Mastering Engineer or Do it yourself?

Discussion in 'Mixing, Post-Production, and Effects' started by FabTramp, May 15, 2019.

  1. FabTramp

    FabTramp New Member

    Jul 15, 2017
    Hi everyone

    I have just finished preparing a soundtrack album for a short film I composed the music for. It is a 6 songs album, I have mixed them and they are know ready for mastering.

    My question is:

    What do you usually do at this point?

    Do you master the tracks yourself or do you rely on a professional Master Engineer?

    I'm in the first steps in this industry and this is my first album.

    I use Izotope Ozone 7 for mastering. I would like them to be mastered by professionals as they have better knowledge and better equipment than me. I'm just considering about money wise. It seems that the best price for a studio I have found is around £30 per track and that is a bit too high for me as it would be around £180 total.

    Do you know any other reliable mastering studio that have got a little cheaper prices?

    Also, if I end up mastering them my self and register the album to PRS.. If one day I would like to re-master the album from a Master Engineer, would it possible to replace the old album with the remastered one?

  2. Jediwario1

    Jediwario1 Composer

    Apr 18, 2015
    New Zealand
    £30 per track is actually cheap especially if you want it done by a "professional".

    Send the studio an email and say that you're wanting a full album done, they might lower the price slightly for you.

    But if money is tight then DIY is the way to go. Just be sure to check your album on different sound systems (car, ear buds, laptop) and reference other great sounding songs/albums in the same genre.
  3. A3D2

    A3D2 Active Member

    Nov 2, 2015

    It depends in my opinion: do you think you will be selling a lot of copies of this album? Will this short film be widely available commercially? If the answer is that the movie will not widely available and you have no big promotion going on for your soundtrack album, then honestly probably not a lot of people will be seeing the movie or hearing the music. In that case, I think your money could be better invested in other areas in my opinion (like buying more music gear to create music or following a music course to learn something extra for example).

    In the past I scored about 25 short films and hardly any of those generated large-scale interest in its soundtracks in my experience (and there were even short films of those that were selected for Cannes or on the longlist of the Oscars).

    I would recommend something like making a bandcamp and sell it there if you want to sell it. Either master this short film soundtrack yourself (not overdoing it, it's not a pop album. Gain matching, some light eq and light compression) or just make all tracks equally loud with gain adjustment without mastering it. Anything you would then make from the sales of this album will be pure profit and you would also get a chance to see how much you would sell of such a soundtrack album before you decide to spend a lot of money on it.

    That being said, I do value a good mastering engineer: they can make good music sound even better. Also I wouldn't go for a cheap service: listen to the work of a mastering engineer and if you like things they have mastered, let them master your music. If you do go to a mastering engineer (which I certainly recommend when you know you will be selling a lot of albums) you just make sure you also keep the original raw tracks in a folder on your drive alongside the mastered files for future reference. Then you can always take those original recordings to a mastering engineer if you want a different master in the future.
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
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  4. enyawg

    enyawg Member

    Aug 28, 2016
    Or become a mastering engineer...
    goalie composer likes this.
  5. karelpsota


    Jul 26, 2013
    Los Angeles
    I don't think you should overthink mastering.

    Just take a day off, then put all the mixes in one session.
    • EQ a bit each piece, so that they flow into each other nicely.
    • Quickly switch between each loud part, and normalize the volume manually.
    • If it's for Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, don't even worry about overall loudness/compression.
    • don't be afraid to automate EQ, and volume in a few section of the songs. It's all about making the flow feel right.
    • Don't get distracted by all the crazy features in Ozone, the less I touch those, the better it is usually.
    • The only "advanced" thing I like to do is multiband compression catching any excess peaks at 3-4KHz. It's just a sensible area.
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
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  6. Henu

    Henu Senior Member

    Nov 17, 2017
    Do no harm.
    Vsevolod likes this.
  7. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

    Apr 2, 2010
    Pottstown, PA
    my opinion only - "it depends!" It depends on the goal of mastering for your specific application. In your specific case I'd have to ask how you plan to distribute the album. That would be the decision point for me. Mass distribution = professional mastering engineer, more limited distribution may not require that.

    That said, if you really want something mastered have a mastering engineer do the work. They will have the space, the gear, and most importantly, the ears to do the job right. (This does presuppose you choose a good engineer<G>!)

