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Quality control takes centre stage at MPG Mastering Group launch

Daniel Gumble
Quality control takes centre stage at MPG Mastering Group launch

Last week (Thursday May 24th) saw the Music Producers Guild launch its new Mastering Group, which is aimed at promoting standards to help mastering engineers deliver the best possible results.

Held at London’s Alchemea College, the launch saw veteran Air Studios mastering engineer and Mastering Group administrator Ray Staff introduce his proposal for a new QC process for CD Masters.

“There is currently an issue surrounding poor quality QC control and lack of coherent QC processes in the mastering world,” Staff explained. “This was a key reason why the MPG decided to set up a specific Mastering Group and why we have come up with a process that, if universally adopted, should address this problem.”

The new QC process consists of a set of guidelines, which aim to prevent the wrong masters from ending up in the CD manufacturing chain. This issue has affected a number of mastering engineers in recent months, who have subsequently faced potential bills for incorrectly manufactured CDs due to proper measures not being observed.

“This is a very serious issue that the whole industry needs to address,” Staff added. “We live in a world where, other than vinyl, we are moving away from physical masters to the online delivery of CD masters and files for downloads. It is imperative that guidelines are followed to ensure that the right files and masters are delivered and to provide mastering engineers with some protection in case of mistakes by others. Many of those working in the mastering business already know the process but there are a lot of people who are new to mastering or are working in small home-based facilities that need guidelines and need a structure that establishes a clear chain of responsibility.”

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Further to the new QC process, Richard Whitham from insurance company Doodson, provided an overview of the new insurance policy that the company has tailored for mastering houses following the QC process. The policy, which will be discounted for MPG members, is designed to protect mastering houses against any possible claims. Tony Platt, producer and MPG member, also emphasised the importance of combining the QC process with specialised insurance.

A number of the UK’s top mastering engineers were in attendance at the launch, including Tim Young, Tony Cousins, Ian Cooper and Miles Showell from Metropolis, Simon Heyworth from Super Audio Mastering, Bill Foster and MPG Unsung Hero Award winner Crispin Murray.

Director of Alchemy Mastering Barry Grint also reported on his collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to enable ISRC codes to be embedded into the broadcast WAV standard. Grint, who is a founding member of the MPG Mastering Group, is working towards broadcast WAV becoming the standard file interchange format for the music, radio and television industries across Europe. As a result of Grint’s work, the EBU has since agreed to introduce a standard field for unique file identifiers. Similar to ISRC codes or Stem identifiers, these will be inserted directly into broadcast WAV files and will assist in ensuring that the correct files, mixes and stems are used and that everyone involved in the creation and production of the audio is properly credited and paid.

He also outlined the duty of Digital Audio Workstation manufacturers to implement functionality to write and read ISRC codes to and from Broadcast WAV files.

The evening concluded with a lively discussion and with the panel encouraging the audience to send in their feedback, suggestions and comments in order for them to be included in the final documents and guidelines that the MPG Mastering Group is aiming to produce by the end of June.

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Tags: mpg, music producers guild, metropolis studio, alchemea college, mpg mastering group, mastering group, crispin murray, super audio mastering

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