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What, exactly, is mastering?

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CaliaMoko

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« on: January 06, 2019, 07:10:38 PM »
Is there a definitive definition, or is it kinda sorta?? I've been trying to research how to prepare a CD master for duplication (or replication, but at my numbers, it's duplication). I thought I had the last one set up so, when played, the album title and song title would scroll on any machine that provided that service. But, no, It just provides a generic "Track 1" and maybe an "Unknown Album" or something like that.

In my reading I'm getting the impression there are two possibilities:

1. Embedding the information somehow directly into the master (whatever a master is)
2. Pulling the information from the internet (but how does it get there??)

I've found instructions in a few different places, but they always assume I know something or that I'm taking it to a professional mastering engineer. I'm the kind of person who--if I was taking a computer class, you can't start with "Okay, first turn your computer on." No, you have to start with, "Look in front of you. You'll see a device with a blank screen and a keyboard. Look at the keyboard. In the far upper left there's a rectangular button. Press that button."

In other words, I can follow instructions, but they need to be COMPLETE instructions.

To summarize, my questions are:

1. What exactly is mastering? I'd like to know, but not if it's too complicated. In that case, just say, "It's too complicated."
2. How do I embed metadata on my master so it scrolls on the players when the CD is played?
3. How do I make the metadata available for players that need to pull it from the internet?
4. Oh yeah, I want to make sure I have the ISRC codes in the right places, too.

pompeyjazz

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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2019, 10:41:20 PM »
@CaliaMoko . Vicki, you may be confusing mastering with tag editing. For mastering @boydie is yer man and If anyone can explain the whole tag editing process I for one would be really interested as it took me ages to sort out and really it shouldn't be that difficult should it ?  ???

CaliaMoko

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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2019, 11:23:35 PM »
Yes, @pompeyjazz I believe I am looking at tag editing, which my research has led me to believe is a part of the mastering process--at least when the final mastered product is to be sent somewhere to be manufactured into CDs. I'm getting the impression "mastering" can mean more than one thing. Or can include a variety of activities but not always necessarily every possible activity. If that makes any sense??

Boydie

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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2019, 12:23:50 AM »
The "mastering" process is typically the final sonic shaping done after the mixing has been completed

It stems from the "olden days" when a mix was done on tape and then at the end of the process a "master disc" is produced from the tape recordings. At this time it was possible for really loud peaks/transients to make the needle pop out of the grooves of a record so techniques were developed to smooth out these transients - such as compression and limiting

When transients are reduced it is possible to turn everything up a bit, which lead to the "loudness wars" where the mastering process was (and still is) used to make a song as loud as possible, which also tends to squash the dynamic range so it is always a fine balance when mastering between making a song as loud as commercial releases but retaining dynamics

The mastering process also involves getting an album ready for distribution, such as balancing the levels and sonic quality of different songs across an album of work

This where the confusion about "tagging" and metadata comes in

You are right that there are different approaches, which I have grouped in to 3:

1 - There is a technology called "CD Text" where a CD player (e.g. in a car) reads text that is written to the CD. Computers do not usually read this info and it is not embedded in to the actually files so does not get "ripped" if you transfer files using a PC - so CD text will work on some devices but not on others. The CD Text needs to be added to "the master" disc (i.e. The disc that all other discs will be copied from) but would not usually be done as part of the "mastering" process, which focuses on the sonic mastering described above. I would think of it as more a "pre-distribution" task.

2 - a device (usually a computer) looks up the information from a database. There are different databases such as Gracenote for iTunes. The album and track names are identified by the order and track length of songs, which is certainly a bit "hit and miss" and can lead to false results

3 - tags and metadata. File formats such MP3 allow data to be embedded in to the actual files (such as album, song title etc.). This then gets displayed by computers and other devices that read MP3 and other files - e.g. A CD containing MP3 files may display song names on a PC but an audio CD using CD Text would not display song names on a PC

It is definitely a bit of a minefield but I hope this helps you separate the "mastering" process from the preparation of the master disc for duplication (although there is no reason the 2 couldn't be done together they are usually considered separately)

You can submit your album to the various online databases to increase your chances of getting the text to display but it could be a bit hit and miss for Indie artists

The best way to maintain control is to embed the data as "metadata"/tags, which is only possible with certain file formats (such as MP3)

Hope this helps and explains some of the frustrations you have been experiencing

Boydie
To check out my music please visit:

http://soundcloud.com/boydiemusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic

CaliaMoko

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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2019, 12:34:18 AM »
@Boydie ... that pretty much agrees with what I've been reading in bits and pieces and is helpful, as it gathers it all into one spot. And reinforces my suspicion there won't be much I can do about it.  :P  When I buy professional CDs and rip/play them, the album title, song title, and--I think--even the album cover will show up in my player on the computer. That's what I was hoping to make happen the next time I make a CD.

Thanks!

pompeyjazz

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Boydie

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« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2019, 08:12:24 AM »
@CaliaMoko

Quote
When I buy professional CDs and rip/play them, the album title, song title, and--I think--even the album cover will show up in my player on the computer. That's what I was hoping to make happen the next time I make a CD.

This is still very much possible by submitting to the online databases

You will need to do a bit of googling to check you have the most up to date info but I would suggest starting with the GRACENOTE database (sometimes referred to as CDDB) as it is the one used by iTunes - and is really easy to submit to via the iTunes software

Other databases worth looking up are ALL MUSIC GUIDE (AMG) and FREE DB

Don't give up as it looks like you are nearly there with what you want to achieve!!
To check out my music please visit:

http://soundcloud.com/boydiemusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoydieMusic

cowparsleyman

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« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2019, 08:37:45 AM »
Very interesting to read, I have to admit that I try to keep the amount of mastering tinkering down to an absolute minimum, I try to get the mix as perfect as I can inside the DAW (I'm very very picky about that), and then the mastering stage just deals with maybe the loudness and fade out, I use Soundforge 11 for that.

The other thing is that it's way better to get the mastering done by someone else, as one would do when proof reading a book, but as there is a lot of capital invested in creating and mixing the song, one has to really trust the mastering engineer, McCartney used to even pick the guy that would cut the vinyl...

Usually if the mix is near enough right there shouldn't be too much to do at the mastering stage.

Hope this helps.

Rich

PaulAds

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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2019, 09:18:46 AM »
Hi Vicki @CaliaMoko

I edited the tags individually for each song using the wav editor I use on my Mac. You can add name, date, etc  and lyrics too.

I think windows media player can do this as well. Basically you need to ensure that the master wav file that you submit to bandcamp or amuse or whatever distribution company you use contains all the relevant data...I think that if that's correct at source, it's most likely to retain the song information as it works it's way across the universe.

I don't use PC's...but there's a list of small free programs that might work for you here...

https://www.lifewire.com/free-tools-for-editing-song-information-2438490

if you're really stuck...let me know and I'll see what I can do.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2019, 09:23:18 AM by PaulAds »

Rightly

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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2019, 10:06:28 AM »
Good questions. 

And thanks a bundle Boydie! 
It's either this or that, then again it might be the other. 

And there you have it. 

https://soundcloud.com/rightly