The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 All  This Thread  Reviews  Gear Database  Gear for sale     Latest  Trending
Mastering a Score
Old 27th June 2019
  #1
Gear Addict
 
Anadrolic's Avatar
 

Mastering a Score

Greetings all,

Quick question that came about from a side comment I've heard. I'm doing the occasional film scoring (something that i'd like to grow more and more), and the subject of mastering came about, SMPTE standard to be precise.

Are there any specific guidelines or standards that must be kept when mastering a score for a big production for the cinema? How do you approach it and who are some recommended people to send it over to for mastering?

Thanks,
Old 28th June 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Amber's Avatar
 

Quite simply, you don't. The CD/iTunes release might be mastered, but the actual score in context of the film/tv show isn't mastered.
Old 28th June 2019
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anadrolic View Post
Greetings all,

Quick question that came about from a side comment I've heard. I'm doing the occasional film scoring (something that i'd like to grow more and more), and the subject of mastering came about, SMPTE standard to be precise.

Are there any specific guidelines or standards that must be kept when mastering a score for a big production for the cinema? How do you approach it and who are some recommended people to send it over to for mastering?

Thanks,
You never do any sort of mastering whatsoever for the film mix. After the fact, if the film is successful they may asked for the mixes of the score and will send them for mastering to put on CD or post up on Spotify. But you should never delivery broadcast ready masters to the dubstage for the score.

There is a SMPTE standard for volume/loudness for films. It's -20dBfs (in the daw) = 85dB SPL (c-weighted) at the listening position with pink noise from each speaker individually. But this is assuming you are at least 11 ft 6 inches or farther away from the front LCR speakers. If you are under that distance, then the SPL level should drop lower. But there is no spec for how much it should drop with closing the distance so you kind of have to feel it out and get feedback from the re-recording mixer on how well the score mixes worked in the dub.

Also when mixing scores, I usually tend to try and mix just a hair hotter than ideal so the re-recording mixer has a little more "throw" on the faders (I might try to make the overall average listening level 6dB louder than the mixer's setup so that he pulls the score down by 6dB on the stage. that way he/she has the ability to turn it up +18dB on the fader if need be. But you have to be careful not to clip or distort if you are going to do that... it's a little more of an "experienced score mixer" technique.
Old 28th June 2019
  #4
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Sorry to be the odd man out, but in the past I'd have agreed with Amber and Etch. After talking with one of LA's biggest scoring mixers, we have both lamented that without SOME mastering, a score is often rejected by "the now younger" powers that be. Bummer, but true. My last big go around with Disney was like this. (Pirates) Couldn't get it OK'd. Then did a quickie mastering session on it and BAM! Passed with flying colors. Zero mix changes. Just mastering.

The reality is, the many of the current movers and shakers have never heard music that wasn't crushed. It's now in their DNA, and without some mastering, they think it sounds wimpy.
Old 28th June 2019
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

I agree with drBill !

These days composers tend to run their preproduction demos really hot to prevent them from falling into the ,unmastered' trap when the music is up for scrutiny by directors, production, yada yada.

Come mix and dub stage delivery time, you as a mixer/composer should get in touch with the dub mixer to make sure that you are giving him the right levels.
More often than not they are good with receiving fairly hot mixes ... some even explicitly ask for them because they already made levels with the composer's preproduction demos and they want to continue where they left off instead of adjusting to a different gain stage.

Interesting process for sure ... because you will have to get those mixes approved by the composer, too ! Good luck when their mix is 0.1db below distortion :D

But there are ways ...

B
Old 28th June 2019
  #6
Gear Addict
 
Anadrolic's Avatar
 

Will the dub-mixer will master everything? It seems that in some instances especially when working with small films there is an expectation from some people that I need to help with the whole process. Where can I read about the SMPTE guidelines for scoring?
Old 28th June 2019
  #7
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anadrolic View Post
Where can I read about the SMPTE guidelines for scoring?
I've mixed music for more films than I can count. And I've never read the SMPTE guidelines. What you need to do is get your music past the people who approve it before dubbing, and then the dubbing (re-mix) engineers themselves. THAT's what will keep you moving ahead in a positive direction.

The reality is that it's a balance.

PS - and when I said that scores need mastering to get approved, I didn't mean they need to be as crushed and aggressive and loud as green day. There is a delicate balance.
Old 28th June 2019
  #8
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anadrolic View Post
Will the dub-mixer will master everything?
After the film is mixed, there is a process / stage called "print-mastering" which is essentially the last audio stage before release. This is the functional equivalent to audio mastering for records, although the levels, intent, etc. is quite different. Everything will be brought to the correct levels at this stage.
Old 28th June 2019
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
PS - and when I said that scores need mastering to get approved, I didn't mean they need to be as crushed and aggressive and loud as green day. There is a delicate balance.
This... +1000

This is why I am very careful to never say that I apply mastering to scores... because I'm technically not and no score will every be delivered "mastered" the way new people to the industry understand the word "mastering" to mean.

