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  #1  
Old 08-07-2004, 10:49 PM
Dix Dix is offline
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Default Mixing for Feature Film

Hi Everyone

I've just mixed a soundtrack and music for a feature film (straight stereo) and found that it's a little different from mixing for say, a commercial or album project.

Is anyone interested in having a general discusssion on the subject of mixing for film especially with regard to eq and compression, stereo spread etc...?

If you want a one-on-one you can contact me directly at:
dix@paradise.net.nz

Cheers
Dick
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  #2  
Old 08-08-2004, 02:02 PM
filmixer filmixer is offline
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Default Re: Mixing for Feature Film

Yeh, let's start a campain to get composers to deliver SURROUND mixes to the dub stage. At the high end of film making, it's a given that the score will be recorded and mixed in 5.0 or 5.1. I find all to often however that music scores for mid to low budget films are delivered in a two channel format. The music is a big part of most films and it's disappointing to do fantasic sound design and mixing for SFX to engage the audience and create emotional impact, only to have the music mixed in a clostrophobic way that puts the mixer in a position to have to derive something from a stereo mix to keep up. There are tools we can use to create an enveloping musical feel, but nothing is as good as a score that is composed, arranged and mixed with a 5.1 playback system in mind. I know it can be a little daunting to set up a well calibraded playback system for a composer that might not to be used to mixing in surround, but it can be done (see drsound's post at the top of this forum). Maybe we can start a list of films and music surround mixes that younger composers can use for reference and inspiration. Schedules on smaller films can be very tight (there tight on big films as well) but it really doesn't take that much longer to mix in surround if a little planning is done and a good score engineer is brought in. I think if we can get new composers a little more educated on surround mixing, we can elevate the quality our finished films to a much higher level.
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  #3  
Old 08-08-2004, 07:03 PM
Charles D. Ballard Charles D. Ballard is offline
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Default Re: Mixing for Feature Film

Quote:
Schedules on smaller films can be very tight (there tight on big films as well) but it really doesn't take that much longer to mix in surround if a little planning is done and a good score engineer is brought in.
I have not mixed score for film, but from a sound effects perspective editing and mixing actually seems faster in 5.1 than in stereo...or maybe I'm just crazy.

Anyway, I echo what filmixer says. If you mixing for film, don't mix in stereo. If not 5.1, music for picture should at least be LCR.
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  #4  
Old 08-09-2004, 10:19 AM
martian martian is offline
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Default Re: Mixing for Feature Film

I don't think your crazy! much easier... more space!!! mono mixes are even tougher than stereo...

But I would suggest that any surround mix you do should be encoded and listened to in stereo.

I guess the people with mono speakers shouldn't really expect floor shaking bass- but are probably interested in clear dialog....

on the lower budget films a lot of composers will just give you a stereo mix......
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  #5  
Old 08-09-2004, 02:55 PM
Dix Dix is offline
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Default Re: Mixing for Feature Film

Hi guys

Hey good discussion......although a little ahead of my experience. I've only been involved in low budget, therefore, straight stereo mixes.

Tell me if I'm wrong, but what I've found is that my mixes seem to want a little more around 12kHz and a notch out at around 330Hz - at this lower frequency there seems to be a muddy buildup when played in theatres which generally have big speaker systems. I've also heard that a boost at around 45Hz also works well for film, but I've not been game enough to try that yet!

With regard to doco work for TV, I've found that a little extra compression usually works fairly well.

Finally, with both film and TV I've discovered that being subtile in my mixing textures is a little waisted as it all seems to get lost in the big wash, especially in big theatres

Cheers
Dick
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  #6  
Old 08-09-2004, 04:13 PM
filmixer filmixer is offline
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Default Re: Mixing for Feature Film

>Tell me if I'm wrong, but what I've found is that my mixes seem to want a little more around 12kHz and a notch out at around 330Hz<

There will always be a loss of high frequencies when sound is played through a perforated screen. There is also a standard "X-curve" EQ applied in theater systems. This is compensated for by the re-recording mixer, but you can simulate this by voicing you audio monitors with a similar high frequency rolloff.

>Finally, with both film and TV I've discovered that being subtile in my mixing textures is a little waisted as it all seems to get lost in the big wash, especially in big theatres <

You should always have a Dialog work track, either digitized from the work tape you were supplied or a file from the dialog editor, to check your mixes against. If you check your mixes with the work track playing over your music, you'll get a much better idea what your balances should be. I never predub Bgs, FX or Foley without the work track playing.
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Old 08-10-2004, 03:31 AM
Schatzi Schatzi is offline
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Default Re: Mixing for Feature Film

Quote:
> If you check your mixes with the work track playing over your music, you'll get a much better idea what your balances should be. I never predub Bgs, FX or Foley without the work track playing.
Is this after or before you've done the dialog predub? In other words, are you using your dialog predub as your work track??

Steve
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  #8  
Old 08-10-2004, 05:47 AM
Richard Fairbanks Richard Fairbanks is offline
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Default Re: Mixing for Feature Film

Either. The value is in having that track playing with your work at something approximating "mix" level. It completely changes the way you perceive your work. A wonderful ambience, that seems just perfect upon first listen, will change quite a bit in feel when it is dropped under dialog. Music balances usually need to change when playing under dialog (or VO), and sometimes that change will feel wrong when the music is played alone but still be a necessary change. I encourage people to build the effects working with a scratch track.

