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How to hide settings in a mastering session?
Old 10th September 2020
  #1
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darkalex's Avatar
 

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How to hide settings in a mastering session?

Hey Guys,

I had a question about ITB processing, for engineers who master in the box or hybrid, how do you make sure the client doesn't get to see the settings or techniques you use to get the master sound the way it is?

I've been thinking about this straight since once a client watches me mastering like 10 songs, they'll be aware of which tools I constantly use and in what ballpark are their settings, this is especially dangerous when the client is the mixer or the producer with sufficient know-how of what am I doing.

How do you guys manage this while making sure your secrets aren't out?

Please advise, Thanks!
Old 10th September 2020
  #2
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Greg Reierson's Avatar
 

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I think you're being paranoid. You're not hired for your settings. You're hired for your judgement.
Old 10th September 2020
  #3
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scraggs's Avatar
Lolz. I don't have any secrets. Why would you want to hide what you're doing from the people who are paying you?
Old 10th September 2020
  #4
This is a super paranoid and insecure point of view. If somebody wants to rip off my tools, go for it. They're not hiring me for what tools I may or may not have, they're hiring me for my brain.

Keeping secrets and information gatekeeping like this in audio production is weak.
Old 10th September 2020
  #5
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 

Let them see your settings and try them out themselves. They'll be back.
--scott
Old 10th September 2020
  #6
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Greg Reierson's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kludgeaudio View Post
Let them see your settings and try them out themselves. They'll be back.
And if they are paying attention, your next session will be easier since they will understand the issues in their mixes.
Old 10th September 2020
  #7
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Reierson View Post
And if they are paying attention, your next session will be easier since they will understand the issues in their mixes.
That's a good point. Talking about what you're doing and why you're doing it is very useful for everyone involved, too. "I hear something weird in the midrange and so I'm sweeping this filter back and forth to see where it is... there it is... now we can cut back on that...." Give the customer his money's worth.
--scott
Old 10th September 2020
  #8
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 

This is definitely me when I'm mastering...
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Old 10th September 2020
  #9
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Virtalahde's Avatar
 

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No secrets, no need to hide anything. I get asked about my settings every now and then, and it's no problem to share them if it helps the client to understand what I did.

What would they do with those settings anyway? They're for that song alone.
Old 10th September 2020
  #10
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Christopher Ridley's Avatar
 

World famous BBQ pit masters will give you every secret and insight as to how they cook and then tell you good luck. They already know it has nothing to do with what exact model of pit, or sauce, or temperature, or time, or any number of other things. Substitute in plugins, daw, speakers, room, etc...

Many said it here already, there are no secrets to mastering aside from the mastering engineer's experience and judgement.
Old 10th September 2020
  #11
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I like to foster collaborative relationships with clients. We're a team working together to get the best outcome for their music. Being secretive would only stifle that relationship. It's not worth it.
Old 10th September 2020
  #12
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Storm Mastering's Avatar
 

+1 to everybody.

Usually in an attended session with electronic producers who produced and mixed the song, I'll even tell them in advance what I'm gonna do. "after 10 sec of listening, the song needs that, lacks this, could be improved on that. I'm guessing you're room has that type of flaw, your 8 inches 2 ways are put horizontally" etc. About the acoustic part, I'm right like 2 out of 3 times !
Then during the master, it's more about "what tool fits best" the issues we talked about and when it's more about taste than correctness, including them in the decision,

Those clients are the ones coming back the most
Old 10th September 2020
  #13
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X-Pand Sound Mastering's Avatar
 

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Not to mention that they may have already tried way more "settings" than you actually would...This happened to me quite a lot acutally, clients beeing impressed and, more importantly pleased by the simple moves and choices I'm making during the session.
Old 10th September 2020
  #14
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Nonlinear's Avatar
 

Even more important than seeing what you do is understanding what NOT to do.
Old 10th September 2020
  #15
Old 11th September 2020
  #16
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SmoothTone's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm Mastering View Post
and when it's more about taste than correctness, including them in the decision
+1. This is so important.
Old 11th September 2020
  #17
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darkalex's Avatar
 

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+100 to everyone, all of you are absolutely right from your POV

The client should have every right to know what you're doing and there's nothing to hide, after all, they're there for your judgment, not your settings.

I am indeed being paranoid about this, that's because, I am not a professional mastering engineer, rather a high school student, doing this for fun.

The clients I get are the ones, who're in search of salvation from a session, thinking once they see what I do, they gonna replicate it and save money

It took me like 2 years of sheer hard work without a mentor, before I understood what to do and what not to, like how to hit a limiter or compress without audible squash or to know when to do all of this and when to do just nothing. Therefore was a little hesitant to spoonfed this.

Believe me, when y'all invite someone to a session, it's because that guy thinks you're gonna take it to the next level, and they know they cannot replicate you.

