Archives For Mastering


You finally scored a spot at a field recording nature workshop. All weekend you recorded tracks of wind, water, and wildlife in the mountains hours from home. Every morning you woke at 4 a.m. and captured hours of dawn chorus field recordings. You let the recorder run all night gathering the sounds of insects and night birds. Your audio recorder is brimming with tracks.

And now? What seemed like a good idea at the time now feels like punishment: you’re faced with mastering multiple sessions of eight-hour sound files. The amount of audio is overwhelming. It will take weeks to complete. Of course, you couldn’t have worked all day and also stayed up all night starting new takes. It’s understandable to just let a digital recorder run for hours. So, it made sense at the time.

But the problem remains: how do you even begin editing tracks that sprawl for hours? What’s the best way to master hour-long soundscapes into digestible tracks for your listeners?

Today’s post is designed to help. I’ll share solutions for solving this problem using a screenshots from editing an prolonged field recording example.

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A year and a half ago I sold everything I owned, jumped on a plane, and arrived in Southeast Asia. Why?

To capture field recordings, of course. I’ve travelled through Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia recording the sounds of the cultures in those places. I’ve wandered into obscure corners of Bangkok, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur, Denpasar, and other cities to find cool sound effects.

Now, almost 18 months after I began that trip, I am faced with a challenge: my hard drive is crammed full of raw field recordings that need polishing. There are thousands of files. They were captured from three microphones. It’s an overwhelming amount of data that could total hundreds of hours of audio.

I have a special plan for those field recordings that I’ll share with you later. In the meantime, there’s a more obvious problem: how does one transform thousands of field recordings into finished, listenable sound effects? What’s the best way to master bulk field recordings?

Today’s article shares techniques that help you tackle the mastering process efficiently to move those raw files from your hard drive into the ears of your listeners.

Please note: I explore this idea in depth. This post should take you about 12 minutes to read. If you’d prefer, you can email yourself a copy of the post to read later.


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Rolls Royce

It’s dawn in late fall. Your team has arrived in the countryside, ready to record vintage Rolls Royce sound effects.

One person waits at each end of the road, another is in the middle, and you’re driving the car. The four of you are armed with your own microphone and recorder. Then it dawns on you: how will you match up a full day’s worth of sound fx when you get back to the studio, later?

Last week’s article explored this issue. It examined recording sound effects with multiple, unlinked audio recorders. It shared why sync slates are important to help create a point of reference in your field recordings to help align all of these sound effects together later. Today shares the the next step: how to sync those sound fx after returning to the edit suite.

So, today I’ll share a quick tip for syncing and mastering multi-track field recordings in Pro Tools.

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Imagine you’re beginning your first firearms field recording session. You want to record the gun shot sound effects from every angle. So, you’ve arranged a handful of microphones nearby. You’ve placed others in the distance. Cables snake across the field from a half dozen microphones to… where?

Are they connected to a single recorder? Or, do you have many units spread across the field instead?

What’s best? How do you capture multiple, simultaneous channels at once? How do you keep every track synchronized? How do you ensure all your gunshots are in alignment when mastering them, later? Why is this important for field recordists?

Today’s post is the first of a two-part series about field recordings and synchronization.

Multi-track recording and field recording sync may seem like a basic issue that is second nature to most recordists. It may seem obvious. What is less obvious is how this affects the later stages of a sound clip’s arc, when mastering sound effects.

In reality, sound fx sync is a deceptively important issue that is easily overlooked in the field, yet has a huge impact on editing sound clips. So, the two articles explore the importance of tandem field recordings on location, and in the edit suite:

  1. How to add sync slates to your field recordings.
  2. How to synchronize field recordings when mastering clips, afterwards.

The first post will begin with the basics. It will introduce the role channel selection plays when field recording, as well as the importance of sync slating. That will prepare you for next week’s article, where I’ll share a quick tip for ensuring sync when mastering in Pro Tools.

