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Some thoughts from today's session
Old 14th November 2009
  #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post
do you really think that all the uberlimited and clipped stuff out there is the mixing engineers fault?
It's not about placing blame in any one camp.

In the perfect world, if there's good communication between parties you are exponentially reducing the risk of another bullshit product getting out there where the blame almost all the time gets put back on the ME.

It's probably fair to say that most ME's know a bit about mixing and most seasoned mixing engineers know a bit about mastering, it's where those two collide, and who is going to flex the proverbial muscle that has the potential to create this quagmire... gigity.
Old 14th November 2009
  #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
It's not about placing blame in any one camp.

In the perfect world, if there's good communication between parties you are exponentially reducing the risk of another bullshit product getting out there where the blame almost all the time gets put back on the ME.
the blame is placed in both camps.
And as I wrote earlier, with major label work (one track, involving artist, musical director, management, A&R, label executives, mixing engineer, mastering engineer), there is often no communication at all between the two engineers. You mix the project, the mix is approved (of course the 'loud' variant), then the project is completely out of your hands.
Old 14th November 2009
  #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Tubb View Post
Yes, this is the one situation where we MEs have to work with loud mixes.

It's mixed by someone who knows what they're doing, and they do it on purpose, wanting minimal changes in the sound at the mastering level.

You have to respect that, and make the best of it.
+1
That's all there is to be said about that.
Bottom line: If the 'loud' mix sucks, try to get a new unprocessed one. If it's fine, do whatever you want or have to do and call it a day.
It's a service business after all.

Last edited by kosmokrator; 14th November 2009 at 05:47 PM.. Reason: speeeling..:)
Old 14th November 2009
  #34
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A question for you established mastering folk..

In situations like this.. Do you ever just take the job on regardless, but say that you don't want your name attached to it?

These days I guess we all have to be glad of some honest paid work. So if it were me, i'd gladly take it on, but I wouldn't want my name to be associated with a cruddy sounding release that could tarnish my reputation.
So long as you have done what the mix engineer/record company want, then they should rightly take the heat for it instead. In my opinion!
Old 14th November 2009
  #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Llitsor View Post
A question for you established mastering folk..

In situations like this.. Do you ever just take the job on regardless, but say that you don't want your name attached to it?

These days I guess we all have to be glad of some honest paid work. So if it were me, i'd gladly take it on, but I wouldn't want my name to be associated with a cruddy sounding release that could tarnish my reputation.
So long as you have done what the mix engineer/record company want, then they should rightly take the heat for it instead. In my opinion!
Sometimes if you tell a client you don’t want your name on it they will wake up or - get insulted and never hire you again. You need to protect your reputation for sure. If you are in the building stage it’s even more important.
Old 14th November 2009
  #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
One of the tracks I mastered today is on a major label. The track is mixed by a well known engineer who mixed Britney and Pink.

The mix I received was not only limited but clipped. I double checked that the files I received were correct, and I phoned the A&R to ask if another version existed. However, since I got all the files (a capella, vox up, TV, etc.) and all were clipped I had a bad feeling.

When I got on the phone with the mix engineer he insisted that he preferred to deliver his mixes limited and clipped or the ME would basically re-mix his mix, and he didn't want that.

Naturally you have to respect a guy who has an amazing track record as a mix engineer. But nevertheless this attitude puzzles me and I had to disagree with him from a technical perspective, though I did not find a lengthy discussion was in order. What did he experience earlier that led him to this conclusion?

I proceeded with my mastering and delivered a square wave that, on the request of the A&R, needed to be brighter and extremely loud "like I know you can do". I suppose it goes both ways, since I got the job on the back of a very loud and clipped master I did for him earlier.

Maybe this sounds like bitching, but it's one of the few times I've felt uneasy about what sometimes happens in my line of work, maybe apart from producers and artists getting ripped off on a regular basis.
I've had the pleasure of hearing a mix from the mixer in question. Ridiculous fat mix! Very impressive.
I asked the artists who mastered it (cause it was really really hit hard) and they said "it hasn't been mastered yet, we're sending it off to Sterling Sound today".
The master came back a dB or two louder with some subtle adjustments here and there. Personally I though it sounded worse after further dynamic processing and/or clipping was done to it but hey, that's just my opinion!

