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Old July 25th, 2013, 08:21 PM   #16
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Re: What software for audio mastering

In music prod., mastering is typically done after the mix stage, I follow the same work flow for audio post for picture. If the mix is not good (or more important, the location recordings) the mastering process is just 'polishing a turd'.
I mix in Slo-tools, Nuendo or Vegas. (depending on the project) Final mastering and surgical fixes are done with Sound Forge... which BTW is now available for the Mac OS.
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Old July 25th, 2013, 09:16 PM   #17
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Just some thoughts, for whatever they are worth.

Mastering as a term can be applied to a wide range of sound types.

One might "master" a simple radio spot consisting of a voiceover and a music bed. In an example like that, you might be primarily concerned with making sure that the VO cuts through the mix and stays clear and dominant, regardless of what the music track is doing. (And even that simple example could be a very different deal if you're doing a VO against a heavy rock bed verses doing the same VO against a quiet harp background!) You might also apply dynamics processing such as audio compression or limiting to make sure that the overall sound of the spot remains robust and clear regarrdless of the type of playback system it's played on.

Another kind of "Mastering" is a little like "making stew."
You're generally taking a wide range of sonic ingredients and blending them together into a cohesive whole.
Music producers do this commonly. They might be looking at actually supressing specific frequencies in the recordings of one or more instruments to create a sonic space for a competitive sound. This is another way to make something like a specific vocal or instrument solo "stand out" from the overall mix.

As you can see, "mastering" isn't just ONE thing. It's a range of things.

A qualified sound mixer could well master the same content differently if they knew it was going to be played back on different devices. A simple example would be that if you knew your content was going to be played back in a movie theater with Dolby 5.1 surround sound and subwoofers, you'd spend a lot more time mixing for a powerful low end than you would if you were going to master the same content for a political spot that was going to be used via a telephone survey system.

There are standards - some of them already mentioned here. You ALWAYS want to concentrate on capturing clean, full spectrum recordings with the best possible signal to noise ratio. It's not always possible, but it's ALWAYS the goal in field recording. Thats the audio equivalent to shooting properly exposed properly color balanced field footage.

Then you want to stop and consider what your target audience will be and what their expectations might be.

To risk extending my cooking analogy. You should start with the basic stuff. Learn how common audio cooking tools like compressors, limiters, and equalizers work. This is kind of like learning to use heat in cooking, but the "heat" might be techniques like compression and limiting and reverb and noise gating. Slow simmering is useful - and so is flash frying. Different, but both very useful.

Then move on to experimenting with using those against a variety of content types. You'll learn things like applying heavy compression to a clean vocal track - has a VERY different effect than applying the same compression to a soundtrack with a poor signal to noise ratio.

What you'll learn here and on the net is essentially recipes. But all good cooks quickly go beyond recipes to an understanding of how cooking works at a broader level. What ingredients work with other ingredients. When to pull out the frying pan, and when to pull out the blowtorch.

Sorry to be so long winded, but I hope that helps a bit.
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Old July 28th, 2013, 07:51 PM   #18
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
Just some thoughts, for whatever they are worth.

Mastering as a term can be applied to a wide range of sound types.

One might "master" a simple radio spot consisting of a voiceover and a music bed. In an example like that, you might be primarily concerned with making sure that the VO cuts through the mix and stays clear and dominant, regardless of what the music track is doing. (And even that simple example could be a very different deal if you're doing a VO against a heavy rock bed verses doing the same VO against a quiet harp background!) You might also apply dynamics processing such as audio compression or limiting to make sure that the overall sound of the spot remains robust and clear regarrdless of the type of playback system it's played on.

Another kind of "Mastering" is a little like "making stew."
You're generally taking a wide range of sonic ingredients and blending them together into a cohesive whole.
Music producers do this commonly. They might be looking at actually supressing specific frequencies in the recordings of one or more instruments to create a sonic space for a competitive sound. This is another way to make something like a specific vocal or instrument solo "stand out" from the overall mix.

As you can see, "mastering" isn't just ONE thing. It's a range of things.

