Tag Archives: audio engineer

Review: RTW Mastering Tools (Masterclass Plug-Ins Series)

By Diego Jimenez

Loudness metering equipment is always an important ingredient in our work environment at Hobo Audio. The projects we work on always demand different standards and specifications, whether it’s mixing for TV, film or the web. Our goal is to not only provide excellent quality audio, but also a comfortable listening experience to the consumer while meeting all the specifications our clients require.

There are many metering solutions on the market currently, and I believe it’s because you can now use them as plug-ins.

RTW Mastering Tools ($549) is a versatile new plug-in that helps you check the proportion and balance of your mixes. It’s ideal for audio post production work because of the customization and placement you can do of all the meters and analyzers offered. This is essential for our studio because we are constantly switching between mix sessions or mix rooms, so we can assign different settings and parameters depending on the kind of mix that we are doing.

Diego Jimenez in one of Hobo's Pro Tools suites.

Diego Jimenez in one of Hobo’s Pro Tools suites.

RTW also has a variety of peak program metering scales and supports leading global loudness standards, including ITU BS.1770-3/1771-1, ATSC A/85, EBU R128, ARIB, OP-59, AGICOM and the CALM Act.

I like to have numerical meters to check loudness, and RTW offers both numerical and a bar graph. It has a general preferences window, as well as a setting window for each individual meter or analyzer (up to six). RTW has in-depth settings like routing up to eight channels, true peak sensitivity, channel weighting, surround sound analyzer, audio vectorscope and many more. The plug-in also includes multiple choices for the users, such as colors and views of the bars and meters, size and placement as well as total freedom for customization in the plug-in for any of your mix needs.

Putting it to the Test
I used the RTW plug-in for a total of 22 days and in three different scenarios — web, TV and film mixing. I also ran the plug-in in two of our rooms, one housing Pro Tools HDX with 5.1 surround sound capabilities and the other, a stereo room, with Pro Tools HD Native. Both  rooms feature Apple Mac Pros — the surround room offers 32GB of RAM, and the stereo room offers 24GB of RAM.

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The first thing that impressed me about the RTW plug-in was the ability to create and arrange your tools or instruments in the plug-in window. It’s amazing. You can save your presets, and you are good to go. But it would also be good to have a couple of options in case you need a quick start… for instance, something like the true peak meter only, and the numeric values with the short- and long term-loudness numeric values so you can quickly start checking your mix. So, to reiterate, while I do love that they allow the user to customize to their own needs, it would be nice to have one or two presets as a start point.

All the time, and in our templates, we add a meter on sessions —on an aux track with the same input as my full mix recording track to measure the overall mix level. Then I create a dead-end bus for the output. While using the RTW in 5.1 mixes it would have been helpful if  the plug-in could match my surround presets in Pro Tools. Instead I had to create these settings. Also, when mixing in surround, not all the time, I use the meter in other audio and aux tracks with multiple outputs for other reason. This generated another problem because the plug-in bypassed itself when you use multiple outputs in your track.

RTW is a plug-in that you can use not only to measure your mix levels but also to check your mix panning, stereo or surround imaging. As an example, I added RTW to my FX sub and used the surround sound analyzer to check the behavior and dynamics of the sound design mix. I also checked phasing with the Correlator, or the Vectorscope, looking for more creative ways to use the RTW tools.

Another wish would be that RTW allow  the plug-in do multiple outputs. The plug-in also bypassed itself sometimes with just one output when I was using it in a small recording session using Pro Tools HD Native.

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The biggest issue, and it was surprising to me that happened more in Pro Tools HDX than in our Pro Tools Native systems, was that the Pro Tools meters response was affected when you use RTW. The cursor slows down a little, and when playing back in a complex session like a TV show or a film project you really can see the latency on the display when playing back. To reiterate once more, this only happened in sessions where I used several plug-ins and had several tracks opened. What caught my attention was that in my Pro Tool CPU and memory meters there’s not much activity happening to create this problem; it’s only happening when I use the plug-in and you can really tell the stress you add in Pro Tools in these large sessions.

