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Remaster refers to changing the quality of the sound or of the image, or both, of previously created recordings, either audiophonic, cinematic, or videographic. The terms digital remastering and digitally remastered are also used.



A master is the definitive recording version that will be replicated for the end user, commonly into other formats (e.g. LP records, tapes, CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays).

A batch of copies is often made from a single original master recording, which might itself be based on previous recordings. For example, sound effects (e.g. a door opening, punching sounds, falling down the stairs, a bell ringing) might have been added from copies of sound effect tapes similar to modern sampling to make a radio play for broadcast.

Problematically, several different levels of masters often exist for any one audio release. As an example, examine the way a typical music album from the 1960s was created. Musicians and vocalists were recorded on multi-track tape. This tape was mixed to create a stereo or mono master. A further master tape would likely be created from this original master recording consisting of equalization and other adjustments and improvements to the audio to make it sound better on record players for example.

More master recordings would be duplicated from the equalized master for regional copying purposes (for example to send to several pressing plants). Pressing masters for vinyl recordings would be created. Often these interim recordings were referred to as mother tapes. All vinyl records would derive from one of the master recordings.

Thus, mastering refers to the process of creating a master. This might be as simple as copying a tape for further duplication purposes or might include the actual equalization and processing steps used to fine-tune material for release. The latter example usually requires the work of mastering engineers.

With the advent of digital recording in the late 1970s, many mastering ideas changed. Previously, creating new masters meant incurring an analog generational loss; in other words, copying a tape to a tape meant reducing the signal-to-noise ratio. This means how much of the original intended "good" information is recorded against faults added to the recording as a result of the technical limitations of the equipment used (noise, e.g. tape hiss, static, etc.). Although noise reduction techniques exist, they also increase other audio distortions such as azimuth shift, wow and flutter, print-through and stereo image shift.

With digital recording, masters could be created and duplicated without incurring the usual generational loss. As CDs were a digital format, digital masters created from original analog recordings became a necessity.


Remastering is the process of making a new master for an album, film, or any other creation. It tends to refer to the process of porting a recording from an analog medium to a digital one, but this is not always the case.[ citation needed ]

For example, a vinyl LP – originally pressed from a worn-out pressing master many tape generations removed from the "original" master recording – could be remastered and re-pressed from a better-condition tape. All CDs created from analog sources are technically digitally remastered.

The process of creating a digital transfer of an analog tape remasters the material in the digital domain, even if no equalization, compression, or other processing is done to the material. Ideally, because of their higher resolution, a CD or DVD (or even higher quality like high-resolution audio or hi-def video) release should come from the best source possible, with the most care taken during its transfer.[ citation needed ]

Additionally, the earliest days of the CD era found digital technology in its infancy, which sometimes resulted in poor-sounding digital transfers. The early DVD era was not much different, with copies of films frequently being produced from worn prints, with low bitrates and muffled audio.[ citation needed ] When the first CD remasters turned out to be bestsellers, companies soon realized that new editions of back-catalog items could compete with new releases as a source of revenue. Back-catalog values skyrocketed, and today it is not unusual to see expanded and remastered editions of relatively modern albums.

Master tapes, or something close to them, can be used to make CD releases. Better processing choices can be used. Better prints can be utilized, with sound elements remixed to 5.1 surround sound and obvious print flaws digitally corrected. The modern era gives publishers almost unlimited ways to touch up, doctor, and "improve" their media, and as each release promises improved sound, video, extras and others, producers hope these upgrades will entice people into making a purchase.


Remastering music for CD or even digital distribution first starts from locating the original analog version. [1] The next step involves digitizing the track or tracks so it can be edited using a computer. Then the track order is chosen. This is something engineers often worry about because if the track order is not right, it may seem sonically unbalanced. [1]

When the remastering starts, engineers use software tools such as a limiter, an equalizer, and a compressor. The compressor and limiters are ways of controlling the loudness of a track. [1] This is not to be confused with the volume of a track, which is controlled by the listener during playback.