A qualified sound mixer could well master the same content differently if they knew it was going to be played back on different devices. A simple example would be that if you knew your content was going to be played back in a movie theater with Dolby 5.1 surround sound and subwoofers, you'd spend a lot more time mixing for a powerful low end than you would if you were going to master the same content for a political spot that was going to be used via a telephone survey system.

There are standards - some of them already mentioned here. You ALWAYS want to concentrate on capturing clean, full spectrum recordings with the best possible signal to noise ratio. It's not always possible, but it's ALWAYS the goal in field recording. Thats the audio equivalent to shooting properly exposed properly color balanced field footage.

Then you want to stop and consider what your target audience will be and what their expectations might be.

To risk extending my cooking analogy. You should start with the basic stuff. Learn how common audio cooking tools like compressors, limiters, and equalizers work. This is kind of like learning to use heat in cooking, but the "heat" might be techniques like compression and limiting and reverb and noise gating. Slow simmering is useful - and so is flash frying. Different, but both very useful.

Then move on to experimenting with using those against a variety of content types. You'll learn things like applying heavy compression to a clean vocal track - has a VERY different effect than applying the same compression to a soundtrack with a poor signal to noise ratio.

What you'll learn here and on the net is essentially recipes. But all good cooks quickly go beyond recipes to an understanding of how cooking works at a broader level. What ingredients work with other ingredients. When to pull out the frying pan, and when to pull out the blowtorch.

Sorry to be so long winded, but I hope that helps a bit.
Thanks Bill for the explanation. I only want to make vocals sound better. I shoot interviews and then I put them in a 3 min video that is only played online.
I want to start learning basics. How can I find a class that teaches basics? What should I be looking for when reading class description to make sure they teach the basics stuff?
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Old July 28th, 2013, 10:14 PM   #19
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Hi Kathy,

This is kind of a tough one.

Generally, audio is more self taught than learned in a structured program. (There ARE programs, but they tend to be based on recording studio techniques, not just audio for video.)

If you're a self learner, I'd second the recommendation for Jay Rose's book. Some parts are technical and you can skip those at first it you don't want to know the science, but around that stuff is a LOT of practical knowledge.

Where you probably want to start is playing around with some simple compression. Compression (as the name implies) narrows the dynamic range of a signal - the difference between the loud and quiet sounds. That means it boosts the quiet and/or lowers the loud so that the entire signal is sonically more at the same level.

The "gotcha" with compression is that if your source sound wasn't recorded cleanly with a good signal to noise ratio - then compression will take quiet bad stuff like hiss or rumble or the sound of an air conditioning unit that you didn't hear much in the original recording, and make it WORSE since it's level will be raised by the compression.

With audio. Step ONE is always to learn how to LISTEN during the recording phase - so you learn to identify problems that will only get worse along the audio processing chain. You've got to school yourself to listen to the lows, mids and highs for both the signals AND the common types of noise that you find in those frequency bands.

If you have a clean signal to start with - then compression will make it sound more "up front" and more consistently "present" compared to the other sounds in your mix.

That's a simple start, anyway.

Good luck and feel free to ask more here if you run into more questions.
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Old July 28th, 2013, 11:40 PM   #20
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathy Smith View Post
Thanks Bill for the explanation. I only want to make vocals sound better. I shoot interviews and then I put them in a 3 min video that is only played online.
I want to start learning basics. How can I find a class that teaches basics? What should I be looking for when reading class description to make sure they teach the basics stuff?
As Mr. Davis says, getting a great original dialog track is the starting point. How good are your raw tracks? Are they the very best they can be? What barrier(s) are there to getting pristine dialog tracks? I would consider "mastering" (or just post-production mixing) a second-order concern AFTER getting excellent tracks during shooting.

Using a crummy microphone, or bad technique can't be fixed with the very best post--production "sweetening" or "mastering".
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Old July 29th, 2013, 07:32 AM   #21
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Kathy - When Music Technology first became a proper UK exam subject in colleges, there was a huge demand for on-line training for teachers, but it failed pretty miserably. Your quest for remote training will almost certainly have the same problems. So much of the problem is not down to technical aspects but down to your ears, and your ability to hear the things that the 'experts' can. Your ears need training too!

