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Major Sound Mix Question From A First Timer, Need Information For This

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Isaac Willman
Major Sound Mix Question From A First Timer, Need Information For This
on Jan 17, 2013 at 3:29:57 pm

This is a question from a complete amateur at film production, so please bare with me . I would like a simplified answer that covers everything in terms of sound mixing workflow by leaving out over technical terms that can go over someone like myself . Any help would be gratefully appreciated. So here we go.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ME

I'm shooting a short on a 5d mark 2, external sound is with zoom h4n and rode mic. I plan on getting into some notable film festivals. I'm looking to achieve a 5.1 mix. Submitting on BLU-RAY and DVD.

I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SOUND MIX, so I plan on sending it off to a post production company.

1. What should I send to the post production company, what files?

2. What do they need for a 5.1 mix?

ALTERNATIVELY

1. How could I do this myself, what hardware and software would I need, if even possible?

2. Is it important to have a 5.1 mix in the first place?

3. Have you had your short or film in a festival, what was your post workflow (specifically your sound mix)?

All help would be gratefully appreciated and mighty helpful in every way.

Regards.


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Peter Groom
Re: Major Sound Mix Question From A First Timer, Need Information For This
on Jan 17, 2013 at 5:42:16 pm

Ok, here we go, simplified

I'm shooting a short on a 5d mark 2, external sound is with zoom h4n and rode mic.(AND HEADPHONES!!!!!!!!!)

Separate sound - very good!

Im looking to achieve a 5.1 mix.

OK but make sure you do a 2 ch stereo mix too as lots of festivals wont be able to cope with 5.1

I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SOUND MIX, so I plan on sending it off to a post production company.
Good move!

1. What should I send to the post production company, what files?

Cut your film in AVID/ FCP / whatever.
Lay all your sync sound WITH dialogue on tracks 1 and 2
Lay all your sync effects on 3 and 4
Lay all your music on pairs ie 56 / 78 / 910 etc.
Lay plenty of added atmos, effects , wild tracks on more stereo tracks.

Once everything you have got is on the timeline, export an OMF or an AAF file of your sequence with 100 frame handles.
Save this OMF or AAF
Make a picture file of the same sequence. MAKE NO FURTHER PICTURE CHANGES THAT AFFECT THE LENGTH. If you have to then remake the OMF / AAF.
Give these to the post house.

They will make a discreet mix as follows
1 Left front (sync effects, music, extra effects, panning dialogue, atmosses etc etc)
2 Centre (Dialogue pinned ONLY)
3) As 1 but right leg
4) Rear left. Atmosses, travelling effects, music trails / reverbed music
5) Rear right As rear left but right leg
6) LFE track. This stands for Low frequency effects. This depends on the content but may contain nothing. DONT put music into LFE. The front channels are full bandwidth so will carry all the low freq of the music. This is not what the .1 channel is for.

At the end of the mix you will have created 56 x mono wav files that run the length of the film. These are called DISCREET mixes.

The post house or DVD / Blu ray authoring engineer will then place these into software and create an AC3 file which goes into the DVD authoring program.

The mix engineer will also do an Lt Rt fold down mix into a stereo file for the non surround version. This will be a standard stereo wav.
This also will be used in the authoring process to allow the user to choose the audio version to be played back.

Done.

ALTERNATIVELY

1. How could I do this myself, what hardware and software would I need, if even possible?

Quite possibly. If you have read, understood all of the above and think thats all absolutely obvious then you could do it yourself. If not, then dont even try. If as you say, you dont know how to sound mix then Id leave it to the mix engineer. He does know how to sound mix and has all of the kit you ask about - Protools, speaker setups, metering, software, encoding software, experience and knowlege to make it happen.

I WOULD encourage you to give it a go some day if youre interested to try but NOT on a job you care about. Levels, eq, balancing and dozens of other things all need to be right. Its a steep learning curve if youre in a hurry.

2. Is it important to have a 5.1 mix in the first place?
Depends on the festival. Mostly id say not.
But making a decent stereo mix is its self a big task.

3. Have you had your short or film in a festival, what was your post workflow (specifically your sound mix)?
Yes many times .Above is a massively simplified workflow. The rest is experience and equipment.
One Ive spend 27 years developing. Id encourage you to buy into that experience at a studio near you for the results you ll not regret when you hear it on the big screen.
It sounds completely different to the edit suite.

Good luck

Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Isaac Willman
Re: Major Sound Mix Question From A First Timer, Need Information For This
on Jan 17, 2013 at 7:54:19 pm

Peter, thank you very much. You are the first person who has been able to give me the info I need without any form of technical jargon that makes you feel as if you wasted your time trying to make this film in the first place. Thank you very much.

