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Specifications – Exporting Audio Elements For Music Mix/Master Projects

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MULTIBEAT CREATIVE

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
EXPORTING AUDIO ELEMENTS FOR MUSIC MIX/MASTER PROJECTS
UPDATED 2017/02/19

1. RAW RECORD SESSION INDIVIDUAL TRACKS
2. PROCESSED INDIVIDUAL TRACKS
3. PROCESSED 0VU STEMS – EXPANDED
4. PROCESSED 0VU STEMS – MINIMAL
5. FINAL MIX WITH NO MASTER BUSS FX (QUIET/UNMASTERED)
6. FINAL MIX WITH MASTER BUSS FX (LOUD/MASTERED)

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=  NOTES FOR ALL FORMATS!

=== FILE FORMAT ===
Provide incoming audio file specs: SAMPLE RATE, QUANTIZATION (44.1kHz/24bit suggested minimum) and FILE FORMAT (PCM-based .wav, .bwf or .aif preferred).  Compressed formats such as .mp3 are frame-based, resulting in wandering timing and cannot be accepted.

=== CONTENT NOTES ===
Provide SESSION NOTES on each song TEMPO, KEY, and LYRICS if possible.  Advise if a TEMPO MAP is a feature.  Mix session tempo is vital for bar-based editing.

=== COMMON START POINT – VITAL ===
*** When recording or bouncing tracks, execute from a COMMON START POINT.  Use a dedicated workflow to guarantee a sample-accurate common start point.  Be careful not to clip the head in choosing a common start point.  (Choosing a “round bar” common start point such as 1|1|0 or 17|1|0 can be helpful for editing/mixing to the bars+beats grid.)

=== COMMON END POINT OPTIONAL ===
Common end point is fine if convenient for workflow, but not required.  Better file size economy to record only until the end of the program material.

=== MASTER CHAIN OFF ===
*** (Except in the case of #6 above) ==ALWAYS TURN OFF== all master buss plugins, dither, and automation.  Set the master fader level to 0VU.  This allows clean unadulterated 0VU printing of stems to the original mix reference – a snapshot of the tracks “in situ”.  MASTER CHAIN OFF IS VITAL:  a dynamics processor left active on the master buss will completely change the level relationship among the elements that we are striving to preserve.

=== DON’T CONVERT ON EXPORT ===
*** Export files at the ORIGINAL SAMPLE RATE / QUANTIZATION.  Do not “downconvert” 48kHz/24bit to 44.1kHz/16bit accidentally or intentionally.  CHECK ALL EXPORT SESSION SETTINGS.  Don’t “upconvert” eg. 48kHz/24bit to 96kHz/24bit for delivery.  We will do any conversions necessary.

=== CONCERNING MONO TRACKS ===
Exporting mono-as-mono and stereo-as-stereo can create level-reference question marks.  To preserve level relationships, it is best to export all elements as STEREO.

=== ORGANIZED NAMING ===
Exported elements ideally follow an organized naming plan.  Preferred is:
“short_song_code-element#-element_name-details”  for example:

satu-02-snr-dry.L.wav
satu-02-snr-dry.R.wav
satu-03-snr-fx.L.wav
satu-03-snr-fx.R.wav

or

lady doll 01 drums – kick.wav
lady doll 02 drums – snare.wav
lady doll 03 drums – loop.wav

stems can look like:

satu-4-gtrs.L.wav
satu-4-gtrs.R.wav

=== FINAL MIX REFERENCE ===
*** A STEREO REFERENCE MIX of the final mix should be provided in most cases.

=== GOAL REFERENCES ===
The client may wish to provide “goal” references (.wav, .mp3, youtube links, etc) of songs with mixes/mastering curves that appeal, as a gateway to creative discussion.

=== DAW SESSIONS ===
DAW sessions in Pro Tools, Logic Pro may be provided.  OMF/AAF exports are VERY helpful.

=== ZIP ALL FOLDERS – VITAL! ===

**** ZIP ALL FOLDERS FOR TRANSFER.  THIS IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. ****
.zip compression is the only way to verify file integrity on PCM audio files.  .zip compression can cut file sizes and transfer times in half.  Multibeat offers an FTP server for private, secure file transfer.

