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Setting up a session for mastering

From: Pro Tools 8 Essential Training

Video: Setting up a session for mastering

Mastering is the last stage in the production process and takes place after you're done mixing all the songs in a project. Mastering in Pro Tools can transform your final mixes into professional sounding recordings. Well, why do you want to master your tracks? Well, mastering treats your final mixes so that the songs sound good on all playback systems, from one speaker clock radios to hi-fi stereos. Mastering makes the volume level on your tracks competitive with other mastered recordings. Mastering also involves adjusting the EQ and volume for each song to create a cohesive final product.

Setting up a session for mastering

Mastering is the last stage in the production process and takes place after you're done mixing all the songs in a project. Mastering in Pro Tools can transform your final mixes into professional sounding recordings. Well, why do you want to master your tracks? Well, mastering treats your final mixes so that the songs sound good on all playback systems, from one speaker clock radios to hi-fi stereos. Mastering makes the volume level on your tracks competitive with other mastered recordings. Mastering also involves adjusting the EQ and volume for each song to create a cohesive final product.

In the mastering process, you can also adjust the balance, phasing and stereo image of your tracks. You can fix unwanted noises; you can add real or simulated tube and analog gear into your signal path. You can apply dithering and noise shaping. You can also select the song order and the spacing between the songs to create the best flow for your project. Finally, you can bounce down and burn the final masters with the correct track order, timing and fades to a CD, a DVD or any other playback or storage medium.

So, let's set up a mastering session in Pro Tools. I'm going to create a new session and we're going to pick the session parameters. In this window, we want to choose the File Type, wherever you bounce your final mixes down to, choose that as the file type. Also, choose the highest bit depth that you used in your sessions. Most likely, you probably use 24; however I'm going to use 16 here. Also, keep the sample rate high, if you actually recorded at a higher sampling rate. So, if you recorded your tracks and your mixes at 96 kilohertz, keep that for the mastering session as well.

With our new session open, we now need to import files into the session. Now, you can either drag-and-drop the files from the Workspace browser or even from the Desktop or use File > Import > Audio. Now, I'm going to scroll to where I have my final bounced mixes, right here. I'm going to click and hit the Command key, Ctrl-click on a PC to select the files that I want to bring in. You'll see that all of these show up in the regions to add to the current file. But we need to hit the Add key or the Add All to bring them all in.

Now, note that I have left and right side files for each of these songs and that's because I created Multiple Mono formatted files when I bounced them down as the final mixes. Now, Stereo Interleaved files must be converted to Multiple Mono files to be used in Pro Tools. So, I'm going to go ahead and add all of these and click Done. In this window, I'm actually going to choose Regions list so that I can just pull and drag them in wherever I want to on a track. Now, I'm going to create two new audio tracks, two stereo audio tracks. Go over to Slip mode here and start pulling these tracks in, just clicking-and-dragging.

I like to use only two stereo tracks with the songs juxtaposed, if the mixes are relatively consistent from song to song, and I think that these ones are. However, if each song needs individual mastering attention, because the mixes are very inconsistent, I might place each song on its own track. So, you notice how I placed the songs here. I've got little space in between each track and what I'm trying to do is to give a sense of the cohesiveness of this and how it would actually sound in real playback on a burnt CD. Once you have your songs in the session, listen to them and compare them song by song.

You'll probably find that some songs are louder or have different overall EQ curves or stereo images than other ones. So, you should take notes. Listen for unwanted sounds as well like clicks from bad edits and consider importing some of your favorite master tracks into the session as references for straight-up comparison. So, I'm going to take a quick listen to some of these and make a few notes. (Music playing.) After playing these back, I can tell that this track right here, Road_to_Ventura, is a little bit louder than these other two tracks and you can actually see that in the waveform. Also, the EQ curves are a little bit different between the tracks. So, I'll have to do some EQ work on the individual tracks themselves to make them all into one cohesive finished product.

So, now I'm going to show you how I actually set up a mastering session. Since I've already created a template for this, I'm going to go ahead and import session data from that template. I'm going to go ahead and add all of these tracks except for the first two and I don't need to import anything else from this session. I'm going to click OK. Now I've got all of these tracks in here.

Let me move my audio back up here and let's take a look at the Mix window. So, it's kind of an elaborate setup, but let me show you what I'm doing here. The most important part of this is the routing and what I'm going to set up here is to have both of these audio tracks go out of Bus 1-2 and then be picked up at this first Aux track. So, I'll set the Bus 1-2 as the input for this track, so these tracks are routed here. Then I'm going to route this out to Bus 3-4, which will be picked up by this track.