It's really been fully informative. Like I said, however, it's just a consideration. I think I might just go for a stereo 2track anyway, not only will it save me money but it'll do just fine considering my favourite films are all in stereo anyway and you say festivals are never really able to take on 5.1. I'm editing with FCP, which I believe does 2 track stereo. I've done some foley and ambience sounds already for prep. Nearly 100 sources. What tips would you recommend for audio mixing with FCP?

I'm assuming once I've done my edit in FCP I make a final export for blu-ray authoring?

Regards.


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Peter Groom
Re: Major Sound Mix Question From A First Timer, Need Information For This
on Jan 17, 2013 at 8:48:01 pm

HI Isaac
You did ask for a non jargon reply so i did my best (as I do lapse into tech jargon speak all too easily)

Some festivals may accept or even require a 5.1 mix, but as festival level, I think theyre more interested in the film and the craft rather than if its in 5.1.

If you mix it yourself in FCP, look at every transition and smooth it. A cut on the track in an fcp might sound ok, but when you put it in a cinema / theatre it sounds DOG ROUGH.

A big issue in my mind that Video NLEs suffer from a crudeness of the edit. +or- 1 frame is so rough its unreal, compared with say pro tools where you can get an edit accuracy down to the sample (1 48000 of a second). Edits that cant be made right in the video suite can be fixed easily in Pro Tools.
Do consider taking it out of FCP to a Pro tools for finishing. Its a different league!

Id humbly (not my biggest strongpoint normally) suggest that your initial acceptance that you dont know about sound mixing is a big stumbling block, and why id really suggest you give it to a pro, or someone at least who does know.
Mixing is a VERY subtle art, not a general "you put it at this level".
The sound track is a really strong emotive vehicle and one you should embrace, not allow to happen somehow.
It creates mood, happiness, stress, euphoria, and every feeling in between. It can frighten the lives out of your audience, make them cry and so much more. If the sound isnt your bag (which is fair enough as we all have different skills) do either learn and invest the effort to make it 100% or get someone else to do it, who does know.

I dont want you to feel like Im saying youre not capable, but you did say you dont know about sound mixing. Its a complex art (way more complesx than grading, editing or compositing, and shouldnt be overlooked or underestimated.

Lastly - film makers invest their heart and soul and cash into writing, casting, shooting , lighting, editing and promoting their films, which is great. But the sound track can drag ALL of that down and its a shame when it happens.

I often lecture at Universities on Advanced audio Post techniques, and spend most of my lecture having this discussion and showing the reasons why the audio NEEDS and wants a fair crack of the whip.

Cheers
Peter

Which country are you in?
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Isaac Willman
Re: Major Sound Mix Question From A First Timer, Need Information For This
on Jan 17, 2013 at 10:42:59 pm

Thank you Peter, I've taken in everything you've said and you are utterly right in that sound is one of, if not, the most important aspect of the film it can make or break your film.

Sound mixing is something I completely just don't know about and though I will do a basic level mix with FCP and Soundtrack Pro, I'll probably hand the proper mixing duties to someone more capable. Either I'll send it off to a post-house as mentioned or contact a sound mixer. I know a friend of a friend who knows sound engineering and mixing and might get into contact with him to do something. It's either that or I'll spend a year learning ProTools and sound mixing and do it myself, I'm in no rush. I just wanted to find out this one missing piece of information before I got started since I knew nothing of mixing but was familiar of its importance.

I'm currently in South Africa, there's quite a few post production facilities down here and they're pretty good. I actually used to work at one, but within the graphic design and effects part of it not the audio one.

Regards,

Isaac


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Jim MacD0nald
Re: Major Sound Mix Question From A First Timer, Need Information For This
on Jan 21, 2013 at 3:44:44 pm

Hello Isaac. Whoever your editor wil be ,be kind to him. Give him lots to work with. Audiowise I am talking about. Background sound. Wild sound. Whatever you call it. With the H4n you can gather all sorts of extras for the editor. You might want to look at an external power supply for the H4n. I keep hearing horror stories of files disappearing when the AA batteries go dead. When you test things out ,listen to your audio on a larger sound system. If your project will be shown in a larger room with a large sound reinforcement system, it will sound different from the edit room. Are you using an audio guy when you shoot? An audio guy who is just thinking about getting good audio can be a plus. Audio guys don't eat much and don't have too many demands!
Years ago I worked on a project and I was very lucky. I asked my bosses since I was doing audio in the field can I do audio in the edit room? Then if I am doing audio in the field and edit room can I do audio in the studio? The answer was yes. I had control of everything audio. Getting an idea on what was going to be needed beforre we started shooting helped. In my case we were shooting and editing for the smaller screen. The majority of people were watching on 27 and 32 inch TVs. 5.1 was years away.


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