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  #1  
Old 09-10-2021, 02:20 AM
amscheme amscheme is offline
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Default Mastering

Hey everyone, I know this is a super loaded question and whole courses could be taught on it but just wondering if anybody had any tips for me. I use Pro Tools 10 and have the Waves plug in bundle and been mixing and mastering my music but I can’t seem to get it as loud as “professional” mixes without it sounding like it’s distorted. My process is usually getting everything mixed as tight and loud as I can without individual tracks clipping and then I drag my master fader down so the fader doesn’t go up in the red at all through the song and then I’ll put the L3 Multi plug in on from the dynamics menu and I’ll use the high res cd master preset, which gets it decently loud but just not quite there. Any advice is appreciated.

Brandon
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  #2  
Old 09-10-2021, 05:39 AM
TheFilterLab TheFilterLab is offline
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Default Re: Mastering

Loud mostly comes from the EQ balance. If you want it to be competitively loud you'll most likely have to sacrifice some subs and add more presence (2k-5k). Also, distortion is your friend, that's a big part of making things loud. That's why the Oxford Limiter and Inflator have been standard tools for this for many years.

But yeah you're right there is a lot more to it than that. It really does take years to fully grasp the art of mastering. There are many variables and you have to listen for yourself and make the judgement call. This advice can send you down a path of experimentation that might get you some where. It all depends on what works with the music, and it's all subjective.

Good luck!
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  #3  
Old 09-10-2021, 07:02 AM
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JFreak JFreak is offline
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Default Re: Mastering

First, don't try to do it in one session. Bounce your "tight" mix to WAV, then import it to a new session.

Then put a limiter (if you have Waves L3LL that would be a good idea). Drive your levels up to where the limiter begins to do something, until that it is not changing sound at all. Then adjust your monitoring levels so it sounds roughly the same as when you mixed it.

his is the point where you start making decisions. Either drive it a little hotter, or insert EQ before the limiter and try if there are certain frequencies you want to compress more or less, and tweak the sound a little (wide Q here, not surgical). Once you are satisfied and your mix makes the limiter alive (usually a little limiting is enough, no need for more than 1-3dB but there are no rules).

I think this will get you started.
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  #4  
Old 09-10-2021, 07:42 AM
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Default Re: Mastering

Here's an idea:
BEFORE you master, surgically find and tweak peaks in the mix. Temporarily put an L3 (or similar) on the master fader. Adjust threshold so it starts to hit some peaks. Play through the song and stop when the limiter finds a peak. Locate the offending element(s) in the multitrack (perhaps a snare hit or lead vocal consonant) and manually automate it down a bit at that exact moment. Continue through the entire song. Remove the temp L3, and bounce. Send to mastering engineer, or self-master in a separate session. I find this method of "manual limiting" (i.e. precise & careful mixing) ends up being less distorted than hitting limiters too hard during mastering. Limiters like L3 can definitely introduce distortion, so be careful!
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  #5  
Old 09-10-2021, 09:55 AM
albee1952 albee1952 is offline
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Default Re: Mastering

Good advice above that I will add my own spin to.

First off, how far down are you dragging your master to get rid of clipping? If its 3-4db, that's probably fine, but if its 10-12db, then I would go back to the mix and lower everything. The 2 easy methods("easy" being a relative term) are:
A-select every AUDIO and INSTRUMENT track and create a new group(you don't want AUX or routing folders included). Show volume in the EDIT window>grab the volume line on any AUDIO track(grab AFTER the end of the song) and drag it down 6-8db. Assuming your AUX tracks are fed by post-fade sends, the entire mix should remain intact, but at a lower level.

B-Find the TRIM plugin, set it to -10 and save this as a preset. Then set the plugin to default to that preset. Now in the EDIT window, hold Alt(Option?) and insert the TRIM plugin in the last insert slot(the Alt/Option will add the plugin to every track). Then go thru and bypass(or delete) Trim on all AUX tracks(where it is not needed). This should also lower the entire mix, but maintain the balance(my session templates have TRIM already in place, but bypassed).

On to mastering, I also prefer to bounce to disk, and then master that audio file, but the method doesn't change a lot. I use Ozone now, but previously, this was my chain:
Fabfilter ProQ with a steep high-pass around 30Hz
SSL buss compressor(either Waves or Slate Grey work well) doing gentle 2:1
Waves L2(L3 is a fine substitute)w/ceiling at -.05 and adjust for 2-3db of GR
Another Waves L2. Ceiling at -.01 and adjust for 2-3db of GR

The idea is to let each comp and limiter do a little extra push instead of doing it all with 1 plugin(and I have gone as far as 3 instances of L2 on a soft track). These days, I still have Fabfilter ProQ3 and the SSL comp in the first 2 slots and let OZONE do the rest(now that I have a method to keep all my mixes within a consistent range of volume)
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  #6  
Old 09-10-2021, 10:52 AM
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Default Re: Mastering

^^ good suggestions.

