of music, and music inherently is analogue process.

Work at DA-converters which recycle the data flow can serve in an analogue format as good means, effectively eliminating digital trembling on time of generation of a signal (jitter). Trembling is interesting feature of a digital sound which can spoil sounding of good music. In good DA there is specially made ultrastable generator of digital frequency for which bill it is possible to receive the stable sound going on the analogue device.

In general, if music is in digital area there it and leave, believing, that you have equipment, allowing to save demanded internal stability and to provide the sounding necessary to you. If you come back to an analogue format, make it very cautiously as superfluous converting can remove sensation of a "live" sound. The most important thing to make only that will go on advantage to music. If the project arrives on the digital carrier it is better to begin work on the checked up chain of digital mastering when it is demanded by music, and to apply analogue equipment when from it will be more advantage. Some customers strictly insist on this or that decision. In this case it is reasonable, that all remained are happy.

What equipment to use in studio to improve music sounding?

Processors for processing of signals enough. You choose what is necessary for concrete work. Compressors, terminators and equalizers are the basic tools of mastering-studios. When use of digital equipment is required, it is necessary to use 24-bit computer processors. They contain a standard set of equalizers, devices for the control of dynamics and the general atmosphere of a sound. As to especial problems or effects, there is a number of devices which influence simultaneously both level, and on frequency of a sound, them sometimes name spectral processors or dynamic equalizers. Exiters strengthen harmonics, but they are better for using less often. (The sound becomes granular. There are more optimum ways of improvement of sounding of high frequencies). Other processors are used for updating and improvement of a stereo of effects.

At last, there are special devices for imperceptible effects, such as «a lamp sound» or creations of impression of analogue sounding. These devices can soften digital records some. The lamp equipment can counterbalance some digital effects. At presence at your order of all necessary means, you need to solve only what of them to use. For example, certain combinations of processors can force to sound a song "more fatly". What processors, and in what combination? It is difficult to tell in advance. Here mastering becomes more art, instead of a science. It is necessary to choose only the necessary equipment for the given song. In a case with all processors, analogue or digital, cunning consists in choosing only that is necessary for music, and no more that.

On what monitors it is better to work?

It is much easier to eliminate problems when you know that these monitors can be trusted. Each engineer should pick up system on which to it is more convenient to work. Some prefer small monitors, so-called «a near zone» as in this case is reduced to a minimum of a problem of acoustics of a premise. On such monitors the deep bass but as usually same problem is available for the majority of columns which are used by consumers more often is lost, it is not too bad. Also, columns of such size create often very good stereo effect, both on depth, and on width.
Some engineers prefer the big broadband monitors correctly located indoors for listening. Such systems create the most exact picture of music provided that the parity of the sizes of columns and a premise is chosen correctly. Certainly, it is necessary to take into consideration that fact, that the majority of consumers have no systems of such quality. Nevertheless, it is much better to use high-precision equipment in spite of the fact that uses the others. If your columns allow creating correct representation, it is much easier to you to make necessary indemnification.

Whether all mistakes of data can be corrected at mastering?

The majority of the people directing the work on mastering are provident and have done good work, result of that is quite competitive product. Usually there is no in a mix of any big technical problems, and a general level, the balance and alignment is perfectly in order. The impressive, firm sound is simply necessary to the customer. In this case the basic package deal of mastering is necessary to you only. However, if some records have serious problems the special package deal or hourly payment here is required. There are also some things which cannot be corrected.

Mastering can improve only initially good product. It cannot correct bad data, bad arrangements or inept execution. If the shock sound perfectly, and the bass guitar sounds awfully hardly it will be possible to make so that both tools sounded well.

Many mastering-studios practice the following:

If you are at data stage, you can send one or two trial mixes for a free estimation. If any problems you will have a possibility to correct them before they will extend on 15 songs are appreciable.

How to work with different styles of music?

Here some examples:

Fate and the priest of record are usually directed on sounding on air. All want, that their records sounded energetically and up to the mark. Music should involve and keep attention, and also not bother at reusable listening.

