Film music mastering is very similar to commercial music mastering. It differs in the process of export, treatment and dynamics. At the sound level, the objective remains the same, we must ensure that the music sounds as good as possible. The music intended for cinema has to maintain a great dynamic, although it is a reality that nowadays is less and less respected and we find ourselves with very forced and compressed productions.
Next, let’s see the usual process of mastering a soundtrack.
Preparation of the final Tracks or Stems from the Composer
Once the artist or composer has finished the musical piece, it is time to export it to send it to the mastering studio. The method that is usually used is the export by stems.
Strings stem, drums, voices, etc. The type of music production will determine these groups. The export by stems is done in this way to be able to process and distribute the music in multiple formats: 5.1 mix for theaters and stereo for TV, streaming, and similar platforms with video playback.
If we are creating music that needs the export of stems, we have to take it into account and previously plan a template in our DAW. When we compose to get a stereo mix we check that everything sounds correct and then we export, but when exporting by groups it can affect the mix, especially if we mix sound effects plugins and auxiliary groups with different instruments.
The recommended thing is to create several subgroups per stem as well as the auxiliary channels, that way you will have everything independent to be able to export each stem without mixing anything. It is also recommended not to mix compressors between the different stems, since leaving them alone to perform the export will affect the dynamics. In addition, this work will be the task of the mastering engineer.
Once we have all the stems ready we will send them to the mastering studio.
Making the Stem Mastering for film
When it comes time to do the mastering in the studio, the engineer will have to master all the stems individually, as if they were stereo tracks. Applying all the tweaks and processes necessary to obtain the best sound. He will also have to take into account the dynamics depending on the type of music. For example, for a suspense film, it is preferable to have greater dynamics to create greater impact in certain scenes or specific moments.
Once the process is finished, it will export all the stems separately since they will be used by the film’s mix engineer or Dolby rooms, where all the music tracks will be combined with the dialogues, sound effects, and ambiances.
Another important factor why this process is done is because in the multichannel mix the stems will be routed to different speakers creating the typical three-dimensional sound sphere of movies in surround.
The engineer must also create a final stereo master that will be used for TV, streaming, DVD, etc.
What is the correct Loudness in a Film Music Master?
We should not confuse the master made by the mastering engineer with the subsequent editions and videos made by other professionals altering the music and the loudness, sometimes reaching exorbitant levels, in some cases. I’ve seen trailers with -5LUFS levels. 😵
Loudness Levels on the main TV Platforms
Film mixing studios and video editors at the moment of finishing a film or video must take into account where it is directed, to export it with the appropriate audio level.
Many times it will not be necessary to make a mix from scratch to send to various platforms, the broadcast technicians will adjust the correct loudness of the provided master.
So remember to do better Mastering Audio for film, video or TV with these tips
Work, process, and finish all the stems respecting the levels and maintaining the best dynamics according to the type of music. But the most important thing is to obtain a master’s with the best possible musical quality, just like when we work with stereo music.