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Pro Tools Mastering Taboo
Old 13th January 2007
  #1
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Pro Tools Mastering Taboo

First off let me tell you that I'm not here to start an anti PT thread. It has good uses in recording, editing, and mixing…
With that said I'm merely curious at wondering why mastering engineers don't use PT as an application for mastering? Sure there is stuff like Sadie and Peak Pro (and a half million others I won't mention for the sake of time) but most don't come near the almost 'moron-proof' layout that PT has.

It seems to be this taboo that PT does something unholy that Mastering engineers don't want a part of, What is it?

If mastering engineers wanted to work in PT what would they want Digi to change before making the move?
Old 13th January 2007
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Man View Post

If mastering engineers wanted to work in PT what would they want Digi to change before making the move?
1. The ability to cut red book mastes directly from the session as opposed to exporting to Jam, Waveberner etc etc

2. The ability to open multiple sessions at different bit depths and sample rates.

Some reckon the "sound" of PT is inferior to Sequoia, Wavelab, Sonic etc etc.

There's probably other points others may want to add.

Plenty of MEs use PT with great success.
Old 13th January 2007
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by punisher View Post
1. The ability to cut red book mastes directly from the session as opposed to exporting to Jam, Waveberner etc etc
Thats pretty much the main point. You can't write PQ Flags, let alone burn a proper redbook disc from the software.

Great software, just not able to properly master. I still love this thing though : http://www.sadie.com/products/prod_pcm2-m.html

SADiE in the palm of your hand!
Old 13th January 2007
  #4
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Both interesting, any other ideas roaming out there?
Old 13th January 2007
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Man View Post
With that said I'm merely curious at wondering why mastering engineers don't use PT as an application for mastering?
I think your assumption that Mastering Engineers don't use Pro Tools is incorrect.

There are many of us that do use PT, it's been discussed many times on the forums.

The only drawback is that you have to use another app to burn the masters.

I'm currently using PT HD 7.1, and Apple's Waveburner or Sonic Studio's PMCD to assemble and burn the master discs.

There's a long and interesting history to the whole PT -vs- Sonic -vs- everything else, not sure we need to rehash it yet again. It's one of the topics that cycles around every few months. If need be I'll be happy to offer my observations.

JT
Old 13th January 2007
  #6
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Simply put, ProTools isn't a mastering DAW because it cannot cut parts - in the mastering room, it's an editing and processing DAW.
Old 13th January 2007
  #7
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i think plenty of people use pt as a playback DAW in mastering. sometimes i get a pt session as a delivery format from a client, so it just makes things easier. pt definitely has its place.

that being said... if you really want a list....

no PQ editor (biggest reason)
no disc-burning/red book compliance
terrible fade editor (IMO)
hardware lock-in (would you use digidesign converters in mastering? not sure.)
no 3/4 point editing
crappy metering (IMO)
proprietary plug-in format/no VST
no built-in declicking
no non-destructive object editor/spot EQ capability
can't mix bit depths! (WHY?!)

for the cost of the cheapest protools TDM (or whatever they're calling it) you can get a more robust, dedicated mastering DAW.

these are my reasons, i'm sure there are more.
Old 13th January 2007
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Technically speaking PT is not a complete mastering DAW for the reasons given above, however it's used by many MEs for the processing component of mastering.

A few of the folks that come to mind on this forum that use it for this purpose include Jerry, Matt Grey, Bob Ohlsson, and myself. There are many other mastering studios that also use it to front-end other DAWs in combination.

PT routing and automation capabilities (in combination with great outboard gear) are essential tools for processing in my personal "bag of tricks".
Old 13th January 2007
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I don't use PT, but I do use Nuendo. And the fact that I have to do PQ editing elsewhere in no way diminishes my love of Nuendo as a playback, editing and processing tool. No desire to switch.