Classical music should be transparent and live. Acoustic tools make refined impression which is necessary for saving. Processing should be very insignificant if it in general is applied. Super pure signals should be maintained up to the mark qualities.

Metal and Industrial receives aggressive processing. If the album is well shown probably to support a dense, harmonious sound, to increase aggressiveness and to save level "on the verge", that is pleasant to admirers of this style.

It is only superficial approach to various styles of music. Each album has certain atmosphere, and each executor tries to express the thoughts. Important not easier to pass an album through a standard chain of processing. It is easier to listen to a material and then to estimate the reaction. If you had inadequate thoughts on processing, it is better to warn about it the customer in advance.

My compact disc should sound more loudly, than at others!

"Illness" has amazed with this many.... Though this decision is quite good for playing on air. For a long time already it has been noticed, that if twice to lose the same musical fragment to listeners, thus once it is a little (до+3 db) is louder, the majority will like louder variant. Sellers of acoustic stereo systems use for a long time this trick for sale of "house" columns which make the greatest profit.

If you wish to reach maximum level it can be carried out with success at a mastering stage. It Is pleasant to you or not, on radio station your music will pass through own terminators before to start up it in an aether. Quality of these processors, to put it mildly, is far from perfect. Processors in good mastering-studio will provide high levels and will save quality of sounding over which you so long worked. What other reasons? If you carry out album mastering only for playing on air, all songs will sound energetically, but you face risk, that people who will listen to a house album, will get tired after 15 - 30 minutes of listening. Experts on music usually do not like an energetic sound during long time even if they like a musical material.
If to look at this problem from the point of view of prospects of the musical industry actually all sound recording companies involuntarily participate in without advantageous competition that on + db to be louder, than others. In this case the sound transparency is sacrificed. Always it is possible to increase some sounding level, but the sensation of live sounding and a transparency thus suffers. The good house system can reproduce more than 90 db a dynamic range. It becomes unnecessary, if in music only 10 db a dynamic range. The decision? The large companies can let out singles on which alignment and compression is made especially for playing on air. Then special mastering under high-quality house equipment, versions for sale in shops can be spent. Less large firms which wish to avoid the second cycle of manufacture of compact discs, have now other possibility.

Many albums last from 45 till 60 minutes, thus on compact a disk there is an empty seat after an album. Buyers prefer that this empty seat has been filled by music, instead of silence. They also not against that on a disk some versions of the same song have been written down. Thus, it is possible to carry out mastering of all albums under listening on high-quality equipment, not thinking about playing on air. Then the strongest things can be premastering for playing on air and are added in the album end. These songs can be marked as remixes or bonus tracks on a label on a disk. This variant is not necessary to the buyer of more money, and after all it is possible not to listen to these songs if it would not be desirable.

Some stages of process of manufacture of compact discs.

It is the general review which describes realization of process of manufacture of a compact disc from the beginning up to the end. Some details can differ depending on manufacture conditions.

1. Manufacturing master CDR.

2. Registration preparation. It is necessary for you to give photos and the text which will be printed in the booklet and on the compact disc. These materials are given either in the form of tapes, or in the form of files for the computer program e.g. Photoshop. Configuration process can be carried out by means of the computer. As a result the text and a drawing settle down how they should be located on an end-product. Registration should satisfy to a number of requirements which can be received in some releasing firms. Three things usually call the majority of delays and additional expenses: very difficult design, the registration, not satisfying to technical requirements, and those who, reconsiders the design after its statement.

If you wish to carry out the strict control of working out of registration from the beginning up to the end, the best variant will find the talented designer and to contact it for work viewing. If its work completely satisfies to technical requirements all will be normal.

3. The tape is made of the finished material for registration. This tape will be used for the cover and booklet press. Take away from three about five working days for tape preparation provided that process will go normally and the tape will satisfy to technical requirements.

