Pro Tools 8 Essential Training
Illustration by Richard Downs

Using plug-ins for mastering


Pro Tools 8 Essential Training

with David Franz

Video: Using plug-ins for mastering

Once you've got your mastering session set up correctly, it's time to really listen critically to your mixes and decide what you need to do improve them. The first thing you might consider using is time compression and expansion. At the Mastering stage you may decide that a certain song could benefit by being sped up just a little bit or the pitch could be adjusted slightly to change the overall sound. There are a number of plug-ins out there that can do this, but the one that comes free with Pro Tools is Time Shift and we can access that by going to the AudioSuite menu and choosing Time Shift.
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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
    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 10s
    1. Exploring the Edit window
      4m 51s
    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 45s
    1. Using DigiBase and the Workspace browser
      5m 6s
    2. Importing audio
      5m 13s
    3. Importing MIDI
      3m 56s
    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 58s
  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 35s
    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 56s
    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 6s
    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 52s
    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 20s
    17. Bouncing down a mix
      5m 51s
  15. 25m 45s
    1. Setting up a session for mastering
      8m 56s
    2. Using plug-ins for mastering
      8m 48s
    3. Applying Dither and Noise shaping
      4m 5s
    4. Bouncing down master recordings
      3m 56s
  16. 19m 53s
    1. Importing and displaying video files
      4m 21s
    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

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Watch the Online Video Course Pro Tools 8 Essential Training
10h 30m Beginner Jul 10, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Pro Tools 8 Essential Training unveils the inner workings of the industry-standard software for music and post-production. Musician, producer, and educator David Franz demonstrates all the concepts and techniques necessary for recording, editing, mixing, and mastering in Pro Tools 8. He teaches how to create music with virtual instruments and plug-ins, edit with elastic audio for time and pitch manipulation, create a musical score, and mix with effects loops. This course can help any music producer, sound engineer, or hobbyist become proficient in Pro Tools 8. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Exploring all facets of the Pro Tools interface
  • Setting up Pro Tools hardware and software properly
  • Recording and editing audio and MIDI
  • Comping a track using playlists
  • Importing data and working with video
  • Working with automation and controller lanes
  • Applying dither
  • Archiving a session for storage
Audio + Music
Pro Tools
David Franz

Using plug-ins for mastering

Once you've got your mastering session set up correctly, it's time to really listen critically to your mixes and decide what you need to do improve them. The first thing you might consider using is time compression and expansion. At the Mastering stage you may decide that a certain song could benefit by being sped up just a little bit or the pitch could be adjusted slightly to change the overall sound. There are a number of plug-ins out there that can do this, but the one that comes free with Pro Tools is Time Shift and we can access that by going to the AudioSuite menu and choosing Time Shift.

In this plug-in we can adjust the time compression or expansion or the Pitch control. Let's take a quick listen to this track that I have highlighted right here. In Preview mode I'll change up the speed and see it it's something that we would actually want to do for this master. (Music playing.) Now if you felt that extra speed made the track a little bit more lively, maybe we would actually want to process this track to create faster version of it.

Now for more information about this Time Shift plug-in, check out the video about it earlier in this course. Let's move over to the Mix window and check out the mastering signal flow. The way that I have it set up here is an EQ and a Compressor on the first audio track, then that is routed through another EQ and Compressor and maybe a couple of compressors here. Then that's routed out through this Stereo With Plug-in and this Enhancer plug-in. You can also add in Analog 2 for tape ambulation if you want and then it's routed to the track where it's recorded onto this audio track. But before it goes out to your speaker, it's routed through the PhaseScope, the Meter Bridge and the Master Meter where we can monitor the phase alignment and the levels and the stereo image and then finally it goes through the Dither and Noise Shaping plug-in.

