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#1
16th August 2012
Old 16th August 2012
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Surround Mixing Music ONLY Question

My question is for those MIXING SURROUND MUSIC. How do you guys decide whether to use a surround channel vrs a stereo or mono channel for your 5.1 mix? Is it all based on whatever is sent (some tracks come in mono, others stereo, while others may have been recorded as surround tracks)? If you have a stereo track do you have to upmix it first before you can effectively use it within the project?

What's your basic routing scheme? It seems logical to me to use stereo and mono tracks, for clearer defined source points, that are then sent to surround busses and then blend them there in a single environment. But I've seen many screen shots of mixers using lots of surround channels as well as stereo and mono. But the majority of those sessions were sound design projects, not strictly music. So it just makes sense that there would be a difference.

Could anyone here explain the decision process on which types of channels to use and where to decide when they become surround data in a music mix?




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16th August 2012
Old 16th August 2012
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On the music only surround projects I worked, I always get normally tracked instruments in mono or stereo that feed the main 5.1 bus. Stick to 5.0 (or even 4.0) for music only.
Sometimes there's a 5.1 atmo-mic incuded that I often split to 5 mono tracks for added flexibility.

Pan everything as needed.
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17th August 2012
Old 17th August 2012
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Spread vocals slightly over LCR to avoid the old center removal / karaoke trick

Experiment with somewhat anchored direct and spread out verb returns too
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25th August 2012
Old 25th August 2012
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Its always the source determining it which is mono (most acoustic instruments) or stereo (keys/synths/reverbs) .
Logic does have some synths with surround patches, haven't tried those but I guess these will be the only tracks I would ever use a real surround channelstrip for.

And nothing wrong with using the subwoofer in music! Some kicks, bass sounds, keyboards and the moog taurus bass pedals really like the subwoofer
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25th August 2012
Old 25th August 2012
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which format? 5.1 for cinema (or home audio) for 5.1 where the .1 isnt really an LFE but a bass management tool. (the bit in brackets is - for some reason - what giot missed out when i posted this).

If its for cinema or movie use - pretty much mix 4.0 but perhaps bleed a little phantom centre into the centre - the dub mixer will remove it if necessary. Stay out of the LFE (unless its for effect - like a "boom" in a horror score). Music is generally focussed on L and R with a bit of ambience an immersion placed in Ls and Rs. If its diegetic then often in mono to the centre.

If its for home DVDA listening (a dead format!!) then whatever you want!
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25th August 2012
Old 25th August 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
which format? 5.1 for cinema for 5.1 where the .1 isnt really an LFE but a bass management tool.
The ".1" channel in the recording is ALWAYS LFE (Low Frequency Effect).

You should not do the "bass management" at the mixing stage.

For small speaker systems that employ bass management, they take the L C R Ls Rs channels, sum them to mono, low pass them, then add that to the LFE channel then play that through the "sub".

If you mix kick, bass, etc into the LFE channel then you will have twich as much of this material playing through the "sub" and everything will be way too bass heavy.

You should NOT put anything in the LFE unless it is an EFFECT. Think pyrotechnics or cannon fire. Otherwise a "normal" mix should have an empty LFE.

If you are mixing on a small speaker system and want to hear stuff through the "sub" this is fine but should be sorted out through your monitoring system, not in mix.

I generally feel that the music mix should be "quad" with direct stuff emphasised in the front and effects and audience emphasised in the rear. Vocals across L C R. Maybe vocal effects and kick/snare (or other driving force, depending on style) in center also.

The tricky thing about mixing in 5.1 is that it should sound good:

- when listening in a proper 5.1 environment
- when the center is obscured, sounds sh1t, or is off
- when the surrounds are obscured, sound sh1t, or are off
- when everything gets summed to stereo (through whatever system!)
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25th August 2012
Old 25th August 2012
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I know Jim. I mix movies....my post got changed in "posting".

I meant the home stuff - in a normal home setup it isn't an LFE its a sub. Which is why they're so bloody horrible!!
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25th August 2012
Old 25th August 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
I know Jim. I mix movies....my post got changed in "posting".

I meant the home stuff - in a normal home setup it isn't an LFE its a sub. Which is why they're so bloody horrible!!
I thought you meant that mixing descisions depends on "what format".
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25th August 2012
Old 25th August 2012
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if he's mixing for cinema/film then stay out of the LFE (apart from clients direction). If its for DVDA for a band then you do what your want.
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7th December 2012
Old 7th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
which format? 5.1 for cinema (or home audio) for 5.1 where the .1 isnt really an LFE but a bass management tool. (the bit in brackets is - for some reason - what giot missed out when i posted this).

