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Topic: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

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  1. #1

    Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

    I've got a problem I was hoping someone far better at audio processing could help me with. Some of the orchestral stuff I write is pretty dynamic.. cymbal crashes and such, causing large spikes, will offset the peak volume greatly.. so even if I normalize to -0.5dB, it's still quiet due to the spikes.

    I've tried things like the Ozone loudness maximizer.. the results are pretty bad, it's obvious it's compressing when it hits the loud percussion. Since my music is for games, it needs to be given a little bit of a boost so it can compete with all the other stuff going on (sound effects). In many cases, I just deliver my content to the developer, and I'm sure they handle it, but I'd like to learn how to do this myself. At the very least, so the clips on my web site don't require the listener to crank up the volume on their speakers.

    I've heard good things about the L2 Ultramaximizer, but the lowest priced package this comes in costs $900. I've got Sound Forge and Ozone, isn't there some way I can accomplish what I'm trying to do?

    Thanks for any advice!
    Sam Hulick
    Composer
    http://www.samhulick.com/

  2. #2
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    Re: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?


  3. #3

    Re: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

    cymbal crashes and such, causing large spikes, will offset the peak volume greatly
    There's your Achilles heel. The best thing is to try to obtain less stupendous peaks in your mixes. They are the enemy. For instance, too much sub in an orchestral bass drum causes extreme peaks in the signal. You do it because you want to impress but in the end your mix is suffering from it. Be confident about your music. Don't rely too much on cheap "effects" like loud explosions. Get rid of them (or simply make 'm less loud). Your music balance already has to be good before you put them through a maximizer. Listen to your mix at very low volumes to detect unnecessary volume peaks.


    Alex

  4. #4
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

    Sam,

    Get some CDs of very dynamic soundtracks you like, and rip them to your computer. Put those waveforms up on the screen, and compare them to yours (listen and look).

    This is one of those things that just takes a while to learn. You should be able to do a good job with Ozone. But you're going to need to really examine what's holding your volume down and why. It could actually be a mix problem with some of the peaks. Maybe they don't have to be that loud. On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with not being as loud as the next guy, if the dynamics need to be there.

  5. #5

    Re: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

    OK, peak was at -0.5dB. I noticed some harsh peaks on some of the bass & cymbal crashes, so I clipped them out..just selected & cut in Sound Forge, then reanalyzed peak levels again. It really didn't gain me much. The peak was then something like -1.1dB.

    I've narrowed it down to this clip.. open it in Sound Forge, and watch the levels. It peaks at -0.5dB at some random point where the horns are blaring away.. but if you listen, it doesn't sound piercing or too loud.

    http://www.samhulick.com/misc/concept2_mix.mp3

    Any thoughts?
    Sam Hulick
    Composer
    http://www.samhulick.com/

  6. #6

    Re: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

    I've heard good things about the L2 Ultramaximizer, but the lowest priced package this comes in costs $900. I've got Sound Forge and Ozone, isn't there some way I can accomplish what I'm trying to do?
    The L1 Ultramaximizer was perfectly reproduced here;

    http://www.macmusic.org/news/view.php/lang/EN/id/2842/
    Zircon Studios - Original music for media, electronica, sound design, and synthesis.

  7. #7

    Re: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

    Appears to be Mac only.. I'm on Windows. Thanks though
    Sam Hulick
    Composer
    http://www.samhulick.com/

  8. #8

    Re: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

    Nope..

    http://www.yohng.com/w1limit.html

    There's the link I couldn't find before. Great plugin!
    Zircon Studios - Original music for media, electronica, sound design, and synthesis.

  9. #9

    Re: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

    Thank you!
    Sam Hulick
    Composer
    http://www.samhulick.com/

  10. #10

    Exclamation Re: Mastering help.. how to really maximize volume?

    Well - you've got the right idea but at the wrong stage of production. You need to mix with a reference to loudness, not master with a reference to peak...

    ...stay with me...

    You need to go back to track level and mix using a good loudness guage - such as Elemental Audio's InspectorXL. For film mixing, I use the K-20 meter based on Bob Katz's proposed "metering standard". For other forms of distribution, I usually use the K-14 scale and only go to K-12 when it's demanded by the client. Mixing to actual perceived loudness makes for a much more even and - for lack of a better word - realistic final product. These days when I produce a film mix I hardly engage Ozone except for some minor EQ and some light touches on multiband stereo widening (usually in bringing the bass to a more focussed center). The multimeter in Inspector XL is especially nice as you can run a Spectrogram at the same time you've got the K-meters going. This is a tremendous help to finding out where the problem areas might be.

    For Ozone, you have to be really, really careful what you're trying to do - and make sure you're using the right process for it. If you've got a "problem area" in the spectrum like a cymbal crash or boomy drum, then the multi-band compressor is going to do a lot more for you than the loudness maximizer. If you can hear the effects of the LM - you're probably using it incorrectly. Spend some quality time with the multiband compressor - particularly in changing the number of bands and their relative cutoff points.

    On all of my Nuendo templates I run Ozone as the last pre-fader insert on the master bus, with the InspectorXL plugged into the last post-fader slot. I usually don't switch Ozone on until I'm committed to the quality of the overall mix. Surround mixes are a bit more tricky - but that's a post for another time. Good luck.
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

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