So, I'm just cycling through these tracks and I'm going to do the same thing here, Bus 5-6. Now an interesting twist here is that I'm going to actually route the output of this Aux track to both of these audio tracks and you'll notice that I've written down here that these are called 1st Pass and 2nd Pass, so I can record one mastering pass onto this track and one onto this one, so I can compare between the two.

So, basically the idea is this. You have your initial final mixes on these tracks. You route them through this Aux track, which in this case will add Compression and EQ. Then we route the output of this track to this next Aux track where we'll will add stereo imaging, maybe some tube emulation, some other effects here. Then we route the output of that to an audio track where we'll actually record enable that track and then record the mastered version right into the session.

I've got a 2nd Pass over here, a second audio track that's routed the same way. So, if we end up changing some effects that we have in any of these signal path here, we can do a 2nd Pass and compare the 1st Pass versus the 2nd Pass. Now, because these tracks are routed through Analog 1-2, they will ultimately go through this Master Fader track and this is where we can add Metering Tools that won't affect the output sound. Finally, on the right side we have an audio track where we can put reference masters into, that we can listen to, and they're routed through the same Analog 1-2 out. So, you can compare how they sound with your mastered tracks that are on these two tracks.

One last thing I should mention. Because I'm recording right onto an audio track inside the session, you've got to make sure that Pro Tools is in Input Only Monitoring, so that you can always hear the Record-Enabled track during playback. So, just go up to Track > Input Only Monitoring. Now, you know my personal technique for setting up a mastering session. Check out the other videos in the mastering chapter for the steps to take after setting up this mastering session.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Pro Tools 8 Essential Training
Pro Tools 8 Essential Training

