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What goes to the center?
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maria
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#1
20th October 2007
Old 20th October 2007
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What goes to the center?

Hey there,

When mixing to 5.1 what type of sounds should not be sent to the center, if any?

Does foley generaly go L C R speakers? or is it mainly just L and R?

What about dialouge does it only come out of the C spaeker or is it also fed as a mono signal to L C R ?

Cheers

Maria
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20th October 2007
Old 20th October 2007
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Hi Maria,
Anything that needs to be in the center should go to the center, and there really isn't anything that's NOT supposed to go there, assuming it's properly mixed. For example, 99.999% of all production dialog should be in the center channel, even if the actor is walking across the screen or 2 acrors are on opposite sides of the screen talking to each other (fortunately, that type of shot LOOKS strange as well, so you don't see it very often). Reverbs are often in the LR (and sometimes surrounds), and reverb applied to ADR to match production dialog is normally mono, and also in the center.

Group walla, or actual offstage dialog or ADR can be (and often is) panned, but it's up to you and the director to decide if it works or just sounds weird. The literal placement of sound doesn't always work so well, and it's best to err on the side of caution. Also, be very careful of panning Dia/ADR to the surrounds. You get the audience turning around in the theater, distracted, and if for whatever reason the surrounds aren't playing back properly, you could lose the line (or sound effect) completely.

Foley is locked to the action, within reason, and panned to taste. If an actor is walking across the screen, or is just at one side of the frame, you don't want to pan the Foley while the dialog is in the center. That disconnection sounds VERY strange.

Sound effects that are "focused", like a door close or even a gunshot, are often mono (although comprised of multiple elements) and panned to match the situation. Wider FX, like an explosion, car interior steadies, etc work better in stereo or LCR. The thing is, you don't want a sound effect to be unnaturally wide when played against dialog. The center channel always gives a sense of anchoring the sounds to the screen, so use it whenever possible

Hope this helps, good luck


Joe Milner
Puget Sound, Inc.
Los Angeles, CA
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maria
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22nd October 2007
Old 22nd October 2007
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Hey Joe,

What a great answer, thank you so much :-)


One of the reasons I am asking this question is that when I pan the dialogue to only come out of the C speakers -20dbf sounds very low, since it's only coming out of one speaker and not two, does that make sense?

The same thing happens when I pan the foley to come out of only the one speaker (the center). This seems really odd to me when I pan my stereo and mono tracks into the surround field.

For example should I pan a stereo background to L R C or just leave it as stereo?

When i leave it as stereo in a surround mix, something sounds like it's missing to me, but that could be just me and my set up issue.

I found that panning things to LCR makes them much louder espesially when paning a moo signal to all theree speakers, but i guess i'm mixing incorectly in this way

Lastly do you know a book that only deals with surround mixing techniques for post production?I would really love to learn more about it.

Thanks so much,

Maria
#4
22nd October 2007
Old 22nd October 2007
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Make sure your system is calibrated correctly. if you place a dialogue line or a Sound effect in any given channel, it should sound the same as it is panned around the room. The apparent volume should not change in volume or tambre. If it does, then your system is not properly setup and/or calibrated.

I tend to mix Foley in the L,C,R depending on whats going on. But, as Joe suggests, if it's Foley that is sourced from an actor and the actors dialogue is C only you may want to place it center, even though the actor is L or R of center... I don't make it a practice, but I have mixed dialogue across the front with very good success.. I just don't do it without a good reason.

Another thing i've seen done and I've tried myself when the dialogue is really noisy and not cleanable, is to place it in the center and take a bit of the center percentage away to force it across L,C,R with an 80% C and 10% L , 10% R level. This helps spread the noise across the entire front of the screen. Works well, and again, it's a specialty kind-of-thing.

I'll also place "room" verb across the front 3 speakers and in the rears as well depending on the "size" of the room and the desired effect.

And yes, I've placed Dialogue in the rears at times as well. Once we did it for a comedy animated film. We actually wanted the audience to think some joker in the back of the theatre was talking.

