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Composing and Mixing for mobile devices

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I am a TV and game composer, currently working with a Chinese mobile games company. I thought I would start a topic about making your music sound good on a mobile device. I have struggled to find good info on this subject so have learned through trial and error. The main points I can summarize are:

 

1. Don't over-compress...

 

You need to preserve as much of the dynamics as possible in your sounds, only using compressors to tame the peaks. Any bus compression should be treated with caution.

 

2. Roll off the bass....

 

I have found that rolling of bass instruments from 100hz downwards ensures the bass comes through on any device, providing there is still activity in the higher frequencies.

 

3. Watch the high mids...

 

Any instrumentation in this area music be carefully planned out, as this is the central sound source for mobile devices. The parts must not be fighting each other for the spotlight as this could result in an over-compressed effect or even distortion.

 

4. Don't limit too high...

 

I have found anything even approaching -0.1db sounds horrible especially on the iPad - very compressed sounding. So I set a ceiling of -0.3db maximum. When I limit (using an L2) I initially set my track as high as possible with only about -2db headroom on the peaks, and when lowering the limiter I aim for -1db attenuation on the peaks at most. Otherwise...once again things will sound over-compressed on mobile devices.

 

 

If anyone should have further comments to share on this subject, or even know some good online documentation, I for one would appreciate it!

 

Mike Georgiades

Composer

http://guitaristcomposer.co.uk

 

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Any bus compression should be treated with caution.

 


Why?

 


 

I have found anything even approaching -0.1db sounds horrible especially on the iPad - very compressed sounding. So I set a ceiling of -0.3db maximum. When I limit (using an L2) I initially set my track as high as possible with only about -2db headroom on the peaks, and when lowering the limiter I aim for -1db attenuation on the peaks at most. Otherwise...once again things will sound over-compressed on mobile devices.

 

 

 

Leaving small headroom in the dynamics is useful whenever you use lossy compression (aac, mp3, ogg etc) because of nature of that process. But the ingame volume should be set in the engine to make room for sound effects (if they are present). Other settings like limiting depends mostly on previous production stage - mixing of audio. There is notion towards not using limiters at all (or just to cut out short, single peaks) which seems resonable since we have so much controll over the whole process of music prodution today.

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