Studio Dual can help prepare your finished tapes for release on Compact Disc, cassette and other media. We charge relatively little for this service (currently $50.00/hr.)
You simply cannot get any better mastering than what's available two towns over at Bob Ludwig's Gateway Mastering. And, further afield, Greater Boston offers several other fine facilities, including Peerless Mastering, Northeastern Digital Recording and M Works.
Studio Dual is first & foremost a recording studio, and we strongly urge clients who record their projects at Studio Dual to take their work to an outside mastering facility, to have the work done by fresh ears in a room optimized for the purpose.
But for clients on a limited budget we are happy to provide simple and professional master preparation services.
This article was prepared to introduce our clients to the world of digital audio, especially as it's applied at Studio Dual. Digital audio is a wonderful technological advance, but it represents more than can be properly covered here. So we'll be shying away from theory and concentrating on helping you use the digital technology at Studio Dual to enhance your project.
Because SADiE's digital editing is a function most clients will use here, and want to understand, we explain that capability in detail a little further down.
It's important to keep in mind that, beyond its editing capabilities, the SADiE does much more. Removable hard drives cartridges coupled with an Exabyte tape drive speed production and allow unlimited storage. In multitrack sessions it's a great way to time-shift tracks like vocals and solo instruments. It's a fast, effective tool for video post-production.
A Close-up on Digital Editing-
At Studio Dual, stereo mixing and recording is done directly onto the Sadie hard drive. Our system uses hot-swappable Kensington drive trays: individual drives offer hours of recording time at any resolution, and can be exchanged for other drives in an instant.
It's the normal practice here to "loan" space on our hard drives to a client for the duration of a project, with the understanding that once the client has fully approved the final edits, the space will be reused for other projects. On request, all audio and edit data can be backed up.
In a typical digital editing session using material from another studio, the source material has been recorded onto DAT tape. In order to be edited, the material is transferred from the DAT on the SADiE. Either way, once the audio is in the editor, we edit it (!).
Editing the cuts:
SADiE software allows us to examine sound visually. The squiggle at right represents an entire musical "Take", with time running from left to right and "loudness" shown vertically. A vertical line is positioned at a point where the music suddenly gets louder. Let's zoom in on that point:
Creating the EDL:
The editing process described above produces a series of individual "Cuts." These cuts can be of any length: a cut could contain an entire selection of music or narration, or it could represent a shorter segment, meant to be joined with other segments to "piece together" a whole. This is accomplished when the operator creates a "EDL. (Edit Decision List)" The list is made up of individual cues, viewed as individual blocks of sound arrayed in time. Each cue can be tweaked from within the list: it's easy to control volume, panning, fades and more.
Once the EDL is assembled, SADiE uses it to play the cuts in the desired order. If a Compact Disc is being mastered, once everyone's happy with the details of the cue list, the list data is converted to the "PQ" information that CD's require, and master recordings are run.
It's important to understand how backup, or safety recordings figure in here, so you may want to visit our special page on this subject.
Altering the sound:
There are several options available for altering the sound of the recorded "takes", and they can be exercised at different times: before or after transfer to the editing system.
SADiE features its own high-end audio processing power, including several sophisticated equalizers, for tone control, an excellent Mastering Limiter for dynamics control, de-essing to avoid spitting sounds in radio and TV broadcasts, and more. The ARTEMIS is SADiE's most powerful Series Four system, so we can handle the most demanding mastering tasks.
Our Crane Song HEDD and Waves L2 digital processors are both high-end units. The Hedd specifically designed to bring the presence and punch of wide-format 2-track analog to digital recordings. The L2 offers super-hot mastered levels.
In special circumstances where special effects (reverberation, stereo image processing and other signal manipulation) are required, our other digital processors come into play,
An actual session would use what we've seen above in the way best suited for the job at hand. An individual cut might be "equalized" for brighter sound, while another could be created out of several segments, reverberated and then time-compressed to run three seconds shorter.
This editing function is terrific for mastering applications, but it doesn't stop there. It's also used in assembling voice-over takes, creating the perfect lead vocal performance on a music project, and lining up effects for video post work. It's part of what makes our digital audio system an invaluable part of the larger picture at Studio Dual.
Studio Dual currently supports four principal media formats for storing your project's completed mixes. In order of our preference, they are-
Exabyte tapes can also be used as a backup medium to store entire SADiE projects.
Recordable Compact Disc (CDR) CDR's are a relatively new development, and represent a major step forward for storing stereo digital program material. CDRs have a long projected lifespan- most manufacturers talk in terms of many decades. By comparison, tape formulations have suffered substantially in terms of shelf life as manufacturers "push the envelope", trying to fit more and more sound onto smaller and smaller packages. Further, CDR's don't come into physical contact with the playback mechanism during operation, so they aren't worn out by multiple passes.
CDR's are also universally playable- just pop one in any CD player, and you're going. Tape media are a bit more esoteric- if you don't have a DAT deck, a DDP system (fuggedaboudit) or a professional reel-to-reel recorder, you're out of luck. This flexibility makes a big difference for small projects- you can take an extra "work CD" home with you, and run cassette dupes at home whenever you need them.
Most Compact Disc manufacturing facilities will accept CDRs as a pre-master medium.
For the most part, CDR's are limited to 16-bit data depth, a serious limitation in many situations. However, our Alesis Masterlink recorder permits us to create special CD-ROM's containing finished audio files with up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution, in the AIFF format.
Once recording a CDR has started, if something goes wrong the disk has to be discarded. This additional cost is factored into the selling price of CDR's at Studio Dual. We still charge much less than many other studios currently charge for CDR's, however.
Digital Audio Tape (DAT) was developed in the mid-1980's, as a consumer tape format to replace cassettes. Lawyers and CFO's got in the way of that, however (it's a long story) and DATs are now used as a professional audio storage medium.
As mentioned before, a DAT tape's lifespan is comparatively short. The tapes also fail fairly often because of mechanical wear, and are not always compatible with other DAT transports. For the most part these decks only store data at a 16-bit depth. Therefore we don't recommend them as an output medium unless the intended destination (tape duplicator, video production facility, CD replication facility) demands them.
When it comes to mix storage, Analog Reel-To-Reel Tape (ARTRT)* recording is provided only for special purposes at Studio Dual. As concerns stereo mixes, analog tape only approaches digital formats in sound quality when it is of a special, wide-format configuration that we just can't bring ourselves to invest space and capital for.
Our Crane Song HEDD digital processor is a high-end unit specifically designed to bring the presence and punch of wide-format 2-track analog to digital recordings.
We do maintain an Otari 5050 BII 1/4" deck on premises, for transcription purposes.