OWC 12.4

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. 


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