The dynamic range of an audio track is measured by calculating the variation between the loudest and the quietest part of a track. [1] In recording studios the loudness is measured with negative decibels, zero designating the loudest recordable sound. A limiter works by having a certain cap on the loudest parts and if that cap is exceeded, it is automatically lowered by a ratio preset by the engineer. [1]


Remastered audio has been the subject of criticism. [2] [3] Many remastered CDs from the late 1990s onwards have been affected by the "loudness war", where the average volume of the recording is increased and dynamic range is compressed at the expense of clarity, making the remastered version sound louder at regular listening volume and more distorted than an uncompressed version. [2] [3] Some have also criticized the overuse of noise reduction in the remastering process, as it affects not only the noise, but the signal too, and can leave audible artifacts. [4] [5] Equalisation can change the character of a recording noticeably. As EQ decisions are a matter of taste to some degree, they are often the subject of criticism. Mastering engineers such as Steve Hoffman have noted that using flat EQ on a mastering allows listeners to adjust the EQ on their equipment to their own preference, but mastering a release with a certain EQ means that it may not be possible to get a recording to sound right on high-end equipment. [2] [3] Additionally, from an artistic point of view, original mastering involved the original artist, but remastering often does not.[ citation needed ] Therefore, a remastered record may not sound how the artist originally intended.[ citation needed ]

Film and television

The Big Boss: original footage on the left; remastered footage on the right Remaster.png
The Big Boss : original footage on the left; remastered footage on the right

To remaster a movie digitally for DVD and Blu-ray, digital restoration operators must scan in the film frame by frame at a resolution of at least 2,048 pixels across (referred to as 2K resolution). [6] Some films are scanned at 4K, 6K, or even 8K resolution to be ready for higher resolution devices. [6] Scanning a film at 4K—a resolution of 4096 × 3092 for a full frame of film—generates at least 12 terabytes of data before any editing is done. [6]

Digital restoration operators then use specialist software such as MTI's Digital Restoration System (DRS) to remove scratches and dust from damaged film. Restoring the film to its original color is also included in this process. [1]

As well as remastering the video aspect, the audio is also remastered using such software as Pro Tools to remove background noise and boost dialogue volumes so when actors are speaking they are easier to understand and hear. [1] Audio effects are also added or enhanced, as well as surround sound, which allows the soundtrack elements to be spread among multiple speakers for a more immersive experience. [1]

An example of a restored film is the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz . [7] The color portions of Oz were shot in the three-strip Technicolor process, which in the 1930s yielded three black and white negatives created from red, green and blue light filters which were used to print the cyan, magenta and yellow portions of the final printed color film answer print. [7] These three negatives were scanned individually into a computer system, where the digital images were tinted and combined using proprietary software. [7]

The cyan, magenta, and yellow records had suffered from shrinkage over the decades, and the software used in the restoration morphed all three records into the correct alignment. [7] The software was also used to remove dust and scratches from the film by copying data, for example, from the cyan and yellow records to fix a blemish in the magenta record. [7] Restoring the movie made it possible to see precise visual details not visible on earlier home releases: for example, when the Scarecrow says "I have a brain", burlap is noticeable on his cheeks. It was also not possible to see a rivet between the Tin Man's eyes prior to the restoration. [7]

Shows that were shot and edited entirely on film, such as Star Trek: The Original Series , are able to be re-released in HD through re-scanning the original film negatives; the remastering process for the show additionally enabled Paramount to digitally update certain special effects. [8] [ unreliable source? ] Shows that were made between the early 1980s and the early 2000s were generally shot on film, then transferred to and edited on standard-definition videotape, making high-definition transfers impossible without re-editing the product from scratch, such as with the HD release of Star Trek: The Next Generation , which cost Paramount over $12 million to produce. Because of this release's commercial failure, Paramount chose not to give Deep Space Nine or Voyager the same treatment. [9] In 2014, Pee-wee's Playhouse was digitally remastered from the original 16 mm film elements and original audio tracks. [10]


Remastered movies have been the subject of criticism. When the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator was remastered, it was felt by some critics that the process was overdone, resulting in Schwarzenegger's skin looking waxy. [11] As well as complaints about the way the picture looks, there have been other complaints about digital fixing. [12] One notable complaint is from the 2002 remastered version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), where director Steven Spielberg replaced guns in the hands of police and federal agents with walkie-talkies. A later 30th-anniversary edition released in 2012 saw the return of the original scene. [12]

Canadian animator John Kricfalusi (of The Ren & Stimpy Show fame) has become a prominent critic of digital remastering, particularly in regards to its effects on Western animation. In his blog "John K. Stuff," he has admonished remasters for over-saturating colors and sharpening lines to the point of color bleeding (among other criticisms). He has gone on record in his blog to describe remastering as "digital ruination" and "digital destruction." [13] [14] [ unreliable source? ]

Video games

A comparison of Halo: Combat Evolved (left) and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (right) with redrawn graphics. Anniversary features both the old and the new visuals in-game with a graphics-swapping feature. Halo Combat Evolved vs Anniversary.jpg
A comparison of Halo: Combat Evolved (left) and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (right) with redrawn graphics. Anniversary features both the old and the new visuals in-game with a graphics-swapping feature.