A good example is compression. Can you actually hear it begin to bite? I know many people who simply cannot detect it - and gradually get the subtleties of what is happening. Trying to do this by remote is so difficult. You NEED to hear the knob being turned, not SEE it.

I suspect very much Kathy is trying to gain the skills too quickly - this aural training is not something everyone picks up speedily, and some never hear these things, ever!

One other difficulty is describing in words what you can hear - you recognise a defect, and wish to fix it, but you can't yet describe the problem in words.To make "Vocals sound better" - you have to explain what is wrong with it now. Did you use the wrong mic, the wrong distance, the wrong room, the wrong settings? We have no idea. You use the term 'mastering' - but what you seem to be talking about is not mastering at all, it's simply post-production in broad terms - we have mixing/balancing, and repair work. Fixing dodgy location sound is always a last resort. Wherever possible, the skills needed to not produce flawed material in the first place need to be present. Usually these then come in very handy later.

I suspect trying to gain 'repair skills' before you've let the real basics settle in will be futile. Best solution is to find somebody local to you who can show you, and let you hear what they do, rather than try to fix it yourself.

The software people are recommending is all perfectly great for the experts, but much is a VERY steep learning curve, and needs very good quality monitoring to be precise. Many people are mixing on compromised monitors in rooms with poor acoustics - and the skilled ones have learned how their setup compromises the integrity of the sound, and can make adjustments. Others do not realise how 'screwed up' their audio is and get a big surprise when they hear on in better equipment in good rooms and discover some really unpleasant sounds!

We may be able to help, but you must explain in great detail - not just say the sound is bad. Some bad sound cannot be fixed. Other types can. Maybe we could even hear the problem audio - that helps as a general idea, but the most common problems can often only have one solution for a perfect repair - a re-recording!
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Old July 29th, 2013, 11:29 AM   #23
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Looks like lynda.com is weighted towards protools in their instruction.

If you subscribe, watch the first 10 minutes of this music mixing course, for info on your work environment, monitors, acoustics:
Watch the Online Video Course Audio Mixing Bootcamp

Then I'd go with the compression and eq courses you found. Skip delay and reverb - commonly applied in music production, way less often in audio for video.

Then perhaps this overview of Audition CS6:
Watch the Online Video Course Audition CS6 Essential Training

At some point in the above classes, you'll want to be trying things out in FCP-X, discovering how these basic tools work there. You should be developing an overview of which post audio sw seems most accessible and valuable to you
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Old July 29th, 2013, 01:52 PM   #24
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
Looks like lynda.com is weighted towards protools in their instruction.

If you subscribe, watch the first 10 minutes of this music mixing course, for info on your work environment, monitors, acoustics:
Watch the Online Video Course Audio Mixing Bootcamp

Then I'd go with the compression and eq courses you found. Skip delay and reverb - commonly applied in music production, way less often in audio for video.

Then perhaps this overview of Audition CS6:
Watch the Online Video Course Audition CS6 Essential Training

At some point in the above classes, you'll want to be trying things out in FCP-X, discovering how these basic tools work there. You should be developing an overview of which post audio sw seems most accessible and valuable to you
Hi Seth,

Thanks for the info. I already have a Lynda.com subscription. I will start with the videos you suggested.
Can I upload a typical audio recording that I would considered good and see if anyone here can instruct me on whether I am doing something wrong when recording the sound and then how much improvement I could expect if I was to post process it?
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Old July 29th, 2013, 03:49 PM   #25
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Maybe this has been covered, but when taking raw audio tracks from a video shoot out of the project to make them sound better, you need to "Mix" them first, then "Master" them. The mix process is where you set the levels of each track so they go together nicely, adding music or whatever to the mix, making sure the voices are all at a level that matches the others. Then when you have a good mix, you Master the mix to add overall sweetening to the entire mix. In the mix, you might put individual compressors and EQ on each separate voice track. Then in the mastering you put compression and EQ and maybe Maximization onto the whole mix.