If its for cinema or movie use - pretty much mix 4.0 but perhaps bleed a little phantom centre into the centre - the dub mixer will remove it if necessary. Stay out of the LFE (unless its for effect - like a "boom" in a horror score). Music is generally focussed on L and R with a bit of ambience an immersion placed in Ls and Rs. If its diegetic then often in mono to the centre.

If its for home DVDA listening (a dead format!!) then whatever you want!
I am curious what you personally prefer if you were to do a symphonic 5.0 SACD/DVD or the like versus how you would mix the same track in a feature film.
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7th December 2012
Old 7th December 2012
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interesting question.

I've not done a surround SACD music product. Lots of score,which I generally do as 4.0 or 5.0 depending upon requirements, and its very much front loaded.

Not sure what I'd do with a SACD music product in 5.0 or 5.1 !!
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7th December 2012
Old 7th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
interesting question.

I've not done a surround SACD music product. Lots of score,which I generally do as 4.0 or 5.0 depending upon requirements, and its very much front loaded.

Not sure what I'd do with a SACD music product in 5.0 or 5.1 !!
I am not letting you go that easy!

As a listener, how do you prefer hearing the orchestra.
Lets assume the listener is always in the sweetspot.
Would you mix differently, or is 4.0 still your personal preference?

I am simply trying to get under your skin a bit, to truly understand how you would approach a score where music plays a supporting role, vs say an orchestral surround DVD where the music is the primary objective
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18th December 2012
Old 18th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
...
If its for home DVDA listening (a dead format!!) then whatever you want!
DVDA might be dead in the water, but surround sound music has a chance of survival yet:

Long live surround sound music! - SURROUND SOUND MUSIC

That's my take on the subject anyway

As for good orchestral surround mixes, I think Hans Zimmer hit a sweetspot with Inception. Get the Blu-ray with the surround mix, it's well worth it even if you don't like the movie!

Inception Blu-ray surround soundtrack - SURROUND SOUND MUSIC
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19th December 2012
Old 19th December 2012
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I like that score and I like that movie. Do feel the music to be a little loud but I think that was artistic intent. Works though.
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20th December 2012
Old 20th December 2012
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Just to throw a monkey wrench into the whole morass.....a good buddy of mine is one of Hollywood's top scoring and mixing engineers. Top 5. He ABSOLUTELY mixes Orch into the C channel, and always mixes LF info - synths, DB's, Low Perc, Synth Perc., etc. into the .1. He's not doing TV or Docs or low budget films. Top Features.

Personally, I've always thought to stay out of the C, cause I've been reamed pretty good a couple of times when just starting out, but he said he ALWAYS mixes into the C, and I've watched his innovative use of the .1 for making scores huge with sub bass synthesizers like the DBX unit, and it's pretty amazing stuff,,,,,,,

Just a little info to kick around and consider.
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20th December 2012
Old 20th December 2012
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Amazing!!!

Wish I could.
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20th December 2012
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I see film score mixes being done with C and .1. There was one major motion picture music mix done here at my place that utilized at least 3-4 different dbx120 boxes going to .1.

But it is not something I would recommend to anyone. "you gotta know the rules before you can break them..."
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20th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Curtis View Post
But it is not something I would recommend to anyone. "you gotta know the rules before you can break them..."
Agreed. You have to KNOW the dubbing engineers, know their job, and they must respect you to pull off using all channels for your music mix. Or you'll end up in pieces on the dubbing room floor......

The only reason I mentioned this is some of the "rigid" - you can't do this - comments above. Generally, I adhere to those rules as well, but those rules ARE made to be broken, and I think we are moving more that direction. The direction of creative mixing. On big films, scoring mixers (obviously the guys mixing these films are at the TOP of the heap) ARE mixing into both C and .1 channels. And yeah, like Greg mentioned, the DBX box seems to be popular.....
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20th December 2012
Old 20th December 2012
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As a mixer mixing both score and mixing for film and tv I do stuff my way.

My general is to always mix to all channels unless it's a dialogue scene. During a dialogue scene I'll avoid using the center for the music. During dialog it will be mostly orchestra strings and reverb to avoid the ugly center hole but never very loud.
If mixing 4.0 it will just sound bad in large cinemas with wide screens.
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20th December 2012
Old 20th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ErikG View Post
As a mixer mixing both score and mixing for film and tv I do stuff my way.

My general is to always mix to all channels unless it's a dialogue scene. During a dialogue scene I'll avoid using the center for the music. During dialog it will be mostly orchestra strings and reverb to avoid the ugly center hole but never very loud.
If mixing 4.0 it will just sound bad in large cinemas with wide screens.
I've mixed 4.0 on plenty of score for films that didn't sound bad in cinema at all! During the dub sometimes a little is bled into the centre by the dub mixer - but that's his call. As a score mixer exclusively I don't like the sound of the centre channel with music. It's over bearing. It's all personal choice though.

