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Monday, 11 January 2016

Mixing "Weather The Storm" pt. 8 - Mastering

Hey everyone! This is the eighth and final video/blog in my mixing series on “Weather The Storm”. If you missed any of the previous videos, check out these links:

Part 1 - Setting up the Session

Part 2 - Balance

Part 3 - Mix Bus Processing

Part 4 - EQ

Part 5 - Compression

Part 6 - Delay And Reverb

Part 7 - Tweaking

In this last video, we’ll be taking the mix from the mixing stage to the mastering stage and getting it ready to release.

How Is It Being Mastered?

There are a few ways to go about the mastering process of your production. You can choose to send it to someone else for mastering, you can run the track off and deal with the stereo file in your own mastering session, or you can just master it in the mixing session.
Each of these has it’s own advantages and disadvantages.

If you choose to send your mix to someone else to master, they might be able to add a fresh perspective to the final product and might be extremely skilled at mastering/have some top notch gear. The downside is that this might cost you some cash… or heaps of cash depending on who you get to do it.

If you run off the track to master in a new session you might be freeing up some much needed computer power to run the processing. Many mastering plugins can take up a lot of processing power. The downside to this is that you might have some tweaks in the mix that you want to fix and may forever spend your time changing between sessions and running off mixes.

Finally, you can just do the mastering in the mix session. This, until recently, was looked down upon because computers lacked processing power. Also, many people made the mastering process seem like an unachievable conquest that was not within reach of mere mortals. But mastering is becoming more and more accepted by home engineers.

However you choose to master your product, it is important to go through this process to save you many headaches down the track. 

Mastering In The Mix

Because we chose to do quite a bit of mix bus processing earlier in the mix, most of our mastering processing is already done, only needing a little tweak here and there. The final process to add is the mastering limiter.

I used the Maxim limiter that comes with Pro Tools. This is a very basic limiter that sounds pretty good. With only a couple of tweaks to the ceiling and release time, I could bring down the threshold until I reached a level that was comparable to our reference track. Easy!

Not So Fast!

Once the mastering limiter is put in, some significant changes happen to the mix. And these need to be rectified. They are mostly very subtle changes, but if left untouched, might leave your mix sounding very different to how you envisioned it when you finished your mix.

The first thing I noticed when I brought the limiter down was that I lost a lot of my snare. This is very common and many mastering engineers will ask for a copy of your snare track when mastering to put more in if it drops out too much.

If you remember in the mixes, the snare poked through the mix a lot… probably too much. As soon as we put the limiter on, the transient at the start of the snare is brought down and it quickly gets pushed back into the mix.

So you just have to make the necessary adjustments to get the snare brought back up in the mix. I ended up pushing it up by about 3.5dB, which is quite a big move, but that’s what it needed. The kick also needed a bit of a boost.

Another thing that needed a change was the mix bus EQ. I ended up pushing up the low end quite a bit and taking a bit more out of the low mids to keep the low end nice and punchy. 

There were other small changes, but those listed above are the main ones. If I didn’t run this mix with the limiter and sent the stereo file to someone to get mastered, many of those issues would go overlooked. Sure, mastering engineers have ways and means to make things punch better, but it’s better to knock it out at the easy point in the mix I think.

Final Words

So, I went through the videos and checked how long it took to get to where we are now. Including quite a bit of talking time, it’s taken a total of 1 hour and 40 minutes to take this mix from the very beginning of starting the session, to a finished master. I reckon that’s pretty good. 

Obviously there’s a lot more that can be done with this mix and there’s a bit I’d probably do a little bit differently if I was starting again. Having said that, I’m really happy with how the mix turned out in such a short amount of time. There wouldn’t be too much I’d change, and that’s because we focussed on the most important aspects of the mix first.

I sound a bit like a broken record, but I really think it’s important to put your mixing moves into perspective. You have to decide if what you’re doing is going to be noticeable in terms of the mix, and if so, is it going to matter.

I have spent ages on a solo’d Hi Hat track, tweaking it until it sounded perfect, only to pull it out completely because I was getting enough Hi Hat through the overhead mics. That was wasted time that could have been avoided if I’d taken care of the balance first and only addressed the parts of the mix the stood out to me. 

That’s about it for this mix, I look forward to sharing another project with you guys in the future.

If you have any questions or comments on anything you’ve seen in the process of this mix, please feel free to put them in the comments section below.

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