Thursday, August 21, 2008

A productive day...

I had a good day today. I finished the audio of the master for the film "Strange Girls". This was the final final. I worked with the final output level (I've been having some trouble with the very last loud portion having enough impact). Short answer? I turned it up. Sounds easy right? Don't count on it.

That's because turning it up requires signal processing, so I put [go to sleep for the next sentence if you like] a Waves Ultramaximizer on the main output bus, and created a new bus on an aux track and routed the audio to that bus and then to the main output, where I rode the aux up a few db in that spot. I managed to do as little harm as possible...

Of course, I could have turned the other stuff down, but I'm way too much of a hero for that -- and we got a loudness war going on!

What does that mean? Well, every CD you pick up has to be louder than the last. It's all out war. That's because we who create music have forgotten that people have this knob on their stereos (or slider on their computers) that allows them to increase the volume to a level they find desirable. As an engineer, you can't argue against it, you just have to join the fray.

When I'm just mastering other people's stuff, I'm encouraged to turn it up way past the point of distortion, and they say "it sounds great!". I've lost my mojo to fight too, I used to give the long "loudness wars" sermon. Now I've shortened the sermon, and I just do what they want, cause that's what they're hearing in other music. You should have seen me back in those days -- I used to go into this whole thing about fractal geometry, and the three dimensional aspects of sound. It was so cute..

It always ended up as loud as possible in the end anyway...

This is the kind of stuff I obsess over. I have an exponentially harder time getting anything done I wrote myself because of this...well...perfectionism.

As for the material, I went with the all orchestral approach. I'm going to put the pop songs ('pop' is used here in the broadest possible sense, as differentiated from classical sounding orchestral music) I wrote on another release at a later time. They didn't fit as well as I would have liked and I would have had to turn them down (those loudness wars again).

...and I've got 60 minutes on this CD as it is...

I also completed the mix on the song "I Don't Know Why", which makes a very short appearance in the film. I wrote it for the film, but I decided to expand it a bit and recruit vocalist Walt Elson, who has a bit of a Isaac Hayes [much respect] vibe going on.

It's on my myspace page if you want to check it out. The lyrics are a little more vacuous than anything I'd write for personal expression, but that was part of the fun.

Again, I was obsessing over the mix. I just got it as good as I could and then sent an email to all the musicians asking them to send me their thoughts. First I listened on my big system. LOUD. It was awesome. Second, I moved it to my laptop and listened, very trebly. HMMM.

So I go back and back out a little of the high hat, which was the bothersome part. Then when I check that out in itunes, it still sounds a little ... I dunno...hyped

Then I remember, itunes defaults to a sound enhancer in it's preferences every time they update it. ENOUGH WITH THE SOUND ENHANCER. IT SUCKS APPLE!! I turn it off in the preferences. Luckily I haven't gone overboard with the high hat attenuation. I checked against some other stuff at the itunes store.

Then I listen on headphones, do the drums have enough of the plate reverb? Should I pan the backup singer Pamela back a little more to the middle? Is the Walt's 5th word in tune? I gotta go back...

Back to the studio, after a few more dives into the mix...well you get the idea, I'm driving myself crazy!?!

But all in all it was a good productive day, and I hope I'm finished with this mix...

I going to let let someone else tell me if I'm not.

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