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Topic: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

  1. #1

    Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    I am just curious if any developers get their libraries mastered or if they just record the samples straight in and leave it for the user to EQ?

    Most libraries out now sound great to me, but do the developers master the samples themselves or send them off to get mastered?

    It seems to me like Eric Persings libraries always sound top notch (Metamorphosis comes to mind at the moment) but what orchestral libraries?

    Sorry if this sounds like a stupid question but me and a friend were curious.

  2. #2

    Re: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    Mastering is not really a process I\'d regard as \'sample library friendly.\' The main aims of a mastering engineer are to get some cohesiveness between different tracks on a CD, maximise/optimise levels for broadcast or (sometimes) fix things which should have been done better in the mix in the first place.

    Donnie made a very salient comment about processes like normalising and compression a couple of moths ago. He pointed out that the human ear may hear two samples as being \'the same\' level-wise, but a machine/audio editor could read their energy levels as quite different - because the human ear is not uniformly responsive over the whole audio spectrum. The result of asking the machine to match the levels is that you might end up with something which looks right on a readout, but sounds unbalanced to the (human) listener.

    I\'m sure samples are \'mastered\' in terms of being cleaned up for noise, and I\'d have no problem with certain samples being eq\'d and even compressed - if that was the type of sound which was being targetted, but I don\'t really see that process as belonging in the realm of the mastering engineer. My guess is that they wouldn\'t know where to start anyway. Those guys normally deal with finished mixes, as opposed to individual notes from a single instrument.

    When it comes to libraries like Eric\'s drum grooves, well ... he\'s using all the tools a mastering engineer has at his disposal, plus a truck load more. The whole point of several of his libraries has been to process sounds almost beyond recognition. In many instances he\'s also trying to deliver a \'finshed\' sound, ie finished in terms of requiring no more processing in order to \'sound its best\'.

    Some people may argue with this - suggesting that he should keep his loops clean(?!) and leave all all the clever tweaking to us \'synth guys\' who know what we want better than him, but the success of his libraries suggests that there are many of us who would prefer his pre-cooked offerings over spending hours with our heads up the noisy end of a DSP just so that we can get something which is different. Especially if it\'s not better, just different.

    This reminds me of those classic arguments as to:

    1. Whether a drum library should sound ready for broadcast or be delivered without compression and heavy eq. (At least one great library I\'ve heard has probably suffered because the designer has left maximum options to the end user).

    2. Whether an orchestral library should be delivered close mic\'d or drenched in real hall. This argument is cleverly being resolved by developers delivering two or three options as to choice of mic placement in the actual library instruments.

    Sorry if I wandered off there Damon [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    Good points on this.

    I think that Chadwick makes a good point that \"mastering\" is not really the right word.

    I know that many, probably most, sample developers do process samples in preparation for mapping. Recording samples is just like any other engineering task--there is never a \"perfect\" session, and the work we do requires compromise and adjustment throughout the process, starting at the session and continuing till the end-user achieves his mix. Depending on the source material, de-noising is often required, and there may even be some equaliztion applied overall.

    Since \"tip and tail\" operations are by far the most time consuming and tedious aspect of preparing a large library, most producers opt to keep the audio content of the samples \"raw\" at that point, and maintain a set of these unaffected samples as a control set. Overall processes can then be performed with batch processing on duplicate sets, allowing the developer maximum flexibility and capability to always return to a previous generation without the tedium of re-cutting an entire instrument\'s worth of samples. For instance, if a producer does intend to apply some overall process like a little multiband compression to warm up a sound or to achieve a particular goal, he may use his raw and uncut files to \"experiment\" and achieve what he\'s looking for, then use the settings and processes discovered there in a batch process on each individual sample.

    In terms of normalizing, etc., those types of processes are not really as critical to balancing as the later stage of mapping and leveling within the instrument editor itself, although they do dictate the methodology used in final mapping. The mapping process is where the fine tuning occurs, where notes that may have resonated more loudly with the space, been played a bit more forcefully, etc., are tweaked into smoothness with one another.

    There is certainly some validity of argument for leaving the idiosyncracies of these note to note differences in place, but there is also a very low threshold of \"return\" on that investment in the uniqueness of the individual note. If a pitch is too noticeably different from its neighbors, it becomes a signature that won\'t bear repetition without sounding more and more artificial. Often, notes in a sample set which are too unique must get replaced with another velocity or a stretched version from another pitch. Yet even these techniques can add their own artifacts, and can negatively affect the overall sound.

    So, I guess that you would really say that sample libraries are VERY mastered in their own way, just in a different way than a completed piece of music is mastered. Many of the tools are the same, but the goals become twofold--first, the overall operations carried out in batches, and second the mapping and possible individual audio-tweaking which fine-tune the library into the \"instrument\" you\'ll finally play.

  4. #4

    Re: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    Cool, thanks for the reply guys.

  5. #5

    Re: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    On a similar but different note, do any working composers out there \'master\' there cues? I mean, with pop/rock you usually limit/compress to get a loud CD. But for score stuff, it seems like it changes it in a bad way. If they want more volume, they can always mix a cue louder at the dub stage. I\'ve been scoring a bunch of television projects and a few independent films - I mix everything myself. The stuff is generally 1/2 orchestral, 1/2 beats and ambient kind of stuff. I\'m always unsure if I should compress/limit each cue when I deliver (say 20 to 45 cues for an hour project) to get it up close to 0db, or let them how they are and let the mixer take care of it. Sorry if this should be on its own thread - just curious what some others out there are doing.