I did find out though what the mixer used for clipping!
......all I'm going to say is I never would have guessed it! EVER!
Old 14th November 2009
  #37
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I receive quite a few projects where even stems are clipping!

I can understand the argument from the perspective of a stereo mix (though I don't agree with it) but there doesn't seem to be any purpose for this in a stem.
Old 14th November 2009
  #38
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post

Or do you really think that all the uberlimited and clipped stuff out there is the mixing engineers fault?
Of course not! It's just the topic that Lagerfeldt began. There are many many sides to this story. We could also discuss mastering engineers who default to stun, it wasn't the purpose of the thread.

BK
Old 14th November 2009
  #39
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Also clipping is not the only issue. I'm sure that we've all received mixes that were overly compressed even when the mix peaks well below 0dBFS. In discussing loudness wars we need to emphasize crest factor not just peak values.

This holds true for masters as well as mixes.
Old 14th November 2009
  #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Virtalahde View Post
This is unfortunate.

I've never understood the mixing engineer's need to somehow compensate "because the ME is going to change the balance anyway".

A good mastering engineer does not change the balance unless it's clearly needed in sake of translation. The balance of a good mix is definately possible to keep even at loud levels.
I've had great (and not-so-great) mastering engineers change something that I worked very hard on and felt was very important, to highlight an element they felt was more important even though I had worked to underplay that very element. They may have thought they were improving the mix's translatability, but in fact, they were (negatively, IMO) affecting the impact of the music.

It's purely aesthetics, so when this happens, I simply ask for a recall. No big deal. But it does happen, and I've had occasion where the ME was unable or unwilling to do a recall, in which cases I'm SOL. Unless, of course, I take action at the mix stage to limit the ability of the ME. As a few folks pointed out earlier, I'll leave more wiggle-room for the ME if I know who he or she is going to be and trust him or her, but I've been burned a few times by MEs I was unfamiliar with (or, by MEs I knew all too well and didn't like, but had no say in whether they worked on the record or not).

The thing is, when I'm mixing a song, my head is in a very different place from that of the ME's. That objectivity is something I place very high value on, but it can occasionally work against me as well.

I feel it's EXTREMELY important for the ME to understand, as you said, the mixing engineer's need to compensate, the same way it's important for the mixing engineer to understand the ME's stance on receiving heavy-handed mixes. Each party needs to understand the other for the best work to be done.

Assuming that good MEs categorically don't change a mix's balance is unrealistic. And assuming that the ME knows how to better translate the musicality of a track is also unrealistic. People have different tastes, and a lot of the mixer's hard work can be instantly undone by an ME seeking to perpetuate his own sense of aesthetic. (that's not to fault the ME, as that is precisely his job; I just wanted to point out that your stance comes off a bit as "us vs. them" and I think that's damaging to all parties and more importantly, to the music. My point is to assume nothing and keep the lines of communication open)
Old 14th November 2009
  #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto;
I feel it's EXTREMELY important for the ME to understand, as you said, the mixing engineer's need to compensate, the same way it's important for the mixing engineer to understand the ME's stance on receiving heavy-handed mixes. Each party needs to understand the other for the best work to be done.
Ultimately it's the client's album not that of the ME or mix engineer. By limiting (no pun intended) what can be done at the mastering stage you are not only limiting what can be done technically by the ME but also the aesthetic decisions the client can make when they hear the album as a whole. For example a track that is hypercompressed at the mixing stage that should be much softer than others in comparison may sound "better" while mixing out of the context of the album, but sounds too dense when compared to tracks that should be "bigger" as part of the album as a whole. At that point the damage has been done and is not easily reversible.