In my post I said I mix it about 6dB hotter than I would normally... that is my "mastering" if you will. I have brick wall limiters before all my stems but their thresholds are set to -0.5 or -1dB... just enough to stop a hard clip from happening if I push something a little too far but never enough to emulate Top40 Album/Song mastering.

For me it's all about the listening level. The quieter you are monitoring as you mix, the louder the average level will be overall because you won't turn the parts that are supposed to be quiet down as far as you would if you were listening louder. Your monitoring level sets your dynamic range and your perceived loudness.

For me... the composers temps are always at least 2 to 3 dB quieter than I mix anyway... and it never comes to me until everything is ok'd and signed off on. So I never get anything back as "failed" by the director/producer/editor since I never even send the stuff I do to them. I send stuff right to the dub stage and they mix it in.
Old 28th June 2019
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anadrolic View Post
Will the dub-mixer will master everything? It seems that in some instances especially when working with small films there is an expectation from some people that I need to help with the whole process. Where can I read about the SMPTE guidelines for scoring?
This is a misconception most people new to this industry have. Bill did a good job of explaining print mastering.

I will just add that the print mastering is based on the delivery format being used. Dolby SR, Dolby E, Dolby Pro Logic, DTS, and so on. For a lot of print mastering on Indie films, the film producer has to hire engineers from dolby to come down to the dub stage and they spend an entire day (or two) "print mastering" with the dolby engineers and the re-recording mixers AFTER the mixers have finished mixing the film and AFTER the producer and director have signed off on the film.

During the print mastering, the re-recording mixers will have to sometimes tweak the stems they made (just FYI... films are usually never just mixed to a Stereo LoRo [Left Only Right Only]. Films are usually mixed to 5.1 stems for dialogue labeled "DX", Music labeled "MX", and Effects labeled "FX", those three 5.1 stems are fed into the dolby or DTS encoder) to make the decode sound correct. The output of the encoded Dolby or DTS audio is usually referred to as the "LtRt" (Left Total Right Total), "Print Master", or sometimes I've heard people say the "LtRt Print Master". And sometimes there are multiple print masters for the different delivery formats. there might be a Dolby SR LtRt and a Sony DTS LtRt. And so on...

that Print master is "laid back" onto the final color corrected picture and synced up and the finished master reel of the film is then complete.

One other thing to interject that I notice most composers have a hard time with in the beginning... anything and everything you do with your music and your mix is NEVER the final. The mixes of your score you turn into the dub stage are technically called "pre dubs". They will get tweaked, adjusted, etc during the mixing process of the sound for the film. A spot where you might be intending to feature the brass/horns, in the final dub, might have the brass/horns stem ducked down... and so on. Sometimes your mixes and your intentions can be completely flipped upside down after the re-recording mixers are done with it.

And as a re-recording mixer myself in addition to being a composer, music producer and score mixer, I can tell you that if the re-recording mixers do that it's because it needed to be done. So you just have to suck it up and let it go. Dialogue is king, always. Maybe your brass/horn melody was fighting and distracting from dialogue and you never noticed because you were so focused on writing the music in and of itself that even with the dialogue playing you still couldn't hear how distracting it was... or maybe your guitars were too midrangy and sat right in the frequency band of dialogue (happens a lot with distorted guitars) or whatever...

When dealing with small indie films you are right, they sometimes do look towards the composer to help with ALL sound because up until this point, you are the only person out of the group working on the film that has extensive experience with sound... but it's an issue that can and will come back to bite you in the ass... because if they are looking at you as the resident expert and you don't really know this audio post process... every **** up that happens and every extra dollar of money spent redoing things the correct way later on will be forever pinned on you.

It's better to just refer them to an audio post house, maybe one that has a lot of experience dealing with smaller indie films and first timers and can walk the producers and director through all the steps that need to happen and why.

I can't tell you how many indie films I've worked on that have had to go back and undo, then redo everything they did (having to shell out double the money) after they have a distributor interested but can't accept the film deliverables as they were. Everything from removing door slams, foot steps and glass clinks from the dialogue tracks and moving them to the SFX tracks, to recording foley, to having to go back and do ADR, to making an M&E, to remixing the entire film to match broadcast standards for TV... most people who go through film school never understand how important the post production process is.

the Blair Witch movie was famous for only costing $15,000 to make and release... but what nobody talks about is how the film studio that bought it at Festival had to go back and pay $250,000~$300,000 to redo ALL of the sound in the film because it was completely unusable for commercial theatrical and worldwide release. But a lot of the smaller and mid sides distributors that small indie films get sold to will not put that kind of money into the film, and so it's on the producers to get the deliverables correct with their own money. And it sucks to have to go back and fix the audio of the film 2 years later after the film festival circuit is done and a foreign distributor wants to pick up the film but can't because the audio isn't correct.
Old 28th June 2019
  #11
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
This is a misconception most people new to this industry have. Bill did a good job of explaining print mastering.

I will just add that the print mastering is based on the delivery format being used. Dolby SR, Dolby E, Dolby Pro Logic, DTS, and so on. For a lot of print mastering on Indie films, the film producer has to hire engineers from dolby to come down to the dub stage and they spend an entire day (or two) "print mastering" with the dolby engineers and the re-recording mixers AFTER the mixers have finished mixing the film and AFTER the producer and director have signed off on the film.

During the print mastering, the re-recording mixers will have to sometimes tweak the stems they made (just FYI... films are usually never just mixed to a Stereo LoRo [Left Only Right Only]. Films are usually mixed to 5.1 stems for dialogue labeled "DX", Music labeled "MX", and Effects labeled "FX", those three 5.1 stems are fed into the dolby or DTS encoder) to make the decode sound correct. The output of the encoded Dolby or DTS audio is usually referred to as the "LtRt" (Left Total Right Total), "Print Master", or sometimes I've heard people say the "LtRt Print Master". And sometimes there are multiple print masters for the different delivery formats. there might be a Dolby SR LtRt and a Sony DTS LtRt. And so on...

that Print master is "laid back" onto the final color corrected picture and synced up and the finished master reel of the film is then complete.

One other thing to interject that I notice most composers have a hard time with in the beginning... anything and everything you do with your music and your mix is NEVER the final. The mixes of your score you turn into the dub stage are technically called "pre dubs". They will get tweaked, adjusted, etc during the mixing process of the sound for the film. A spot where you might be intending to feature the brass/horns, in the final dub, might have the brass/horns stem ducked down... and so on. Sometimes your mixes and your intentions can be completely flipped upside down after the re-recording mixers are done with it.

And as a re-recording mixer myself in addition to being a composer, music producer and score mixer, I can tell you that if the re-recording mixers do that it's because it needed to be done. So you just have to suck it up and let it go. Dialogue is king, always. Maybe your brass/horn melody was fighting and distracting from dialogue and you never noticed because you were so focused on writing the music in and of itself that even with the dialogue playing you still couldn't hear how distracting it was... or maybe your guitars were too midrangy and sat right in the frequency band of dialogue (happens a lot with distorted guitars) or whatever...

When dealing with small indie films you are right, they sometimes do look towards the composer to help with ALL sound because up until this point, you are the only person out of the group working on the film that has extensive experience with sound... but it's an issue that can and will come back to bite you in the ass... because if they are looking at you as the resident expert and you don't really know this audio post process... every **** up that happens and every extra dollar of money spent redoing things the correct way later on will be forever pinned on you.

It's better to just refer them to an audio post house, maybe one that has a lot of experience dealing with smaller indie films and first timers and can walk the producers and director through all the steps that need to happen and why.

I can't tell you how many indie films I've worked on that have had to go back and undo, then redo everything they did (having to shell out double the money) after they have a distributor interested but can't accept the film deliverables as they were. Everything from removing door slams, foot steps and glass clinks from the dialogue tracks and moving them to the SFX tracks, to recording foley, to having to go back and do ADR, to making an M&E, to remixing the entire film to match broadcast standards for TV... most people who go through film school never understand how important the post production process is.

the Blair Witch movie was famous for only costing $15,000 to make and release... but what nobody talks about is how the film studio that bought it at Festival had to go back and pay $250,000~$300,000 to redo ALL of the sound in the film because it was completely unusable for commercial theatrical and worldwide release. But a lot of the smaller and mid sides distributors that small indie films get sold to will not put that kind of money into the film, and so it's on the producers to get the deliverables correct with their own money. And it sucks to have to go back and fix the audio of the film 2 years later after the film festival circuit is done and a foreign distributor wants to pick up the film but can't because the audio isn't correct.
Big, BIG, BIG double thumbs up to all of this. I don't know how Etch could even have said I did a good job of describing print mastering after his description.



>>>>> I think so many composers at this stage of the game have never even stepped onto a dub stage, and really, I think that's the moment where real film composing BEGINS. What you learn on the dub stage will completely re-fabricate how you write music. Before that, you're a musician who believes they can contribute music to a film. After that - IF - you listen carefully to everything that's going on (director, producer, remix engineers, audio post supervisor, film editor, SFX editors, studio exec's, music sup., etc., etc, etc.), you begin to grow into a film-maker who contributes musical sound to the final film entity. That's what those in the know call a "film composer".

Those are two RADICALLY different job descriptions. <<<<<
Old 28th June 2019
  #12
Gear Addict
 
Anadrolic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
This is a misconception most people new to this industry have. Bill did a good job of explaining print mastering.

I will just add that the print mastering is based on the delivery format being used. Dolby SR, Dolby E, Dolby Pro Logic, DTS, and so on. For a lot of print mastering on Indie films, the film producer has to hire engineers from dolby to come down to the dub stage and they spend an entire day (or two) "print mastering" with the dolby engineers and the re-recording mixers AFTER the mixers have finished mixing the film and AFTER the producer and director have signed off on the film.

During the print mastering, the re-recording mixers will have to sometimes tweak the stems they made (just FYI... films are usually never just mixed to a Stereo LoRo [Left Only Right Only]. Films are usually mixed to 5.1 stems for dialogue labeled "DX", Music labeled "MX", and Effects labeled "FX", those three 5.1 stems are fed into the dolby or DTS encoder) to make the decode sound correct. The output of the encoded Dolby or DTS audio is usually referred to as the "LtRt" (Left Total Right Total), "Print Master", or sometimes I've heard people say the "LtRt Print Master". And sometimes there are multiple print masters for the different delivery formats. there might be a Dolby SR LtRt and a Sony DTS LtRt. And so on...

that Print master is "laid back" onto the final color corrected picture and synced up and the finished master reel of the film is then complete.

One other thing to interject that I notice most composers have a hard time with in the beginning... anything and everything you do with your music and your mix is NEVER the final. The mixes of your score you turn into the dub stage are technically called "pre dubs". They will get tweaked, adjusted, etc during the mixing process of the sound for the film. A spot where you might be intending to feature the brass/horns, in the final dub, might have the brass/horns stem ducked down... and so on. Sometimes your mixes and your intentions can be completely flipped upside down after the re-recording mixers are done with it.

And as a re-recording mixer myself in addition to being a composer, music producer and score mixer, I can tell you that if the re-recording mixers do that it's because it needed to be done. So you just have to suck it up and let it go. Dialogue is king, always. Maybe your brass/horn melody was fighting and distracting from dialogue and you never noticed because you were so focused on writing the music in and of itself that even with the dialogue playing you still couldn't hear how distracting it was... or maybe your guitars were too midrangy and sat right in the frequency band of dialogue (happens a lot with distorted guitars) or whatever...

When dealing with small indie films you are right, they sometimes do look towards the composer to help with ALL sound because up until this point, you are the only person out of the group working on the film that has extensive experience with sound... but it's an issue that can and will come back to bite you in the ass... because if they are looking at you as the resident expert and you don't really know this audio post process... every **** up that happens and every extra dollar of money spent redoing things the correct way later on will be forever pinned on you.

It's better to just refer them to an audio post house, maybe one that has a lot of experience dealing with smaller indie films and first timers and can walk the producers and director through all the steps that need to happen and why.

I can't tell you how many indie films I've worked on that have had to go back and undo, then redo everything they did (having to shell out double the money) after they have a distributor interested but can't accept the film deliverables as they were. Everything from removing door slams, foot steps and glass clinks from the dialogue tracks and moving them to the SFX tracks, to recording foley, to having to go back and do ADR, to making an M&E, to remixing the entire film to match broadcast standards for TV... most people who go through film school never understand how important the post production process is.

the Blair Witch movie was famous for only costing $15,000 to make and release... but what nobody talks about is how the film studio that bought it at Festival had to go back and pay $250,000~$300,000 to redo ALL of the sound in the film because it was completely unusable for commercial theatrical and worldwide release. But a lot of the smaller and mid sides distributors that small indie films get sold to will not put that kind of money into the film, and so it's on the producers to get the deliverables correct with their own money. And it sucks to have to go back and fix the audio of the film 2 years later after the film festival circuit is done and a foreign distributor wants to pick up the film but can't because the audio isn't correct.

Massive thanks for the detailed response, this all makes sense. I want to keep composing and understand what goes on throughout the re-recording/post house progress. This really gives me a better understanding on how to approach people correctly...Thanks again!!
Old 30th June 2019
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
Rami Hashash's Avatar
 

This thread is what GS is all about.

Thanks guys!
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump