The Masters

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you just cannot win? I found myself in that position this past week.

I had one project that, for a number of reasons, suffered a series of delays. The project started tracking roughly two years ago and derailed about 9 months back. I received an email a few weeks back from the producer who, understandably, wanted to get the project completed and requested that the final work be finished by end of August.

End of August? Wow. Where would I find the time?

I gave up my vacation time. I logged over 70 hours on the project during my vacation and then used another 60 hours over the following two weeks to help the project meet this deadline.

I had to delay another project that had also expected to complete by end of August. The month of September will prove to be just as busy and then I start tracking on a new project mid-October.

Where I was not able to win was in preparing the mixes for mastering. I had released candidate mixes for the producer to review. There were change requests from the first set of candidates and I incorporated those changes and shipped a new set of release candidates last Monday. To meet the end of August deadline I had to dedicate Friday evening and Saturday to prep the mixes for mastering.

Session work on Saturday generally starts at 7am for me. I had received some very positive feedback from the artist on the last set of mixes however I had not heard anything back from the producer. On Friday evening I began the labour intensive work that is known as final mix.

To prepare mixes for mastering there are a number of necessary and mundane tasks: flattening all tracks in the various Pro Tools sessions, updating all documentation to reflect the current view of the mix, preparing file structures for backups. I did all of this work Friday evening so that I could focus Saturday on any mix changes.

Only Saturday morning there was no communication from the producer. And, at 6am on a Saturday, I did not think that it was prudent to call and confirm. I was in a time crunch and I thought sure the producer would have alerted me if further changes were required.

So I spent the next 5 hours preparing the mixes for mastering. The longest part of the job is cutting the finals on to CD at 1x. I use 1x burn rates to ensure minimum errors and I cut 2 copies. 1 copy is the primary and 1 copy is the backup. To get there, I needed to cut 24-bit 48KHz versions of each mix. So… all told, just to make copies of the final mixes can take about 6 hours without making a single revision to the original mix.

I came up for lunch at 11:30am and decided to check my email. At about 10:40am the producer had sent me an email outlining a number of changes across almost every song in the project.

And so I had to throw out all of the work that I had done. I spent another 14 hours making the requested changes and cutting new versions. I should have slept in that Saturday morning. More sleep, less stress 😉

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