4. If the enterprise, on which you print circulation, is not equipped by the equipment for the polygraphs press, the confirmed tape goes to the printing house working with factory. Booklets and covers are delivered to factory where the circulation that it was possible to pack compact discs when they descend from the conveyor is printed.

5. If the factory where you print circulation, has own printing house the tape and a master copy are usually given simultaneously. At factory the glass master disk from yours CDR or Ju-matic is made. The majority of factories are made glass master disks independently for quality assurance maintenance. Then matrixes are made and punching and packing of compact discs is carried out. Can take away from ten about thirty working days on circulation manufacturing. If you give ready booklets, plan from ten about fourteen days.

Many factories can give more exact information. In many holidays, as a rule there are delays.

Advice about preparation for mastering.

If all of you still be at data stage, consider possibility of simplification of a mix. If you wish to add a lot of guitar, synthesizers and «special lotions» for giving to a mix of special sounding, use them rather is better. Many very popular songs are very simple.
«Sound wall» it is necessary to make type mixes very carefully, otherwise they quickly become soiled. If you have touched with such effects it is difficult enough to correct it at a mastering stage. Percussion instruments bring the greatest contribution to peak levels. If it occurs in a case to your mix, try to use from 3 to 6 db restrictions for each of these tools. You will have a possibility to lift the general levels, to achieve the best balance between all tools and during too time to save excellent sounding of percussion instruments. Hear to your trial mixes in the best ear-phones what at you are. Hear to songs on an album which sounding is pleasant to you, and then compare a sound. As ear-phones remove all problems with a bass, the premises caused by features, you will have a possibility quickly to solve a problem of distortion of sounding of basses.

Even good ear-phones cannot create a due picture of sounding, however usually they suit for arrangement of spectral balance, elimination of problems connected with noise and distortion is better, than columns which cost ten times more.

If you have a stereo the compressor or the spectral processor, which sound to you it is pleasant, use it at data - only cautiously. If you bring the cartridge which is strongly limited, especially by means of the multistrip compressor which are extended now in some studios, or equalizing is too aggressive, remains less places for maneuvers, and there can be problems at realization of the sounding necessary to you. Leave for the further work a little db an empty seat.

If you bring the mounted tape for direct carrying over or mastering: Be convinced, that all tape is written down on one frequency sampling, 44.1 кГц or 48 кГц. In those places where there are transitions, clicks can be added. Frequency transition sampling which is not audible on your equipment can is audible on other equipment. The absolute time code (minutes, seconds) is used for a finding of songs on the DAT-cartridge. It should be written down from the beginning of a tape till the end of a musical material. If at rewind you have slipped a point where on the display the time code is displayed and you see only hyphens, it is necessary for you to rewind a tape back, while you will not see a time code before to record a new song. The additional payment can be raised in case on your DAT-cartridge there is no time code or if it breaks before the record termination. The list of your songs should be adhered to this time code and is in a column marked as start Time.

There should not be clicks or noise between songs. If there is a tape hissing, it should be softly shown to full silence between songs. If noise of all programs is homogeneous it is possible to write down in the end of the cartridge a site of this noise to 3сек, for its further analysis and program adjustment noisegate. If you make intervals between songs and not sure, what length is optimum, listen to any disk similar on style on your music. As a rule, in the Priest/fate styles the length from 1 till 3 seconds, in Classical styles from 3 till 6 seconds is accepted. If at a song is present very long smooth fadeout level the following song can begin directly in a second. If at a song the sharp ending, with a short additional fragment, to you can want to extend an interval some. It is a perception question. Give to somebody with good hearing to hear to record from the beginning up to the end, before to send a tape on mastering. It can seem to you obvious, but in haste you can miss some details.
Recommended tapes - Ampex, Sony, DIC MQ, and DENON, in this order.
Necessarily give the list of songs in which are specified the name, beginning time in minutes and seconds and length of each song. The handwritten lists should be clear and read.
If you have the special wishes, concerning processing of one song or all album, print them on a separate leaf and put to the cartridge.
Mastering can yield positive results, only if you have well worked over the album.

No comments: