- iZotope’s complete mastering system in a single integrated plug-in includes eight essential mastering tools: Maximizer, Equalizer, Multiband Dynamics, Multiband Stereo Imaging, Post Equalizer, Multiband Harmonic Exciter, Reverb, and Dithering.
The process of mastering ranges from correcting mistakes made in the mix to preparing a recording for target listening environments. Like a final coat of polish, mastering makes the difference between a good-sounding mix and a professional-sounding master. Ozone 5 delivers the biggest update ever to iZotope’s critically-acclaimed software mastering system, making it easier than ever for anyone to master their audio simply and efficiently.
With Ozone 5, see your mix like never before. A broad variety of updated metering tools provide unprecedented visualizations of how mix elements fit together, guiding both your eyes and your ears to the perfect-sounding master. Each processing module is complemented with useful spectrums, phase meters, vectorscopes and level histograms. For example, use the Gain Reduction Trace view to help set the compressor’s release time, or watch the Correlation Trace to catch instantaneous phase problems.
- The company IZotope is for many years recognized for creation of processing audio signals tools (in both technical and creative way). Whether it is a plug-in or stand-alone application, it always represents innovative solutions and sophisticated concept. Tool that we present today is a creative tool, but also is designed to keep the creation of sound within limits that prescribe standards and recommendations, as well as to enable audio visualize the important parameters which influence the final form of the sound image. We are talking about multi-function plugin for audio measurement and analysis, called iZotope Insight.
Measure twice …
Measurement and analysis of audio are very useful in the process of creation, as they can clearly demonstrate the sources of problems, which have their negative consequences even artistic and aesthetic level work with sound.
What can Insight
I said at the beginning that the Insight is a multifunctional tool for measuring and analyzing audio. It combines (as usual within one working window) several measurement tools. Insight thus continuing the trend associate company iZotope instruments into a single interface, which has the advantages of both ergonomic, as well as technical, as already explained in the plugins Ozone and Alloy. The main technical advantage of this is that calculations of the individual measuring tasks take place within a single environment.
Insight includes a spectrograph, the spectrum analyzer and audio analyzer field correlator, which is not exceptional in any way, such facilities are also included in plugins from other manufacturers. Insight, however, is equipped with two measuring instruments that make this plugin very important today. I’m talking about loudness measurement.
Loudness war and its consequences
The pursuit of ever-increasing volume of sound recordings has no other goal than commercial (regardless of the relationship of modulation depth and range of the transmitter in the radio broadcast) . Loud sounding image attracts listeners easier than weaker competitors. Especially since the increasing volume is in the hand of record executives and producers. There are many negative consequences that this effort brings such a distortion and other effects of massive compression in the technical level and degradation dynamics and musical content in the recording.
IZotope company reacted to this situation as well as some other software manufacturers with plugin Insight, which can measure and record the volume of recording. This is his greatest contribution, for which is sure to become a popular tool especially in post-production studios.
Appearance and design
Appearance of Insight is fully in line with other plug-ins Ozone 5 and Alloy 2. This means that its working window is large and well -arranged . Includes all 5 measurement tools, which all controls and architecture adjustment menu in the folder Options ozone and Alloye user knows intimately and without problems understand their function. To clarity at work even better, you can split a single window to maximize the size of the central window, or hide it completely. Thus, it is possible to customize the look of the plug-in for a particular measurement task. If the window is maximized, it becomes available in other, more detailed control and adjustment elements. The maximized windows can sometimes choose the size of the viewport display ( zoom) . The appearance of the plug-in is obviously modified for use in two-channel or multi-channel mode.
Spectrograph is used for monitoring of individual frequencies over time. This is useful, for example for localization of noise such as hum or other noise tonal character. As well it should be possible to monitor the progress of the melody, like singing voice. Insight offers two-and three-dimensional display mode, allowing the visualization according to the specific needs of the user. Three-dimensional image can be also rotated in different directions and thus get a glimpse of the part of the spectrum, which is important at that moment. Zooming measurement scales is commonplace, as well as that analysis, which normally takes place in real time, you can stop and explore, during normal playback. Spectrograph module provides an interesting feature accessible in multi-channel operating mode, and color resolution spectrograms of each channel in a common box. It is possible to assign a own color to every channel and with the Meter Tap make a detail measurement of its progress over the time.
Spectrum Analyzer is a standard tool for obtaining information on audio frequency format that provides clear picture of the traditional spectrum. You can choose the form of display, integration time and method of calculation. This module does not deviate from the traditional approach and is arranged for quick analysis of the underlying instrument.
Sound field analyzer is particularly useful when downmixing, which provides information about the energy and directional distribution of the stereo and phase ratios in it. Also, we can change the appearance and detection method. Must be said that this module is most useful when analyzing the mixing of surround sound, the sound field distribution is very important and fundamentally determines the final form of the sound image.
In terms of what was stated at the beginning, the most important part of Insight modules is measurement of levels and volume during the recording. Measuring module of level and volume is a comprehensive tool that summarizes information about the excellent and efficient level image with option to use measurement methodology used by Bob Katz (K -system). The value of the volume we can have shown instantly (with an integration time of 400 ms), short (3 s integration) and integrated (the integration over the entire duration of the program). Measuring range are selectable according to each methodologies EBU (European Broadcasting Union) and ITU (International Telecommunication Union) , so Insight is universally applicable for use in all areas of work with sound.
An interesting tool is the history view. It gives us information on the evolution of the volume for the duration of the program, clearly indicate exceeded preset limits (which is usually the value of 24 lufs – in line with the recommendations). This is certainly very useful, and Insight provides several tools how to fix errors in our mix.
Izotope Insight is a very useful tool and it is strongly recommended for every day work. It is a master plugin for all producers who want to have their audio production under control.
Mastering is the final creative step in the audio production process; it is the bridge between mixing and replication (the production of final media i.e. a Compact Disc) and is correctly called Pre-Mastering.
This is the last chance to enhance audio or repair problems in an acoustically designed room with excellent monitoring acting as an audio microscope. Mastering engineers offer a fresh experienced outside opinion, they know the technical difficulties that arise whilst mixing and have the knowledge and technical ability to fix problems and add finishing gloss to final mixes.
Having great equipment in a neutral acoustically treated room is one thing but having great hearing and the capability to use the right choice of equiptment to correct and implement change in a positive way is another.
The Mastering Engineer
Mastering engineers have to keep up to date with technology and be well versed with a broad spectrum of music trends with an open mind across the board. One day they could be mastering a classical orchestra the next a commercial punk rock track, so they have to be able to adapt to the different styles and be able to work in a relaxed, subjective, yet professional manor.
Mastering engineers usually have years and years of experience behind them; for instance some of the big name’s are 50+ years old and still going strong! It does seem strange that even though the engineers are getting older their hearing is not? Well the truth to the matter is their hearing is probably weakening like everyone else’s but they have the day in day out experience to know how to make something sound right (if that makes sense) say for example you play the trumpet five days a week for 40 years, your going to be better then someone who plays it twice a week for 10 years even if your ears aren’t as sharp they are more experienced, this is the same with mastering engineers. We come across certain problems that you just wouldn’t know how to or be able to rectify unless you had solved it before or had a certain technique which you knew worked.
A good mastering engineer will know their equiptment backwards. These are like a saw and hammer to a carpenter. If an engineer had a great class A compressor but didn’t have the ear nor the experience/technique to use it, then it would sound no better then a £100 compressor. The key to being a good mastering engineer is, knowing which piece of equiptement to use for the job. One EQ/compressor sounds different from another so the right choice is what makes all the difference with certain styles of music.
This gives the older more experienced mastering engineers greater power, as they have earned the respect over the years and are able to work at a quick pace, problem solving and repairing audio. They are able to make excellent judgments after listening to the track just a few times over and then apply the changes that make all the difference.
Getting the final mix ready for mastering
Mastering as previously explained is the art of manipulating a stereo mix to sound its best! So as this could seem very limiting (which it can be) surely it would be best to get it right in the mix or pretty close to!
I sometimes get a job come in that is super hot (loud) and sounds like its had mix compression added on the master bus along with for example limiting, leaving no headroom whatsoever to play with and sounding overall squashed or lifeless. For these sorts of jobs I usually request a remix or a clean mix with at least -3dBFS (decibels before full scale) head room on the loudest sections and no mix processing.
The reason I ask for a clean mix with headroom is quite simply because these sort of things are best left to fresh ears. Not only that but the fact that a professional mastering room/engineer will have much better equiptment aimed at final stage mastering and the experience to make professional judgmental decisions.
Once you’ve completed a mix and say for example run it through a compressor to get a fatter sound (remember it might sound fatter but what’s happening to your tops?), your blocking your mix into a dead end. A mastering engineer with a much more elegant mastering compressor and experience could apply compression in a different manner which would not only fatten up a mix but keep it as transparent and dynamic as possible.
Turn up your monitors to give yourself or others the loudness you require and don’t be tempted just for loudness sake to compress or limit. I think one big mistake people make when they make their final mix down is compare it too other commercial releases which have already been professionally mastered. By all means check for levels and taste but don’t try and match it loudness wise!
What you should be aiming for with your final mix is a well balanced and structured mix with ample head room and dynamics to allow a good mastering engineer to evaluate the mix in a natural flat room, using excellent responsive monitoring (no colouration) and allow him/her to add the final polish and loudness to the mix.
In this documentary, top UK producer Greg Haver presents how he transforms demo song into a final release master. Enjoy this journey – from demo to master – with producer who worked with Manic Street Preachers, Melanie C or Bullet for My Valentine. This documentary will take you steb by step from the initial demo, the re-tracking, the mixing and the mastering by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sounds in NYC and finally back to Modern World Studios in the UK for a final listen and comparative analysis that will blow you away!
How to decide between Dither or Distort? The effect of using dither on digital video is that it creates a lot of hiss in the video. This random noise is added to the signal to prevent quantization error but it is not always necessary when you first record an analogue signal – most audio have enough random noise in them to effectively “self-dither” the signal. So the main idea is that, a little low level hiss is always better while mixing at 16bit.
This webinar describes about using EQ in mastering, using the songs as examples. While EQ’ing a track one should always have a consistent monitoring level. Bring the song which needs to be mixed into the DAW, adjust the monitor so that it is a comfortable listening level and then bring other tracks and try to match to that song that needs to adjust to that level in your DAW. Thus consistent monitor will always help in better results.
Learn more about Mastering. The songs are made louder by using compressor, EQ and limiting on the track without making the track sound crushed or distorted. Often loudness creates distortion and hence the lyrics are not clear to the ears. So the raised volume of the tracks does not hide the lyrics or the rhythm of the mix.
Ian Shepherd talks about a new home mastering course he launched that helps people get better result in their mixes. He answers the queries of the students who spoke about his preference of Analog with digital or what gears and plug-ins he likes. According to him the three “MMM” is a very important mixing technique i.e. Monitoring, Metering and Mindset.