I am going to talk about Dither and Noise Shaping in another movie. So let's get a little specific about this signal path. You usually start by adding EQ and Compression on the individual tracks. In this case we want to boost frequencies that are missing or cut frequencies that are too loud or too present in the mix. When you are EQing, be sure not to overload a track with a massive boost in a certain frequency. Boosting a frequency that peaks out your EQ plug-in can cause distortion. So make sure to watch the In and Out levels right here. Digital Distortion is a definite no-no in the Mastering process and remember the cutting frequencies is often more beneficial in mastering than boosting them. A tried and true way to determine what frequencies to boost or cut while Mastering is to listen to the frequency content of a master recording that you really like, your reference mixes. Listen to how they sound on your speakers, then try to emulate the frequency curve with the EQ in your session.

With EQ there are a lot of different things you can do. You can further define the bass by even cutting out little areas, like right here this is 300. A lot of the muddy frequencies live down here. You could boost the low end if you don't feel that there is enough low end in the mix or cut it, if you fee like there is too much. You can clarify the mid frequencies by even taking a little bit out, if the mix is too strident or boosting them up, if you think that there is a little bit missing like maybe the vocal needs to pop out a little bit more.

You can sculpt the high end to give it a little bit more sparkle by adding a touch or if you need to dull it a little bit, take the high EQ down a little. Whatever EQ you decide to apply to your track, you should save it as a preset. So do Save Settings as df_mastereq1 and now you can always go back to that setting if you need it. Just click on the Librarian menu and you can find it right there.

Now let's move on to Compression. You will note that I have multiple compressors along the signal path here. I have got one on the individual track. I have got a couple of right here on this Aux track and then also this Maxim plug-in as the final limiting stage in the signal path. Now using multiple stages of compression along the signal path enables you to spread out your compression in limiting so as not to put all the compression and limiting duties on one plug-in. Spreading out the compression can yield much clearer and more powerful signals, but because you have all this compression on here, do not over-compress the track.

Although compression does help to make a track louder, it can actually make the track sound less powerful and less energetic, if you over-compress it. Allow you songs to breathe by maintaining some of the dynamic range. I recommend using light overall compression at the beginning of the mastering signal flow. Like here, I've only got 3:1 as the Ratio for this Compression and the Threshold is pretty high and the Threshold will probably pick a lot of the signal. So we are getting light Compression on a lot of the signal here.

Later in the signal path, like right here with the Maxim plug-in, you will actually want to utilize peak limiting to take care of the final Gain boost. I'm going to talk about this plug-in in a second. In between the first Compressor and this last Compressor you can add some more in and I would not push it too much, but you can add some more light Compression in and that will boost up this overall track level until you get it here where you can apply the last step of limiting.

Now before we get to the Maxim plug-in, you can also add Stereo Width and this is a pretty cool plug-in, because it widens the Stereo image with this Width control right here and even though you can do that, you got to be careful though because making the Stereo image too wide can make it sound artificial and actually sound much worse than a more focused Stereo image. Now let's take a listen. I'm going to play this track back and I'm going to change the Stereo Width and you can check that out, probably a good thing to listen in your headphones for this. (Music playing.) After the Stereo Width I added in this Enhancer. Now this is technically another EQ and I would only use this sparingly, very discreetly actually and only if I wanted to add a little sparkle to the overall mix and you will see that I have got here just a little bit of high Gain and just touch of low Gain.

But putting in EQ this late in the signal path, you've got to be careful not to add too much, because you can mess up the sound that you have already created with the EQs and Compressors previously in the signal path here. Finally, let's talk about Maxim. Maxim is a maximizer, a very powerful limiter plug-in. I recommend using this is the last step of compression in the signal flow. It will act as a peak limiter to punch up the power and boost the output level of your tracks.

So what you want to do is bring the Threshold down and adjust the Ceiling and in this case I'm going to set the Ceiling to either -.1 or -.2 dB. I recommend against slamming it all way to 0 dB, because that could create a clip or an over that some CD players can't handle and that will make them either skip or make an ugly noise and we don't want that. So let's take a listen to what Maxim can do as I bring the Threshold down to this track.

(Music playing.) Obviously, it's making it a lot louder, but don't push this Threshold down too low or else you are going to create distortion. One last thing I should mention. In Maxim, I'm actually going to turn off the Noise Shaping and make sure the Dither is off, because we are going to hit Dither and Noise Shaping later in the signal path and I'm going to talk about that in the next video in this course.

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