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Mastering is the last stage in the production process, and it takes place after you're done mixing all of the songs in a project. Mastering in Pro Tools can transform your final mixes into professional- sounding recordings. Mastering treats your final mixes so that the songs sound good on all playback systems, from one's speaker clock radios, to hi-fi stereos, to your car stereo. In the mastering process the volume level of all of the tracks are made to be competitive with other mastered recordings.
Also, the EQ and the volume of each song are tweaked so that they create a cohesive final product. Some other considerations in mastering are checking and adjusting the left-right balance and the phasing and the stereo imaging of all the tracks. You also need to listen for and fix any unwanted noises. You can also add real or simulated tube or analog gear into the signal path to warm it up. And at the very end of the process, you can add dithering and noise shaping, and I'm going to talk about that in a movie later in the course.
During mastering you also need to choose the song order and the spacing between the songs to create the best flow for your project. And finally, you need to bounce down and burn the final masters with the correct track order, timing, and fades onto a CD, a hard drive, a DVD, or any other recording medium. So let's set up a mastering session in Pro Tools. Here I've created a brand-new session with no tracks in it at all, and it's at the same bit depth and sampling rate as my previous mix session.
That way I can maintain the same high- quality resolution from the mixes into the mastering session. So now I need to import the final mixes into the mastering session, and you can either drag and drop the files from your workspace browser or even the Desktop, or like I'm going to do here, I'm going to choose File > Import > Audio. And from the Bounced Final Mixes folder, I'm going to open that up, and I'm going to choose multiple tracks here. So I'm going to click on these and click Add, and then I'll come down here to these other four tracks, and I'm going to Shift+Click on all four of those and choose Add All.
Now, note that I have a left and a right side file for each of these songs, and that's because I created multiple mono-formatted files when I bounced them down as final mixes, not stereo interleaved. These can be added directly into the session. And in previous versions of Pro Tools, stereo-interleaved files had to be converted into multiple mono files to be used in Pro Tools. However, that's not a limitation anymore, so you can create and import multiple mono or stereo-interleaved files right here.
So now that I've added all of these to the Clips to Import list here, I can choose Done, and before I do that, you should notice one thing down here. We don't need to convert the sample rate or anything, because we're going from the same bit depth and sampling rate from our mixes into our mastering session. And now in the Audio Import Options dialog, I'm going to choose our Destination as the Clip list, so I can just put all the songs onto the list and then place them wherever I want on the tracks. I'll click OK, and now I see all three of the tracks over here in the Clips list.
The next step here is to create three new audio tracks, so I'm going to do the shortcut, which is Shift+Command+N or Shift+Ctrl+N on a PC, and I'll create three stereo audio tracks. And now I'm going to place each song onto its own track. So I'll just click and drag. Let me zoom out a little. And what I'm doing here is putting the songs in the right order with the approximate spacing that I want between each song, and this can give you a sense of the cohesiveness of the entire project when you listen to it from the beginning to the end.
Let's listen to a little piece of each of these tracks and compare them. (Music Playing) I'm going to zoom in on these so we can see them a little bit better.
When you listen back to all of your mixes together, like we just did here, in one session, you'll probably find that some songs are louder or have different overall EQ curves or stereo images than the other. And that's what mastering is all about, making all of the songs sound cohesive together. Now that I've got all the songs imported, it's time to set up the mastering session. And I'm going to show the signal routing and all of the effects that I use in a mastering session in the following movie.
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