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Thread: Let's talk head (room)

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    If you want a way to work without the maths and the numbers - look to your existing music collection for something in the style of your own music - Ideally a CD derived track rather than an isolated download. If the music is in iTunes or similar, just go to the folder with the files in and load each one in to a separate track on your DAW - hopefully one that gives you a maximum value the track reached. Play them all with the faders at unity and look for the quietest one start to end and the loudest one. Then see what the range is? Assuming these are properly mastered tracks, this should give you a decent ballpark figure for where your similar material should sit, depending if it's a loud raucous track or a quiet ballad one. As long as the thing never goes over it's really your call on where your version of loud sits compared to others - the important thing is that nobody playing one of your tracks needs to turn it up or down from somebody else's. The numbers you come up with work pretty well in practice.
    If I read correctly, this is what I was aiming at. And I should have been clear at the start, in digital, the numbers are a little more subjective. It really depends on how the programmer determines to display some digital value in the DAW. But, ever if that is true, by understanding what has been stated, summing values, peaks, RMS, etc. keeping headroom is important when mixing to allow the music to breath and have space. If the values are pushed to far up (near clipping), then one has to either go back and reduce tracks volume or start compressing. Compressing early in a mix just to keep from clipping starts to ruin the mix.

    Therefore, for people trying to figure it, including me, headroom is important for mixing so the music has a place to breath. In digital, forget the numbers other than clipping, red is bad, OooKaaay. But, don't worry about loudness until it is in the final mix, either as a part of mastering, or as a final mix.

    I think the idea of bringing in some commercial as a baseline for perceived loudness is a very good idea. Anytime you calibrate, you do it to some standard. This idea seems as good as any on a baseline for loudness.
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  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gtoboy View Post
    ...allow enough dynamic range for mastering limiters to do their work...
    That's the important part in a modern DAW environment. Absolute levels are completely irrelevant until the very end when you're making your distribution masters. Up to that point all that matters is dynamic range. Any ME that can't just turn your mix file up or down to get it into their comfortable working range is wasting your time. You are rendering mixes to floating point files, no?

    But the dynamic range is actually much of what we do in mastering as well. We really do want the loudest peak on the record to be close to as loud as the distribution format can handle, and we work down from there to find an appropriate average level for each song or piece of the collection. If the DR of the mix is too big to fit in that window we've defined, we have all kinds of tools to squish it down or shave off edges or inflate the middle or whatever and (given the mix isn't just completely fucked to begin with) we can make it fit fairly well without doing severe damage.

    IF OTOH, the mix has a lot less dynamic range than we've decided we have - when we put the average where we want it, the peaks are nowhere near zero, it might mean that it's just kind of a quiet sort of piece and that's ok, but it also might mean that it's been squashed a bit more than necessary, and could have bigger impact if the peaks actually did get up to the ceiling but something along the line stopped them short, and there is very little that we can do to a stereo mix file to fix that kind of thing without making an even bigger mess.

    That's what people should mean when they're talking about leaving headroom for mastering in the digital world. If they tell you anything else, then they don't actually understand.

    Now I'd be willing to bet that the actual problem with the cowbell is only a couplefew samples at the leading edge of the attack that blast way past all the rest of the thing. You could clip that off (preferably on the cowbell track) and solve the problem in the mix. In this case, I think that's more appropriate because anything done in mastering is ultimately going to affect the rest of the instruments to some extent. Honestly, too much dynamic range - when it comes from individual elements which are not themselves properly controlled - can be almost as hard to deal with gracefully in mastering as when there's not enough. There are more options, but it's still not ideal.

    Also, the numbers you see on your meters are not even close to arbitrary. They are sort of relative, but they really do mean something important. -18dbFS means exactly the same thing in every DAW, every plugin, everywhere. They might do something different with that information, but it means the same thing.

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