Yesterday the team reviewed the final round of mixes for the New World project at my home studio. And, after several hundred hours of dedicated effort, we have a project that is now ready for mastering.
There is still a bit more work left to do on the project. I will need to prepare the final mixes for the mastering engineer and to ensure that we master the project to suit the different deliveryÂ environments including online delivery. A bit new for some projects is the Mastered for iTunes (MFiT) workflow. Apple provides a comprehensive overview and tools for the workflow here. Justmastering has a more detailed technical overview on MFiT here.
Bob Ludwig provides his perspective:
Apple has begun a new initiative called “Mastered for iTunes” which greatly improves the sound of iTunes AAC encodes without changing a single piece of hardware on the 250,000,000 players in the field. It can be so dramatic you can easily hear the difference between the new and old technology on your little laptop speakers.
Instead of ingesting the music from a CD rip or 16-bit file, the new system uses 24-bit master files for the encode. The AAC encoder can make use of bits 17-24. An important addition is the realization that the act of AAC encoding can cause clipping where there was none on the original PCM .wav or .aiff file. In classical music this encoder induced clipping can occur at the occasional climaxes or in a typical over-compressed pop/rock recording, many times a second. Apple has created tools to log the number, severity and time of each clip so the mastering engineer can lower the level of the 24-bit master by fractions of a dB and the clips and resulting distortion from them is eliminated.
It is a complicated answer, but a 24-bit AAC encoded file can thus sound better and measure better in certain cases than a normal 16-bit Compact Disc, which unfortunately has been regarded as the gold standard for sound in these comparisons.
The days of consuming music on physical media are pretty much over and it makes sense to ensure that the final masters are well prepared for digital delivery over services like iTunes. Also another reason to track and mix in high resolution audio. This project was tracked and mixed at 24-bit/96kHz. We will master at 24/96 for iTunes.
Well, regardless of the final few steps, yesterday was a major milestone for the project. Bittersweet in one respect as I deeply care for each member of the team. They are all amazing players and we created a wonderful work of art. I am looking forward to the final release over the next few months.