Not here, think yourself, are you gonna trust a 16Y/o for 'his judgment'?
Old 11th September 2020
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkalex View Post
are you gonna trust a 16Y/o for 'his judgment'?
Well you seem like a pretty impressive 16YO to know as much as you do about mastering and to be as passionate as you are about it. So, just based on that, I would be willing to give you a shot and let the proof be in the pudding

Last edited by SmoothTone; 11th September 2020 at 04:57 AM.. Reason: Post mastering
Old 11th September 2020
  #19
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
I had a referral client hire me to mix (I don't master) and he was totally upfront about his intent to have me mix his record on his rig and pump me for knowledge at every opportunity so he could then refer to those PT sessions and learn to mix on his own. I took the gig, he watched me like a hawk and asked a ton of questions, and then I didn't hear from him for a few months. I've been mixing his stuff ever since.
Old 11th September 2020
  #20
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angel72bg's Avatar
I have another experience.
I was allow to be wached and explain every move,then the client,open a own studio lower the price,and start doing what I did show to him.Now he has my 1/3 of my clients for less money.
Old 11th September 2020
  #21
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Virtalahde's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkalex View Post
It took me like 2 years of sheer hard work without a mentor,
If it helps, I worked my way without a mentor as well. I got the grasp pretty quickly and after 1,5 years from where I started, I was working full time.

Yet, I think it was around 10 years of mastering when I began to feel that I might finally know a thing or two. Years before that were sometimes confusing and every now and then mastering seemed pretty tricky to me.

Now, after 15+ years of mastering things are easier in the way that I know quickly what I want, and usually get there quickly as well. I know what to do when I can't get the masters there easily.

If I had a time machine, I would travel back and tell the young myself that it's OK to struggle with it, you're just learning. Let it be. It's not you, it's a part of the process.

Or maybe I would go back to my childhood, give myself a really good scare and then travel back to see how badly I got traumatized.
Old 11th September 2020
  #22
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to some extent, i think the op has a point:

if you're working with fairly inexperienced/newbie bands AND depend on these sessions, i can see that a somewhat technically-minded 'engineer' might be tempted 'to copy the secret ingredients' and then will not come back with his/her next project...

nevertheless, i wouldn't care too much about it if i'd be in the op's position: imo copying settings and trying to apply them in another environment is completely useless, for theoretical reasons (there are no two identical setups, including room, speakers and their positioning which contribute to the listening experience to a far greater degree than any minor eq cut or boost or a specific limiter setting) but in my case also for practical reasons:

i'll happily let people photograph the settings as no one else uses the gear i'm using :-)


___


i do occasionally not allow people to photograph and/or measure mic positioning though...
Old 11th September 2020
  #23
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John Moran's Avatar
 

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2 sides of the coin :

1) Client thinks "I watched a pilot fly a plane so now I know what to do". Best of luck, I won't be flying with that guy, he's likely gonna crash and burn on his own. You can read books on how to fly too but it's not at all the same as hours spent in the left seat of the cockpit. It's the pilot, not the airplane, that matters.

2) Do what everyone on here does to varying degrees, online unattended sessions. Have them send you the mix file, send them back clips for approval, get paid then send the entire master with an allowance for a revision.
Old 11th September 2020
  #24
How many mastering engineers allow a client to stand looking over their shoulder while they are mastering anyway?
I give my tracks to a mastering engineer and get them back a few days later. If I want something changed or have feedback I tell them.
I wouldn't want to be looking over their shoulder the entire time, nor would I think it a positive experience for them having a client sitting there commenting all the time.
Back in the day... the old studio days, it was similar for mixing and mastering. You would let the mixer do their things for a few hours, then go into the studio and give feedback. Same for mastering. You would let the mastering engineer do their thing, then you'd go in and make comments, perhaps suggest tweaks. No one I knew sat in the whole time.
Old 11th September 2020
  #25
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Riccardo's Avatar
 

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With attended sessions (becoming a rarity these days) I don't mind customers looking or asking questions. I feel explaining what we are doing and why is part of the job and with less experienced engineers hopefully helps growing up a better new generation of professionals.
I don't like people taking pictures without asking but that is another topic/lack of respect, nothing to do with copying settings....
Old 11th September 2020
  #26
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kuasalogam's Avatar
 

Some DAWs such as Reaper or Cubase can load any plugins without GUI. It's called basic/generic editor on Cubase.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Riccardo View Post
With attended sessions (becoming a rarity these days) I don't mind customers looking or asking questions. I feel explaining what we are doing and why is part of the job and with less experienced engineers hopefully helps growing up a better new generation of professionals.
I don't like people taking pictures without asking but that is another topic/lack of respect, nothing to do with copying settings....
Very agree with you
Old 11th September 2020
  #27
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Jerry Tubb's Avatar
 

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in the many thousands of attended sessions i’ve done over the past 30 years, i never tried to hide anything from anyone.

if they wanna know the settings, fine. much of it is analog hardware so...

“what are you doing now?” was a common question in the early days, natural curiosity, looking over your shoulder...

but you soon build a relationship based on trust & experience.

these days i’m working unattended, in my country studio.

best, jt
Old 11th September 2020
  #28
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

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I did a "mastering shootout" for a potential client. He told me I did win the shootout but wanted me to tell him or better yet show him all the plugins I used and what settings I used when I did the mastering. I did not reply to his request. FWIW
Old 11th September 2020
  #29
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Paul Gold's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
I did a "mastering shootout" for a potential client. He told me I did win the shootout but wanted me to tell him or better yet show him all the plugins I used and what settings I used when I did the mastering. I did not reply to his request. FWIW
I would have said “that will take about an hour” and sent a bill.
Old 11th September 2020
  #30
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Ridley View Post
World famous BBQ pit masters will give you every secret and insight as to how they cook and then tell you good luck.
And if you're a regular at a great BBQ joint, you know it come out a little different every time. Actually, that's true just about everywhere except McDonalds.
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