Remastering a video game is more difficult than remastering a film or music recording because the video game's graphics show their age. [15] This can be due to a number of factors, notably lower resolutions and less complicated rendering engines at the time of release. A video game remaster typically has ambience and design updated to the capabilities of a more powerful console, while a video game remake is also updated but with recreated models. [16]

Modern computer monitors and high-definition televisions tend to have higher display resolutions and different aspect ratios than the monitors/televisions available when the video game was released. [15] Because of this, classic games that are remastered typically have their graphics re-rendered at higher resolutions. [15] An example of a game that has had its original graphics re-rendered at higher resolutions is Hitman HD Trilogy , which contains two games with high-resolution graphics: Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Hitman: Contracts . Both were originally released on PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. [17] The original resolution was 480p on Xbox, while the remastered resolution is displayed at 720p on Xbox 360. [17] There is some debate regarding whether graphics of an older game at higher resolutions make a video game look better or worse than the original artwork, with comparisons made to colorizing black-and-white-movies. [15]

More significant than low resolution is the age of the original game engine and simplicity of the original 3D models. Older computers and video game consoles had limited 3D rendering speed, which required simple 3D object geometry such as human hands being modeled as mittens rather than with individual fingers, while maps having a distinctly chunky appearance with no smoothly curving surfaces. Older computers also had less texture memory for 3D environments, requiring low-resolution bitmap images that look visibly pixelated or blurry when viewed at high resolution. (Some early 3D games such as the 1993 version of DOOM also just used an animated two-dimensional image that is rotated to always face the player character, rather than attempt to render highly complex scenery objects or enemies in full 3D.) As a result, depending on the age of the original game, if the original assets are not compatible with the new technology for a remaster, it is often considered necessary to remake or remodel the graphical assets. An example of a game that has had its graphics redesigned is Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary , [15] while the core character and level information is exactly the same as in Halo: Combat Evolved . [15] [18] [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

An analog signal is any continuous signal representing some other quantity, i.e., analogous to another quantity. For example, in an analog audio signal, the instantaneous signal voltage varies continuously with the pressure of the sound waves.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sound effect</span> Artificially created or enhanced sound

A sound effect is an artificially created or enhanced sound, or sound process used to emphasize artistic or other content of films, television shows, live performance, animation, video games, music, or other media. Traditionally, in the twentieth century, they were created with foley. In motion picture and television production, a sound effect is a sound recorded and presented to make a specific storytelling or creative point without the use of dialogue or music. The term often refers to a process applied to a recording, without necessarily referring to the recording itself. In professional motion picture and television production, dialogue, music, and sound effects recordings are treated as separate elements. Dialogue and music recordings are never referred to as sound effects, even though the processes applied to such as reverberation or flanging effects, often are called "sound effects".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digital Audio Tape</span> Digital audio cassette format developed by Sony

Digital Audio Tape is a signal recording and playback medium developed by Sony and introduced in 1987. In appearance it is similar to a Compact Cassette, using 3.81 mm / 0.15" magnetic tape enclosed in a protective shell, but is roughly half the size at 73 mm × 54 mm × 10.5 mm. The recording is digital rather than analog. DAT can record at sampling rates equal to, as well as higher and lower than a CD at 16 bits quantization. If a comparable digital source is copied without returning to the analogue domain, then the DAT will produce an exact clone, unlike other digital media such as Digital Compact Cassette or non-Hi-MD MiniDisc, both of which use a lossy data-reduction system.