It's the job of both engineers to leave the technical details as transparent as possible and leave the aesthetics to the client at the appropriate stage in the audio production process. "Painting someone in the corner" isn't serving this goal.
Old 14th November 2009
  #42
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clipped mixes often aren't intentional, just poor gain structure.
I have one cient who never uses master faders in pro tools because he thinks it degrades the quality, and then proceeds to deliver heavily clipped mixes - go figure
Old 14th November 2009
  #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by masteringhouse View Post
Ultimately it's the client's album not that of the ME or mix engineer. By limiting (no pun intended) what can be done at the mastering stage you are not only limiting what can be done technically at the mastering stage but also the aesthetic decisions the client can make when they hear the album as a whole. For example a track that is hypercompressed at the mixing stage that should be much softer than others in comparison may sound "better" while mixing out of the context of the album but sounds too dense when compared to tracks that should be stronger.

It's the job of both engineers to leave the tecnical details as transparent as possible and leave the aesthetics to the client. "Painting someone in the corner" isn't serving this goal.
Despite the recent negative publicity the mastering scene has gotten with clipped and distorted records, the mix engineer is still gonna catch most (if not all) of the heat for a sonically-inferior product. While I appreciate the ME's concerns for sonic quality and for his reputation, I think the mixer has considerably more at stake when his mix's sonic integrity is compromised than the ME who feels that a song or two don't have the same density as the other tunes on a record (particularly these days where so few listeners ever even hear an album in its entirety start-to-finish). To that end, I'd rather let the ME's job be to serve the mix, not the mixer's job to serve the master (provided, of course, that the mix approach is not to the detriment of the project as a whole).

To that end, your point about the album being the work of the client is well-taken (and I would hope that nobody is arguing that!), however I'm submitting mixes to clients for approval (which assumes they are 100% happy with the sonics of their music), and I want the integrity of those approved mixes to be preserved. If my clients are 100% happy, I think we'd all prefer the ME adopt as much of a "hands-off" approach as humanly possible, and simply ensure the tracks are properly sequenced, the fades are accurate and clean, and that the master disc they cut can be duplicated or replicated without error.

To be clear, I don't condone painting anyone into the corner. However, I can relate to and have indeed myself taken steps to limit what an ME can do down the line, often without the specific intent of limiting the ME. Certain aesthetic and/or workflow decisions (buss compression or EQ are obvious examples) can tie the ME's hands, but if it accomplishes what the client and I want to accomplish in a mix, so be it. Happily, I've mixed enough records to avoid problems (that is, if you're certain that such a contrast is actually a problem...) like you described above.

Again, I place a great deal of trust in most of the MEs that I work with, because I've been lucky enough to work with some of the best. But I think it's important for an ME to understand WHY a mixer might feel compelled to tie that ME's hands (eg - because the client is completely happy with the mixer's work), same as I think it's important for a mixer to understand why such actions are so frustrating to the ME on projects where, in fact, the mixer and client overlooked some certain detail. It's all about communication!!

Furthermore, I always encourage the client to listen to the album as a whole, and address any problems - at the mix stage! - that might interrupt the album's flow. Obviously, if there are a number of mixers working on a single project, there's no way for me (or any of the other mixers) to necessarily mix in context, but I'm not sure it serves anyone (the mixer, client, or ME) to mix any way other than they're comfortable mixing just to anticipate an ME's perceived inability to pull the various mixes together. That'd be like telling one of my mix clients that they have to record all their tracks at the same studio with same engineer, over the same period of time and using the same instruments, because I don't want it to be hard to achieve some level of sonic consistency track-to-track. Sure, it's nice when things work out like that and it happens that way, but in this day and age of limited budgets, project studios, and piecemeal record making, it's my job to shut up and just make it work. Subsequently, it's the ME's job to shut up and make the mixes work in the context of the record as a whole.

With that said, I feel for you, I really do. I've had my fair share of unrealistic clients expecting unrealistic results. The key for me is to understand everyone's position at every step of the production, not write off another engineer's decision as wrong or foolish because it made my work day a little bit harder. The mixer's job is to make the songs sound the best they possibly can. The ME's job is to make the album as a whole work the best it can. We can argue all day about whose fault it is when you as ME don't like the mixes I send you, or when I as mixer don't like the master I get back, but what's the use? Quit whinin' and ask for a recall or a revision! My whole point was that communication is essential, understanding is essential, and that writing off "the other guys" and the work they do serves nobody (unless you're looking for a scapegoat). That goes for the mixing camp and the mastering camp alike.

