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Practicing Mastering with your Tracks + some stuff i learned while mastering - Printable Version

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Practicing Mastering with your Tracks + some stuff i learned while mastering - Viktor - 03-22-2017

Hello dear fellow-VO-Composers,

I've been working on a project for the last couple of months and it is the first time it put me into the mysterious realm of mixing and mastering. Mastering as it turns out is pretty weird and complicated science and I feel pretty confident, that the stuff i make right now will probably make me cringe in a year.

To get more training in it and I wanted to ask you people for mixes from you, that are unmastered on which i can train a bit. I will also provide mixes after I the project I'm providing music too is released. Before I can't release any material from it through a legal.
It would be interresting to me and maybe also other people if they encounter different problems in slightly different mixing and music styles. (And also maybe, if I encounter less problems with a certain mix, I would recognize what sets that mix apart from my mix and what is causing the problems in my mix. I'm hoping for learning a lot of stuff). My other idea would have been using older Recordings of classical music, since there are not that compressed and loud, so it might be okay to put some additional mastering on me (every professional mastering enginier will probably kill my for that statement, just to be clear, mastering is not just about making it as compressed and loud as possible).

What i learned so far:

Since Mastering for Orchestra is such a specific field i had trouble finding a lot of good resources for specifcly that purpose. However i found one video on youtube It's also about mixing and he doesn't talk that much a about mastering, but it gave me a starting point and it might give you one too. By the way, if there are any good resources on mastering and also mixing for the VO that i missed, please send me that stuff!

My plugin chain does look like this in generell:

[Image: 17474719_1434297536621693_1169439697_n.p...e=58D5375B]

Only the effects with a check are effecting the sound for anyone unfamiliar with reaper. Also Span is also not effecting the sound, it is just a spectrum analyzer. The settings on my plugings look like this:

[Image: 17453731_1434377179947062_44245270_o.png...e=58D53666]

1. The Eq serves marely as low cut. As you can see i didn't but it at 20k, which i heard is what you are usally supposed to do. However i recognized in Jeremy Soule mixes, that they go way deeper and this guy knows what he's doing, so I'm trying to follow that. Still i wanted to tame to sound a bit.
I'm pretty sure your DAW must have an Eq, if you don't got one, you'll find the one i'm using for free here, along with some other nifty plugins:

2. Next in line are three compressors. If you have absolutely no Idea about compressors work, Wickiemedia has a pretty good tutorial series, that is pretty easy to watch on youtube, here is the first part  I set the compressors so that the threshold barely touches the peaks. Also I set the Attack pretty slow (I noticed that around 90ms seems to worked for most tracks) as well as a fast release (here i used from 10 to 20 ms). Reason for that, is that I still wanna keep dynamics in the tracks. The slower attack then doesn't affect all the rising and falling in dynamics but more the just makes everything a bit smoother.  I use ReaComp (which is also in the reaplugs), because it sounds pretty transparent and doesn't colour the sound too much. I haven't quit figured out what "Auto-make up" does, but i feel it colours the sound a bit, so i rather just adjust the makeup gain on every compressor by raising the wet signal output about 1 or 2 db.
I also set the ratios rather low around 2:1 or even lower. On some instances i use knee size, while i gotta be honest, while knowing what it does in theory, it doesn't really seem to much to the sound (maybe because I also do very low amounts of gain reduction?).

3. After that i use Ferric TDS a supercool free tape saturation plugin, that is sadly only available as 32x plugin. You can find it here
I'm still not sure as in how it works, I mainly use it to add harmonics and also some saturation in some circumstances (as the one here). It kinda adds some sparkle to the sound when you add harmonics and it sounds overall richer. It also seems to add some kind of compression.
I also set the input on this plugin slightly lower, because i mainly wanna have the colour of this plugin, but not so much the volume, so i don't lose too much headroom.

4. Too add even more sparkle i use the free luftikus vst, which is an eq plugin, that can be found here: I mainly use the High Boost and boost around 20k with 3 db. I also cut some off the higher mids at 640 hz and also add a bit at 2.5k.
Luftikus seems to be a good choice if you wanna have more sparkle in your mix, which is something that really pleases my taste, but i recognized that for example Jeremy Soule in the Guild Wars Prophecies Ost doesn't seem to have lot going on there, noticed similar things in Zelda TP Ost, so it might just be me.