I've worked on quite a few horror films and the music crosses over into sound design a lot - this does involve a bit of .1 work.
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22nd December 2012
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Since I happen to be both a rerecording/dubbing mixer and music mixer I know when where and how quite well
So I'll mix it the way I think it will serve the mix the best. And the only one time I have ever had a complaint on my music mixes from another rerecording mixer was because I was to conservative and not pushing enough to the surrounds.

Mixing stereo front is not going to sound great in big 10m+ width screen cinemas. That is a fact. I'm not saying a 4.0 mix is bad, I'm saying that it won't sound as good in a big cinema as it could have done using the center carefully. And the issue gets worse the wider they are.

I will never place transient or stringent sound in the center during dialog but that whole is plain ugly sounding.

And sometimes when the scene is delicate enough I to will stay out of the center all together. But that is not my general "concept" but a active choice.

Bleeding the sound from a few stems to the center is not the same as taking a real choice while mixing on what elements would serve the sound the be panned over the center.

In my opinion it's easier and sounds better to use center distribution to move center components out of the center when needed, rather than diverging them there and lessening the width of the music.
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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great info here! got a related question - you guys use any surround compressors or limiters when finishing/mastering your surround cues?
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23rd December 2012
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In general no, but sometimes on almost all cues.
No hard and fast rules. As always it depends...

Oh one hard and fast rule, on orchestra for feature film, never.

But to be honest it's not done as much as a mastering thing, it's for character and sound. Final top level decisions needs to be done on the stage with everything else playing. More dynamic is better in general.
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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thanks erik, why not on orchestra for film? is it becuase the final mix with music, dialogue, fx are usually mixed with limiting/compressors on the master track?

also...when you say 'orchestra' for feature film, are you referring to live players, sampled instruments? or both...?

and last but not least, is it generally alright to use compressors and limiters on individual instruments/tracks in an orchestra project or better to do without?
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23rd December 2012
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Well, I just don't like the sound of compression in general on acoustic orchestra, especially not on strings.
Otoh, I've received less than stellar recordings with bad dynamics and where just writing automation just didn't cut it. That time I did use compressors on the strings. So again, it's never a simple yes/no answer.

And I have used tube compression (fairchild 670) on strings on non standard hybrid/orchestral project. It did add warmth and some tube saturation to it that worked for that type of project.

But in general I don't like it. As you can see, the never in my previous post is open to discussion...
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23rd December 2012
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thanks erik! by the way, do you know if most scores for films are mixed in 5.1 these days or are many still stereo?
#27
23rd December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundcat View Post
thanks erik! by the way, do you know if most scores for films are mixed in 5.1 these days or are many still stereo?
Features are virtually all 5.1 or greater these days.

And to your limiting question, I agree 100% with EricG. It makes it more difficult for dubbing engineers - generally speaking. They want the film to breathe....
#28
24th December 2012
Old 24th December 2012
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Same as Erik... Project dependant. Worked very well on a blockbuster sci fi I mixed the score for but it was hybrid.
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23rd January 2013
Old 23rd January 2013
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Great thread guys!

Now, that we are done with the front, what is usually sent to rear speakers?

I'm currently dabbling with the IOSONO plugin for upmixing and since I've been composing/mixing background scores in stereo, I would like to move into surround to have more control.


I've previously heard that engineers send mostly reverbs, fx etc. But, recently I checked out 'Inception', 'Dark Knight', 'Tron' etc. and there seems to be a lot happening in the surround speakers. It is not as wet as I imagined it to be and is actually bustling with a lot of content, including percussion, not so wet strings etc.

So, either my video player is messing up the surround channel distribution (although the cumulative experience seems about right, from the monitoring position) or the rear surrounds are heavy with instrumentation as well and I've been wrong.
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24th January 2013
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As long as you deliver stems to the final mix and if the scene and story supports it you can choose to place more sounds in the rear. I very rarely pan anything with a percussive attack towards the rear without diffuse-ing it first, and even then I prefer the rears to be a bit more delayed than most. I also avoid loudish vocal reverb in the rears unless severely pre delayed.
And jut to clarify, the reason to avoid percussive, transient or solo type of instruments or voice partly or fully in the rear is that in a large cinema it will destroy the feel of the mix for about a third of the viewers in the rear of the cinema. Any partly panned sound that is within 12 db level of the original sound and that's within the haas effect time zone at the rear of the cinema will be perceived as the source of the sound. So untreated distinctive or percussive sounds will totally mess with perceived panning.
And the haas zone is very different for the viewer t the rear of the cinema compared to the front.

I hope the above is understandable.
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