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



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

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 digitising 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 equaliser, and a compressor. The compressor and limiters are ways of controlling the loudness of a track. [1] However, 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 record-able 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. Therefore, a remastered record may not sound how the artist originally intended.

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 , cannot be released in high definition without being re-scanned from the original film recordings. Certain special effects were also updated to appear better in high-definition. [8] Shows that were made between the early 1980s and the early 2000s were generally shot on film, then transferred to cassette tape, and then edited natively in either NTSC or PAL, making high-definition transfers literally impossible as the standard definition resolution was baked into the final cuts of the episodes. Star Trek: The Next Generation is the only such show that has received a Blu-Ray release. The process of making high-definition versions of TNG episodes required finding the original film clips, re-scanning them into a computer at high definition, digitally re-editing the episodes from the ground up, and re-rendering new visual effects shots, an extraordinarily labor-intensive ordeal that cost Paramount over $12 million. The project was a financial failure and resulted in Paramount deciding very firmly against giving Deep Space Nine and Voyager the same treatment. [9]


Remastered movies have been the subject of criticism. When the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator was remastered, it was felt that the process was overdone, resulting in Schwarzenegger's skin looking waxy. [10] As well as complaints about the way the picture looks, there have been other complaints about digital fixing. [11] 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. [11]

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." [12] [ 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. [13] This can be due to a number of factors, notably lower resolutions and less complicated rendering engines at the time of release.

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. [13] Because of this, classic games that are remastered typically have their graphics re-rendered at higher resolutions. [13] 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. [14] The original resolution was 480p on Xbox, while the remastered resolution is displayed at 720p on Xbox 360. [14] 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. [13]

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 without individual fingers but instead modeled like a mitten, 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 originals may not be compatible with the new technology for a remaster, it is often necessary to remake or remodel the graphical assets. An example of a game that has had its graphics redesigned is Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary , [13] while the core character and level information is exactly the same as in Halo: Combat Evolved . [13] [15] [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

An analog signal is any continuous signal for which the time-varying feature of the signal is a representation of some other time-varying quantity, i.e., analogous to another time-varying signal. For example, in an analog audio signal, the instantaneous voltage of the signal varies continuously with the pressure of the sound waves.

Compact disc Digital optical disc data storage format

Compact disc (CD) is a digital optical disc data storage format that was co-developed by Philips and Sony to store and play digital audio recordings. It was released in 1982 branded as Digital Audio Compact Disc.

VHS Consumer-level analog video tape recording and cassette form factor standard

VHS is a standard for consumer-level analog video recording on tape cassettes. Developed by Victor Company of Japan (JVC) in the early 1970s, it was released in Japan on September 9, 1976, and in the United States on August 23, 1977.

Digital Audio Tape 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.

Mastering (audio) 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.

LaserDisc Optical analog video disc format

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. It is not a fully digital format and stores analog video signals.

Reel-to-reel audio tape recording

Reel-to-reel audio tape recording, also called open-reel recording, is the form of magnetic tape audio recording in which the recording medium is held on a reel that is not permanently mounted in an enclosed cassette. In use, the supply reel containing the tape is placed on a spindle or hub; the end of the tape is manually pulled out of the reel, threaded through mechanical guides and a tape head assembly, and attached by friction to the hub of the second, initially empty takeup reel.

Direct Stream Digital

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

Digitization Process of creating a digital representation of a document or object

Digitization is the process of converting information into a digital format. The result is the representation of an object, image, sound, document or signal by generating a series of numbers that describe a discrete set of points or samples. The result is called digital representation or, more specifically, a digital image, for the object, and digital form, for the signal. In modern practice, the digitized data is in the form of binary numbers, which facilitate processing by digital computers and other operations, but, strictly speaking, digitizing simply means the conversion of analog source material into a numerical format; the decimal or any other number system that can be used instead.

Dolby Laboratories American company specializing in audio noise reduction and audio encoding/compression.

Dolby Laboratories, Inc. is an American company specializing in audio noise reduction and audio encoding/compression. Dolby licenses its technologies to consumer electronics manufacturers.

<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.

Digital recording

In digital recording, an audio or video signal is digitized, converting into a stream of discrete numbers representing the changes over time in air pressure for audio, or chroma and luminance values for video. This number stream is saved to a storage device. To play back a digital recording, the numbers are retrieved and converted back into their original analog audio or video forms so that they can be heard or seen. The digitized number streams themselves are never actually heard or seen, being hidden by the process.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab is a record label specializing in the production of audiophile recordings. The company is best known for its reissued vinyl LP records, compact discs, and Super Audio CDs but has also produced other formats.

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 scanning or 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.

Extended Resolution Compact Disc

Extended Resolution Compact Disc (XRCD) is a mastering and manufacture process patented by JVC for producing Red Book compact discs. It was first introduced in 1995.

SPARS code

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 never done in practice.

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.

History of sound recording

The history of sound recording - which has progressed in waves, driven by the invention and commercial introduction of new technologies — can be roughly divided into four main periods:


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