Summing Up
Besides some minor issues, RTW’s Mastering Tools are an amazing plug-in. It’s very extensive, and I think if I had it more time to experiment the more I would like it.  As I mentioned before, it’s so loaded with tools that you can not only accurately check your mixes, but the tools can also help explore and guide your creativity.

RTW Mastering Tools are great to have in your studio toolbox. It’s fresh, versatile and user friendly. It helps with the average volume in your mix, and it’s an essential element for all the different kinds of media and specifications mixes need these days.

Diego Jimenez is a sound designer and engineer at New York City’s Hobo Audio. 

Yulik Yagudin’s Top Ten: Why audio engineers should be respected

Yulik Yagudin has spent the last three and a half years working as senior audio engineer at one of the largest private audio post houses in Moscow, CineLab SoundMix. They offer all aspects of audio post production.

Yagudin has music in his blood. He was born in Moscow, Russia, to a family of musicians. After graduating from Moscow Conservatory College of Music as a percussion player, he stayed on for two more years… that’s when his love of audio engineering drove him into the recording studio and the television world.

What followed always involved many various aspects of sound work, including writing/arranging music for TV and commercials, editing and mixing sound for TV, Continue reading

PC Munoz creates score for ‘Brujo’ at Studio Trilogy

First-time director Glen Mack brought his feature film Brujo to San Francisco’s Studio Trilogy to record scoring sessions with musician PC Muñoz. The sessions were led by chief engineer/co-manager Justin Lieberman. Muñoz is known for scores that stretch the boundaries of classical, funk, hip-hop, and the avant-garde.

Brujo (Spanish for sorcerer) revolves around the activity at a modern dance workshop. The story, one of jealousy and disaster, also chronicles the creative intensity of artists coming together to collaborate on a project.

Mack had been using a classical recording of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” as a temp score for the film and went to Muñoz for a new recording. “When I do interpretations, I always pretty much radically reimagine them,” explains Muñoz. “I said I’d like to do something completely different, almost render it in a jazzy style. I suggested to him that we do a drum set and cello rendering.”

Muñoz met at Trilogy with former Kronos Quartet cellist Joan Jeanrenaud. “We brought Joan in and had a brief discussion about it. Here’s the Vivaldi. We both know it, but we’re not going to try and play it as a strictly classical piece. We’re going to do it the way we do the music that we usually create. We talked a little bit about switching the time signatures and the kind of pulse it would have. Fortunately, for that session, Glenn was there. He’s super great to work with and we just wanted to make sure that the vibe was right for his picture.”

They had the picture on the big screen and ran through different ideas for the arrangement until they landed on something. “Especially in terms of the drums, because, obviously, there are no tracks of drums on the original Vivaldi. I had to figure out a way to make it rhythmically cool, useful for the scene and something that Glenn would dig. We just sat there and knocked out a few takes.

“The way Joan and I often work is with a beat that I make either acoustically or electronically,” continues Muñoz. “In this case it was all acoustic, and then Joan started to layer different cello parts — some rhythmic stuff, some long, legato stuff, some pretty stuff, and some stuff that evoked different types of moods for the scene.”

Justin Lieberman and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud

Justin Lieberman and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud

According to Lieberman, “We output the video to the two isolated recording spaces via our Blackmagic video cards. Both PC and Joan watched the video play while performing to make sure certain musical cues landed in the right spaces. I helped to find a good tempo that supported the musical cues landing in good spots. After we got a good basic track we overdubbed a few cello parts and a percussion part or two.”

Lieberman mixed the piece on an API console and gave Chris McGrew stems and a mix.

postPerspective decided to throw some additional questions at Muñoz to find out more about how he works and about his process on this film.

You have an eclectic background. Do you tackle each project in a similar way? How do you begin your process?
Each situation is different, but I think the one thing I try to do in every project is establish really clearly what my role is. Especially in very fluid artistic environments where there is constant give and take and exchange of ideas. It can be easy to lose track of who is actually responsible for what. I’m able to dig into the work much better after I’ve been able to assess the situation and consider what I can best do for the project. That goes for projects that I’m leading, as well.

