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How to Master my Stem mixes?

makesuru

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Hi,

I wish to Master my own stem mixes but there are there no obvious tutorials to do this correctly (after scouring the net for almost a year).

I have come across this great video: from Mihkel, but it only helps me prepare my mixed stems 'pre-master'.

To elaborate, I am placing all my 'stem mixes' into a new project (in Cubase 9) and I then master my overall mix by using the plugin 'Ozone 9' which is placed in my Stereo Out channel (I am unaware of any other way to do this in order for Ozone to master my mix).

Now, when I want to batch export each individual stem master in order to send them to a library client I am faced with the problem of trying to have Ozone 9 act upon all of the stems whilst having Cubase independently 'listen' to all my stems as I export them out as separate stem Masters (I know a lot of libraries have 'in-house' mastering engineers but some of the libraries out there do not hence my need to master my own stems).

Ozone 9 does not have a sidechain functionality to connect all the stems whilst being exported (so the stems cannot listen to one another whilst simultaneously being affected by Ozone's processing) and nor can Cubase look ahead at my Stereo Output in order to allow Ozone 9's processing to affect the stems as they are being batch exported. So I am left with the option of mastering each stem individually which of course means that Ozone 9's processing acts differently upon each separate stem track than it does when all the tracks are playing together - this in turn causing each mastered stem to be printed off completely off the mark and when summed together they are, sonically, radically altered.

Placing an instance of Ozone 9 on every stem would be utterly counter intuitive as it would use an insane amount of CPU which would in effect freeze my DAW, (Ozone 9 seems to be devised as a processing suite which needs only one instance loaded into a DAW in order to master the mix).

Mihkel's insightful video highlights the problem within Cubase which is, any tracks in the chain placed after the group channels that you are batch exporting (stems in this case) are ignored in the export process and I can find no solution to working around this problem.

Every tutorial I have seen on the internet seems to point towards preparing your stems for a Mastering engineer to do this job for you but I need to 'be the mastering engineer' due to a lack of financial capacity to pay anyone else.

If anyone has any idea what I may do to rectify this problem then I would be eternally grateful.

As a caveat I am aware that the mastered stems will ultimately be a little bit different to the overall Stereo master but in my case, the stems are so far off that it makes them useless as product. I am also aware that there is a great deal of information regarding this topic but non of it clearly identifies and answers this specific problem and so hopefully my question will not seem repetitively tiresome ;)

I have attached a couple of screenshots in case that helps clarify my workflow.

Many thanks,
Anthony
 

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Henu

Senior Member
Unfortunately I need to let you down on this- tried actually myself different methods with Ozone to see if this could be somehow done, but it seems that there is not a single way to make Ozone to listen to the sidechain instead of the upcoming signal. If it would just support that, your problem would be easily fixed.

Maybe you could just use it on each stem separately with milder settings? I know it's not the exact same but the result will still be closer to the original master than without any processing.
 
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makesuru

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Thanks for your reply Henu.

Wishful thinking on my part for a quick workaround to this problem but I guess I will have to rethink my overall workflow with regards to the stem mastering and try to re-master them on their respective stem channels as you suggest.

At least that way what I 'print off' when exporting them will be what I have crafted when mastering them.

Thanks again.
 

PeterN

Senior Member
Sorry, I might have missed the idea, but do you really need to master every stem? How about just compressing them, maybe cleaning them, in other words, mixing them, and then putting full ready track in Ozone? (or maybe. Landr. etc) After that, it may be good to ask opinions from others etc. And check with some tool (for reference) I think, theoretically, we could do a better job than a mastering engineer, with the right tools and a handful friends to give opinions. Its not a must to have one, if you are on tight budget. Not sure I got the whole idea, but it sounded like something was complicated thats not necessary to complicate. (Sorry if I missed the point, I get it its your workflow).
 
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makesuru

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Hi PeterN, thanks for your response,

To be honest I am fairly new to the library/production music business but I had an album accepted this year with a library who had asked for all the music to be mastered prior to delivery, including all the stems and cutdown versions etc..

Ultimately, with that album the mastered stems were not to my satisfaction (as I begrudgingly mastered each stem individually and then had to greatly decrease their overall volume when played as a 'whole track' to prevent the final result from clipping - this meant that they were somewhere in between the respective volume of the stereo mix and stereo master and so I felt that they were not professional enough for my tastes but sent them off anyway as I had run out of options and time).

I am now finalising a new album which, after finishing composing all the tracks, I am preparing the stems & cutdowns etc and this time I wanted to resolve the stem mastering issue before I sent my album out on its merry way - I am working on the premise that my stems will need to be prepared as a mastered product, especially as the previous library I used had specifically asked for that.

With respect to potentially overcomplicating things I honestly feel like it should be an easy task to perform with the software available to us but, as Henu pointed out with regards to Ozone, their is no sidechain function to allow Ozone to make this a straightforward task and Cubase has no function that allows me to export the separate stems whilst they are being 'acted upon' by the processing from Ozone in the Stereo output buss and so my option is that I shall have to place my mastering processing on the stems themselves if I want an equilibrium in my final product.

I do feel that we all have the capability to do as good a job as a mastering engineer given enough time and the right resources and I suppose that is the ultimate goal I am aiming for here with my work. I was just hoping for some kind of solution that would make that step a little more straightforward and I am a tad frustrated that the Ozone mastering suite seems to be geared towards a single stereo master but has not been designed with a functionality that takes into account mastering individual stems (if it does then my apologies iZotope but I don't seem to see that in the product).

Thanks again.
 

Henu

Senior Member
we all have the capability to do as good a job as a mastering engineer given enough time and the right resources
Well, not exactly, but we have the capability and potential to do decent job. And most of the time it's completely enough!
 

macmac

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What I do is create the stems, then add mild processing only on the stems and NOT on the master bus. Then I make the stereo master from those. This way they will sound the same as the master when combined (instead of working backwards by making a master with FX first then trying to get the stems to match it).
 
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makesuru

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What I do is create the stems, then add mild processing only on the stems and NOT on the master bus. Then I make the stereo master from those. This way they will sound the same as the master when combined (instead of working backwards by making a master with FX first then trying to get the stems to match it).
Seems like this is the way forward for my workflow from now on as it's a complete headache trying to get the stems to match my stereo master.

Thanks peeps.
 
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