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1. RAW RECORD SESSION INDIVIDUAL TRACKS

After the recording session is complete, the DAW session including the raw files is delivered.  If we don’t have the same DAW as the record session, an OMF/AAF archive can be exported to preserve the shape of the session, clip gain, etc.  If OMF/AAF is not an option, raw tracks can be re-recorded, exported or bounced at a common start point.

See “NOTES ON ALL FORMATS” above for details.

It is vital in this case that all plugins, dither and automation on ALL TRACKS including the MASTER BUSS are *DISABLED*; all faders including master fader set to 0VU default.

If recording multiple takes across playlists and a DAW session is not provided, the playlists must be recorded out to individual tracks as well.

As an alternative, it can be time-efficient to DSP-duplicate tracks in the timeline to re-create a set of clean raw record tracks; this saves worrying about the audio chain as well.

The goal of providing raw record tracks is to create a mixable 1:1 snapshot of the raw recording session, cleaned and prepared for the mixer.

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2. PROCESSED INDIVIDUAL TRACKS

In cases where a mix is underway and passes from Mixer A to Mixer B, processed individual tracks are exported.  These processed tracks may include:  editing of the raw record tracks, waveform editing, clip gain, volume automation, insert plugins, aux sends to buss-fx, plug-in automation, etc.  In other words, the goal of providing processed individual tracks is to preserve the totality of each track’s evolved contribution in the final mix.

See “NOTES ON ALL FORMATS” above for details.

EFFECTS PLUGINS ON:  All track insert plugins (EQ, Comp, Phase-o-matic 6000, etc) should be left active.

VOLUME AUTOMATION:  Printing audio with significantly complex volume automation means it will be “baked in”; decide if best to bake-in the automation for Mixer B, or disable it so that Mixer B has more flexibility.  If delivering a Pro Tools session, it is also possible to apply Mixer A track volume automation to the re-recorded parts for Mixer B.

BUSS-FX DECISIONS:  Buss-FX are common sends to reverb, delay, etc. If possible, it is best for flexibility to record out the dry part (dry meaning processed with insert plugins but not reverb etc) separately and the bussfx *wet-only* separately.  eg:

satu-02-snr-dry.L.wav
satu-02-snr-dry.R.wav
satu-03-snr-fx.L.wav
satu-03-snr-fx.R.wav

(A suggested way to do this is to send the tracks themselves to a dry-record buss, and send the buss-fx-sum submix to a wet-record buss.)

On enormous sessions this may drive the track count too high.  Exporting parts with buss-fx applied is certainly possible; keep in mind the “tying of the hands” of Mixer B.

MASTER BUSS FX *DISABLED*:  The relationship between all tracks must be preserved therefore it is vital that all plugins, dither and automation on the MASTER BUSS are *DISABLED*; the master fader set to 0VU default.  This will guarantee clean and level-appropriate export of the processed parts.

The delivery of processed individual tracks is a zipped folder of common start time stereo audio files (any of: dry, wet, dry+wet), which when dropped onto the timeline of a DAW with all faders at 0VU, presents the sound of the “unmastered” mix.

It provides total mix flexibility for Mixer B and/or the mastering engineer, and is a perfect snapshot of Mixer A’s efforts up to that point.

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3. PROCESSED 0VU STEMS – EXPANDED

Stems are SUBMIXED GROUPS of the song elements, components comprising the final unmastered mix.  Groups such as drums, basses, guitars, keys, backup vocals, vocals are submixed with all of their plugins, automation and even submix buss automation intact.

Stems can be used for creating instumentals or a cappella versions, creating extended versions or delivery for creative remix.

Delivery of processed 0VU stems is a zipped folder of common start time stereo audio files, which when dropped onto the timeline of a DAW with all faders at 0VU presents an exact snapshot of the sounds of the “unmastered” mix.

