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Topic: How much mastering put into online demos ?

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  1. #1

    How much mastering put into online demos ?

    I was wondering if a lot of pro-level mastering is applied to many of the mp3 demos showing off sample libraries, and user demos of various orchestral works? or are they most of the time in a rough, unfinished state (to be thought of as a rough sketch), I just wanted to know how much time and effort, as far as mastering, is put into these demos, so that I can factor that in the evaluation of a sample library ?

    I have noticed that some mp3 demos with lower bit rates, such as 128 kbps sometimes sound quite a bit more polished and detailed than others, that have a much higher bit rate, such as 192 kbps, 320, ...etc. I think that the amount of mastering performed on a demo, is quite important to factor-in, when evaluating sample libraries from mp3's or even non-compressed audio demos, since they do affect the samples themselves, and could also say that mastering is an integral part of the production chain to produce convincing orchestral midi mockups, so if it is not present, or if roughly or badly done, it can also mean that the final work will be missing a dimension of realism that our ears are used to hearing in commercially recorded orchestral works.

    Any thoughts on this subject ?

    Thanks.

  2. #2

    Re: How much mastering put into online demos ?

    On the subject of mp3:

    There are unfortunately people still using sub-optimal encoders, that can really produce lousy mp3's out of otherwise good Pcm files. For instance, I recently found a 192 kbit mp3 that apparently had applied a lowpass filter that resulted in literally NO activity beyond 15 k, which of course sounded terrible. Often, such processing is done without the user knowing as a default setting.

    I have found also out (and got it confirmed on the web) that most often VBR encodings are really worse than fixed rate encodings, in spite of what you'd expect.

    My favorite encoder/decoder is Lame, I can really recommend it to PC users.

  3. #3

    Re: How much mastering put into online demos ?

    Most of our demos from www.LastLibs.com have both mastered full demos and unmastered natural demos - showcasing what the library sounds like right out of the box with no fx, no processing of any kind.

    For an example check out this link here.

    I believe both are imporant - the mastered version to show what one could do with the lib, and the natural one to showcase the libs untainted sounds.
    Alan Lastufka | www.BelaDMedia.com
    Producer/Artistic Design | Content Producer

    20 Things

  4. #4

    Re: How much mastering put into online demos ?

    In listening tests I also found that CBR is coming off better than VBR most of the times. But I regard it more as a subjective issue. There is definately difference from WAV to MP3 demos on good systems - BUT, I'm not suggested to rate primarily one's mixing capabilites with a library demo but the overall sound and choices of a lib, and therefore a well encoded mp3 is doing the job best. Afterall it is the most efficient for distribution on the web.

    As far as library demos go, think a demo is was mixed and polished to death, in order to show the library in the best light possible. Wouldn't make sense to put unfinished work up as a final demo, not saying there is room for improvement. Look at descriptions going into detail what was done and not of course.

    PolarBear

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: How much mastering put into online demos ?

    I think there's something of a misunderstanding of what "mastering" actually is.

    One shouldn't "master" any single mix. There is no context in which to master. Mastering is essentially the final preparation step in making a **completed** music product, whether it's a film, CD, DVD, compilation of disparate works, whatever.

    What I see being discussed very often here as mastering, is actually something akin to deferring mixing decisions down the line...and it is a bad habit.

    When you finish a mix, it should be just that--a finished mix. It should not "lack" for EQ, compression, reverb, or any other process. Very often I hear of people running a mastering chain on the back end of a mix, as a final step. As I said, an extremely bad habit to get into, and a hard one to break.

    What I suggest is that no matter how difficult the discipline might be, avoid running ANY master chain on a mix. Do not depend upon "mushing" the mix together to forgive defects or adjustments which should be engaged at the track level. As easy as it is to fall into this rut, remember that any process you add to your mix is a FILTER of some kind. Just as in a photographic process, every filtering step you add is going to ultimately smear aspects of the image you do not intend to affect.

    SO...

    The cleanest approach you're going to get to a mix is to push filtering backwards on the "food chain" as much as you possibly can. If you can compress a drumkit in a submix, great. If you can achieve your compression per "class" of instrument within the kit (kick, snare, toms, hats, cymbals), even better.

    Now does this mean one should never run a master chain? No. Not at all. But it should not become a crutch. Reserve it for when you absolutely, positively, cannot achieve the result any farther back in the chain. It should be the most deliberate of choices, with any doubt impeaching the impulse. There should be no other way to achieve the specific artistic goal--otherwise, look back on the mix chain, and find the REAL culprit. I'll bet 99 times out of 100, you'll find there really is not a need for that master chain, if you are relentless in exploring the alternatives.

    I guarantee you, that if you very consciously adhere to that discipline, you will begin to understand how intricate the mixing process really is, and your mixes will become better and better as a result.