I mix in Cubase, then I use iZotope Ozone5 (a plug-in) in my master bus to sweeten the whole mix. It's a deep area, and it's harder than video to, ahem, master. Vegas actually started out as an audio app (DAW), then added video later, and you cpuld completely Mix and Master a project in Vegas. For a more simple approach if you're not working in Vegas, Adobe Audition is a popular and full featured DAW. It's designed more simply.
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Old July 31st, 2013, 03:34 AM   #26
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Like Chad, I prefer to mix in Cubase, and have used it since black and white Atari 520 days! However, I have experience of lots of others, BUT I'm most effective on Cubase, because I know it so well. Pro Tools is more widely used in video, and pro audio, but is now creeping up in the enthusiast sector too, and Cubase's integration with video is gaining converts. Logic, of course is also becoming popular too because more people seem to be getting Macs.

The practical upshot is that you make a choice. Frankly, it makes little difference, because the real skill is the operator, and keen operators always find workarounds for every system's foibles.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 04:42 PM   #27
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Re: What software for audio mastering

I don't know if it makes sense to add to an old post, but here's what I like and use:

For spoken word, I use Steinberg's Wavelab as the host mastering program. For my job it is extremely powerful and efficient. In fact I have time to write this post because while I'm typing, it's processing 4 hour-long files, each into 4 different formats into 4 different locations.

For video production, Wavelabs built in spectral editor is very powerful. The the colorful tool that allows you erase noises such as car horns, cell phone, alarms, and other distractions as easily as you erase a pmiple on someones face in Photoshop.
Wavelab 8 also has some very powerful audio level metering to make sure you are compliant with current broadcast standards.

The other part, the "mastering" part, is the available plugins that you have to enhance, or as they say in the video world "sweeten" the audio.

The plugins I use are:
1. Waves Vocal rider - it's a simple automated volume fader that evens out the audio levels without making it sound compressed.
2. Waves Linear low band EQ to filter low frequencies. I adjust it as high as I can without affecting the talent's voice.
3. Waves V-Comp. It's vintage sounding compressor that make a voice bigger and louder.
4. Voxengo Curve-EQ, included in Wavelab 8 - that is a graphic EQ that has to ability to copy the EQ characteristics of a source file, and apply it to your file. It's also handy to make all of your own recording sound the same if you used different mics in different locations
5. Waves VEQ4 - a vintage sounding EQ that I think is an emulation of a Neve EQ. I use the to EQ a voice to taste. It's just a great sounding EQ.
6. iZotope RX noise reduction. There is almost always distracting noise that needs to be removed. I have not heard a better noise reduction plugin.
7. finally, Waves L2 maximizer. It is a limiter that also boosts the loudness of your material. I set the output limit to -.1 db because some digital to analog converters can't handle 0db without distorting.

Now here is what I would recommend to you, unless you REALLY want to learn audio.
I recommend that you just use iZotope ozone, and start with a preset that you think sounds good. As you learn more, you can continually fine tune Ozone to sound exactly how you want it to.
I'd also recommend iZotope RX for noise reduction.

I don't know if FCX can host plugins, if it cant, then you will only need those 2 iZotops plugins. If it can't, then I recommend you use Wavelab.

I use Vegas to edit video, and wavelab to master the audio. In Vegas it is very easy to open a clip in Wavelab - you just right click a clip, open a copy in external editor - then it opens in Wavelab. Make it sound great, click save. Go back to Vegas and the new, enhanced clip will show on on top of the old one.clicking on the letter T will toggle between the takes - enhances vs origional. does FCX do that? If it does then you are golden!

If you want to hear what I do, go to Grace to You and watch any sermon video. I master all the sermon audio. I don't touch the other audio, only the church sermon.

~Jay
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Old August 13th, 2013, 04:55 PM   #28
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Vegas is also a great DAW, and you can put mastering plug-ins right into the master bus. Vegas started out as a DAW, then they added video later. I wish all NLEs has as good of audio capabilities as Vegas!
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Old August 13th, 2013, 08:55 PM   #29
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Re: What software for audio mastering

No NLE has the audio capabilities of Vegas. Even without the video, it's a very intuitive feature rich DAW. .. doesn't support MIDI though, which is important to some.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 09:28 PM   #30
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Re: What software for audio mastering

Oh I didn't know there was no midi. But for video editors it's probably not a big deal. I use Cubase for all my audio, and love it.
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