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NotchontheRocks
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30th December 2012
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Disturbing trend

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed this and it has probably been happening for a long time. But I thought I'd make a post anyways, even if it is to be just a reminder.

I have been noticing a lot of topics among audio forums like "Can mastering fix this" and "How do I take this out of the mix." It seems like there is less and less a focus on taking care of the small things while mixing and hoping it can be remedied down the line. For instance, removing unwanted noise from a portion of the mix or taking out an element of the mix that is no longer wanted. There are two issues with situations like these. First, why wasn't it taken care of in the mix process? Second, whatever happened to recalls?

It seems like people are throwing together mixes without any regard for the smaller issues (noise, clicks, pops, amp buzz, etc.). Sometimes I think people fail to realize what mastering actually is. It's not some magic trick. Even with the great advances in audio technology, it is rare that something very noticeable can be removed from a stereo mix without affecting the rest of the audio.

And what happened to mix recalls? Accompanying these types of posts is a comment like "Can't really fix it in the mix." Why? We live in an era of camera phones, presets, digital sessions, cloud storage, and flash drives. A session can be documented/saved in little time. When I was in school, it was constantly drilled into my mind that backups and recalls were extremely important. I feel that this is becoming a lost priority.

Anyways, I just wanted to point that out. And obviously I'm not talking about all or even the majority of engineers. Most people I meet in the field are really talented, skilled people, but sometimes even the most talented engineers fail to recognize the importance of fixing the minor details and saving a session.

Hopefully this can be a reminder to at least one person!
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That's why Bob Katz named one of the chapters in his book "fix it in the shrink wrap". It's the same thing in Hollywood too. There used to be Directors of Photography who would look at a set and know exactly how to light it to get the look they wanted, armed with nothing more than a light meter. Now, they light everything super flat and make the look after the final edit is done. They don't even have sets or entire actors being shot so much anymore... more like two people wearing blue suits in front of gigantic green walls and virtually the entire movie is made post-production. Our age of "fix it later" is very wearisome, especially when things that don't need to be fixed get fixed any way "just because they can." Very good singers getting the life autotuned out of them. Great drummers getting replaced by samples after getting snapped to the grid. Then, there's some things that are great because they're not very good that get fixed and lose everything that's unique about them. Maybe we're living in the wrong era. Maybe we're here to remind people that there's an order for things to naturally follow.
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"fix it in the mastering"...it's been around for a good long time....mastering from stems is systemic of that idea
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NotchontheRocks View Post
I

It seems like people are throwing together mixes without any regard for the smaller issues (noise, clicks, pops, amp buzz, etc.). Sometimes I think people fail to realize what mastering actually is. It's not some magic trick. Even with the great advances in audio technology, it is rare that something very noticeable can be removed from a stereo mix without affecting the rest of the audio.
It seems like getting things done quickly has completely replaced, in many instances, getting things done well. Some of the material I get into master is simply not ready for "prime time". IMHO the artist should spend more time recording and mixing and less time preparing for their CD release party which they already scheduled before they even started recording. I see too many artist facing self imposed deadlines which causes them to cut a lot of corners in order to get their material to the CD replicator on time so they have the CDs for their release party. They somehow think that all the mistakes that have crept into the production from the get go can be magically "undone" by simply mastering the material.

Not a good scenario to be sure.

Another problem is that a lot of mixing gets done on speakers that don't give the artist or their engineer a true picture of what they are doing. It is not until the get here that they discover all the problems they never heard in the mixing process. I cannot tell you the number of artist that come here and say "what was I thinking this sounds bad" even though in the recording studio it may have sounded OK.

Oh well we live in a world of instant messaging, overnight FEDEX and bank transfers that take seconds. I guess some artist want to get everything done quickly and get it to their adoring fan base and they tend to gloss over or don't really hear what is going on.

A good analogy would be driving along a country road at 20 MPH looking at the beautiful scenery or driving 65 MPH on a freeway and not seeing very much of anything except the brake lights on the car in front of you.

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"My mix engineer told me mastering would take care of that" - is something I've heard too many times recently...

"That's what mix engineers say when they don't want to deal with something" - is what I want to say back, but I bite my tongue (usually) and just do what I can with the best mix I can get.

