Old 08-14-2019, 06:43 PM   #41
3buddhas
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Many thanks, ashcat_lt, for taking time to write out these tutorials. I'm learning from them.
I like this idea of previewing the master fx chain at the individual project stage, make sure everybody's gonna be on best behavior come mastering. But turn off those fx to render the individual projects. Then use the same chain in the mastering project.
The tips on mastering for DR and RMS/LUFS are welcome. There's a lot in those subjects to study, and I'm just starting to float those boats. If you'd care to disclose some of your master fx and reasonings why you use 'em, I'd be an avid reader.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:15 PM   #42
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I need you to take all this with a big grain of salt. I do sometimes get paid to record and mix for other people, but none of the things I have done are actually selling. I don't honestly believe this is really because of how they sound. My clients always seem satisfied if not just blown away, but...


So my "master chain" is usually just super simple:


ReaEQ - preemphais - shelving down the low end a little bit, sometimes pushing the harsh upper mids and maybe the way high "air", all meant to shape and focus the action of the following


ReaComp - lookahead leveler - RMS 500, Precomp 250, A/R 0, ratio usually 1.1:1 (now that it can go lower I might start messing with that), knee maybe 9-12db, threshold set so that we almost never really get there. This very subtly controls the big dynamic swings so that like the loud chorus is not quiet so much louder than quiet verse but also like the one beat where everything just happens to be pretty loud at the same time isn't quite so much louder than the other beats. Things kind of push other things around, and it tends to be what I think of when I hear the word "glue". It is a good, transparent way to decrease DR (and thereby increase perceived volume once normalized) without destroying the faster transients.


ReaEQ - deemphasis/final tone shaping - First basically undoing what the first one did. Together, they work very much like putting an EQ in the sidechain of the compressor, except that here they don't have to be - and usually aren't - exactly opposite. Since the low end isn't getting squashed quite so hard, it often doesn't need to be turned all the way back up, and I can even set different corner frequencies on either side if that works better. It's also just the last EQ in the chain, and I use it to kind of define the overall sonic character of the record. It's way too late to surgically fix individual frequency bands here. I consider it much more like the frequency curve of the master tape back in the analog days.


ReaComp - rail - all time constants at 0, ratio inf:1, knee like 6db, threshold set so that it almost never actually reaches it, auto makeup on, wet at -0.6db. It's a nice curvy soft limiter/saturator that just makes sure nothing ever goes out that's louder than -0.6dbFS. This is a number I chose long ago as a hedge against "intersample overs" that also happens to help with mp3 conversions all the the other things that can make DACs clip even though there are no actual samples going "over" 0.


I don't worry about True Peak and I don't actually care about LUFS. The actual peak sample sample level and the RMS have always told me everything that I couldn't figure out just from listening.


Edit - In certain rare instances where I feel it's necessary, I will put Otium BassLane at the front of this chain to force the real low end to mono. There's a lot of reasons for this, but mostly just to share the load between the two speakers and sort of open headroom for higher frequencies on each channel.
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:01 AM   #43
3buddhas
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Thanks, ashcat_lt, for taking pains to type out another fine tutorial. If I find any big grains of salt around my house I'll be sure to take them, but for now almost all this is stuff I've not really examined before, so it's helpful. And these little primers you make will sit in the forum archives and I'm guessing will help others as well to get on the road to Reaper / recording self-reliance.

I like that your mastering fx chain is so Reaper-centric. I was worried you might come back with a hundred tools I didn't/couldn't own. I've set myself a kind of personal challenge to not spend money on this album, apart from the upcoming expense of cd duplication. So I appreciate the frugal sensibility. To date I've bought exactly four pieces of recording-related software, by far the most expensive being Reaper, with which I'm very very satisfied.

This afternoon, after the dentist, with my face all numb, I mean to dive into the tutorial and try out the chain on my projects. I like this idea of look-ahead leveling. This is something could be applied to shaping a whole life maybe. You look out at your future and see the potential hotspots or pinch points, the potential clips, and apply a bit of pacifying attention there.

I don't worry about TruePeak either because I don't know what it is! The total freedom of ignorance.

The EQ tips are understandably -- being that EQ is an art form -- poetic. I'll see if I can divine what's going on there. Every YouTube mastering tutorial I've watched has, when it came to EQ, pretty well mystified me. It's like you do a little harm with EQ then try to undo the harm with EQ. Hm.
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:06 AM   #44
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Idk about harm. In this case, the first EQ is meant to focus the attention of the compressors on the areas of the frequency spectrum that I want it to focus on. For example, by shelving down the low end, it lets low frequency transients have a little more impact and reduces things like pumping and breathing. But then that does in fact change the frequency balance, and you kind of have to put it back. Usually none of this is really doing much when Iíve got it on a full mix. Maybe a couple dB cuts or boosted, and the compressor barely kicking in. It doesnít take much, though itís so clean and transparent that you can push it pretty hard without really realizing.

I did not invent this pre/de emphasis technique. Iíve been using it one way or another for almost ever, but Dan Worrall made great vid about it recently:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-Gs-o39C5o

But I do things a lot differently from most other folks. If you use a multi-band compressor (ReaXComp), it pretty much just does all that or at least kind of defeats the purpose.

Itís only recently (since they fixed the knee, make sure Weird Knee is NOT checked) that I could use ReaComp as the saturator at the end. I was using a JS plug Iíd written, but Iím pretty happy to dump that and use the native solution. Itís a little less convenient to get asymmetrical saturation, but for this usage itís not really necessary and maybe not really advisable. Iíve bought a couple plugins, but I really try to keep it free and Reaper native when I can. I definitely donít need any othe emulations. I donít need my EQ to also distort and I donít need my compressor to have its own EQ curve. What if I donít like the decisions the coders made? I just build my own with chains like this.

The name of this preset is ďrailĒ because analog gear cannot put out any voltage greater than its power supply. We often call that power supply the voltage rail or just rail. Reaper itself has no such thing. It will very gladly (try to) put out voltages billions of times greater than your DAC could ever create. When it does that, what happens is basically out of your hands and could be different on different playback devices. There will be distortion, but you wonít ever know for sure what the distortion will sound like for your individual listeners. So Iím taking control of that distortion. Many of us who used to mix analog used to rely on this sort of rounding off and limiting of the peaks. I actually used to choose boards based on how they sounded when they were slammed. I do use this on a lot of tracks/busses throughout a mix. Again, handling it at the lower level so thereís less to do at the master. On the mix bus this wonít usually do much. If you start to hear it, youíve gone too far.

In fact, this whole chain is a lot like a channel strip for me. I drop it in all over and tweak the values to suit the situation. The lookahead leveler with a bit more ratio and a more aggressive threshold is great for taming vocals, kick drums, bass guitars, or pretty much anything that has a bit too wide of a dynamic range. In those cases there will often be a more traditional compressor afterwards, and the leveler helps that next one work more consistently.

But of course most of this relies on the fact that you are recording, mixing, and mastering, and can fairly easily go back and fix things at the more granular level so thereís nothing to do at the master. When youíre working with other peopleís stereo mixes, it can sometimes take a whole lot more. It starts to lean more toward forensic restoration which is not something I particularly enjoy doing.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:14 PM   #45
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Outstanding. Thanks. Two things as I dive into this. Kindly,
1) Where is this rail preset? I've looked in ReaComp and ReaXComp. Didn't find it in the versions I have. Nor do I see Weird Knee anywhere.
2) I'm sitting in the dentist chair getting drilled, it occurs to me, "but wait, ashcat_lt, where is all the fancy mastering metering I've read about? Where's the tool that's gonna make sure your RMS/LUFS is maximized across the whole song, automate all that compression? Diagnosticize and prognisticate all your crest values? Are your tools called just ears? If so, I wonder if mine are seasoned enough.
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Old 08-15-2019, 01:15 PM   #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3buddhas View Post
1) Where is this rail preset? I've looked in ReaComp and ReaXComp. Didn't find it in the versions I have. Nor do I see Weird Knee anywhere.
Oh sorry! That's my own preset. I described the settings above.
Quote:
2) "but wait, ashcat_lt, where is all the fancy mastering metering I've read about?
I mean, there's a meter on ReaComp and on the tracks and on the master. I do use Voxengo SPAN usually as a sanity check, and when I get to the point of mastering I will often run the SWS Analyze Loudness action to get an idea of how things compare to each other and whatever target I'm shooting for.

Too many people worry way too much about those things though. Get all upset about the difference between RMS and LUFS and caught up in that -18 rule of thumb as though it's some carved in stone god's going to smite you kind of doctrine. All that really matters is how it sounds and how it translates to other playback systems, and the numbers are just ways to help predict some of those things.
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Old 08-16-2019, 06:38 AM   #47
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Fine answer, thanks. Exactly what I was fishing for. "Don't worry so much."

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
and when I get to the point of mastering I will often run the SWS Analyze Loudness action to get an idea of how things compare to each other and whatever target I'm shooting for.
This sounds like the sort of thing I was reading about. Analyzing loudness. I've not tried anything SWS. For we programming-shy, might you instruct on how to use such a tool?