  6. #6
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    I master them somewhat, just so the editors have a pretty consistent \"sound\" from me. I don\'t really push the loudness, but I do try to at least give them tracks that will sit in the overall mix without needing individual attention from the post engineer. If I know the cue\'s going to end up under dialog, I\'ll run some dialog on top of it just to make sure it\'s not crashing (even if it\'s not a score to picture scene--some of my deadlines are ahead of the editors, so the show is not even cut at that point).

    Since I\'m doing the PBS/educational thing, one aspect is that bass (by itself) below a certain range just isn\'t going to make it. So I\'ll generally try to do that sculpting myself, just so I can be satisfied with the compromises, rather than leave it to get whacked off in the final master, where the musical result may be unpredicatable. I really like Renaissance Bass for that, since it fools the ear into thinking the bass is there, even though it\'s been cut off. I\'m also pretty lucky that the post engineer that does most of my stuff and I have a good working relationship, so if he\'s needing something different, he can call me up and I\'ll make adjustments. Over the years, we\'ve gotten pretty good at nailing it all around so that neither one of us gets surprised.

  7. #7

    Re: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    We do whatever it takes to make it sound great and appropriate to the type of product that we are creating.

    One thing we always do is deal with optimizing levels, which is a huge and important subject. Ages ago, we would normalize everything, and then adjust levels in the sampler, but in the last ten years we are much more careful about finding the optimum balance for the sound as it is needed. The level of the sample has an enormous impact on the final sound quality, and makes a big difference on the playback engine too. (This is another advantage of our using our own sampling engine now for the new virtual instruments we are making. We can truly optimize the levels for every user in the same way.....sorry, just had to throw that in there!)

    I agree that it is important not to overdo processing on samples of natural sounds. The needs of processing at the source have really changed in the last five years. When we did Burning Grooves, I went crazy with compression to get that insane alternative rock sound. I used a lot of great vintage compressors, and at the time, good compression was hard to come by for the average user. If I did that again now, I would certainly have backed off on the compression, since great compressors are much more widely available. Backbeat uses compression too, but in a less radical way, which allows you to add more in you want it.

    But the argument that no compression is the way to go for something like drums is pretty silly.....compression is part of the process of getting the drum sound and inspiring the right performances. And the \"synth gurus\" are all guys that use our products as starting points for their own creativity....that\'s what it is all about. We are just supplying an inspiring sounding starting point....not a finished master by any means.

    To me, it\'s all just tools. Ultimately, we use our ears to decide what to do and try to make the products as flexible for the end-user as possible.

    All of our products can have additional processing added. I agree that this is really important to leave to the end user, even as we are creating a product to sound inspiring and complete. A lot of times, we include unprocessed versions of the recording where it is important (Liquid Grooves).

    In many ways, the mixes on our loop based products are just to get an idea of how you can use it, and how the elements sound together. The real composers and sound designers understand that ultimately the elements are more important and valuable than the mixes.



  8. #8

    Re: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    I would be careful with \"mastering\" - most people mess their mixes up by \"mastering\"....a lot of these plug ins do nothing good to the mix even though the first impression is - wow, so much better (like TCmasterex, Finalizer...blabla)...you need to really know how to tweak these things for your particular purpose....
    When you think about records - I am always surprised when I hear my mixes back from the mastering house...the differences are very subtle - for a consumer inaudible..yet \"feel\"able..and we are talking about people that work in an incredible listening environment...for example James Cruz\'s room (Sony mastering suite) in NY has such an amazing sound - they worked on that room for years to get it right !oh yeah, when you hear your mix in there you hear things that you\'ve never heard before...amazing, than the fine touches of mastering engineer make a fine difference.
    I think the most important thing is the MIX itself...what\'s not there can\'t be fixed !...Try to get the mix right..then when you feel something is missing later on, add minimal eq (using only quality eq\'s not to add unnecessary distortion) and who cares about the level - its not that your avarage song will go on the main radio station and compete against other louder songs...so just leave it where it is and turn up the volume when you wanna hear it louder. My general opinion is that mastering is slightly overrated ! Especially after hearing many of the before and afters...
    About sample CD\'s...I don\'t think mastering is anything that should be applied since its the final music product that would be mastered....of course you wanna try to get the best sounds possible on CD...so that all the users that don\'t have the tools/knowlegde of how to eq/compress..still get a great sounding product.
    Happy mixing !

  9. #9

    Re: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    Cool Eric, glad you could respond to this thread. I was curious what you do on your samples.

    If you see this thread again, I always wondered if you had multisamples of each note of the guitar sound from the \'Byzantium\' patch on Bizzare guitars in your personal collection? That is a very lovely sound and cool library [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

  10. #10

    Re: Do Sample Libraries get Mastered?

    Originally posted by Damon:
    Cool Eric, glad you could respond to this thread. I was curious what you do on your samples.

    If you see this thread again, I always wondered if you had multisamples of each note of the guitar sound from the \'Byzantium\' patch on Bizzare guitars in your personal collection? That is a very lovely sound and cool library [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">No...that is a great sound that was made with the Roland VG-8 Guitar Modeling device...but when Peter Maunu recorded that sound, he just did the chords I think....maybe he did the samples too, but I don\'t think so.

    Yeah, Bizarre Guitar is like the great \"unknown\" library....most people don\'t get it because the think it\'s weird guitar licks or something, when it is really these incredible ambient sounds. We really should have changed the name to Distorted Reality 3, because that\'s really what it is.....just happened to be that Guitar was the original source for everything, athough you\'d never guess!

    BZG is definitely one of my personal favorites of our libraries.



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