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Mastering again.

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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jun 23, 2020 10:08 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:but mastering in general is and always has been a final 'polishing' tool for audio..

It's interesting how many different ways people see the role of mastering, I have a friend and collaborator who rings me up and says "I’ve mastered the latest album" I understand him completely, and what he’s done. He’s taken a selection of our tracks, listened to them, organised them in some sort of order, made sure there aren’t any nasty digital clicks or pops, made sure that noise isn’t an issue, adjusted relative volumes, maybe a bit of processing on the main bus using T Racks or the Vintage Warmer, and that’s it, I do more or less the same thing to my music, and that’s how we define what mastering is, anything beyond that is specialist stuff to us.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jun 23, 2020 10:25 am

Arpangel wrote:He’s taken a selection of our tracks, listened to them, organised them in some sort of order, made sure there aren’t any nasty digital clicks or pops, made sure that noise isn’t an issue, adjusted relative volumes, maybe a bit of processing on the main bus using T Racks or the Vintage Warmer, and that’s it...

That sounds like 'polishing' to me.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jun 23, 2020 10:30 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:He’s taken a selection of our tracks, listened to them, organised them in some sort of order, made sure there aren’t any nasty digital clicks or pops, made sure that noise isn’t an issue, adjusted relative volumes, maybe a bit of processing on the main bus using T Racks or the Vintage Warmer, and that’s it...

That sounds like 'polishing' to me.

Yes, he’s given it the Mr Sheen treatment...

:D
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Jun 23, 2020 1:04 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:It sometimes gets worse. A perfectly fine, old movie soundtrack - which is 99% speech driven - gets the "remastering" or "cleanup" treatment and this is the result:

https://youtu.be/9GsrDe96HUE

Hugh Robjohns wrote:In the case of the TIOBE film, that's a 'restoration job'. I never judge sound quality from YT clips as there are too many unknowns...

Well YT sound could be a discussion in itself but as far as I reasonably could I went into this carefully as I try to do.

Here's what occurred: I recently saw this classic movie on one of our national HD TV stations. Within seconds of the start I knew something was wrong with the audio: badly muffled speech. So with some pretty heavy hardware EQ and compression I was now able to at least hear and enjoy the rest of the movie with tolerably clear speech from these talented actors and Oscar Wilde's witty script. A side effect was that now all station adverts and promos were now screamingly shrill so on the breaks I had to mute audio to save the ears from the regular blasts.

After the great movie ended I checked to Amazon UK for reviews of the Blu Ray/DVD released only in 2016.

General consensus: brilliantly presented picture, probably better looking than ever, but terrible sound.

(scroll down to Customer Reviews)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Importance-Bei ... dvd&sr=1-8

Hugh Robjohns wrote: ...and I'm not familiar with the original film sound track so have no base reference either....

Neither am I of course so it's always important to be careful before judging.

I also have an old VHS copy of the same film released by Rank - terrible picture and a noisy, poppy soundtrack, but in contrast to this recent Blu Ray release, every word of speech is clearly audible on the linear analogue audio track. No HiFi track provided.

Hugh Robjohns wrote: Most likely, the production company demanded a soundtrack as quiet and clean as a modern film, and the restorer had to deliver what was asked for.

That's my guess also. I think the saying is: "Bring the audio up to modern standards". Such an easy thing for people to say but do they understand what they are asking or demanding? I cringe now even to hear the phrase. As you said recently, it's the error of looking at only one aspect of the sound, in this case the noise floor, and ignoring what our perhaps well intentioned NR/EQ efforts are doing to the most important thing: (in this case) the spoken performance!

In this case this may have been done by some poor sod who had to do it simply because he was ordered to by some knucklehead further up the food chain. But to this extent?

The dissatisfied buyers aren't audiophiles, just ordinary folk who want to hear the dialogue of this great old film. I hope the feedback will filter back to those who need to hear it.

In my experience this sort of thing is more common in low budget releases but this one is from a top reissue company which seems to have a very good reputation overall. Here's hoping it's a rare slip.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby CS70 » Tue Jun 23, 2020 1:28 pm

Arpangel wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:but mastering in general is and always has been a final 'polishing' tool for audio..

It's interesting how many different ways people see the role of mastering, I have a friend and collaborator who rings me up and says "I’ve mastered the latest album" I understand him completely, and what he’s done. He’s taken a selection of our tracks, listened to them, organised them in some sort of order, made sure there aren’t any nasty digital clicks or pops, made sure that noise isn’t an issue, adjusted relative volumes, maybe a bit of processing on the main bus using T Racks or the Vintage Warmer, and that’s it, I do more or less the same thing to my music, and that’s how we define what mastering is, anything beyond that is specialist stuff to us.

Laughing'... well not sure about the different people, but that's what's called "mastering". Unless you leave in digital clicks and pops on purpose, you left them there because you didn't hear them I guess.. The "adjusting relative volume and a bit of processing" usually is to make things as translatable as possible. It's no vodoo.

If it's changing the sound, he's doing mixing, just in another session.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Jun 23, 2020 1:52 pm

blinddrew wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:I've lost count of the times I've heard interviewee lavalier mics not eqed for their placement on the body, but on the DVD or BluRay there is a credit for "audio mastering". Perhaps the ME thinks that the resulting serious loss of speech intelligibility was part of the original "artistic vision"...which of course must not be tampered with.
I suspect this is more likely down to production budgets and timescales. The ME may well have raised it as something to be fixed only to be told there was neither time/cash to do so.

Without the inside information I guess I can only speculate. But on this, DPA has some great training videos. Here's one I caught the other day on EQing Lavaliers depending on their position on the body. There are some great spectral graphs (around 15 mins in) which we can use as a basis for corrective EQ. Great resource IMO.

https://youtu.be/CrFSMwT7HRE
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby merlyn » Tue Jun 23, 2020 1:59 pm

@Arpangel : Do you put anything on the master bus when you're mixing? Processing the whole stereo mix means there is less to do in the mastering stage.

These days a lot of people mix and master in one step by putting plugins on the master bus, so you end up with two schools -- one step mixing and mastering and a two step process where you don't put anything on the master bus while mixing, leaving that for the mastering stage.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Matt Houghton » Tue Jun 23, 2020 2:12 pm

merlyn wrote:Processing the whole stereo mix means there is less to do in the mastering stage.

It can. It can also mean the opposite. :headbang:
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jun 23, 2020 2:18 pm

merlyn wrote:...where you don't put anything on the master bus while mixing, leaving that for the mastering stage.

Mixing into a bus compressor is a normal, almost ubiquitous, part of the mixing process.

And it serves a very different purpose to any mastering compression that might be applied subsequently.

H
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Jun 23, 2020 2:58 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:It sometimes gets worse. A perfectly fine, old movie soundtrack - which is 99% speech driven - gets the "remastering" or "cleanup" treatment and this is the result:

https://youtu.be/9GsrDe96HUE

Ye gods - that IS atrocious! :crazy:


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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jun 23, 2020 3:58 pm

It is certainly rather 'dry'...

But... we don't know what the source film soundtrack was like; we don't know what the production company wanted; and we don't know the available restoration budget -- all things that have a very big influence on the resulting product.

Here's a story of a broadly similar situation that might shine a different light on things:

A few years ago a friend of mine was involved in the recording of a top quality opera for bluray/DVD release, and the production company told him they wanted full, natural dynamics throughout. He suggested to them that this might not be appropriate for a typical domestic audience but despite all his professionalism and experience they were adamant. ...so that's what he delivered.

And I have to say that it sounds fabulously naturalistic when listened to at high levels on a good full-range system like wot I have here... But on an ordinary TV at ordinary domestic volumes most of it is inaudible -- as he warned it would be -- and so it was the worst selling disc the company has ever put out, with lots being returned as unlistenable.

It would be very easy for Tim or someone like him with lots of opinions but no knowledge to assume all the blame lies with the sound engineer (or mastering engineer!) for doing a crap job -- when the reality couldn't have been further from the truth.

So I'm always very wary of criticising the production crew. Saying a product is not to your liking is one thing. Making assumptions and allocating blame without accurate knowledge of the situation is quite another and makes me very uncomfortable.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby innerchord » Tue Jun 23, 2020 4:43 pm

Have a listen to (and look at) this version and then go back to the new release.
I will refrain from commenting... :shocked:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHPZ0I-7dgA
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jun 23, 2020 5:19 pm

Thanks for digging a link to that version out. I don't think anyone is denying that the version Tim originally highlighted is lacking a certain 'something'... only that we don't know the reasons for it!

Just to achieve some objectivity I took the same short section (the discussion about birds in London) from both versions, matched levels (Tims is stupidly quiet, so it's not a great YT transfer), and then ran a spectral analysis of each and overlaid them:

IOBE comparison.jpg


No prizes for guessing which is which...

There are obvious large LF notches in the 'better' version which sit around 60 and 120Hz, and are presumably attempts at removing mains hums. These notches are absent in Tim's version.

However, I'm more intrigued in the reasons for the the top two notches which are apparent only in Tim's version. They are very unlikely to be related to noise removal artefacts... and previous experience of that kind of spectrum suggests to me that they probably relate to a comb-filter cancellation. Perhaps the YT file involves a mono sum from a slightly (time) misaligned stereo track? But at least it's very obvious why the clarity of diction has gone awol.

