Obviously, we get a lot of questions about what we do. Here are some of the most common. If you've got a question that we haven't covered here, please contact us.

How much does it cost to make a record?
What are some of the time and cost factors involved in a recording session?
How long does it take to have a project duplicated?
Why is acoustic treatment so important?
Why should I have my project professionally mastered?


Q. How much does it cost to make a record?

The most accurate answer we've heard is "How much does it cost to buy a car?" There is no easy answer. It is impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy how much a given product will cost, because there are so many factors, all of which heavily affect the final price tag. Consider the following scenarios:

The most crucial stage of an album project, both with respect to keeping costs down and to guaranteeing the highest quality of performance, is pre-production. That is, the time spent in rehearsal and planning before entering the studio, so that when the clock is ticking and the tape is rolling, all performers know exactly what they need to play. This results in an efficient and streamlined process that moves as quickly, and thus as inexpensively as possible. (back to top)

Q. What are some of the time and cost factors involved in a recording session?

A typical scenario we face is a client wanting to come in and record a couple of songs, usually with minimal accompaniment (i.e. their trusty acoustic guitar), and they ask if they can book one hour of time. There is an understandable misconception that if a song takes three minutes to play, then it takes three minutes to record. While this is technically true, it's certainly not always practical. There is a significant amount of work to be done both before and after the tape rolls, and clients aren't always immediately aware of how significantly this work contributes to a quality recording.

Most often, to approach a session in this rushed fashion defeats the purpose of coming into the recording studio. It takes time to capture the perfect sounds to compliment the material, and there are a variety of elements in a session that may not be immediately apparent to an artist looking to be out the door, CD in hand, before their hour's up.

A session first starts with the load-in. This is where the artist brings in and sets up their equipment. Obviously, if an artist is coming in with just an acoustic guitar, load-in takes just a few moments. However, for a full band (and especially drummers), this can take a fair amount of time.

Next is the set-up, where the Engineer starts placing microphones, experimenting with models and positioning to best capture the individual instruments to the recording medium. The time required will of course depend on the size of the band and complexity of the instrumentation. Still, even our hypothetical solo acoustic guitarist would benefit from taking the time to compare some of our select microphones and different miking strategies. That time will allow us to find the combination that will best compliment the sound of the instrument and voice.

Finally, after the perfect marriage of microphone and instrument, recording can begin. This process can be divided into two sections: bed and scratch tracks, and overdubs. Bed tracks are the "foundation" of a song, and will typically focus on the rhythm section (for instance, bass and drums). Scratch tracks are tracks that are recorded with the intent of being replaced later. For instance, a singer may lay down a "scratch vocal" to guide the rest of the band through structure of a song, with the intent of re-recording vocals later.

The overdubbing process occurs next, which serves three purposes. First of all, it allows individual musicians to focus on their individual performances. Players will often record several takes to get the best one, or alternative to select the best parts in the editing stage. Secondly, it allows these performances to be captured without interference ("bleed" or "leakage") from other instruments. Finally, it allows for the layering of parts and timbres to help build up a mix. This lets individual musicians come up with multiple parts that would be impossible to perform as a single player.

Once the recording process is completed, we can begin the editing process. This involves taking the best sections of individual performances to construct the often elusive "perfect" take. Of course, editing, and even overdubs, are optional processes. Many legendary performances have been captured "live off the floor". Still, a big advantage of a well-equipped professional recording environment is that it allows the flexibility to pursue these other avenues, making a wealth of choices available to the artist and producer.

Next comes the mixing process, in which the individual tracks are enhanced through such methods as equalization or compression, and effects such as reverbs, delays, and even more esoteric processes can be used to establish a rich sound-field. All the individual tracks are combined to result in the final stereo mix.

After the mix is completed, some artists may want to have a project mastered, the specifics of which are discussed here.