However first problem was to get levels reasonably high without too noticeable distortion, so once that goal is achieved we may go to more advanced stuff.

Yes it is true that comp-->limit gives you smoother results than just a limit, because you only cut 1-3dB at a time, even if your goal is to pump it up very hard. You also get two sets of controls (slow and fast).

It is also true that putting an EQ in front of a comp/limit makes it possible to.. sculpt the frequencies that get compressed and which are not.. so it should not be regarded as EQ per se. In other words, if you want to compress your treble and leave bottom breathing (this is what is generally considered "punchy") you would place EQ before limiter and have a low-shelf filter cut the bottom frequencies so the gain reduction you see in a limiter is treble heavy.

And the mentioned Sonnox Inflator and subtle distortion is the best kept secret in the industry. With that plugin you get a lot of loudness without disturbing kind of distortion. It could cost ten times more and people would still buy it.

Sometimes after doing the dynamics you might also want to take a look at your stereo image. The more you compress the more you tend to like wider stereo image. So as you said you have Waves, try the S1 stereo imager, but there are better ones available too (such as bx_stereomaker by plugin alliance).

... and of course, if all of this is too advanced for you right now, you can always trial an iZotope Ozone which has presets that you may like and obviously are not used by pro mastering engineers.
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  #7  
Old 09-10-2021, 02:04 PM
albee1952 albee1952 is offline
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Default Re: Mastering

Indeed, the reason I switched to the Slate Grey over the Waves SSL bus comp is for the hi-pass filter, which I run at around 150Hz. As for wideners like Waves S1, I do use those, but never on the master. Instead, I might bus a bunch of BGV tracks thru an AUX and put the widener on the AUX, and I will sometimes put S1 on some effects. I find this quite effective without a serious compromise to the overall track(wideners work by using phase shifts and I don't want that on my entire mix).

BTW, plugin presets are a mixed bag. If your mix is different from the mix that the preset was built for, then you might be chasing your tail. At the very least, experiment a bit rather than just calling up the preset and assuming its fine. A multi-band limiter is a wonderful tool that can do some amazing things. It can also dig you into a hole that you can't get out of(which is why I suggested the L2 as its nearly impossible to screw up)
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  #8  
Old 09-11-2021, 07:19 AM
amscheme amscheme is offline
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Default Re: Mastering

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheFilterLab View Post
Loud mostly comes from the EQ balance. If you want it to be competitively loud you'll most likely have to sacrifice some subs and add more presence (2k-5k). Also, distortion is your friend, that's a big part of making things loud. That's why the Oxford Limiter and Inflator have been standard tools for this for many years.

But yeah you're right there is a lot more to it than that. It really does take years to fully grasp the art of mastering. There are many variables and you have to listen for yourself and make the judgement call. This advice can send you down a path of experimentation that might get you some where. It all depends on what works with the music, and it's all subjective.

Good luck!

Thanks I really appreciate your time, I will try this out !


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  #9  
Old 09-11-2021, 07:20 AM
amscheme amscheme is offline
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Default Re: Mastering

Quote:
Originally Posted by JFreak View Post
First, don't try to do it in one session. Bounce your "tight" mix to WAV, then import it to a new session.

Then put a limiter (if you have Waves L3LL that would be a good idea). Drive your levels up to where the limiter begins to do something, until that it is not changing sound at all. Then adjust your monitoring levels so it sounds roughly the same as when you mixed it.

his is the point where you start making decisions. Either drive it a little hotter, or insert EQ before the limiter and try if there are certain frequencies you want to compress more or less, and tweak the sound a little (wide Q here, not surgical). Once you are satisfied and your mix makes the limiter alive (usually a little limiting is enough, no need for more than 1-3dB but there are no rules).

I think this will get you started.

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  #10  
Old 09-11-2021, 07:22 AM
amscheme amscheme is offline
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Default Re: Mastering

Quote:
Originally Posted by JFreak View Post
First, don't try to do it in one session. Bounce your "tight" mix to WAV, then import it to a new session.

Then put a limiter (if you have Waves L3LL that would be a good idea). Drive your levels up to where the limiter begins to do something, until that it is not changing sound at all. Then adjust your monitoring levels so it sounds roughly the same as when you mixed it.

his is the point where you start making decisions. Either drive it a little hotter, or insert EQ before the limiter and try if there are certain frequencies you want to compress more or less, and tweak the sound a little (wide Q here, not surgical). Once you are satisfied and your mix makes the limiter alive (usually a little limiting is enough, no need for more than 1-3dB but there are no rules).

I think this will get you started.

Had not thought about doing that, thank you!


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