As for technical transparency, both mixing and mastering ideally would maintain a certain degree of technical transparency, but to be perfectly frank, the mixing process is considerably more open-ended in terms of the creative process, and it's also considerably less shrouded in mystery from the client's perspective. As such, clients are typically much more involved in the mixing process, thereby making it impossible to keep the technical details totally transparent. On the other hand, IME, few clients attend their mastering sessions, and instead wait at home for a finished product to show up at their doorstep. Once they get it, they may be unable to verbalize their concerns; while a client might say to me during a mix, "turn the snare down", it's a bit more difficult for them to verbalize something like "there's a bit too much 1.5k on the master and it's emphasizing the snare in an ugly way", particularly when they've been living with unmastered mixes that they've become comfortable with and are quite happy with.

Technical transparency is more of a perfect-world professional ideology than a practical one. And to be honest, I'm not 100% sure I feel the need to make the technical details transparent; a lot of artists are untrusting of studios and engineers, or unaware of the technical specifics that make a professional environment superior to an amateur one, and those are the details that just might keep us all in business. Not to mention, most of the musicians I work with are fascinated by what I'm doing, and I spend nearly as much time answering such technical questions as I do mixing their records.

Again, it all comes back to my (now long-windedheh) point that communication and understanding is the only solution.

Well, that, and venting a bit here on GS
Old 14th November 2009
  #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
Yeah, but a mixing engineer at this level?...

...By the way, the mix was not bad .....
I get mixes from the biggest mixers in the world on the regular. Some have had the level of their mixes slowly creep up over the years to the point of leaving few options during mastering. In some cases the mixes are so good that it doesn't matter [or matters little] in other cases they sound like they could have been better if they were less smashed.

Fortunately, I still have some famous mixer clients that send really good sounding mixes with plenty of headroom. It's nice.

This is the reality that we deal with. If your a professional mastering engineer your gonna have to deal with this the best you can. That's life. You're gonna get mixes that sound great and mixes that don't. Sometimes they'll be crushed and sound bad and sometimes they'll be crushed and sound pretty good.

Just like sometimes the mixer wishes the tracks he/she has been given to mix sounded better.

I understand blowing off some steam about it but unless you're willing to start turning down work that does not meet your standard then it's best to just be grateful that they are calling you for the gig, and even more grateful when those mixes come in sounding great and having a generous amount of headroom.

Life in the fast lane my man.
Old 15th November 2009
  #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterer View Post
I get mixes from the biggest mixers in the world on the regular. Some have had the level of their mixes slowly creep up over the years to the point of leaving few options during mastering. In some cases the mixes are so good that it doesn't matter [or matters little] in other cases they sound like they could have been better if they were less smashed.

Fortunately, I still have some famous mixer clients that send really good sounding mixes with plenty of headroom. It's nice.

This is the reality that we deal with. If your a professional mastering engineer your gonna have to deal with this the best you can. That's life. You're gonna get mixes that sound great and mixes that don't. Sometimes they'll be crushed and sound bad and sometimes they'll be crushed and sound pretty good.

Just like sometimes the mixer wishes the tracks he/she has been given to mix sounded better.

I understand blowing off some steam about it but unless you're willing to start turning down work that does not meet your standard then it's best to just be grateful that they are calling you for the gig, and even more grateful when those mixes come in sounding great and having a generous amount of headroom.

Life in the fast lane my man.
I don't mind if the mixer provides a crushed mix as a reference as to where they want balances to end up after limiting - but it seems such a potential disservice to not be able to also provide un-crushed mixes as well, so that the ME can at least have an option as to what to use for getting best sounding results.

It seems ridiculous to me that a few of the "biggest" mixers can't provide this as an option to a place like Sterling if requested - I'd figure if they were going to listen to the advice of anyone at least it should be you guys.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 15th November 2009
  #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterer View Post
I get mixes from the biggest mixers in the world on the regular. Some have had the level of their mixes slowly creep up over the years to the point of leaving few options during mastering. In some cases the mixes are so good that it doesn't matter [or matters little] in other cases they sound like they could have been better if they were less smashed.

Fortunately, I still have some famous mixer clients that send really good sounding mixes with plenty of headroom. It's nice.

This is the reality that we deal with. If your a professional mastering engineer your gonna have to deal with this the best you can. That's life. You're gonna get mixes that sound great and mixes that don't. Sometimes they'll be crushed and sound bad and sometimes they'll be crushed and sound pretty good.

Just like sometimes the mixer wishes the tracks he/she has been given to mix sounded better.

I understand blowing off some steam about it but unless you're willing to start turning down work that does not meet your standard then it's best to just be grateful that they are calling you for the gig, and even more grateful when those mixes come in sounding great and having a generous amount of headroom.

Life in the fast lane my man.
You're right, Chris.

I guess I needed to let out some frustration. The A&R was pleased with the end result and asked me to master the rest of the album, so it's a question of accepting things that can not be changed, do my best, and move on.
Old 15th November 2009
  #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cellotron View Post
I don't mind if the mixer provides a crushed mix as a reference as to where they want balances to end up after limiting - but it seems such a potential disservice to not be able to also provide un-crushed mixes as well, so that the ME can at least have an option as to what to use for getting best sounding results.

It seems ridiculous to me that a few of the "biggest" mixers can't provide this as an option to a place like Sterling if requested - I'd figure if they were going to listen to the advice of anyone at least it should be you guys.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. It's the same at Sterling as it is anywhere else. We don't get special treatment.
Old 15th November 2009
  #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt View Post
You're right, Chris.

I guess I needed to let out some frustration. The A&R was pleased with the end result and asked me to master the rest of the album, so it's a question of accepting things that can not be changed, do my best, and move on.
That's right man.

Pick your battles and do your best.

Losing your sanity won't make music a safer place for sound quality.
Old 15th November 2009
  #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
Assuming that good MEs categorically don't change a mix's balance is unrealistic.
(snip)
My point is to assume nothing and keep the lines of communication open)
One would reasonably assume that a mix is usually done in a particular way for a reason, and especially if coming from an experienced mixer, you should do your best to help them realize the vision they have already set forth.

However, some clients are quite upset if you don't change the mix balance. While some like it true to the original, others think they wasted money if it doesn't come back sounding completely different. That's where your second comment comes in: communication. We can do it either way, and hopefully effective communication will let us know which the client prefers.

In the absence of communication, one needs to exercise best judgement, but I would tend toward staying true to the original, especially in the case of experienced personnel preceding the mastering stage.

Of course, sometimes the client is a label, producer, or artist who wants something contrary to the mixer's wishes, and in that case, you try to give the client enough information to make an informed decision, but in the end it's the client's call - not the recording, mixing, or mastering engineer's.
Old 15th November 2009
  #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
However, some clients are quite upset if you don't change the mix balance. While some like it true to the original, others think they wasted money if it doesn't come back sounding completely different. That's where your second comment comes in: communication. We can do it either way, and hopefully effective communication will let us know which the client prefers.

Ick. Does that really happen? I guess it would. It's like judging the caliber of a restaurant by portion of food...
Old 16th November 2009
  #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Storyville View Post
Ick. Does that really happen? I guess it would. It's like judging the caliber of a restaurant by portion of food...
Yes it does happen. There are customers that will be disappointed if their mix come back as it came in only louder. You would imagine they'd be happy to know their mix was really good..............
On two occasions last I have been asked from satysfied and hnece returning customers for "creative" mastering.
I have yet to discover what they meant by that ................
Old 16th November 2009
  #52
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That's the way it goes sometimes!
If you complain N' ask for the mix eng to throw em down again, out of the red, you could risk loosing the gig on a potentially high profile release.

I usually give em a call just to check that they haven't given me the "midnight take homes", but I'm not gonna rock the boat too much!
I'll just chill em out with a little de-comp/de-clip, before they go through the outboard if they are really stardusty!

Of course, WE get the blaim for it every time!

It ain't all good but it's what we got, right?
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