5. Before the limiter i use a soft clipper to get a bit of a boost. I actually use this plugin to increase dynamics by having an automation track for its Wetness on the mastertrack, which looks something like this:
In the louder parts i want to be louder and more in your face it gets more wet and the other way around, pretty easy. While i don't set the clipper pretty high, around 1 to 2 db as a Volume Boost it is still accentuating everything a bit.

Though you gotta be careful with that concept a bit, in some circumstances i got weird artifacts with to fast incrising of the wetness (not really in this one so much as you can see, how far i quickly i pushed it).

6. At last the Limiter. I like to use the JS Limiter that comes with reaper because it seems to be pretty transparent. I usally don't set the threshold really low, just around -2,4db so it really affects more the higher peaks. I haven't totally figured out how limiters work so far, and as long as i don't get any weird artifacts i'm happy. I also set the celling most of the time around -0,3db. I keep the rest at the default settings.
Limiters are still kinda magical to me as in how they work and what causes artifacts, so i don't try to push the track to hard through them. Also it's orchestral music, it doesn't have to be as loud as Metal or hip-hop. People can still turn on there volume as long as the track sounds good. Can't do that when the track is wrecked.
Alright, if someone thinks i'm defently doing everything about mastering wrong and I am using these plugins in a alarming blasphemous way let me know. I gotta learn a lot, so don't hesitate to correct me.

If you got any more tips on mastering please also let me know and write them here. The Internet is pretty sparse in VO Mastering so far and I'm sure there are some more experienced people on this board.

I hope this is helpful to some people and feel free to add and correct. And once again i ask you for unmastered tracks for practicing purposes. Thanks a lot!
Have fun mastering!

I hope I don't fall from grace with mastering engineers for putting this into the Mixing-Category, but i didn't found anything more fitting.

RE: Practicing Mastering with your Tracks + some stuff i learned while mastering - kneedeep - 03-22-2017

Three compressors in the mastering chain seems like overkill tbh. Personally I use one on the stereo mix (with a sidechain bass rolloff and some high-end harmonic generation) and that's it.

The automated clipper thing is smart but you could probably get much the same effect by just using a peak limiter and using it well. Clipping tends to produce distortion so I would argue against it.

The kind of EQ and limiting to do in mastering is probably a hugely philosophical and esoteric field of personal preference. I have found that it's very easy to overdo it.

The Ferric TDS is colouring the sound too much for my taste. I wouldn't use it in mastering. I use the Tesla pro (also a saturation kinda deal) on certain instrument channels (it adds a bit of kick to brass for instance). But what you're doing is using a tape simulator on your entire mix. That seems a little extreme unless you really want that slightly muddy sound. It would be very uncommon in mixing classical music AFAIK.

Fundamentally, to the best of my knowledge, mastering is for correcting the entire frequency spectrum and slightly tweaking the dynamics so it's easier to listen to. Piling on the plugins isn't gonna help. Doing only what's needed and no more is gonna help.

Get one nice soft-knee stereo bus compressor, one good multiband EQ with variable curve shapes, and one good peak limiter. That should do it. Everything else should be fixed in the individual channels during mixing IMHO (and the samples we use here don't need a lot of correction in the first place).

Not to devaluate your approach of course, but IMHO less is more.

RE: Practicing Mastering with your Tracks + some stuff i learned while mastering - Otto Halmén - 03-22-2017

Well, it's a bit hard to make anything out of your descriptions without context, so any feedback would have to wait until you are allowed to post the track.

As to Luftikus, be warned that the analog mode only randomizes every parameter and adds white noise to the audio. There's no saturation or coloration, just errors and noise. Other than that, it's a bog-standard EQ.

If you're serious about mastering, I highly recommend reading this article. The overall loudness of the recording shouldn't really be considered an aspect of the musical work, but rather be determined by your target platform.

RE: Practicing Mastering with your Tracks + some stuff i learned while mastering - sinaptica - 03-23-2017

As Otto said before, it's difficult to say anything about your process without the most important part of all... the finished track!
Every project is different, and what can be ideal for one could not (and it's highly probable that will not) be for another.

There's not a set of rules/tools set in stone and applicable every time.

This is mandatory reading for anyone wanting to dive in the mastering process:

I will paraphrase one of the most important advices that book gave to me...
"Sometimes the mastering process consists in leaving the track untouched."

RE: Practicing Mastering with your Tracks + some stuff i learned while mastering - Viktor - 03-23-2017

Thanks for the tips! I defently look into the stuff you guys sent to me, that is the stuff I'm not finding on the internet, while desperetly searching for it.

I'll load something up as soon as i can, I'm looking forward to some feedback.