Sound can be recorded and stored and played using either digital or analog techniques. Both techniques introduce errors and distortions in the sound, and these methods can be systematically compared. Musicians and listeners have argued over the superiority of digital versus analog sound recordings. Arguments for analog systems include the absence of fundamental error mechanisms which are present in digital audio systems, including aliasing and quantization noise. Advocates of digital point to the high levels of performance possible with digital audio, including excellent linearity in the audible band and low levels of noise and distortion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mastering (audio)</span> Form of audio post-production

Mastering, a form of audio post production, is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device, the source from which all copies will be produced. In recent years digital masters have become usual, although analog masters—such as audio tapes—are still being used by the manufacturing industry, particularly by a few engineers who specialize in analog mastering.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">LaserDisc</span> Optical analog video disc format

The LaserDisc (LD) is a home video format and the first commercial optical disc storage medium, initially licensed, sold and marketed as MCA DiscoVision in the United States in 1978. Its diameter typically spans 30 cm (12 in). Unlike most optical-disc standards, LaserDisc is not fully digital, and instead requires the use of analog video signals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Direct Stream Digital</span> System for digitally encoding audio signals

Direct Stream Digital (DSD) is a trademark used by Sony and Philips for their system for digitally encoding audio signals for the Super Audio CD (SACD).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Camcorder</span> Video camera with built-in video recorder

A camcorder is a self-contained portable electronic device with video and recording as its primary function. It is typically equipped with an articulating screen mounted on the left side, a belt to facilitate holding on the right side, hot-swappable battery facing towards the user, hot-swappable recording media, and an internally contained quiet optical zoom lens.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dolby</span> Audio technology company

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<i>Exit... Stage Left</i> 1981 live album by Rush

Exit... Stage Left is the second live album by the Canadian rock band Rush, released as a double album in October 1981 by Anthem Records. After touring in support of their eighth studio album Moving Pictures (1981), the band gathered recordings made over the previous two years and constructed a live release from them with producer Terry Brown. The album features recordings from June 1980 on their Permanent Waves (1980) tour, and from March 1981 on their Moving Pictures tour.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digital recording</span> Audio or video represented as a stream of discrete numbers

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Film-out is the process in the computer graphics, video production and filmmaking disciplines of transferring images or animation from videotape or digital files to a traditional film print. Film-out is a broad term that encompasses the conversion of frame rates, color correction, as well as the actual printing, also called scannior recording.

High-definition video is video of higher resolution and quality than standard-definition. While there is no standardized meaning for high-definition, generally any video image with considerably more than 480 vertical scan lines or 576 vertical lines (Europe) is considered high-definition. 480 scan lines is generally the minimum even though the majority of systems greatly exceed that. Images of standard resolution captured at rates faster than normal, by a high-speed camera may be considered high-definition in some contexts. Some television series shot on high-definition video are made to look as if they have been shot on film, a technique which is often known as filmizing.

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DTS, Inc. is an American company, DTS company makes multichannel audio technologies for film and video. Based in Calabasas, California, the company introduced its DTS technology in 1993 as a competitor to Dolby Laboratories, incorporating DTS in the film Jurassic Park (1993). The DTS product is used in surround sound formats for both commercial/theatrical and consumer-grade applications. It was known as The Digital Experience until 1995. DTS licenses its technologies to consumer electronics manufacturers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">SPARS code</span> Classification system for commercial compact disc releases

The SPARS code is a three-position alphabetic classification system developed in the early 1980s by the Society of Professional Audio Recording Services (SPARS) for commercial compact disc releases to denote aspects of the sound recording and reproduction process, distinguishing between the use of analog equipment and digital equipment. The code's three positions refer to recording, mixing, and mastering respectively. The first two positions may be coded either "A" for analog or "D" for digital; the third position (mastering) is always "D" on digital CDs. The scheme was not originally intended to be limited to use on digital packaged media: it was also available for use in conjunction with analog releases such as vinyl or cassette, but this was seldom done in practice.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Loudness war</span> Increasing levels in recorded music

The loudness war is a trend of increasing audio levels in recorded music, which reduces audio fidelity and—according to many critics—listener enjoyment. Increasing loudness was first reported as early as the 1940s, with respect to mastering practices for 7-inch singles. The maximum peak level of analog recordings such as these is limited by varying specifications of electronic equipment along the chain from source to listener, including vinyl and Compact Cassette players. The issue garnered renewed attention starting in the 1990s with the introduction of digital signal processing capable of producing further loudness increases.

Audio restoration is the process of removing imperfections from sound recordings. Audio restoration can be performed directly on the recording medium, or on a digital representation of the recording using a computer. Record restoration is a particular form of audio restoration that seeks to repair the sound of damaged gramophone records.

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