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How to Stereoize 20b - Final Result, Sound Field

Last week’s article shared step-by-steps instructions for transforming a mono sound effect into a stereo file. That process, also known as “stereoizing,” was based on a tip that mixer and sound editor Shaun Farley described in a forum post, years ago.

Of course, you can simply follow the steps described in last week’s post. That will produce good results. However, that article may have left you with questions:

  • Why does the trick work?
  • Why should you use it?
  • Is it safe to stereoize mono files?
  • How can you safely check your work?

I turned to Farley to answer these questions. So, today’s post shares a Q & A with Farley that explains how he began using the trick, the science and risks behind it, and more.

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Stereoize Hero

Have you ever returned to your edit suite to realize one channel of your stereo field recordings is distorted beyond hope? Has a client demanded a stereo delivery spec, regardless of the source sound effects in your sound library? Do you have a cool mono drone you’d like thicken up?

If any of these situations sound familiar, you’ve likely thought about transforming your mono sounds into a stereo file.

However, this task of “stereoizing” mono files isn’t simple. Why? Well, there’s the ever-present risk of accidentally corrupting your new stereo file with phase problems. And what about audio quality? Often stereoized files sound flat and lifeless. Is it possible for stereoized mono files to sound good?

I struggled with this for years. I used mastering hacks to get this done: shifting a duplicate track a few frames, or dropping half of a mono clip underneath on a second track. There are other tricks. I wasn’t satisfied with any of them.

A few years ago I stumbled across a post that explained a bulletproof, acoustically sound method of stereoizing a mono file. It recreates the physics behind the way our ears hear sound.

I tried it. I was thrilled with the results. I’ve used it ever since.

Today’s post is the first in a two-part series that explains how to use this trick. This article shares step-by-step instructions for stereoizing mono files, with the kind assistance of a special guest contributor.

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RX4 Hero

It seems like just a few months ago that I wrote an article comparing iZotope’s RX3 audio restoration software with its predecessor, RX2.

At that time, RX2 had been known as a respected tool for polishing troublesome audio. The software hadn’t seen a major update in years, however. So, last year’s announcement of RX3 was met with considerable excitement. It delivered a fresh coat of paint, new tools, and welcome workflow improvements.

iZotope didn’t wait as long to release RX4. It arrived roughly a year after RX3. Does that seem quick to you? You wouldn’t be the only one to think so. Many sound editors understandably wondered what could have changed so quickly to be worth hundreds of dollars in upgrade fees.

I’ve written this article to answer that question. What’s new in RX4? What’s changed? Is it worth your upgrade dollars? Today’s post takes a deep dive into RX4 to learn more about the cornerstone audio repair software.

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13 Lucky iZotope RX Tricks for Newbies Hero

In an earlier article I shared ways to approach restoring damaged sound effects. That dealt with ideas and perspective.

Today’s post will share more direct tips. I’ll explain practical tricks to help you get better results. I’ll start with general tips that can be applied to any restoration app. Toward the end, I’ll include suggestions specifically tailored to iZotope’s RX software.

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6 Sound Effect Restoration Tips Hero

Earlier I wrote about an update to a popular audio restoration app, iZotope’s RX3. That software has the powerful ability to recover damaged audio and restore precious clips that would be useless otherwise.

Clicks, crackle, hum, and noise are all irritating problems for sound pros. Why? They often mean the difference between using the audio, or deleting it.

This is why restoration software like RX and its peers seem almost miraculous. It gets dialogue editors, mastering techs, and post crew out of tight spots. Part of this is learning the tools: the settings, switches, and plug-ins that do the job best. These are essential, but ultimately they can be figured out with practice.

Today I’d like to share something different: the perspective needed when restoring audio. These are ideas that are helpful when beginning restoration. They’re not about settings. They’re more about cultivating an approach to denoising that will save you work, time, and help you transform sound effects you’re proud of.

Looking for concrete tech tips? I’ll share specific iZotope RX suggestions in an upcoming article.

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