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  #1  
Old 06-04-2002, 08:10 PM
soundman2002 soundman2002 is offline
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Default Mix room requirements: monitors and Dolby Surround

I'd like some input on setting up a moderate-size Pro Tools mix room. The main use would be stereo & LCRS, for TV and independent documentary films. I need to figure out the best way to design one room for TV and film. Here's some specific questions and issues - any responses are greatly appreciated.

For TV, nearfiled monitoring is important. For films, the LCR monitors need to be further away (to simulate a theater environment). Could one set of monitors be positioned for both TV and film work?
OR, If I were to install the LCR "film" monitors above a video screen, and temporarily bring in nearfields for TV work, could I use the same surround monitors for both applications?

Here's my Dolby question. For LCRS mixing (not 5.1) do I need to have the room approved by Dolby? And what are the pluses/minuses of Dolby encoding and decoding hardware vs. Dolby plug-ins for ProTools?

Also, any room designers with this knowledge please email me your contact info.
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Old 06-05-2002, 11:59 AM
Richard Fairbanks Richard Fairbanks is offline
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Default Re: Mix room requirements: monitors and Dolby Surround

Gee, you could fill up a book with a reply. IMHO there is no way to design a room which satisfies both needs really well, unless you are a very clever builder and even more clever designer. Important differences are all over the place. Film theaters, being much much larger than TV living rooms, have completely different acoustics. There is built-in decay due to the larger space, bass frequencies develop quite differently, the speakers are much further away (less perceivable soundfield spread, speakers are always behind a perforated screen (which radically alters their dispersion and perceived response), there are typically many more surround speakers, the list goes on. That is not to say that you cannot mix a film in a TV room or vice versa, but you need some experience "cross dressing" to know how to compensate. And I'm not even touching the issue of watching a mix on a huge screen versus a video monitor. Your perceptions will be different, trust me. I recommend that you avoid a common trap of trying to do everything really great. It is next to impossible to launch a facility that way. Instead, study your marketplace and decide where YOUR skill set's best chances are and tailor your design compromises (of which there will be many) to serve you best.

Sorry for a generic reply, but there are several books on acoustics which you can learn much more from. Search the net, or your public library. Research, research, and research some more. Design, check, research, re-design, etc. Spend as much time researching every aspect as you possible can. I spent years planning, finally built a place I'm mostly happy with, yet I feel like I've only scratched the surface of the knowledge I needed. DO NOT BUILD until you really KNOW what you are doing.
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Old 06-05-2002, 02:34 PM
mazuroo mazuroo is offline
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Default Re: Mix room requirements: monitors and Dolby Surround

I think you should keep in mind that there is an increasing amount of 5.1 sound for TV and Direct to DVD projects. These pieces are never seen in a movie theatre, rather, they are heard in the context of someone's living room. If your taget market is TV and the such, you could purchase a speaker system that works well for both applications, when you mix stereo, just use the L/R speakers. This is the theory I am building our studio on, we do TV and direct to DVD/VIDEO projects.

Just a thought,

tm
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Old 06-06-2002, 09:18 AM
soundman2002 soundman2002 is offline
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Default Re: Mix room requirements: monitors and Dolby Surround

Thanks for your response guys. What I'm dong mostly is post for TV, so I'll probably stay with a near-field monitor design. I have seen a room (Superdupe) that was set up for TV post - nearfield monitors, video monitor - where they did some film mixing. They must have been Dolby certified, and had 30 band EQ's setup for X-curve monitoring.
So, what about the idea of a room that would be primarily a TV mix room, but able to handle some film work?
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Old 06-07-2002, 12:12 PM
Richard Fairbanks Richard Fairbanks is offline
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Default Re: Mix room requirements: monitors and Dolby Surround

Yes there is an ever increasing amount of non-theater work. It is the overwhelming majority of my work, too. And it IS possible to mix for theater playback in a small room with nearfields. A spot-on mix will sound good on practically any system. It will not sound the same however, for all the reasons I cited in my first reply. And I honestly don't think you can design a room which can really do both without a lot of compromise. My point was to pick one or the other, and make the best room you can. Then you can use your talent and experience to mix anything. A bigger room has many benefits over a smaller one (within limits), but a 5000 sq ft room isn't going to sound like my living room. Not ever.

Dolby's X-curve is a big high frequency rolloff you apply to your playback speakers to make you compensate for the horrible high frequency loss encountered in some really old theaters. I've grown up with it, but it can really get you into trouble with modern playback systems. It is easy to end up with excessively sibilant mixes and to not hear hiss and other high frequency problems that become obvious on "DC to blue light" systems. Check out the response specs required for THX certification and compare those to the X curve. They are not compatible. I swore by the X curve for a long long time until I got severly burned a couple of years ago, when the client organized a screening party for a musical presentation I had just mixed. And the "THX certified" system was probably the brightest, most brittle system I've ever heard. No way was it flat. Regardless, the music hurt to listen to, and some of the interviews had so much hiss it was distracting. Yet on my X curve system everything sounded great. It was a terribly embarrasing experience which I don't intend to repeat. I've altered my playback curves to keep up with the modern world. In fact since going surround, I've tossed out the graphic eqs and rely on speaker controls and room treatment to make things right. It has taken some time for my mind's ear to adjust and I still need some help with the subwoofer. But I'm happy with my decision so far. There is a whole other discussion to have about whether to use horns for midrange and tweeters. Again, home and theater are very different.

I still do 80 percent of my work on the Auratones, at least one of the networks I mix every other week for broadcasts in MONO, and don't even get me started on Manhattan Cable, which is how everybody I work for hears the broadcasts. They don't realize that they are hearing it in mono through the stupid digital cable box. That's how the channel 3 rf output carries all our pristine audio. In mono.

Anyhow, for me great monitors are a joke. I work very, very hard to make my rooms accurate and sound good. Just so an occasional big speaker playback will really blow everyone away. But mixing for TV isn't about that, it's about mixing for the lowest common denominator without completely destroying a big speaker playback. I want to believe the lowest common denominator is getting raised, but if it is it is a slow, slow rise. Just my opinion.
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Old 06-07-2002, 02:15 PM
mazuroo mazuroo is offline
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Default Re: Mix room requirements: monitors and Dolby Surround

Mr Fairbanks makes a great point. When I was mixing stereo music in NYC, we had a set of Meyer Hd-1's, but after the final mix, we took a listen to the mix on a butchered radio shack clock radio, so we could have an accurate refernce for what it sounded like in the crappiest of situations. For the studio that I am currently building, I plan on having a 5.1 Tannoy system (system 800a's) but I will always listen to the mono version on the speaker that is in the video monitor.

My 2 cents

mazuroo

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Old 06-09-2002, 10:47 PM
soundman2002 soundman2002 is offline
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Default Re: Mix room requirements: monitors and Dolby Surround

Richard,
Thanks so much for your valuable insight - your story is very enlightening. I appreciate your candid account. I will take your advice about focusing on my strengths, because it is very hard to have a mix room do more than one thing really well.
Most of my work is for television, but my goal is to get into more film mixing. I don't know if this will happen, but if I can't provide filmmakers with a room that they feel accustomed to (a larger, deeper room, more theater-style) they probably won't come. I'll just have to think it out some more and weigh my options.
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