I would imagine those who have developed helpful and efficient workflows in PT feel the same way about their app.
Old 13th January 2007
  #10
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Using Pro Tools HD for mastering is one of the best kept secrets, helped by a lot of misinformation spread by people who usually have never used it. For example:

no PQ editor
no disc-burning/red book compliance

I do all the PQ in Pro Tools, then export to Jam for Red Book burning.

terrible fade editor (IMO)
Superb fade editor in Pro Tools 7!

hardware lock-in (would you use digidesign converters in mastering? not sure.)
Not true. You can hook up any other convertor to the main Digi interface. In my case I use Mytek & Apogee convertors

no 3/4 point editing
????

crappy metering
Possibly but several alternative meters & scopes (some are free plug-ins) are available.
I use the Waves one.

proprietary plug-in format/no VST
Yes, but one can argue that the best sounding plug-ins are in the TDM format as they don't rely on native processing

no built-in declicking
Yes, but many options available :Sony Oxford Restoration, Waves Restoration, Bias SoundSoap Pro (I have all three, and they are all very good), Sonic Solution, etc...

no non-destructive object editor/spot EQ capability
Myth! Not true.

[I]can't mix bit depths! (WHY?!)
Yes, but you can set a template session for the highest rate expected (24 bit/96Khz) and all lower bit depth files will be converted upwards on import.

for the cost of the cheapest protools TDM (or whatever they're calling it) you can get a more robust, dedicated mastering DAW
Yes, this is the only really true argument: A Pro Tools HD3 with a lot of third party plug-ins and interfaces does cost a fortune and probably a luxury if you only do mastering (I do a lot of mixing as well)...
Old 13th January 2007
  #11
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PT's in ability to open multiple bit depths and such seem to be a real losing feature.

No DSD support is going to be a problem in the near future.

It really just seems to be the wrong tool for the job. If you're opening a mastering suite, then get a tool made for mastering. Digi hasn't put any thought into making PT a really good mastering program.

From what i've seen though, most large mastering houses will have a Protools rig around that they can pull in, just in case it's needed.
Old 13th January 2007
  #12
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All great and valid reasons!
I tried looking for a previous post on PT mastering but couldn't find one. Perhaps from now on people will just recommend this thread. Thanksthumbsup
Old 13th January 2007
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
no PQ editor
no disc-burning/red book compliance

I do all the PQ in Pro Tools, then export to Jam for Red Book burning.


[I]can't mix bit depths! (WHY?!)
Yes, but you can set a template session for the highest rate expected (24 bit/96Khz) and all lower bit depth files will be converted upwards on import.
Can you please explain to me how you can mark PQ flags in PTHD? I am almost certain you can't.

Secondly, the multiple bitrate thing is still a valid point regardless of the fact you can convert on the way in to a PT Session. Granted however, that really is an issue that is very low on the list of reasons as to why you can't truly master in protools, IMHO.

-Scott
Old 13th January 2007
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tibbon View Post
PT's in ability to open multiple bit depths and such seem to be a real losing feature.
To be clear, PT can open any bit depth, it converts it to the bit depth that you choose for the session, which should be 24 bit (or 32 float for LE users). The only limitation is the TDM bus which passes audio at 24 bit. Since most digital outboard devices are also restricted to 24 bit via AES I don't see this as an issue. How many people complain about the same limitation on say a Weiss?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tibbon View Post
No DSD support is going to be a problem in the near future.
Again third party products are the answer there, see nexStage DSDeliver:
http://www.sonicstudio.com/products/dsd/nexstage.html

I would think that surround would be a larger issue, PT does a very good job with this.

But hey, if you don't like it don't use it. It just happens to work very well for some of us.
Old 13th January 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
no non-destructive object editor/spot EQ capability
Myth! Not true.
You can non- destructively EQ an "object" in pro tools?

How?
Old 13th January 2007
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterer View Post
You can non- destructively EQ an "object" in pro tools?

How?
Depends on the EQ you are using, but with most there's a bypass button of some sort. Audiosuite is the only "destructive" way of applying EQ that I know of.
Old 13th January 2007
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tibbon View Post

No DSD support is going to be a problem in the near future.