120 video lessons · 10660 viewers

David Franz
Author

 
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  1. 12m 54s
    1. Welcome
      1m 16s
    2. Exploring the different versions of Pro Tools
      2m 30s
    3. Optimizing your computer before installing Pro Tools
      3m 51s
    4. Troubleshooting
      3m 1s
    5. Using the exercise files
      2m 16s
  2. 23m 41s
    1. Connecting your Pro Tools system
      5m 8s
    2. Powering up and powering down
      58s
    3. Optimizing Pro Tools performance
      6m 55s
    4. Setting essential preferences
      3m 42s
    5. Creating a Pro Tools session
      3m 56s
    6. Identifying elements in a session folder
      3m 2s
  3. 47m 9s
    1. Exploring the Edit window
      4m 50s
    2. Exploring the Mix window
      2m 21s
    3. Exploring the Transport and Big Counter windows
      4m 0s
    4. Using the Color palette and window arrangements
      2m 55s
    5. Investigating Pro Tools menus
      4m 37s
    6. Creating new tracks
      4m 10s
    7. Understanding samples and ticks
      3m 36s
    8. Viewing and manipulating tracks
      5m 54s
    9. Adjusting the I/O setup
      7m 7s
    10. Understanding signal paths and gain stages
      3m 50s
    11. Utilizing keyboard shortcuts and keyboard focus
      3m 49s
  4. 30m 43s
    1. Using DigiBase and the Workspace browser
      5m 6s
    2. Importing audio
      5m 13s
    3. Importing MIDI
      3m 55s
    4. Importing session data
      6m 17s
    5. Importing tracks from a CD
      4m 18s
    6. Importing video
      2m 57s
    7. Unmounting a hard drive
      2m 57s
  5. 1h 2m
    1. Recording audio
      5m 6s
    2. Playing back audio
      10m 31s
    3. Creating a Click track
      4m 53s
    4. Overdubbing and using the record modes
      9m 25s
    5. Recording with playlists and the Loop Record mode
      3m 6s
    6. Punch recording and using the monitoring modes
      5m 28s
    7. Dealing with latency
      4m 17s
    8. Creating a group
      4m 33s
    9. Adding effects while recording
      7m 41s
    10. Creating a headphone (cue) mix
      5m 34s
    11. Assigning disk allocation
      2m 13s
  6. 1h 26m
    1. Understanding nondestructive editing and region types
      3m 31s
    2. Using the Selector and Grabber tools
      3m 29s
    3. Using the Trimmer and Scrubber tools
      6m 57s
    4. Using the Zoomer tool and Zoom presets
      5m 14s
    5. Using the Pencil tool
      3m 27s
    6. Using the Smart tool
      1m 26s
    7. Understanding the edit modes
      7m 54s
    8. Arranging regions
      8m 38s
    9. Undoing an edit
      2m 3s
    10. Utilizing fades and crossfades
      10m 29s
    11. Building a comp track using playlists
      5m 28s
    12. Locking and muting regions
      3m 36s
    13. Special buttons in the Editing window
      8m 16s
    14. Creating an audio loop
      5m 11s
    15. Editing a voiceover
      10m 59s
  7. 18m 43s
    1. Working with region groups
      5m 47s
    2. Setting time, tempo, meter, key, and chord
      5m 46s
    3. Creating memory locations
      7m 10s
  8. 35m 30s
    1. Setting up MIDI on a Mac
      4m 25s
    2. Setting up MIDI on a PC
      2m 50s
    3. Setting up MIDI in Pro Tools
      2m 46s
    4. Recording MIDI data
      5m 24s
    5. Recording multiple MIDI tracks with one virtual instrument
      2m 15s
    6. Recording options for MIDI
      6m 27s
    7. Using step input
      4m 45s
    8. Making a drum loop with MIDI Merge
      2m 51s
    9. Composing with virtual instruments
      3m 47s
  9. 48m 41s
    1. Using the edit tools for editing MIDI data
      8m 23s
    2. Editing MIDI data with the MIDI Editor
      7m 20s
    3. Working with the MIDI event list
      2m 41s
    4. Editing MIDI data with event operations
      8m 25s
    5. Quantizing MIDI tracks
      11m 31s
    6. Creating and using groove templates
      5m 59s
    7. Utilizing real-time properties
      4m 22s
  10. 18m 51s
    1. Exploring the Score Editor
      5m 22s
    2. Using the Score Editor
      6m 33s
    3. Setting up a score
      4m 30s
    4. Printing and exporting a score
      2m 26s
  11. 19m 0s
    1. Utilizing the Time Shift plug-in
      7m 41s
    2. Editing with Elastic Time
      8m 30s
    3. Editing with Elastic Pitch
      2m 49s
  12. 48m 20s
    1. Working with Boom
      11m 23s
    2. Working with Xpand2
      7m 21s
    3. Working with DB-33
      6m 58s
    4. Working with Vacuum
      7m 55s
    5. Working with Structure Free
      7m 12s
    6. Working with Mini Grand
      3m 57s
    7. Using Midi Learn
      3m 34s
  13. 25m 55s
    1. Writing and editing automation
      6m 4s
    2. Drawing automation with the Pencil tool
      4m 56s
    3. Editing automation with the Trimmer and Grabber tools
      2m 9s
    4. Cutting, copying, pasting, and clearing automation
      4m 5s
    5. Turning automation on and off
      4m 25s
    6. Automating plug-ins and virtual instruments
      4m 16s
  14. 1h 40m
    1. Setting up a session for mixing
      8m 0s
    2. Setting up an effects loop
      9m 18s
    3. Working with plug-ins
      3m 53s
    4. Dealing with delay compensation
      6m 51s
    5. Applying EQ
      9m 19s
    6. Adding compression
      11m 17s
    7. Applying limiters
      2m 57s
    8. Using Gates and Expanders
      4m 40s
    9. Working with Side Chains
      3m 35s
    10. Working with De-Essers
      3m 4s
    11. Adding delay
      7m 34s
    12. Utilizing modulation effects
      4m 43s
    13. Adding reverb
      7m 5s
    14. Adding harmonic effects
      5m 7s
    15. Renting and purchasing plug-ins
      2m 2s
    16. Applying AudioSuite plug-ins
      5m 19s
    17. Bouncing down a mix
      5m 50s
  15. 25m 44s
    1. Setting up a session for mastering
      8m 56s
    2. Using plug-ins for mastering
      8m 47s
    3. Applying Dither and Noise shaping
      4m 5s
    4. Bouncing down master recordings
      3m 56s
  16. 19m 52s
    1. Importing and displaying video files
      4m 20s
    2. Adding music, foley, ADR, and FX
      12m 28s
    3. Bouncing down video and audio together
      3m 4s
  17. 4m 50s
    1. Archiving an entire session
      4m 50s
  18. 31s
    1. Goodbye
      31s

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