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Pro Tools 10 Essential Training with musician and producer David Franz illuminates the process of recording, editing, mixing, and mastering in Avid Pro Tools, the industry-standard software for music and postproduction. The course covers recording live audio and adding effects on the fly, creating music with virtual instruments and plug-ins, editing for time and pitch manipulation, creating a musical score, and mixing and mastering a track.
In this movie, I want talk about all of the plug-ins that I've got on my stereo master fader track in this mastering session, and if you're following along with the exercise file here, be sure that you record-enable this track here, the first- pass track, and also choose Input Only Monitoring from the Track menu. So first I've got the PhaseScope. The PhaseScope meter displays the relationship of the amplitude and the phase between the left and right sides of a stereo signal. Basically it shows how similar the left and right channels of a stereo signal are to each other.
Now this information can help us determine how well a mix will translate when its summed to mono, that is, its mono compatibility. When the left and right sides of a mix are summed, any material that is out of phase between the left and right channels will totally disappear. Now mono compatibility is becoming less of a concern because most playback systems are stereo these days, but some playback systems are still mono and creating a mix that translates well to those systems is not a bad thing. So what we like to see here is a randomly shifting rounded shape, that shows up right here, and this indicates that we have a well-balanced stereo signal.
If the signal leans either left or right, then there's more energy on that side of the stereo signal. And a mono signal is perfectly vertical. However, a completely out-of-phase signal is horizontal, where the left and right sides of the signal are exactly the same but totally out of phase. We can also tell something about the frequency content. If the shape is thin then more bass frequencies are in the mix and if it's wide then there's more high frequencies, and that's why we want to see a rounded shape here, because that'll indicate a well-balanced mix.
So let's play back the track and see what we have got. (Music Playing) I'd say that looks pretty good. Now let's move onto the Bomb Factory Essential Meter Bridge, and this displays the output levels like they would appear on an analog VU meter.
Monitoring this way can help you see the RMS or the peak metering just as you would on a professional tape machine. (Music Playing) Now you'll see that we are kind of pushing the levels here with this -15 calibration here that's set to RMS, or the Root Mean Square, and it means that we've got a pretty hot level.
In fact, we can see down here on the master fader that were peaking, and that's not good. So let's take a look at the TL MasterMeter and look at that; we can tell that there are some clip events. So we'll clear this and play it again, and let's see what happens. (Music Playing) So for playing that area of the song, we do see some oversampled clip events. We didn't see any signal clip events, but we saw some in the list here before from playing back, so that's not good.
We might be pushing the level just a little bit too much. So if that's the case, I'd actually go back to the maxim plug-in here and raise up this threshold just a little bit and then try it again. So I used these three plug-ins together to make sure that there are no phasing or clipping problems on the output signal. At the end of the mastering process, audio files off enough to end up as 16-bit 44.1 kHz tracks so they can be burned onto an audio CD.
Bouncing audio from a higher bit depth to a lower one creates unwanted quantization noise that occurs at low volume levels, like on fade-ins and fade-outs. Dither and noise shaping helped to reduce quantization noise. The funny thing is dither actually adds a small amount of noise to an audio signal; however, the noise helps to make quantization noise less obvious. Noise shaping utilizes digital filtering to move the noise that dither adds from frequencies that our ears are most sensitive to, such as around 4 kHz, to frequencies that we're less sensitive to.
This makes the noise more difficult for us to hear. Quantization noise is pretty minimal, but it is noticeable if it's in a sensitive range for us. So we can use the Dither plug-in to help out with that, and here we have a set as 16 bit as the bit resolution and we've turned Noise Shaping on--when it's blue, it's on. There's another plug-in option for dithering and it's called the Power Dither, and Pro Tools systems have both of these. If we wanted to choose Dither, we could choose it down here.
This gives us an option of three different noise-shaping types. You would to have to have a very trained ear to hear these differences, so it's usually fine to use either dither plug-in with any noise shaping activated. Now one thing you should note is that when you bounce down an MP3 file you don't need to use Dither and Noise Shaping, as those parameters are built into the MP3 encoders. However, if you recorded your initial tracks at 24 bits and then use Dither as you bounce them down to a 16-bit master, you can actually achieve better subjective performance out of that 16-bit master than if you didn't use Dither at all.
Together Dither and Noise Shaping should be the last processor on your master fader tracked for your master bounces. And now it's time to bounce your final masters. So we go over to the Edit window, select the amount of time that we want to bounce. In this case will bounce this whole track. Choose File > Bounce To > Disk, and Pro Tools lets us know that we can't do a bounce when a track is record-enabled, so we will un-record-enable this track. Go back to File > Bounce To > Disk, and now we'll choose our final output here. It'll be a WAV file, Interleaved, 16-bit, 44.1 kHz, and we're ready for our bounce.
Now the one thing that Pro Tools can't do is burn CDs, so you'll need a third-party application to do that. Now after you've bounced all of your tracks from this mastering session, listen to them critically in many environments, and through many playback systems, to make sure that they translate well to all of the different systems. If they do, then you have succeeded in mastering your tracks using Pro Tools.
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