At this point, we are ready to make a CD. The first CD will be made on our SADiE system, to insure the purest sound and highest quality. Subsequent copies can be made much more quickly and inexpensively through our standard duplication equipment. Finally, the artist gets the CD in their eager hands.

To return to the initial concept of the 1-hour, 3-song session, yes, it can be achieved. But that would literally involve throwing mic's up, one performance of each song, and a rudimentary mix. It's a truism in the music industry that of good, fast, and cheap, you can have any two you want. It's rarely worth the sacrifice to achieve "fast" and "cheap".

By taking a bit more time with a project, it allows the engineers the necessary time to do their best work, and give your music the attention it deserves. Moreover, the results of that effort will be readily apparent to you and to those who hear your music for years to come. (back to top)

Q. How long does it take to have a project duplicated?

Typically, we recommend that clients doing in-house duplication plan on two weeks for delivery. We recommend Clients going through Cinram allow three to five weeks for delivery, from the time the master and artwork are sent off. While most orders in both scenarios are typically filled within a much shorter time frame, we encourage clients to allot a "buffer period" to allow for unforeseen delays. We'd hate to see a release party ruined by unrealistic scheduling even more than our clients would. (back to top)

Q. Why is acoustic treatment so important?

With an abundance of low-cost home and pro-sumer recording equipment, it is important to remember that there is a significant difference between a professional recording facility and "a bunch of gear in a room". Recording, mixing, or mastering in a room without specialized acoustic treatment is akin to painting with a green light in the corner. Your senses can't accurately tell you what's really going on, because of the way the shape and materials of a room interfere with the proper reproduction of sound. The reasons are far too complex to explain here, although you might try this great article from Electronic Musician Magazine to learn a bit more about the subject.

At Mission, our control room and tracking room were carefully designed by Terry Medwedyk of Group One Acoustics. The resulting acoustics managed to exceed specifications, which brought Mr. Medwedyk back to carefully re-examine the room at his own expense. We could tell you what happened, but it's probably better just to accept that it's magic. The important thing is that the room has been carefully designed and treated, and is extremely accurate, so that you can rest assured what you hear out of our speakers will translate well to any other system. (back to top)

Q. Why should I have my project professionally mastered?

Have you ever listened to an album on which one track was so bright you smelled smoke from your tweeters, while the bass of the next track blew a speaker into your neighbour's living room? Or heard an album in which you were so busy adjusting the volume level between songs you barely had time to enjoy the tunes? Have you ever listened to an album that sounded amazing in the car but sounded like a completely different record on your home stereo? These types of acoustic inconsistencies are precisely what a proper mastering session can avoid.

Of course, to be able to perceive and enhance audio with the necessary precision requires the kind of transparent acoustic space that Mission can offer. Mastering in an untreated or improperly treated room results in a compromised product, as engineers compensate for acoustic abnormalities in the mixing environment by carving up perfectly innocent source material. Nobody wants that.

When it comes time to create a master to send to the duplication plant (more accurately called a pre-master - the actual master is cut from glass and used to stamp out thousands of copies of your album for eager fans), a simple CD burner isn't up to the job. Computers make mistakes, and they love making them when your precious album is on its way as a blitz of ones and zeros down a laser to be etched into a CD-R. These errors can result in the duplication of your album coming to a grinding halt if they fall outside the strict tolerances of professional duplication equipment. Worse yet, the album could be duplicated with those errors, presenting your listeners with a compromised sound quality due to the primitive error correction in consumer players.

At Mission, we only send out masters on Exabyte DDP tapes. Exabyte tapes are self-correcting, in that they write a bit of information, and then reference that written information against the original. If any discrepancy is found, the data is rewritten until it is successfully verified, and only then will the write continue. This is how we guarantee error-free masters to our clients.

After spending all the time, energy, and money to bring your project to completion, the importance of a proper mastering session, in a transparent acoustic environment and on professional equipment, cannot be overstated. We understand that very few things are as important as your album, and we wouldn't trust your masters to anything but the best. (back to top)