Hi, I've got a documentary I'm finishing up that sounds and looks pretty great. I've not got a lot of funds for a final audio mix and I was just wondering if 5.1 or LtRt is especially necessary. My goal is to enter the film in festivals. I of course don't want any surprises in the audio and will be able to check out the sound in a theatre. Do I need to be concerned with 5.1 or LtRt, especially when I submit the film? Should I get a surround mix done IF someone wants to play it? Format would be on HDCAM FYI. I'm a student and just learning about this.
[john samson]"I've not got a lot of funds for a final audio mix and I was just wondering if 5.1 or LtRt is especially necessary. My goal is to enter the film in festivals."
It is not necessary to have a 5.1 or LtRt for festivals. Quite a few movies are submitted with just a stereo mix. If your doc gets picked up for distribution, then you may want to consider doing a 5.1 mix later. However a lot would depend on what type of documentary it is and whether it would lend itself to having surround sound, as well as the distributors deliverable requirements.
Most documentaries I've been involved with have been mixed in stereo. In fact, whenever I've seen docs in surround, I've never found it to be pleasing. A documentary rarely has the intention of putting you in the action, which is the whole point of surround sound. Documentaries are usually more like looking at something through a window than being in the middle of it. I find that, aesthetically, good ol' stereo sound supports this much better.
Anyways, since HDCam only has four audio channels, you couldn't fit the discrete 5.1, and LtRt is not worthy of the investment in the surround mix. It's kind of like paying for insane CGI and exporting it as an MPEG-1.
I'd still recommend getting the audio mixed by a pro if at all possible. Stereo sound is actually harder to get just right than surround. You can premix, but having someone go over it with experienced ears and knowledge of standard practices will maximize the impact in festivals. Even on a tight budget, there is a lot that can be improved in a tight timeframe, most of the time.
Try talking to audio postprod facility higher-ups. You'd be surprised how ready some are to support new directors.