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Mastering classical/film music

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BenjaminSquires
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Mastering classical/film music Feb. 13th, 2013 @ 06:08 PM Reply

I've been composing classical music intended for film with some success for 2 years now, my question isn't at all about mixing, but mastering the music.
I remember my old music technology teacher said that there is always a volume war when it comes to mastering popular music. This seems very true and although I wouldn't like to check how loud or quiet my piece of music is, I often do.
Should music written for film be mastered at all? I understand that the soundtracks released for purchase are mastered but I believe the music actually used in the film is not. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't really know a lot about the subject and that's why I'm posting this new topic.
The more you compress and limit your music, the more dynamic range you lose, which kind of defeats the point when it comes to film music, the crescendo's aren't nearly as powerful and the softer sections aren't nearly as soft.
So, what do you do when it comes to mastering music intended for films or games? I personally don't do much at all, but I feel like i'm losing in the volume war (as much as I wouldn't like to take part in it).

Thanks for your time

Rampant
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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 13th, 2013 @ 07:25 PM Reply

A smidgen of compression. Nothing more, usually. If you squeeze the dynamic range, then you're crushing the dynamic versatility of the orchestra.

...unless, of course, you're doing film trailer music: then you can blast it through as much compression as you want.

sorohanro
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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 13th, 2013 @ 07:26 PM Reply

I recommend watching this video:
http://vimeo.com/21339058
Composer Zack Hemsey. Last year, Zack composed the original track "Mind Heist" for the trailer of the Oscar winning film "Inception," letting the world see his true potential.

DDman465
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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 13th, 2013 @ 07:27 PM Reply

At 2/13/13 06:08 PM, BenjaminSquires wrote: I've been composing classical music intended for film with some success for 2 years now, my question isn't at all about mixing, but mastering the music.
I remember my old music technology teacher said that there is always a volume war when it comes to mastering popular music. This seems very true and although I wouldn't like to check how loud or quiet my piece of music is, I often do.
Should music written for film be mastered at all? I understand that the soundtracks released for purchase are mastered but I believe the music actually used in the film is not. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't really know a lot about the subject and that's why I'm posting this new topic.
The more you compress and limit your music, the more dynamic range you lose, which kind of defeats the point when it comes to film music, the crescendo's aren't nearly as powerful and the softer sections aren't nearly as soft.
So, what do you do when it comes to mastering music intended for films or games? I personally don't do much at all, but I feel like i'm losing in the volume war (as much as I wouldn't like to take part in it).

Thanks for your time

"Surgical" compression is used. In that the threshold gets boosted or lowered depending on the initial volume/etc along the track. Same thing goes for limiting and such, however, I wouldn't use limiting unless it's really necessary.

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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 13th, 2013 @ 07:27 PM Reply

That's actually a really valid question.

If writing orchestral music has taught me anything the last couple years, its how important dynamics are. When you are integrating the music into film, you definitely want to make sure not to compress anything, or if there is, not on anything that has a dynamic line. This is to further drive the story and have more emotional impact on viewers who are mostly listening to the music subconsciously only.

There is plenty of mastering that doesnt involve compression though. There will still likely be some sweeting, stereo adjustment, assuming headroom was properly monitored during the mixdown phase, overall level adjustment ,and proper dithering is also a part of this.

If you are mastering a track that is being released as music on its own, you may want to consider some light compression to closer meet expected loudness of an average listener. You will find that amongst most any orchestral based music, the listeners are a bit more forgiving. They don't so much look at only energetic loud parts of music as much as someone who say listens to dubstep would. But they still do subconciously process this to a degree, so light compression is acceptable in such circumstances....just have caution and make sure you aren't hurting the musics integrity.

sorohanro
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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 13th, 2013 @ 07:37 PM Reply

Also, from other people's experience.
If you make it actually for a film, you might consider that in the middle there is the voice-overs and dialog, so push things more on the sides than you would do for a normal mix.

TheBenjerman
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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 14th, 2013 @ 03:37 AM Reply

At 2/13/13 06:08 PM, BenjaminSquires wrote: Should music written for film be mastered at all? I understand that the soundtracks released for purchase are mastered but I believe the music actually used in the film is not. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't really know a lot about the subject and that's why I'm posting this new topic.

Hey Benjamin (great name btw),

Mastering is sort of a misnomer. The term comes from creating a "master" copy of some sort of media, most often a vinyl record or a tape. Mastering was a job that required a lot, often requiring the engineer to live mix the entire album during it's transfer, trying to insure that the songs on the album had similar sonic qualities to each other.

A lot of people these days take it to mean the last bits of mixing one does to a track, or the tweaking one does to the entire track rather than the individual stems or elements that make up said track, but that's really not what it means, and in my humble opinion I think that's a rather unhealthy way to look at things, especially film music. This is not to say that you shouldn't have that final step to make your track pop more, but think of it as your final stage of mixing, not as some mythical process that will make your track instantly sound better. (I've run into this far too often)

Now to the actual question:
If you are writing demo music, music that people will listen to to see if they want to hire you or not, I highly recommend some sort of dynamic compression/limiting. You need to grab their attention at ALL TIMES, and brickwall limiting has proven an effective way of doing that.

For film music that will be mixed into the film, your focus should be on balance with the rest of the film. On the dub stage the order of priority of sonic elements is as follows: 1. Dialogue 2. Sound Effects 3. Music.

This is almost without exception, and if you mix your music in such a way that it doesn't interfere with the first two elements, you're likely to hear more of it in the final mix! This means that you really want to avoid compressing ALL your music across the board, because all-too-often someone will say the music is too loud and the engineer will drop the volume of the entire music track.

This is not to say that you shouldn't do something to make your music stand out, and the "mastering" process is a great stage to establish your own sonic palette! I'm not even against compressing things, just make sure everything is mixed AFTER you make your final sonic adjustments.

Sorry for the long-winded reply, good luck!

Ben


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MetalRenard
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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 14th, 2013 @ 06:15 AM Reply

At 2/14/13 03:37 AM, TheBenjerman wrote: For film music that will be mixed into the film, your focus should be on balance with the rest of the film. On the dub stage the order of priority of sonic elements is as follows: 1. Dialogue 2. Sound Effects 3. Music.

Yep this guy knows his stuff. What's more important in a film? The dialogue of course. You never turn the music up in a game to a point where you can hear the dialogue, it just becomes annoying trying to understand what's being said, right? Follow that logic and you'll be fine.

In small projects you may end up mixing the final result yourself like I have a few times for YT videos etc. In that case you may want to learn about how to mix voices too since there are some key elements to consider that are different from music.

Oh and voices will almost always be mixed in the MIDDLE while music is often quite wide. Use this to your advantage.


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MetalRenard
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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 14th, 2013 @ 06:16 AM Reply

Sorry double post but to fix a typo that could be confusing:
"You never turn the music up in a game to a point where you CAN'Thear the dialogue"


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JosephAS1
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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 15th, 2013 @ 09:53 AM Reply

Try compressing only the samples you need to compress (as well as adding effects) per separate using different midi outputs.


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BenjaminSquires
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Response to Mastering classical/film music Feb. 16th, 2013 @ 08:05 AM Reply

thank you for all your input, I do tend to compress individual instruments when necessary but that's about it.

As with all forms of mastering there will never be a right or wrong answer.