Product News | November 7, 2014
First in a series of articles on the development of Ozone 6.
Ozone was born back in 2001, envisioned by iZotope's founders as a result of frustrating creative experiences. When they were mixing recordings at home, it was overwhelming to achieve the same sound quality heard in the work of professional artists. Countless tools were available for different parts of the polishing process, but they all looked and worked differently. With time and effort, it was possible to string the right tools together and make a better-sounding song. But they knew there had to be a better way to make this "mastering" process easier...and more inspiring, too.
Versions 1 through 5 of Ozone built on this vision for a complete mastering solution, providing an all-in-one suite of tools with top-quality sound, innovative features, and a user-friendly workflow. Each version of Ozone was built on the previous one, adding more functionality to help people new to mastering as well as people who master professionally. The culmination was the introduction of an Advanced version of Ozone 5, which included a number of tools unique to professional workflows, compelling even more mastering engineers to start using Ozone for the first time.
As we approached the sixth version of Ozone, our first priority was to speak with a wide range of professional and amateur engineers who master audio. Before we planned anything, we wanted to gain a better understanding of their workflows and challenges so we could make informed decisions about where we could help.
We started with our current Ozone users to learn where the product best served their needs and where it could be improved. Next, we reached out to customers who had tried Ozone before but found it lacking in some way and ultimately went with another solution. Finally, we sat down with people who had never used Ozone to get a sense of what they needed from a mastering solution — we even had them try Ozone for the first time and gauged their reactions.
This extensive product research included bringing a PhD in human cognition onto our development team and was ultimately enlightening for us as a company. Just one example of an unexpected discovery: we were surprised to learn the number of Ozone users who never got past loading a preset.
After synthesizing the feedback from all the people we spoke to, a theme quickly emerged: while Ozone was an incredibly powerful tool, the experience overwhelmed many users and wasn't delivering on the original vision for Ozone — inspiring users to feel more empowered when mastering their audio. We took this as a signal that Ozone 6 couldn't just be a typical product update, building still more features on top of Ozone 5. Instead, we got excited about building the product back up from scratch, realigning with the original Ozone vision, and forging a new type of mastering experience that allowed creativity to be front and center.
This decision to start fresh allowed us to reexamine every aspect of Ozone and leverage the last decade of our experience to inform the creation of a superior product. As we began sketching out the design of Ozone 6, we did an inventory of each and every existing feature. We studied each feature closely and asked the tough questions: How relevant is this feature to mastering? Does this feature solve an important problem for our users? This process took some time since the fifth version of Ozone had amassed over 500 unique controls!
One of the first hot topics to emerge, particularly after speaking with professional users, was the inclusion of a reverb in Ozone. The consensus was that a reverb feature seemed disjointed with the goals of not only the product, but of mastering audio in general. This would ultimately lead to a decision to remove the Reverb module from Ozone 6.
Traditionally iZotope has not cut features from products. Leaving a feature in, even if it diverges from a product's goal, seems easy enough — and at least the users who don't need the feature can simply ignore it. The danger in this approach, though, is that it quickly leads to bloated software. For Ozone 6, we were committed to designing a more refined experience that would guide and educate users through the various stages of mastering. From that perspective, presenting reverb as an equivalent tool alongside an equalizer and limiter did a disservice to our goals for Ozone specifically and to mastering in general.
To a similar end, we saw other features fall by the wayside as we continued down the path towards a streamlined experience. Our mission was to help our users better master their music by having easier access to the most relevant set of tools possible. This refinement process allowed us to bring a wealth of both new and established features out from hidden menus and right-clicks, so they could shine alongside the other essential Ozone tools.
With all the time spent curating the Ozone feature set, even more time was spent evaluating what features to add so we could provide the complete mastering solution our users were asking for. This led to the evolution of Ozone 6 as a standalone application, providing a new mastering workflow outside of the mixing-focused interface of DAWs. We added support for third-party plugins so we could offer our users a platform that was now expandable rather than expansive. And we also completely overhauled the look and feel of Ozone to focus foremost on mastering and, more specifically, the creative aspects of a user's work. With Ozone 6, we felt we had once again met our original vision: making the mastering process easier...and more inspiring, too.
Part 2 of iZotope’s thinking behind the development of Ozone 6 from the very beginning: the vision for Ozone as a complete mastering solution and the road to Ozone 6. | Read more