I totally agree that self-imposed deadlines are responsible for much of the madness. Hey people - You created your deadline and you can change it. The world will still be here when you're ready to release your best effort. Or is making that deadline really worth compromising the quality of the recording that will represent you forever?
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Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
Hey people - You created your deadline and you can change it. The world will still be here when you're ready to release your best effort. Or is making that deadline really worth compromising the quality of the recording that will represent you forever?

"But, dood, I have the release party/date already scheduled!" is the usual reply.

have heard that more than once... and if that's their priority, ok, so be it.
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Originally Posted by John Moran View Post
"But, dood, I have the release party/date already scheduled!" is the usual reply.

have heard that more than once... and if that's their priority, ok, so be it.
Exactly. I just think it's a bit short sighted in some cases. Long after that party's over - a year or a decade later - will they be wishing they'd spent more time getting it right? Probably. But it is their choice to make and I always try to help as much as possible.
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Originally Posted by IIIrd View Post
....mastering from stems is systemic of that idea
So true.
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Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
"My mix engineer told me mastering would take care of that" - is something I've heard too many times recently...
Same here. Goes from -15dBFS permanent electrical buzz (50Hz to light) to unmuted drums channels during the solo bass intro.
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I actually have people before they even start recording ask me if I could use pitch correction on them. My response is usually "I could, but I won't, because we'll get a good take." That's usually the last time I hear from that potential client.
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A couple of years ago I got in some tracks to master. On one of the tracks you can hear someone coming down the basement steps and yelling "turn down that crap I can't hear the TV" I pointed this out to the band and they said "leave it in" "we think it is funny". Another time the band brought in some tracks and there was all this really low frequency noise on the tracks. I asked the band what they were monitoring on and they said "computer speakers" I asked them what the noise was and they said "they were tearing down a large building about two houses down from where we were recording and since we could not hear it on the computer speakers we figured we were OK" I have more of these from lots of years in the business. Sometime you just want to give someone a dope slap and be done with it but I just grin and bare it and do my level best to get there stuff to sound the best it can be.
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I'm curious, how many of you will turn down a job such as these because it is either impossible, or would reflect on and tarnish your rep? If you you have more ethics than greed, and good for you!
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I'm curious, how many of you will turn down a job such as these because it is either impossible, or would reflect on and tarnish your rep? If you you have more ethics than greed, and good for you!
I wouldn't cast it as ethics vs greed. It's ethical to help the client as much as possible. If I don't think I can help them then I'll turn it down. Once or twice I've asked to not be credited...
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True, I didn't mean to sound too harsh. Sending them back to remix can be as good as it gets some times...
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Originally Posted by NotchontheRocks View Post
I have been noticing a lot of topics among audio forums like "Can mastering fix this" and "How do I take this out of the mix." It seems like there is less and less a focus on taking care of the small things while mixing and hoping it can be remedied down the line. For instance, removing unwanted noise from a portion of the mix or taking out an element of the mix that is no longer wanted. There are two issues with situations like these. First, why wasn't it taken care of in the mix process? Second, whatever happened to recalls?
I think it's very simple really. The overall perception of quality has suffered when you suddenly have a huge influx of completely inexperienced people doing all of the production, starting from the song writers and recording engineer. Whereas in the "old days", record labels QA department and overall QA chain would filter out these potential releases. Today you get it all; The good, the bad and the ugly.. we all know how these attributes divide.

Cheers!
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I actually have people before they even start recording ask me if I could use pitch correction on them. My response is usually "I could, but I won't, because we'll get a good take." That's usually the last time I hear from that potential client.
I've ran into similar things. I'm also constantly amazed when people think 2 to 3 takes is enough.. and this is a singer who hasn't even warmed up his voice. He enters the studio, goes into the booth.. I setup the track for him to warm up and he sings 2-3 times through a verse and goes: "were done, right? that was perfect, right?" (and no.. he wasn't even remotely close to nailing a good performance).

It's like the old world where it could take several days before a producer accepted the main solo vocal take from a super star, is completely forgotten. Now we record the whole band, 4-8 songs in a single day! It's complete madness. No wonder so many recordings I get for mastering are completely "meh..". There's zero effort behind the supposed product, throughout the whole production, starting from the very first idea (which most likely wasn't refined either.. somebody just got a first idea and said "lets do it!").

It's like there's a whole generation that doesn't understand that creating something of quality actually takes quite a lot of work and effort! Are people just lazy, uninformed or just disillusioned?