These lessons are helping me accomplish what I'm trying to accomplish.
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Old 08-16-2019, 11:26 AM   #48
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Download and install SWS extensions. Select audio items. Open the Actions List. Type ďanalĒ into the search box. I find that amusing as hell every time.
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Old 08-16-2019, 12:20 PM   #49
3buddhas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
I did not invent this pre/de emphasis technique. Iíve been using it one way or another for almost ever, but Dan Worrall made great vid about it recently:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-Gs-o39C5o
Will look into this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
But I do things a lot differently from most other folks. If you use a multi-band compressor (ReaXComp), it pretty much just does all that or at least kind of defeats the purpose.
Maybe this is saying that both multiband compressors and pre/de emphasis methods are ways to use EQ to direct compressors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
Itís only recently (since they fixed the knee, make sure Weird Knee is NOT checked) that I could use ReaComp as the saturator at the end. I was using a JS plug Iíd written, but Iím pretty happy to dump that and use the native solution. Itís a little less convenient to get asymmetrical saturation, but for this usage itís not really necessary and maybe not really advisable. Iíve bought a couple plugins, but I really try to keep it free and Reaper native when I can. I definitely donít need any othe emulations. I donít need my EQ to also distort and I donít need my compressor to have its own EQ curve. What if I donít like the decisions the coders made? I just build my own with chains like this.
Chewing on this. What I gather from it, when a compressor squashes a peak, there's distortion. Maybe distortion and saturation are the same thing? (Would love a blurb on what is "asymmetrical" saturation.) Compressor and DAW squashing-algorithms vary, so amount and type of distortion/saturation are uncertain. Wanting to control that uncertainty, you cherry-pick components that make distortion. Seems confirmed in following paragraph.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
The name of this preset is ďrailĒ because analog gear cannot put out any voltage greater than its power supply. We often call that power supply the voltage rail or just rail. Reaper itself has no such thing. It will very gladly (try to) put out voltages billions of times greater than your DAC could ever create. When it does that, what happens is basically out of your hands and could be different on different playback devices. There will be distortion, but you wonít ever know for sure what the distortion will sound like for your individual listeners. So Iím taking control of that distortion. Many of us who used to mix analog used to rely on this sort of rounding off and limiting of the peaks. I actually used to choose boards based on how they sounded when they were slammed. I do use this on a lot of tracks/busses throughout a mix. Again, handling it at the lower level so thereís less to do at the master. On the mix bus this wonít usually do much. If you start to hear it, youíve gone too far.
Wanting to understand this. I'm thinking a Digital Analog Converter (DAC) takes ones and zeros and turns them into audible signals. Something you can hear on your monitors. If the ones and zeros say sonic boom, Reaper's DAC will try to create a huge noise, with possible ugly results on playback systems that can't handle huge noises. Maybe no problem on playback systems that can handle them. To avoid the worst case, upstream you try to avoid slamming the DAC with sonic boom commands. So you round off and limit. And try to use rounding/limiting tools that give consistent, desired results. And you seem to say, apply these even at the multitracks' individual track stage where needed to tame peaks. This last seems confirmed in next paragraph. And be conservative with the squashing on the individual project 2-busses.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
In fact, this whole chain is a lot like a channel strip for me. I drop it in all over and tweak the values to suit the situation. The lookahead leveler with a bit more ratio and a more aggressive threshold is great for taming vocals, kick drums, bass guitars, or pretty much anything that has a bit too wide of a dynamic range. In those cases there will often be a more traditional compressor afterwards, and the leveler helps that next one work more consistently.
Noted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
But of course most of this relies on the fact that you are recording, mixing, and mastering, and can fairly easily go back and fix things at the more granular level so thereís nothing to do at the master. When youíre working with other peopleís stereo mixes, it can sometimes take a whole lot more. It starts to lean more toward forensic restoration which is not something I particularly enjoy doing.
I expect to be bouncing between mix-projects and mastering project for a spell. The two stages will show up any shortcomings in each other, I'm guessing.

Many thanks for these little forum-inars. I find them a great, paced way to get a toe in these complex subjects.
Cheers
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Old Today, 09:51 AM   #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by serr
on DA converters that run cleaner at HD vs SD
Is that really still a thing?

There is nothing that software upsampling can do with a given bit rate and depth format that can't be done in the DAC converter.

I guess some older DAC chips might work better fed like that, but these days how many of them are in rooms of sufficient quality, with sufficient quality speakers and amps for it to matter at all?
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