This was a biggie for me. Thats' the reason I went with Pyramix. You don't need a "crutch" to up/down sample using "nexstage".
I DO have a PT 7.3 HD/Accel 4 rig that I tried to use as a mastering rig. It wasn't because I don't know the software. I'm Digi Certified in Post.
Plus.. the Digi converter lock-in, but you still have to go through Digi equipment. You can't use the 192's in the same room since they have those damn fans! Plus.. Digi doesn't do MADI.
Plus, as stated above, you have to use another app. for CD/DVD authoring. And we all know when another app. is on your PT rig, they don't play well together in the sandbox!
I will have to debunk the nay sayers about the initial cost of entry to PT. My Pyramix DSD rig cost MORE than my PT rig!

Regards,
Bruce
Old 13th January 2007
  #18
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I think that one can point fingers all day at the faults of any DAW, all have their advantages and disadvantages.

Some questions I have:

1. How easily could one create an automated M/S encoding/decoding matrix or other signal routing configurations with a non-PT system?
2. How easily can you perfom stem mastering?
3. What plug-ins does your system support? (and PT does support VST with a wrapper)
4. Does your system support Quicktime video files?
5. Can you directly master Pro Tools sessions from other studios?
Old 13th January 2007
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by masteringhouse View Post
Depends on the EQ you are using, but with most there's a bypass button of some sort. Audiosuite is the only "destructive" way of applying EQ that I know of.
to my knowledge only destuctive processing is available on an "object" or region or whatever. Realtime processing is only available on a track [and as such effects anything on that track]. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I have no particular issue with using protools in mastering. To each her own. I use it all the time for lots of different things, but the availability of processing in an object is one of the things I like most about Sequoia.

Can someone tell me how this is done in PT?
Old 13th January 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterer View Post
to my knowledge only destuctive processing is available on an "object" or region or whatever. Realtime processing is only available on a track [and as such effects anything on that track]. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I have no particular issue with using protools in mastering. To each her own. I use it all the time for lots of different things, but the availability of processing in an object is one of the things I like most about Sequoia.

Can someone tell me how this is done in PT?
Basically all that you would need to do to the region is use the EQ as an Audiosuite plug-in and apply the processing to it. It's then processed rather than done in real time if I understand you correctly. I would also suggest doing this in a new playlist, then you can go back to any previous generation that you did without the processing.
Old 14th January 2007
  #21
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Originally Posted by masteringhouse View Post
Basically all that you would need to do to the region is use the EQ as an Audiosuite plug-in and apply the processing to it. It's then processed rather than done in real time if I understand you correctly. I would also suggest doing this in a new playlist, then you can go back to any previous generation that you did without the processing.
I guess my point is, since it seems like I am not missing anything, is that pro tools is certainly usable as a mastering workstation but object or region oriented processing is NOT one of it's strengths. I use "hard" processing with audiosuite plugins and playlists all the time when I'm mixing. What you are describing is a work-around as opposed to a feature. DAW's like Sequoia have elegent implementations of this type of feature while pro tools does not have this feature at all.

Again, not an issue if it's not part of the way you work. It just happens to be one of the reasons why I don't use PT as my mastering DAW.
Old 14th January 2007
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterer View Post
I guess my point is, since it seems like I am not missing anything, is that pro tools is certainly usable as a mastering workstation but object or region oriented processing is NOT one of it's strengths. I use "hard" processing with audiosuite plugins and playlists all the time when I'm mixing. What you are describing is a work-around as opposed to a feature. DAW's like Sequoia have elegent implementations of this type of feature while pro tools does not have this feature at all.

Again, not an issue if it's not part of the way you work. It just happens to be one of the reasons why I don't use PT as my mastering DAW.
Chris, I'm not clear on the advantages of processing the region/object over doing it in real time. But again this may have to do with differences in our workflow. Since a large part of my chain is outboard it has to be processed in real time anyway. I guess what you want is to avoid a bounce? Also I process on load out.

One question I would have with this approach is how one can automate an EQ (or other processing) over an object to correct specific time related issues? I very often do this for noise reduction problems.
Old 14th January 2007
  #23
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Originally Posted by masteringhouse View Post
Chris, I'm not clear on the advantages of processing the region/object over doing it in real time. But again this may have to do with differences in our workflow. Since a large part of my chain is outboard it has to be processed in real time anyway. I guess what you want is to avoid a bounce? Also I process on load out.

