Compression on soundtracks: Comments on the Titanic Soundtrack from a composer – what soundtracks sound good?

Robert Katz Leave a Comment

My comments are: kudos to you for your compression page, most fascinating reading, i really enjoyed it. helped me a lot. i’m new at all of this and am wondering what you think of James Horner’s titanic soundtrack overall, like in terms of compression and stuff. do you think it’s too soft (is it classical or pop produced, i can’t quite tell)? i saw his zorro soundtrack listed as a recommended album but i didn’t see anything about titanic so i’m just wondering. any comments? is this an album i should be comparing my finished film soundtrack mixes to? please let me know, thanks in advance for your response. your help is greatly appreciated.

Hi, many thanks.

As I mention in my articles, it’s hard to compare any mix to a finished, mastered CD, more on this below.

Honestly, I haven’t listened to the Titanic soundtrack album, which is the only reason it is not on the list. But given that everything that passes through James’s hands in recent years gets loving care, I would suspect it sounds as good as Zorro. The Zorro soundtrack is on Sony Classical, I don’t know what company has Titanic. That can make a difference. But there is a “pop vocal” on the Zorro Soundtrack, which kind of sets the stage for how it should be mastered, and on the Titanic Soundtrack, there are pop songs and ethnic Irish music. What pleases me very much about the Zorro soundtrack is that you can listen all the way through and get to the pop vocal and not have to jump your volume control…it is properly and beautifully mastered. If Titanic is properly mastered, I have to assume that the pop vocal, the “Irish Stage band” and all the classical music are proportionalized just right.

I suspect just a small but nice amount of compression/limiting was done to the Zorro soundtrack to make this trick work, and similarly with the Titanic. I have done a lot of work of this type, and it is a real art to integrate the two genres. I often have to hype the classical a bit, compressing it a touch so as to make it fit with the pop cuts on the same CD. The best description I can give of this type of mastering is “midway between pop and classical”? The classical is hyped a little bit, but not so much as to disgust a classical ear, and the pop is perhaps a little less hyped than typical pop, but not so much as to disgust a pop producer’s ear.

Does this make any sense?

So, for you to listen to the Zorro (or Titanic) album and compare your own work, which is unmastered… to it…could be difficult. What I would do is assume the mastering engineer (make it be me…nudge nudge, wink, wink) will properly hype what is necessary. I would listen to classical albums that sound good and compare them with your “classical” arrangements, and to pop albums (as in the ones I cite) and compare them with your pop arrangements, and then assume that the mastering engineer’s capable hands will help to marry the two elements. I would not do anything special in the mixing to make them fit together, other than to mix everything on the same set of reliable loudspeakers.

Best wishes,

Bob

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