But there's clearly some overall amplitude suppression of both the low and higher frequencies in Tim's version, with only the 200Hz-1kHz region unaffected with both traces and sitting directly on top of one another. That does ring of the application of a 'dialogue enhancer' process...

:think: :wtf:
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Jun 23, 2020 6:40 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:It is certainly rather 'dry'...
The sound issue mentioned by the buying public and myself included was not the background noise, ambience, but the speech intelligibility. I gave the reference to the UK buyer reviews. Have you read them?

Hugh Robjohns wrote:But... we don't know what the source film soundtrack was like; we don't know what the production company wanted; and we don't know the available restoration budget -- all things that have a very big influence on the resulting product.

No we don't have access to the source soundtrack. But we know that if data compressed generations downstream can be rebalanced for much clearer speech, then it's even more possible using the better source! I managed it from the TV transmission. I have a library copy of the DVD of the 2016 release. That too can be rebalanced for much clearer speech. But I hear much more intelligible speech on my old VHS copy than what we hear on the remastered versions. Have you tried rebalancing the speech in the Network Distributors file which I linked to? It's all about the speech intelligibility. That is what the public has been complaining about, and they have either the BluRay, the DVD or perhaps a download.

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Here's a story of a broadly similar situation that might shine a different light on things:

A few years ago a friend of mine was involved in the recording of a top quality opera for bluray/DVD release, and the production company told him they wanted full, natural dynamics throughout. He suggested to them that this might not be appropriate for a typical domestic audience but despite all his professionalism and experience they were adamant. ...so that's what he delivered.

And I have to say that it sounds fabulously naturalistic when listened to at high levels on a good full-range system like wot I have here... But on an ordinary TV at ordinary domestic volumes most of it is inaudible -- as he warned it would be -- and so it was the worst selling disc the company has ever put out, with lots being returned as unlistenable.

It sounds a pity they didnt listened to him. Perhaps a compromise could have been worked out…

But the two soundtracks are hardly comparable. The opera sounds as if it carried the large dynamics of a live opera, which can be very problematic for casual listeners. But TIOBE was a dialogue recorded in 1951 with the limited dynamics of the equipment of that day. So as good, competent recordists they recorded it allowing for that. It isn't dynamic and was never going to be. We cant with all the modern technology today turn it into something it never was. But even insofar as we try to improve it, the last thing we would do is mess with the speech intelligibility. The play/film centres on the speech, the words, the text.


Hugh Robjohns wrote:It would be very easy for Tim or someone like him with lots of opinions but no knowledge to assume all the blame lies with the sound engineer (or mastering engineer!) for doing a crap job -- when the reality couldn't have been further from the truth.

All we have is the result. The engineer may have stated his objection as per your friend.He may not have.The manager may have listened to his objection and disregarded it. We dont know what happened as you rightly say.

Hugh Robjohns wrote:So I'm always very wary of criticising the production crew. Saying a product is not to your liking is one thing. Making assumptions and allocating blame without accurate knowledge of the situation is quite another and makes me very uncomfortable.

I don't and wont blame anyone, because as you say, we dont know.

But if the engineer was forced to mangle the speech clarity to that degree, against his expert advice to the management, then more fool the management. Goodness, only recently I shared my experience of being overridden on a technical matter by someone who hadnt a clue about the matter. Wouldnt I of all people be sympathetic to an engineer placed in a similar position by an ignorant or bullying manager ?! Wouldn't we all?
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Arpangel » Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:53 am

:think:
merlyn wrote:@Arpangel : Do you put anything on the master bus when you're mixing? Processing the whole stereo mix means there is less to do in the mastering stage.

These days a lot of people mix and master in one step by putting plugins on the master bus, so you end up with two schools -- one step mixing and mastering and a two step process where you don't put anything on the master bus while mixing, leaving that for the mastering stage.

I sometimes put things on the master, it depends on the nature of the album, and how all the tracks sound overall. On some material a compressor improves things, on some it doesn’t. I have to decide whether to give the whole album a particular feel. I like to mix my more experimental stuff to have lots of low level detail and wide dynamics, sometimes compression can squash the peaks and make the detail stand out a bit more, if it’s got a lot of drums I’ll put an EQ with a slight sub-bass boost and a bit of sparkle on top. But sometimes these things don’t make any difference, and I’ll just master it straight, I don’t have any formula to speak of.
I suppose I mix and master as I go, mastering for me is all about really bad things, keeping an ear out for those, ones that may have slipped through the net.
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