One question I would have with this approach is how one can automate an EQ (or other processing) over an object to correct specific time related issues? I very often do this for noise reduction problems.
Processing in realtime allows for tremendous flexibility, depending on how you work of course. One example might be the ability to refine your processing incrementally as the record takes shape - say for instance if you load the entire record into the DAW and "preview" it throughout, bouncing from track to track, chorus to chorus, verse to verse listening to the record in it's entire context before commiting to any final capture.

Processing on an object also allows you to move that object from track to track with if need be with the process "following" the track all without having to commit to the settings until you want to.

From an ergonomic standpoint i find it irritating to have to have a track per song session when I assembling a record. This is a very typical set up in PT. In Sequoia I frequently have one or two stereo tracks and that is all I need [sometimes I have many more than that but you get the idea].

I don't have anything against PT. I use it all the time and I've used it for maybe 15 years or so. I used Sonic solutions for a decade, Bias Peak for close to that, Wavelab and Waveburner for a while and of course Sequoia [for about 4 years or so]. When you add the built in ability to burn masters with the object/region processing, superior fade editing, automation, surround and mixing capability etc it's a pretty tough program to beat for mastering [IMHO as they say].

I'm glad I have both platforms. If I was forced to choose between them for everything I do I'd go with Sequoia. I always felt that Sonic Solutions was better for mastering than pro tools but I hated mixing on it. Sequoia came along and blew Sonic away [they may have caught up by now] for mastering and is infinitely better for mixing [and in my opinion every bit the equal of pro tools for mixing].


Anyway, in the end as long as you're getting the job done I guess it doesn't really matter.It's just personal preference.

Just out of curiosity, have you ever used a program with this kind of object/region feature? You might find it interesting.
Old 14th January 2007
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterer View Post
One example might be the ability to refine your processing incrementally as the record takes shape
A warning for those considering using audiosuite for such a purpose: remember, it creates a new processed file, and any incremental changes are to that new file, hence reprocessed and truncated again and again. Real time object processing always references the original file, thus you're only performing one processing pass.
Old 14th January 2007
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harley-OIART View Post
Can you please explain to me how you can mark PQ flags in PTHD? I am almost certain you can't.t
Indeed you cannot. You can make all the individual tracks into regions (either by cutting things into individual tracks, or if something has been edited, slecting the pieces and choosing "make contiguous") and export the region definitions to be opened in another program, but this is far from PQ editing. The lack of true PQ editing and delivery options (whether CD or DDP) is the biggest reason it's not a mastering DAW. All the other points add to the party, but no PQ and delivery is the biggie. However, editing and perhaps processing in PT and exporting to Sonic PMCD for PQ and delivery is an excellent way to mitigate the limitation. It's still several extra steps and is somewhat lacking in elegance, but it works.

And to the point about the 24 bit TDM bus limitation (not 24 bit processing, just 24 bit bus), and how an AES out from a Weiss is also only 24 bit, the difference would be that the Weiss does not output a truncated signal while many TDM plus don't offer dither to 24 before handing it off to the next process. Plugs that do offer dither to 24 are your friend. Maybe not the worst problem in the world, but it is a limitation and can add up.
Old 14th January 2007
  #26
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Originally Posted by Masterer View Post
Processing on an object also allows you to move that object from track to track with if need be with the process "following" the track all without having to commit to the settings until you want to.
In Pro Tools HD (& LE with the DV Toolkit 2) you have the option to use 'snaphot automation' is this considered the equivalent to 'object' based non-destructive processing?

Quote:
From an ergonomic standpoint i find it irritating to have to have a track per song session when I assembling a record. This is a very typical set up in PT. In Sequoia I frequently have one or two stereo tracks and that is all I need [sometimes I have many more than that but you get the idea].
Agreed it would be frustrating if you had to open a new session with every track of a project. Luckily this isn't necessary & you certainly don't have to do this for mastering in Pro Tools. In my session template I have (among other things) 2 stereo audio tracks set up, one is being routed through all my mastering processors & the other is just a clean copy of the original mix that I can flick between on the input of my DAC for pre/post mastering comparisons. All the songs for a given project are loaded into the same session along the timeline in the order they will appear on the final CD. Once I've finished mastering a track I highlight the entire region & with a quick shortcut (cmd+option+/) I capture the snapshot automation for that particular song. This can also be done in as many different sections as you wish to select. I also use the markers available in Protools on each track to store the values for my Sontec EQ, Weiss stored preset no. & the HEDD settings for that song. These are already layed out so I can quickly type in the values used for each song. Then I move to the next song etc, etc.

