Friday, 29 February 2008

SADiE in Receivership

We found out today that Studio Audio & Video Ltd, who make the industry standard editing and mastering workstation SADiE, have ceased trading and are in receivership. This is a huge shock, to us and thousands of other users around the world, and also very sad - SADiE UK had it's headquarters just up the road from SRT and we have used the system from it's very earliest days. We are all hopeful that someone will come through and save the company from extinction, but in the meantime I just want to extend my sympathies to Jim, Steve, Mark and the other staff members who are currently without jobs as a result of the companies' difficulties.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

DIY Mastering Part 1: Loudness Wars

Probably the hottest topic in mastering in recent years is loudness, and certainly one of the most important jobs for a mastering engineer is to achieve a satisfying, consistent level between all the tracks on an album. However the arrival of digital signal processors during the 90s, coupled with the perception that "louder is better" has led to the infamous "loudness wars" - a gradual increase in the loudness of albums over the years, to the point where some are hugely distorted and very fatiguing to listen to.

If you come to SRT wanting your CD loud, we'll be happy to oblige, but my own personal motto is "Louder is better, but Too Loud is worse" - meaning I believe there is a "sweet spot" for every recording where it's loud enough to "work" given the limitations of the original mix, but is not so loud that it suffers. Push something too far beyond this sweet spot and the effects are only negative.

Why is Too Loud bad ? Apart from problems like distortion, pumping or dynamic inversion, a great way to answer that question is to point you here:

Just check out the video for a great, simple demonstration of why louder is not necessarily better, plus a great selection of "loudness war" links at the bottom of the page.

In a later post I'll discuss how loud is "just right", and the best way to achieve it, but there's other ground to cover before then.

Where I'm At

So here it is - my first post - written while copying sources for a new Paul Weller box set one of our customers is putting together. Sadly it all comes from 16-bit CDRs rather than hi-res files or original tapes, but it's still a pretty cool project. I probably won't get to master it, unfortunately, since we have some DVDs coming in which need authoring and I'm commited to a large Interactive Whiteboard CD-ROM as of next week, but I know Simon will do a great job. On the other hand, once the sources are compiled in the right order they'll get sent away for approval by Universal, and that will take a while, so perhaps I'll be free by then. I'll have to fight him for it...

Looking forward to Richard Durrant's session on Monday - it sounds very different to the bonkers "Horse" album he produced for John Douglas Clark, which we worked on before Christmas. ( "...half album, half sound installation... described variously as 'Ivor Cutler meets Pink Floyd' and 'John Shuttleworth meets Prof. Stanley Unwin' " ) And, I'm really looking forward to working with Christine Tobin again next month - I was really pleased with the way her fellow artist and partner Phil Robson's album "Six Strings and the Beat" turned out last month, despite both of us struggling with the after-effects of flu. And looking forward to getting copies of the Opeth "Still Life" DVD - progressive Swedish Black Metal wouldn't necessarily normally be my listening material of choice, but Jens at Fascination Street did such a great job on the new 5.1 surround mixes, the band play really well and the menus came out nicely, though I say so myself. Plus I'm sure the packaging will be highly decadent, which should be fun.

So that's "where I'm at" at the moment - I think future posts will have updates on these and other interesting or enjoyable projects, plus ramblings on subjects like Mastering and DVD authoring - for example Blu Ray's so-called victory in the "Format Wars" and what it means for our customers who want to release in hi-def - and indeed if HD on disc is going to be a success at all, or go the way of SACD and DVD Audio...

Currently I am listening to "Seventh Tree" by Goldfrapp and loving it...