    The ideal situation, and I'm talking about professional mastering situations here, is that the mastering engineer does absolutely nothing to "artistically" affect a finished mix. The only thing that mastering should do is either prepare a finished mix for best presentation in a particular medium, or in the case of a compilation of disparate mixes, to make all the work sound as if it "belongs together." Beyond this, if a mx is lacking, the place to fix it is in the mix, not in mastering.

  6. #6

    Re: How much mastering put into online demos ?

    Bruce, I agree with everything you say, and the theory behind it, with one caveat. Often, for various reasons we will take individual peices and run them through a mastering-type limiter (say, Waves Ultramaximizer) to bump the levels up. BUT we always make sure there is a raw version of the file left with head-room for proper mastering of a project.

    Nine times out of ten, though, these days when someone says "mastering" they just mean "is it as stupidly loud as it can be."

  7. #7
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: How much mastering put into online demos ?

    Quote Originally Posted by FredProgGH
    Bruce, I agree with everything you say, and the theory behind it, with one caveat. Often, for various reasons we will take individual peices and run them through a mastering-type limiter (say, Waves Ultramaximizer) to bump the levels up.
    Oh, for sure...I do that, too. That's not really changing anything about the mix (well, unless you REALLY crunch it).

  8. #8
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    Re: How much mastering put into online demos ?

    muziksculp,

    We take a different approach to MP3 demos on the Garritan site.http://www.garritan.com/mp3.html On our Demo Pages are over 200 MP3 User Demos and we have an additional 150 demos waiting to be posted (for a total of 350 demos submitted )

    Why so many demos? Because I want people to get an accurate idea of what can be done with the library. Almost all of the demos on the Garritan Orchestral Libraries page were done by actual users - mostly out-of-the-box, presented as users submit them. They were not professionally produced or edited in order to make a more favorable impression. What you hear is what you get.

    Should a developer really use pro-level mastering or "write to the library" and just portray an ideal sound? IMHO this would be misleading.

    Hasn't it happened to you where you were awed by a demo of a library, bought a library and it bore no resemblence to the demo? Of course, a few polished demos would be much easier and much less work. But making just pro-level demos would not paint an accurate picture and just gives a misleading impression.

    Instead, I thought it honest to show demos in real world use and what better way is there to get a complete and accurate assessmment of a library than to present hundreds of demos made by users?

    Some demos on my site are made by beginners, some by hobbyists, and some by seasoned pros. It is important for people to hear a library made by beginners as well as pros. The skills of the artist can be more important than the library itself.

    These demos show a variety of musical styles, genres, skill levels, formats, platforms, sequencers, notation programs and applications. They show the libraries used in film, in the classroom, in television shows, in the home, in musical theatre, in popular games, for practice, in ballet, websites; or just for fun and enjoyment. We also post many of the work product (MIDI files, notation files and/or sequencer files) submitted by users for users to learn how the music was done. Education is also an important component of a library and the work product files along withmany tutorials are provided to also give a better idea of the library.

    Gary Garritan

  9. #9

    Re: How much mastering put into online demos ?

    Thanks for your input on this topic Garry, and, Oh Yes! , This is quite true, it could be misleading to hear a totally tweaked, and mastered demo of a library, thinking this was the library right out of the box, and then be surprised as to how different thing sound without any audio treatments, so...

    Just a suggestion, I think it would help if both users, and developers of sample libraries could put a small code next to the title of their mp3, a simple abbreviation code, to indicate various treatments done to that specific mp3, so for example if (EQ, Compression, limiting, delay, exciter, reverb) was used on let's say demo #5, maybe something like ......

    Demo #5 (eq,com,lim,del,exc,rev)

    or Demo #5 (none) meaning no additional DSP was added to the raw samples material.

    This will inform the listener about what additional DSP was done to the raw sounds of the library, just a suggestion for music demo makers in general, so that the we can better evaluate the quality of sample libraries.

    Thanks.

  10. #10
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    Re: How much mastering put into online demos ?

    muziksculp.

    Thanks for the suggestion.

    There are "INFO" buttons (next to the PLAY button) to let the listener know what sequencer, fx and patches were used (when the information is available). Also, when people post demos on the NS Garritan forum, they often set forth the processes and patches used.

    With hundreds of users submitting demos it is difficult to know all of the details of the various treatments. We request information from submitters and try our best to have as much information as possible so that the listener can best evaluate our libraries.

    Gary Garritan

    Quote Originally Posted by muziksculp

    Just a suggestion, I think it would help if both users, and developers of sample libraries could put a small code next to the title of their mp3, a simple abbreviation code, to indicate various treatments done to that specific mp3, so for example if (EQ, Compression, limiting, delay, exciter, reverb) was used on let's say demo #5, maybe something like ......

    Demo #5 (eq,com,lim,del,exc,rev)

    or Demo #5 (none) meaning no additional DSP was added to the raw samples material.

    This will inform the listener about what additional DSP was done to the raw sounds of the library, just a suggestion for music demo makers in general, so that the we can better evaluate the quality of sample libraries.

    Thanks.

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