/rant
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It's like the old world where it could take several days before a producer accepted the main solo vocal take from a super star, is completely forgotten.
True, but then again, according to Jimmy Page the entirety of Led Zeppelin 1 was recorded in just 30 studio hours. It depends who is in front of the mic...
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DIY recordings with artists thinking "We can do this ourselves on Logic", then they start to realize that they don't have a clue how to get the sounds they're wanting!

The only up side to this is:

I've seen many long winded DIY projects run for up to two years on one album only to realize they should have hired someone in the first place!

The next record they do, if they stay together, gets recorded N mixed properly by a pro, and winds up actually costing them less once they've done their sums
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Mixing is such a huge task, sometimes I think there should be two people for it.
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That's why Bob Katz named one of the chapters in his book "fix it in the shrink wrap". It's the same thing in Hollywood too. There used to be Directors of Photography who would look at a set and know exactly how to light it to get the look they wanted, armed with nothing more than a light meter. Now, they light everything super flat and make the look after the final edit is done. They don't even have sets or entire actors being shot so much anymore... more like two people wearing blue suits in front of gigantic green walls and virtually the entire movie is made post-production. Our age of "fix it later" is very wearisome, especially when things that don't need to be fixed get fixed any way "just because they can." Very good singers getting the life autotuned out of them. Great drummers getting replaced by samples after getting snapped to the grid. Then, there's some things that are great because they're not very good that get fixed and lose everything that's unique about them. Maybe we're living in the wrong era. Maybe we're here to remind people that there's an order for things to naturally follow.

That's a slight red herring, in that there was limited post production using film with the exception of a little in the processing at the lab. Now all films are shot digitally and by lighting the scene fairly flat it gives a lot of options in post pro and grading as there are less issues with things like noise.

Another advantage of shooting digital is that is possible to shoot in natural light with little in the way of movie lights, I remember being on a film set 30 something years ago and a night scene had to be almost as light as day in order for them to film it.
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I'm curious, how many of you will turn down a job such as these because it is either impossible, or would reflect on and tarnish your rep? If you you have more ethics than greed, and good for you!
In my experience, it's usually guys that need it done super fast and for virtually no money where these jobs appear. In that case, I just do what I can with the time allowed and let it be. That usually happens because they spent two months dinking around the guitarist's home studio, not getting anything and realize a week away from the release party that they're screwed. If they put up a fuss about the results, I remind them that I warned them in advance before taking the job. I've turned down a few jobs or revisions, but those are pretty rare, usually because the client has unreasonable expectations or because they want the levels to be pushed way harder than the music can tolerate. I've also just asked to be uncredited in such cases.


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It's like there's a whole generation that doesn't understand that creating something of quality actually takes quite a lot of work and effort! Are people just lazy, uninformed or just disillusioned?
All of those IMO.



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That's a slight red herring, in that there was limited post production using film with the exception of a little in the processing at the lab.
There was generally little post-processing, but that's because the DP got the look he wanted on the spot. Screwing with the image after the fact was last resort stuff. I've seen people do amazing things with optical printers, like turning brown leaves on trees green because they had to do retakes during the fall for a movie that took place in the summer.


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Now all films are shot digitally and by lighting the scene fairly flat it gives a lot of options in post pro and grading as there are less issues with things like noise.
That's not true at all, though more and more movies are being shot on video, much to the protest of more experienced DPs a lot of times. This trend of making the look in post started around 2000-2002 when virtually all movies were shot on film. Much of the time, the DP isn't even involved in the post-grading. I've heard many, many of the greats complain that the completed movie looks nothing like what they intended because of some mook producer at the studio telling the colorist what to do.


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Another advantage of shooting digital is that is possible to shoot in natural light with little in the way of movie lights, I remember being on a film set 30 something years ago and a night scene had to be almost as light as day in order for them to film it.
"30 Something" was shot on 400 ISO film, which is where most video cameras are natively rated. Most can be pushed farther through the use of gain, which reduces quality of course. I'll tell you from experience that it takes A LOT more careful lighting to shoot for video than film and that usually absorbs any cost savings on film stock. I had a client that wanted an HD production for a commercial that would be aired nationally. I estimate that we saved them about $1,000 because we shot Super-16 film instead of video. If I shot video, I would have hired probably an extra two people to handle reflectors and bring in a bunch of auxiliary lights to fill in the shadows more. Even though I only had a crew of four, myself included, you can see detail in every highlight, every shadow, minimal color correction was done after the fact. The camera operator brought a high end DSLR and took some stills of the production. A DSLR does stills at about the same quality as the best video cameras. The film blew his stills out of the water. You'd actually be amazed at how much HD program material originates from Super-16, especially outside the U.S.
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I always try my utmost to sort out any problems, regardless of how they got there. It is not really my place to judge how my clients choose to create.
Just try to make their music product the best it can be within the constraints of the project.
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Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post