EVERYTHING ON, EXCEPT MASTER BUSS *DISABLED*:  The groups are captured just before the master buss, so all the plugins, dither, volume automation, etc, everything that makes the mix sing is turned ON.  However, the relationship between all tracks must be preserved therefore it is vital that all plugins, dither and automation ON THE MASTER BUSS ARE *DISABLED*; the master fader set to 0VU default.  This will guarantee clean and level-appropriate export of the processed parts through the master buss.

The choice of which stems are created depends on the particular application or reason for stem-creation.  At the most complex, where every track is archived, see “2. PROCESSED INDIVIDUAL TRACKS” above.  At the most minimal, see “4. PROCESSED 0VU STEMS – MINIMAL” below.  Whereas fine-grained stems allow for good archiving and mix-access, they take more time to generate.  Best to only generate what is needed.

Generally-accepted stemming on pop/rock is normally: drums, basses, guitars, keys, backup vocals, vocals.  Additional groups such as strings, brass, choir are also common.

satu-1-drums
satu-2-bass
satu-3-keys
satu-4-gtrs
satu-5-vox-lead

*** Multibeat preferred stemming is:  kicks, snares, hihats, rest-of-drums, percussion, basses, functional guitars, feature guitars, functional keys, feature keys + sfx, backup vocals, flank/unison vocals, lead vocal.

On mastering projects, such stems are very helpful – even when they sit at 0VU and are completely untouched, they go through our analog summing channels (yummy!) and mastering nudges at the part-level, if necessary, are easy to access.

Please contact in all cases about appropriate stemming.

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4. PROCESSED 0VU STEMS – MINIMAL

See “NOTES ON ALL FORMATS” above for details.
Also see “3. PROCESSED 0VU STEMS – EXPANDED” above.

The very most minimal stemming is:  1. instrumental, 2. all vocals.

The next most minimal stemming is:  1. drums, 2. the-rest, 3. all vocals.

Native Instruments has a Stems format which offers the big four:  drums, bass, all-the-rest, vocals.  Or often:  drums, bass, synths, fx  *** Please note that NI Stems format is DJ/dancefloor ready format where EACH STEM IS MASTERED.  HERE, THE CLIENT IS PROVIDING STEMS FOR MASTERING AS UNMASTERED/NO MASTER BUSS FX STEMS.  The stems culminate in an “umastered” mix.

*** For mastering projects where Multibeat requests stems, this is for an added layer of contingency/control.  It can be good to access the drums without ruining the vocals for instance.  All stems are locked to 0VU, no plugins, analog summing only (and only sometimes), with only a few nudges against mastering issues.

Please contact in all cases about appropriate stemming.

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5. FINAL MIX WITH NO MASTER BUSS FX (QUIET/UNMASTERED)

See “NOTES ON ALL FORMATS” above for details.
See “3. PROCESSED 0VU STEMS – EXPANDED” above for notes on stems-for-mastering.

This is the common export situation for a regular mastering job.  Whereas stemming can help for a perfect master, traditionally the final mix out of the ‘board’ with no mastering EQ, compression, limiters is provided as the mixer’s presentation.  We prefer to secure mix perfection through having access to untouched 0VU stems.

It is vital that all plugins, dither and automation on the MASTER BUSS are *DISABLED*; the master fader set to 0VU default.  This will guarantee clean and level-appropriate export of the unmastered final mix.  Do not sample-rate/quantize convert; deliver files at your working specs.

The mixer may send a “loud” or “mastering chain ON” mix as well to demonstrate final mastering suggestions.  This is a better plan than including partial, or low-level, mastering enhancements in the unmastered delivery.  eg. compressing the unmastered 2-mix.

The goal of providing an unmastered final mix to mastering allows the mastering engineer to create a technically precise and controlled master recording that sounds as-similar-as-possible and acoustically-pleasing on every system.

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6. FINAL MIX WITH MASTER BUSS FX (LOUD/MASTERED)

See “NOTES ON ALL FORMATS” above for details.

In some cases, mastering has to be done on a previously-mastered recording.  This can be due to archival reasons, upgrading, redoing, or simply to make a compliation consistent.

This is the least-flexible type of mastering job for a mastering engineer.  Remastering from an unmastered original is preferred if possible.

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