I wish I could get surround music mixes, but more importantly I wish I could get more composers to deliver premixed music "stems", which would allow me to make their music work better. Those that have not worked with a good mixer start with a combative attitude and assume that I am in business to destroy their careful work. Those that have learned better know that stems (separated percussion, bass, pads, for instance) allow MUCH better music presentation because those balances can be adjusted to perfection, instead of simply dropping the entire music in order to subdue a strident part.
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  #9  
Old 08-10-2004, 06:38 AM
Michael Price Michael Price is offline
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Default Re: Mixing for Feature Film

Hi Richard

I've got a foot in both camps as a composer and music editor, and it is amazing often how little communication there is between the music recording studio and the dub stage. It's not always the music studios fault, though - we're in Abbey Road next week, and the dubbing mixer is actually coming down to check out some of the music mixes in the studio before I bring them up to the dub. Bit of a luxury I know, but at least we're all on the same page and should be able to pre-empt anything problematic. And all have a beer and a gossip!

On the subject of stems, it can be a tricky balancing act between having enough control on the dub stage, keeping the integrity of the original mix (+ the composer's trust!) and keeping things moving in the music mix. Printing multiple surround stems for each cue if the desk can't be easily configured for this can slow things down if you're up against the clock.

I tend to find having a 5.1 orchestral stem and a 5.1 synths, with maybe an additional LCR for any solos gets through most situations (obviously depending on the style of score).

What would be your ideal?

Cheers

Michael
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  #10  
Old 08-10-2004, 05:17 PM
Richard Fairbanks Richard Fairbanks is offline
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Default Re: Mixing for Feature Film

Keeping the composer's trust is essential, of course. Unfortunately, a mixer is constantly weighing the importance of lots of elements, and music is not always the most important (the storyline is)! I usually have a chance to speak with the composer up front, and they invariably ask me what I would like from them (in terms of delivery requirements, etc). I do ask them (politely I think) to avoid some things. Every once in a while they listen. We are all pre-conditioned in our own ways, I suppose.

What is the "integrity" of the original mix worth? Lots, and at the same time nothing, in my opinon. If the stems are recorded normally, then I can put my faders in a row and have the original mix, and that is a great thing. What I do not want is to be locked into choices made in the music mix that tie my hands. For the same reasons a complete sound effects premix (no stems) is not be acceptable on the dub stage, inflexible music mixes should not be. No one can pre-judge balances until all elements are put together, and that does not happen until the final dub!


Here are some of my pet peeves, in no order.

1. Sound effects mixed into the music. This includes drum hits or stabs that sync to a visual point. Many composers are tempted to slide the stab one way or the other to match a metronome. While this may seem like the best decision at the time, it may NOT the best decision in the end. Also, they may need to be balanced or eq'd to match better with sound effects.

2. Vocals mixed into the track. First, if an international-ready mix must be made there will be trouble. Second, if the singer is a character in the film, PLEASE give the mixer a DRY (no verb) track to work with in the dub. Dub stages have reverb and effects, too. Or perhaps, put the singer's effects on a separate stem.

3. Overlapping cues which are mixed together. For example, an action underscore that should fade into a transition really should be separated into stems. I cannot tell you how often I have to deal with bad crossfades, or improperly placed music, which is tied into something else that cannot be changed. Why do so many composers believe they can pre-judge things like this? I certainly cannot.

4. I beg of you to stay away from image widening plug-ins and boxes, particularly for television work. They wreak absolute havoc with matrixed surround mixes (and matrix downmixes from 5.1). If you feel you must use such effects on some pads or something, at least separate those elements onto a separate stem. If they cause steering errors during the final dub, then I want some flexibility to deal with those elements without resorting to mono'ing the entire music score!

5. Try not to mix very loud hits into very soft pads. Even though extreme volume changes seem fun during the music mix, it is very likely that the loud/soft relationship must be changed when dialog and effects are brought in. Just last week I was handed a track that started with a soft string pad, and then the real score came crashing in. Unfortunately, the string pad was very low and after the music started it was inaudible. I fixed it by looping the opening pad and mixing it in when the loud music started. No big deal, but it takes time away from other problems and was totally unnecessary. Minor examples of this problem abound in the things I've been doing lately.

6. Be on the alert for potential equalization gotchas. For instance, mixing a raging shaker part into a tension string pad can cause trouble. Suppose that once everything is mixed together (which happens for the first time on the dub stage) we can no longer hear the string pad, and it's dramatic tension is lost. But that shaker is mixed in and prevents a volume raise. Eq will also be hopeless because string overtones and shaker have lots of common frequencies.

7. Many bass problems can be solved with eq and not split out, but if you are regularly dialing in bass boost below 100hz, be sure your monitor path is telling you the truth. I am tired of rolling off below 60 because someone used a subsonic synthesizer to hear some bass out of their Genelec 1029A's!

8. "Mastering" of the music. This usually means extreme compression and peak hack-off. I like music, and I work it as lound as I can. But "mastering" nearly always makes music harder to fit nicely as underscore, because natural dynamics are completely gone. The music is either relatively too loud, or too soft, with the middle ground very difficult to maintain. It is uncomfortable.

These things are common sense, but they often are forgotten about in the final moments of music mixdown. The dub stage experiences the same pressures as composers, and having to overcome even more problems from inconveniently-prepared music scores does not really help anyone's goals.

I hope my thoughts are relevant to you. I appologize if they are framed a little negatively. I am just taking a break from a mix, during which I have just been fighting with peeves #1,3,5 and 7, with a dash of 8. I have a headache.
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