"30 Something" was shot on 400 ISO film, which is where most video cameras are natively rated. Most can be pushed farther through the use of gain, which reduces quality of course. I'll tell you from experience that it takes A LOT more careful lighting to shoot for video than film and that usually absorbs any cost savings on film stock. I had a client that wanted an HD production for a commercial that would be aired nationally. I estimate that we saved them about $1,000 because we shot Super-16 film instead of video. If I shot video, I would have hired probably an extra two people to handle reflectors and bring in a bunch of auxiliary lights to fill in the shadows more. Even though I only had a crew of four, myself included, you can see detail in every highlight, every shadow, minimal color correction was done after the fact. The camera operator brought a high end DSLR and took some stills of the production. A DSLR does stills at about the same quality as the best video cameras. The film blew his stills out of the water. You'd actually be amazed at how much HD program material originates from Super-16, especially outside the U.S.
My experience obviously differs from yours. I can't think of any major project that is in production that isn't being filmed digitally. And you can shoot at night in natural light with everything from the Sony F65 to the Alexa to the Red Cam, impossible on 400 ISO film stock and would look dreadful on 1000 ISO. I live in the UK and all major TV drama's here are being shot digitally, I would like to know of some that are currently being shot on Super 16.

On another side note, a friend of my fathers used to make "B" movies in the 50's and 60's, they had tro shoot in b&w as the cost of colour stock would blow the budget. Shooting to film has always been unbelieveably expensive, digital has made many savings.

Back on topic, te question is misleading in that whether asked for or not, there has always been a large amount of "fixing" done by mastering engineers, with or without the specific request.

I've heard masters that sounded truly awful, come out sounding wonderful after mastering, equally as well, I've heard good recordings that mastering can do little to improve and often can end up worse in anything less than skilled hands.

The fact that many more artists are now "self producing" their material, will inevitably lead to some issues that experienced studio's would expect to avoid, however, this is a trend that is not going away.

The more worrying trend, is that number of people that are attempting to avoid mastering charges by going it alone and doing things like strapping an L2 across the mix buss. Ok, in most cases these are song's and albums that are never going to hit the mass market, but suffice to say, I now see mastering studio's, even ones with good reputation's struggling to keep an income flowing though the door. Of course YMMV.
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"fix it in the mastering"...
Oh how I dislike this phrase with such a passion...
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Originally Posted by loujudson View Post
I'm curious, how many of you will turn down a job such as these because it is either impossible, or would reflect on and tarnish your rep? If you you have more ethics than greed, and good for you!
A lot depends on the client's wants and wishes. If they expect me to take what they have given me and make it into a polished perfect CD even though it is really badly recorded and mixed then I would probably pass especially if it is a RUSH job. If they want me to make what they have created be the best it can be then I will usually take on the job. I have told two clients out of hundreds that I did not want my name or my company name on the CD for various reasons.

If I take on the job then I want to be proud of it. If the artist has already created a mess then it maybe impossible for me to do a GREAT job for them. Sometimes in their rush to get something done they create problems that are impossible to solve just by mastering. Most times I can "work miracles" but sometime the magic wand and sorcerers cape don't provide the necessary "enhancements" and they end up with a less than perfect CD.

I always encourage new clients to bring in some of their music as they are working on it so I can give it a listen to see if there might be some problems. I don't charge for this service and find that it helps me and the client to identify problems before the day of the mastering. Unfortunately a lot of clients wait until the last possible minute before selecting a mastering engineer and if there is a problem and they are facing a firm deadline it maybe simply too late to fix it.

As to ethics. I refuse to take money from a client for just polishing their turd. If I cannot make it sound better than when it came in then I really don't want to take on the job. I know there are a lot of so called "mastering engineers" that take anything that walks in the door, do some minor polishing of the turd and charge for their "services". That is not something I choose to do.

Hope this helps!
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My experience obviously differs from yours. I can't think of any major project that is in production that isn't being filmed digitally. And you can shoot at night in natural light with everything from the Sony F65 to the Alexa to the Red Cam, impossible on 400 ISO film stock and would look dreadful on 1000 ISO. I live in the UK and all major TV drama's here are being shot digitally, I would like to know of some that are currently being shot on Super 16.
Hmm, I can't find any current productions now either, aside from a few TV shows in the States that are 35mm. Super-16 is mostly used in documentary and commercial work.
As for shooting in natural light, a lot of people crank the gain on the cameras to get ridiculous ISOs like 1,600, but it comes at the price of heavy digital noise reduction that's built into the image sensors themselves and often into the camera's own processors. The result is very plasticy, videoy images. I hate what this industry has become. It's all about quick and cheap now.
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Hmm, I can't find any current productions now either, aside from a few TV shows in the States that are 35mm. Super-16 is mostly used in documentary and commercial work.
As for shooting in natural light, a lot of people crank the gain on the cameras to get ridiculous ISOs like 1,600, but it comes at the price of heavy digital noise reduction that's built into the image sensors themselves and often into the camera's own processors. The result is very plasticy, videoy images. I hate what this industry has become. It's all about quick and cheap now.
We do a lot of TV commercial work. It is all shot on video. The clients want perfection but don't want to do retakes and they are always in a hurry to get things done. I have had more than one client ask me "can't you just fix this in the post production process?" to which I always say "maybe, but it is much easier to get it right when we have a good take so lets do another one" As to <plasticy -videoy >look that seems to be the new in thing for movies as well as commercials. I think it all started with the movie "The Three Kings" and went down hill from there. I agree some video on TV can look absolutely terrible but it seem to be what a lot of production companies are currently turning out. It maybe because they no longer have a DP or anyone on the set that can make decisions and they rely on post for all the color corrections and the "look" of the video. Just look at CSI Miami to see what using over saturation can do. The water is over blue, the buildings all yellow and the sky is so blue it looks phony.

Ah for the days of Black and White <GRIN>
#29
1st January 2013
Old 1st January 2013
  #29
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I do some freelance work, mostly commercials, promos and the occasional music video. We probably shoot about 1/3rd of our stuff on film. I admit a lot of that is because the lack of decent equipment in the area makes it cheaper to buy film than rent what's required for QUALITY video productions. That's why local video productions are all crap. There's also a lot of one-man-band productions here as well. There's a lot of talented people here, but nobody winds up being very good at anything because they're trying to do everything themselves.

On that note, it amazes me how many "pro" photographers, camera ops and directors these days have no clue what a light meter is. I've had more than one occasion where a still photographer complains that the light isn't right. I click a button and say "set it to F4" or whatever and his shots are just fine all of a sudden. Of course, DSLRs can't generally handle the contrast the film can, but at least the subjects look right. Stop looking at that useless histogram and just measure the light on the subject! I suppose it's like audio newbies trying to EQ via FFT and nobody teaching them to set up their gain structure first. For my last couple of shoots, I did the stills myself because I can't find anybody locally who does quality work anymore. The one girl I trusted had to move out of state because she couldn't live off of what people are willing to pay anymore. I hardly run the main camera myself anymore anyway. I do OK at it, but I prefer to concentrate on the technical details and let the steadier hands handle that part.
#30
1st January 2013
Old 1st January 2013
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
Hmm, I can't find any current productions now either, aside from a few TV shows in the States that are 35mm. Super-16 is mostly used in documentary and commercial work.
As for shooting in natural light, a lot of people crank the gain on the cameras to get ridiculous ISOs like 1,600, but it comes at the price of heavy digital noise reduction that's built into the image sensors themselves and often into the camera's own processors. The result is very plasticy, videoy images. I hate what this industry has become. It's all about quick and cheap now.
I appreciate your point of view, however, I've got a GH2 that isn't particularly rated for it's low light performance and it will shoot perfectly well at 800-1000 ISO, looks decent at 1600 and you can get away with 3200 at a pinch, the new GH3 is considerably better in low light and I would expect that the Sony and the Alexa are at least as good. I've seen tests with the Blackmagic offering over 13 stops of lattitude.

In amongst a lot of dross, I have, however, seen some beautifully shot stuff recently, however, I find that there is a lot of style over substance in modern films, too many cuts and sometimes overly post produced by colourists for no really good reason.
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