I am studying at the moment (trying to study bit by bit) how to improve the quality of my final mixes and masters. It was catastrophic years ago but it is getting better...
This is quite amazing the difference you can get when you listen to one specific MP3 or Wave file on your PC speakers by a specific artist or composer, and when you listen to the track of another one!
There can be huge differences in quality.
I am aiming at reaching proper final quality, something you send to someone (a potential customer for example or a friend you are working with for the first time) and that the guy, naturally opens it on its PC or on Internet and listen to and the quality is good, like on a movie.
THen the guy says "I like it or i do not like it" but the sound quality, the final rendering is there...No doubt.
I mean, and I emphasize on this, good quality on any media. I mean, if you listen to a track from a famous artist or band, it is obvious that the speakers play a lot in the final listening BUT on any media, everything is clear and powerfull enough though.
Data seem diverse and apparently specifically by genre. SO I will tryto be straightforward with these questions:
1) What are the steps to produce a very good saleable final mix/master for a movie track?
2) Any web/VST tools available to do it? free or not.
3) Any unavoidable gear?
4) Any tips for recordings (doubling tracks, centering center tracks, volume EGs, compression etc...)
Maybe you can think of other things I did not think of?
Thanks for your help in advance
It depends on the style of music obviously and it helps if your arrangement is decent in the first place and leaves plenty of room for all the component parts of your composition. I'm no expert, in fact I consider myself quite the amateur still and am always learning new things, but here are a few things I've learned recently that I do now at the mixing and mastering stages to help things sit together:
1) EQ my instruments to remove any unnecessary frequencies (usually at the extreme low/high ends) to create space for other instruments in the mix.
2) If I add a reverb send to channels I find that using a high pass EQ after the reverb insert before it returns to the mix helps reduce the lower end "mud".
I use a program called Ozone 5 for this myself as I still don't really know exactly what I'm doing. It seems to be mostly idiot proof, is pretty easy to understand and helps me get close to the results I want really quickly. They have a demo you can try out too:
Hope this helps a little at least, maybe others have better advice. :)
If you don't want to spend money there are a number of other very good free VST plugins available here for the same purposes:
Whatever else you do, check your mix/master on as many different systems as possible: car-stereo, laptop built-in, kitchen ghetto-blaster, ipod etc.
I have Ozone that Terry mentions and it's pretty good at giving a track some oomph but it can easily make something harsh and unsubtle if you're not careful. Especially if your tracks are orchestral type movie scores.
The best advice I can give is to use youtube as a resource and watch the very many tutorials by pros and amateurs that address particular issues you want to solve.
Definitely great advice here Michael and you're absolutely right about it being easy to over do things with Ozone. With that in mind my other piece of advice would be that it's a pretty good idea to choose a commercial piece of music from the outset that you would like to your final sound to be close to and then regularly check your mix against it as you are working on it. I usually have an audio track set aside in my DAW purely for this purpose so I can A/B check my current mix against a target track.
Michael Tauben said:
Yes, I too often do likewise and have a reference track loaded into my sequencer to compare the sound with.
One caveat to this practice is that we are comparing a mastered track with our unmastered. Everything depends on the kind of music we are dealing with and this may not be so much of an issue with classical style music than with dance/pop/electronica.
I used to add the mastering plug-ins to the main sequencer outputs when the mix was finished and sort of move between mastering and tweaking the mix simultaneously. I now prefer to ignore the mastering until the mix is finished and bounced having left a lot of headroom on the output. If I have any kind of budget I'll get a pro mastering engineer to do what is quite a specialised job, but often I'll just do it myself in a separate session once again checking it against a reference track.
Terry Jones said:
Yeah I probably should have clarified my workflow process a bit there Michael. I do actually leave the comparison track out until I get to the final mixing/mastering stage, which is usually done in a separate template with multiple audio stems rather than midi. All my initial performance tweaking/CC use and basic EQ is done in the midi version with zero reverb present, so I end up with very clean audio stems to take to the mix/master stage. I also don't tend to turn on the mastering plugin until I'm happy with the final mix with reverb :) I'm guessing you master on one stereo track, which isn't quite the same as me but perfectly valid all the same. :)
I guess everyone tailors their approach to their own style and habits.
The proof as always, is in the pudding. And in your case the pudding tastes very nice indeed. I enjoyed the music on your page, especially Homecoming, nice balance and atmosphere. :)
Terry Jones said:
Funnily enough Michael some of those are relatively old tracks now and I'm pretty sure my mixing/mastering techniques have improved vastly since then, particularly in the last month or two, butthanks for the compliments anyway, much appreciated! :)
I have actually recently been planning to go back and remix some of those tracks, but it's finding the time to do so!
The problem with Youtube is that you do not know who is a pro and who is not... I do not think being 100 % sure to be able to recognize them... hehe...
Michael Tauben said:
Terry Jones said: