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mastering from different recording locations
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
mastering from different recording locations

Dear all,

Posting here instead of the Mastering forum, as this is really a Remote Classical project in its final stage. Mastering forum is more commercial-oriented, I feel.

I am currently finishing the editing process of a multi-location CD recording project -- church, chapel, concert hall, tower bells, carillon -- the latter two from a previous disc recorded by someone else.
Throughout the different locations, there are recordings with solo organ, chamber choir, choir and orchestra, a saxophone concerto with strings, trombone quartet...

I am looking forward to the mastering in the coming weeks, and I have a couple of questions as I have never had this situation before:
  • What to do with different location noise floors? I hade fade-outs to zero between pieces, but the change of location becomes very noticable if I don't do anything. Crossfading sounds weird. What would you do?
  • How do you set the basic volume? Normalizing every location is of course not the musical idea. Would you set levels for the loudest piece and start from there, balancing all other pieces to that? Or do you look at loudness levels (isn't that more something for compressed more popular music?)
  • What with stereo width? The chapel/church choir sounds larger because of the acoustics, compared to the concert choir in the small chamber music hall. Would you adapt stereo width, or leave things as they are?

And many more questions. I know that 'it all depends', and I trust my ears well enough to judge, but I need a starting point or initial process you would recommend me.
I am monitoring on my trusted DT770 headphones and Neumann KH80, with a second system of Yamaha HS7. Listening on a variety of distances, volumes etc.

Many many thanks!
Korneel
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
Quote:
Originally Posted by apotheosis View Post
  • What to do with different location noise floors? I hade fade-outs to zero between pieces, but the change of location becomes very noticable if I don't do anything. Crossfading sounds weird. What would you do?
  • How do you set the basic volume? Normalizing every location is of course not the musical idea. Would you set levels for the loudest piece and start from there, balancing all other pieces to that? Or do you look at loudness levels (isn't that more something for compressed more popular music?)
  • What with stereo width? The chapel/church choir sounds larger because of the acoustics, compared to the concert choir in the small chamber music hall. Would you adapt stereo width, or leave things as they are?
Cool project, Korneel!

I recently worked on a similar project for a composer that writes for different instrumentation. The tracks were recorded over 5+ years, ranged from orchestra to viola and piano, some recorded in the US, some in Europe, some live, some session. My approach:

All the pieces form an "album", so I make sure they are sonically similar and also made sure the volume is consistent. I always do that with volume, regardless of project, since my monitoring level never changes. There isn't any reason to "blast" a track that small dynamics. Just get it all so that you can comfortably listen to the tracks without touching the dial.

But the pieces are also independent. They aren't movements of an larger work. I know they will be streamed one-at-a-time on YouTube, Spotify, etc. Fade-ins and fade-outs are perfectly appropriate and musical.

Re: stereo width -- There's only so much you can do. If it helps, it helps. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Keep is "real" and without artifacts.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
Mastering Moderator
 
Riccardo's Avatar
First of ll I would assume the prospective listeners will be aware of the fact these were recorded in different locations and thus accept the unavoidable differences.

I would set the levels between pieces as I was listening for myself in a given space (i.e. a living room) without the need to touch the volume control going from on e performance to the other. Yes I would look at the lowest perceived piece and lower the louder ones than start from there and find a reasonable compromise for overall perceived level depending on final delivery medium.

I know this will come across as a bit of sacrilege but yes you can try manipulating both the stereo field, eq, and reverb tails to gel the performances together. It will be slightly time consuming and you should keep an eye or rather an ear trying not to go too far! Always keep in mind the first assumption, these were recorded in different spaces and times......

I would do the bulk of the work on monitor speakers, only checking on headphones before committing, especially for reverb tails where edited or manipulated.

Hope this helps a bit. Good luck with the project.
p.s. there are M.E. working with classical around but they are usually overwhelmed by those rockers, indie, rappers and hip-hoppers...
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riccardo View Post
First of ll I would assume the prospective listeners will be aware of the fact these were recorded in different locations and thus accept the unavoidable differences.

I would set the levels between pieces as I was listening for myself in a given space (i.e. a living room) without the need to touch the volume control going from on e performance to the other. Yes I would look at the lowest perceived piece and lower the louder ones than start from there and find a reasonable compromise for overall perceived level depending on final delivery medium.

I know this will come across as a bit of sacrilege but yes you can try manipulating both the stereo field, eq, and reverb tails to gel the performances together. It will be slightly time consuming and you should keep an eye or rather an ear trying not to go too far! Always keep in mind the first assumption, these were recorded in different spaces and times......

I would do the bulk of the work on monitor speakers, only checking on headphones before committing, especially for reverb tails where edited or manipulated.

Hope this helps a bit. Good luck with the project.
p.s. there are M.E. working with classical around but they are usually overwhelmed by those rockers, indie, rappers and hip-hoppers...
All good suggestions and I am one of those mastering engineers who specializes in Classical, Jazz and acoustic music. FWIW
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
elpillo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by apotheosis View Post
I am looking forward to the mastering in the coming weeks, and I have a couple of questions as I have never had this situation before:
  • What to do with different location noise floors? I hade fade-outs to zero between pieces, but the change of location becomes very noticable if I don't do anything. Crossfading sounds weird. What would you do?
  • How do you set the basic volume? Normalizing every location is of course not the musical idea. Would you set levels for the loudest piece and start from there, balancing all other pieces to that? Or do you look at loudness levels (isn't that more something for compressed more popular music?)
  • What with stereo width? The chapel/church choir sounds larger because of the acoustics, compared to the concert choir in the small chamber music hall. Would you adapt stereo width, or leave things as they are?
Here is my point of view from a mastering perspective:

1) I'd probably go for fade ins/outs. I assume the listeners will understand that this is more of a "compilation" type of record so I don't think they're expecting a continuous sound. I'd probably leave a long silence gap between tracks (4 to 6secs.?) so they can "forget" about the previous track.
2) I'd make sure the tracks sound balanced level-wise so listeners don't have to touch their volume knobs. I'm guessing some subtle automation is ok in these cases. Also, these tracks may get played isolated (say, streaming services) so they 'should' sound good and leveled on their own as well.
3) It depends on how narrow the stereo image is. I wouldn't be afraid of trying to open the width a bit if you consider it necessary.

Sounds like a challenging and fun project. Best of luck!
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