At anytime I can turn on the automation to 'read' & then flick between songs I've mastered to check for the projects consistency (although outboard processors may need to be recalled). I also record each 'mastered' song to a stereo track in Pro Tools for checking project consistency quickly & easily this file includes all outboard & internal processing. Once I'm happy with everything I export the 'mastered' tracks by selecting them all & invoking the key command (cmd+shift+k) which will then export all the selected tracks to a new folder in non-realtime. These files are sample rate converted & then imported to Waveburner for the final dithering & CD assembly.

The snapshot automation in Pro Tools is very powerful I'd be lost without it. Snapshot plus the normal automation available in Pro Tools is extremely powerful & can cover almost anything except for de-clicking, de-noising or de-popping, in this case I use the Sonic NoNoise suite in audiosuite mode directly on the region. This is not really what I would call destructive processing either, as you can easily undo or delete the audiosuite region & select heal to return the waveform back to it's original state at any time.

Quote:
I'm glad I have both platforms. If I was forced to choose between them for everything I do I'd go with Sequoia. I always felt that Sonic Solutions was better for mastering than pro tools but I hated mixing on it. Sequoia came along and blew Sonic away [they may have caught up by now] for mastering and is infinitely better for mixing [and in my opinion every bit the equal of pro tools for mixing].

Anyway, in the end as long as you're getting the job done I guess it doesn't really matter.It's just personal preference.
Thanks Chris, that's all it boils down too, whatever works for you. You need Pro Tools & Sequoia, I need Pro Tools & Waveburner (in either case we both have 2 applications because one alone can't do everything we need effectively). I just wanted to point out that there is many ways to use Pro Tools for mastering. I think Sequoia is a mighty fine mastering application & soncially it's hard to beat, but I have 3 crosses against it. 1) It's only available for Windoze. 2) you need an extremely fast host PC in order to get similar plug-in & track counts compared to a DSP based system (even then I doubt it would be possible to match the DSP based system). 3) it doesn't have hardware inserts like Pro Tools which I find very valuable in my mastering workflow to integrate external hardware wherever in the chain I choose.

Now for my gripes about Pro Tools...

1) no redbook authoring directly in the application (I have to use Waveburner)
2) 24bit plug in buss on insert I/O (plug-ins can run at 32bit or 64bit float as RTAS or 24bit or 48bit as TDM but the output is truncated to 32bit or 24bit respectively)
3) no mixing of bit rates or sample rates in the same session (I have to use Barbabatch or iZotopes 64bit SRC to convert bit & sample rates pre & post Pro Tools for the best quality solution)
4) no stereo interleaved support (Pro Tools converts to split stereo .L & .R on import)

Matt
Old 14th January 2007
  #27
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OK guys, I missed most of the discussion today, as I was busy using Pro Tools HD (and WaveBurner) to master a CD for a well known country singer guru, who has braids in his long hair and holes in his guitar : - )

As a framework for discussion, allow me to describe a simplified Pro Tools 101 mastering workflow, much like I did today on my G5 (with apologies to guys that already know this stuff).

Setup:

Configure PT with two stereo tracks, one for playback, the other to record. Route the "playback" track output (via AES) to an external DAC, to feed the analog EQ processing path. Connect the analog path, to an external ADC, and return (via AES) to the "record" track in PT. Route the "record" track output (via AES) to your monitor DAC.


Pro Tools Procedure:

1. Import the source material into PT at 24-bit, from the data or audio discs containing the mixes. To keep the description simple, let's assume the Fs of the source material is 44.1kHz.

2. Preview each song for a minute or so, listen to the overall sound & flow of the record, make note of any problems.

3. On the first song, trim the top & tail if needed, fade the tail, or wait till the final assembly to do fades.

4. Repair any problem areas...pencil tool any ticks, spot EQ (audiosuite) any plosives, listen for any other problems to repair... noise reduction, level automation, etc.

5. Configure any needed plug-ins on the playback track for real time processing, the fewer the better.

6. Play the song, find suitable EQ, Compression, Level on the analog path.

7. When satisfied, print the song to the "record" track in PT.

8. If multiple EQs are needed for different sections within a song, use quick-punch mode to print those, & fine tune the seams with the trim tool. Save as a duplicate playlist, and consolidate the song.

9. Create new playlists on both tracks, repeat the procedure for the second and subsequent songs.

10. Check your work for consistency as you go.

Of course PT has very flexible routing... as many tracks, playlists, inserts, sends, aux's, busses, etc. as needed for mastering work.


Assembly Procedure using WaveBurner:

1. Configure Core Audio's channels 1 & 2 to send to your monitor DAC.

2. Open a new WaveBurner session.

3. Drag the mastered audio files from your PT folder, to WaveBurner's region list, in the order of the sequence.

4. Adjust the song spacings, track markers, pre-gaps, fades, & crossfades to taste.

5. Check the relative volume levels, tweak to fine tune.

6. Check CD-Text, ISRC, & UPC if needed.

7. Save "Mastering Notes" to create a Cue Sheet (use Text Edit app to align columns and print).

8. Open preferences, check the Dither option of your choice.

9. Select "Bounce Project" to save a 16-bit Image (& data package), wait a minute for the image to finish rendering.

10. Power on your CD burner, open the image file package, the waveform draws, double check the track marker placement, etc.

11. Insert a blank TY CD-R, select the "Burn" command. Burn the master at 8x, the ref at 16x.

12. Check disc with Plextools, proof the disc, prepare an invoice, communicate with the client.


For simplification I've left out many, many possible minute steps and various options... but overall the workflow is really very easy.

Is that about the same workflow you guys are doing?

Cheers - JT
Old 14th January 2007
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
A warning for those considering using audiosuite for such a purpose: remember, it creates a new processed file, and any incremental changes are to that new file, hence reprocessed and truncated again and again. Real time object processing always references the original file, thus you're only performing one processing pass.
Every process with the exception of restoration jobs (de-clicking, de-noising etc.) is all done in realtime using either regular automation or snapshot automation. I only use audiosuite processing for restoration tasks so I never have the problem of re-processing audiosuite over & over. In this case your argument is moot.

Also I wouldn't exactly use the words 'truncated' with audiosuite processing, as it is done on the host CPU & is therefore 32bit float in nature & the manual points out that for most AudioSuite plug-ins, dither can be automatically applied by selecting it in the 'Processing Preferences' page. The 'Use AudioSuite Dither' check-box enables a preset, Noise shaped 24bit dither. This is on by default but can be changed to TPDF type dither.

Matt
Old 14th January 2007
  #29
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but I have 3 crosses against it. 1) It's only available for Windoze. 2) you need an extremely fast host PC in order to get similar plug-in & track counts compared to a DSP based system (even then I doubt it would be possible to match the DSP based system). 3) it doesn't have hardware inserts like Pro Tools which I find very valuable in my mastering workflow to integrate external hardware wherever in the chain I choose.
Matt
That's why I got the Pyramix system. It's a DSP based system like PT. I can use a restoration suite like Cedar or Algorithmix. Because I also use PT on "Windoze", you can use Cedar Tools for de-click...etc.
Unfortuantely for the Mac guys.. PT and Sonic are about the only Mastering rigs out there.

Regards,
Bruce
Old 14th January 2007
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattGray View Post
In this case your argument is moot.
First, it's not an argument; it's simply technical fact about audiosuite. Second, you are quite correct that one does not need to use that workflow, and should not for that purpose. That is exactly my point. There are plenty of people that may lurk or may not have the experience or technical chops to realize the distinction, and for them, they should be warned that making changes to an audiosuite processed track is another DSP pass on top of the previous one, and cumlative processing can unnecessarily degrade your audio. This is not a challenge or a slam on PT, just info for potential users unaware.
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