    Mastering is about a lot of things, but the one thing you can not DIY is a new set of ears. And there is tremendous value is that fresh perspective.

    If you don't need mastering then by all means use whatever tools you have at your disposal to clean things up, maybe even call it pre-mastering, but DIY mastering, to me, is akin to DIY neurosurgery. It is a bad idea.

    To your other questions - the price sounds pretty fair. You might do better, but not by a lot, if this shop has a good reputation you are in good shape. And a performing rights organization covers performances, I believe your tracks will be covered even if you re-release the album, but each outfit has different rules, so check with yours.
    Parsifal666 likes this.
  8. Parsifal666

    Parsifal666 I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.

    Sep 7, 2015
    E. YeeHaw, Indiana
    Excellent post. However, despite all the great tools available I can't help but to reccomend getting someone else to do the mastering. I mean, I do all the work myself, but unless you're super motivated and don't have too many projects pending so you can study engineering/mastering...get an objective outsider to help you.

    While we're on the subject, I should mention that I don't even have the mandatory-minimum services of a copy editor, who in many ways is much more important. The only reason I don't have one is because I don't make enough money lol! But for most composers I strongly recommend one to check your orchestration, arranging, etc. Basically to proofread what you've done ('specially if you plan to eventually have it performed live).

    To put this more directly, I don't mean a ghostwriter (please don't do that), but a copy editor can sometimes have a small bit of input that can really help your composition be its best. That outside, relatively neutral party can be incredibly important imo.

    So, I don't feel a mastering engineer is mandatory (just a really good idea), but by all means hit the local campus up for some undergraduate looking for a few extra bucks (and btw they almost ALL need the extra bucks lol!). Your proofreader/copy editor will pay off for you in so many, happy ways.
  9. chrisphan

    chrisphan Active Member

    Nov 30, 2016
    Could you please elaborate on this idea?
  10. karelpsota


    Jul 26, 2013
    Los Angeles
    Basically, compare the climax of each piece. I have keyboard switches to toggle between each track very fast. When a track is a bit too loud, I turn it down.
  11. chrisphan

    chrisphan Active Member

    Nov 30, 2016
    Ah that makes sense. I thought you were talking about turning down loud parts within one song manually.
  12. Dietz

    Dietz Space Explorer

    ^^^^^^ This!
    Parsifal666 likes this.
  13. OP

    FabTramp New Member

    Jul 15, 2017
    Thanks to everyone, your answers have helped me to clear my mind!!

    I'm taking a step back and I'm understanding that this short film and this soundtrack album won't be going through mass distribution and probably won't be sold and even streamed that many times!

    Thank you to all your advice, I'm just going to take some time to learn the craft and self teach myself mastering with the tools I have got available at the moment! My ears are quite satisfied with the mix I have done so I will be working on a subtle mastering, comparing professional tracks and trying to reach the loudness required by most streaming platforms!

    Thanks again for all your help!!
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  14. Parsifal666

    Parsifal666 I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.

    Sep 7, 2015
    E. YeeHaw, Indiana
    Sounds like your head is screwed on straight, I wish you great success and happiness in the days ahead.
    FabTramp likes this.
  15. GtrString

    GtrString Active Member

    Dec 10, 2016
    Sound like a rational desicion, but you know “prepare for success”.

    I would suggest the Mastering the mix plugins, especially “Levels” to check your master. That way you get help for quality control.
  16. Meetyhtan

    Meetyhtan Noise Maker

    I for myself am still releasing my first album as well and decided to do it all on my own.
    There is so much stuff I want to learn, that is actually very interesting to me, I wouldn't pay money to anybody, no matter how good, to take that oppertunity of early learning away from me.
  17. Shiirai

    Shiirai Resident Crow

    Oct 11, 2018
    Agreed, though I would always consider whether the quality of your work fits the goal of the product. For a bandcamp album I'd probably try to do as much as possible myself. It's fully and completely my work, after all.

    Music released as a library for a game, film or other work however, I'd probably let master by someone more professional. There is no excuse to half-ass a product if it's going to be used by someone else.
    Meetyhtan likes this.
  18. Meetyhtan

    Meetyhtan Noise Maker

    True addition. The album I was talking about was "just for fun" (that sounds wrong) and mostly for myself and a small community.

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