Whether I’m producing a song, developing a multimedia stage production or working on music for film and dance, I do tend to begin the same way: I try to understand the big picture first and envision what the final product ought to be. After that, I start looking at details, and often let the details present themselves organically/improvisationally.

How did you work with the director on this film in particular?
Glenn had very specific ideas for what he wanted to hear in certain sections of the film. I’m not sure how he worked with the other music creators, but my role was typically to come up with unique versions of classic pieces of music.

He would tell me the piece he wanted — in this case, Vivaldi’s “Summer” from the Four Seasons — and I would get back to him with the instrumentation context and arrangement I was imagining. We would discuss it a bit then we’d go make it happen. He was present for this Vivaldi session, which was great. I loved working with Glenn; he’s very open and collaborative.

What stood out about this one? What part are you most proud of?
I really love re-imagining established pieces of music, and I don’t always get to do that, so it was great to be able to focus on that, which is a different kind of thing than composing or sound design. I’m proud of all the things I worked on for the film, and it’s always great to work with Joan Jeanrenaud, all the folks at Studio Trilogy, fellow music producer/sound designer Chris McGrew, and the film’s editor, Kirk Goldberg. I also like that the film is very much centered around dance, since I’ve done a lot of work in that area and always enjoy the task of matching music to choreography.

Nugen offering toolset for stereo image enhancement, manipulation 

Leeds, England — Nugen Audio, creator of tools for audio pros, today announced the launch of Stereopack, a complete toolset for stereo image enhancement and manipulation including expansion, positioning, and low-frequency control. Stereopack is designed to offer maximum flexibility in a highly accessible and configurable combination of powerful tools.

“Stereopack gives audio professionals everything they need to create the big sound they’re striving for, rapidly and intuitively,” said Jon Schorah, creative director, Nugen Audio (www.nugenaudio.com). “They can gain absolute control of their stereo panorama with no unwanted artifacts and the assurance of superb mono compatibility, without interrupting the flow of their creative process.”

With Stereopack, users can naturally widen or reduce the stereo image, focus and define low frequencies, and move specific captured spectra within the stereo soundfield. Each Stereopack component integrates advanced audio analysis feedback directly into the user interface, delivering intuitive control of all main parameters with clear and immediate dynamic feedback.

All three plug-ins are highly mono-compatible, using unique algorithms that maintain the original character of the source audio without introducing any strange phase, reverb, or delay-related artifacts. Each tool is compatible with 64-bit OSX, AAX (32- and 64-bit), and the latest VST3 standards.

One component of Stereopack, Stereoizer, is a high-specification stereo image manipulation tool suitable for natural expansion, reduction, and introduction of stereo width at any stage of the audio production process.
Developed for and tested by professional audio engineers, Stereoizer adds natural-sounding width and depth to any mono or stereo audio recording, leaving the inherent character of the original source intact.

Another Stereopack tool is the Monofilter plug-in, which enables users to align and balance low frequencies with a minimum of effort to create solid, natural-sounding bass. With Monofilter, users can define the center of the bass, which can be easily lost through stereo effects processing, synth sound generation, unwanted phase inconsistencies, and live recording mic bleed. The plug-in provides clear control over stereo spread, transition, and phase alignment, with a unique interface that delivers clear and exacting visual feedback. The result is a bass sound that is more focused and better defined.

The third tool in the Stereopack bundle is Stereoplacer, an advanced fine-tune parametric balancing control tool that allows users to tune each band to specific frequencies and move the frequency content around in the stereo sound stage. Stereoplacer maintains the character of the original sounds while the user chooses the position, providing fully adjustable curves (bell, high and low shelving, and additional linked-harmonic overtones). These characteristics enable the user to redistribute stereo information with subtlety or powerfully correct signals — even moving hard-panned frequencies from one side to the other — without affecting the overall level balance of the material.