So there is a very firm rule in post about mixing... There aren't any film rules... Just guide lines.

cheers
geo
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maria
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26th October 2007
Old 26th October 2007
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Hi geo, just realized you replied my qustion. Thank you so much for your detailed answer
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16th February 2013
Old 16th February 2013
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this is all amazing information i have been reading the post forum and want to really thank the experienced people here who take the time to help someone like me making that awkward transition from records!
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16th February 2013
Old 16th February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
Make sure your system is calibrated correctly. if you place a dialogue line or a Sound effect in any given channel, it should sound the same as it is panned around the room. The apparent volume should not change in volume or tambre. If it does, then your system is not properly setup and/or calibrated.

I tend to mix Foley in the L,C,R depending on whats going on. But, as Joe suggests, if it's Foley that is sourced from an actor and the actors dialogue is C only you may want to place it center, even though the actor is L or R of center... I don't make it a practice, but I have mixed dialogue across the front with very good success.. I just don't do it without a good reason.

Another thing i've seen done and I've tried myself when the dialogue is really noisy and not cleanable, is to place it in the center and take a bit of the center percentage away to force it across L,C,R with an 80% C and 10% L , 10% R level. This helps spread the noise across the entire front of the screen. Works well, and again, it's a specialty kind-of-thing.

I'll also place "room" verb across the front 3 speakers and in the rears as well depending on the "size" of the room and the desired effect.

And yes, I've placed Dialogue in the rears at times as well. Once we did it for a comedy animated film. We actually wanted the audience to think some joker in the back of the theatre was talking.

So there is a very firm rule in post about mixing... There aren't any film rules... Just guide lines.

cheers
geo
Good tip using divergence on noisy clips. Gonna try that. I'm sure it will help it blend into the BG better. Hate it when the noise from the center channel overpowers the ambience tracks.

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16th February 2013
Old 16th February 2013
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If you are mixing for TV make sure that the client (network) is ok w/ dialog anywhere other than just C.

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17th February 2013
Old 17th February 2013
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Tom Fleischman, who is a great mixer...said this in another thread and I think it pertains to your question as well....

"Short answer: Rent a Dolby Certified mixing stage.
Keep the dialogue in the center channel unless there is a very good, story-driven reason to pan.
Keep the music in stereo and bleed it to the surround using plugins, panning, and/or reverb.
Don't put any dialogue or percussive sound effects in the surrounds unless there is a very good, story-driven reason to do so.
Specific sound effects like doors and footsteps that happen center screen should be panned center.
LFE to taste.
Create separate stems for dialogue, music, sound effects, ambience, and foley. You'll thank yourself later."

What he said...



cheers
geo

PS: a good author steals... a great author plagiarizes... thanks for letting me plagiarize Tom.
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#10
17th February 2013
Old 17th February 2013
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Great info here. Thanks, guys! I have a related question...

When mixing in just stereo do you usually pan dialog, or is it always centered? If always centered then does the rule about not panning fx apply?
#11
17th February 2013
Old 17th February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post

PS: a good author steals... a great author plagiarizes... thanks for letting me plagiarize Tom.
Skilled plagiarism beats inept originality every time
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17th February 2013
Old 17th February 2013
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Georgia, can you just sticky this? it really is eloquent....

Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
Tom Fleischman, who is a great mixer...said this in another thread and I think it pertains to your question as well....

"Short answer: Rent a Dolby Certified mixing stage.
Keep the dialogue in the center channel unless there is a very good, story-driven reason to pan.
Keep the music in stereo and bleed it to the surround using plugins, panning, and/or reverb.
Don't put any dialogue or percussive sound effects in the surrounds unless there is a very good, story-driven reason to do so.
Specific sound effects like doors and footsteps that happen center screen should be panned center.
LFE to taste.
Create separate stems for dialogue, music, sound effects, ambience, and foley. You'll thank yourself later."

What he said...



cheers
geo

PS: a good author steals... a great author plagiarizes... thanks for letting me plagiarize Tom.
#13
18th February 2013
Old 18th February 2013
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My suggestion to all new Film Re-Recording engineers... When it comes to trying to figure out where things go in a surround mix - keep it simple and follow the steps discussed above. ( At least until you have enough knowledge and experience to step out a bit )

cheers
geo
#14
20th February 2013
Old 20th February 2013
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If you're doing 5.1 for TV, then some customers require that only dialogue and/or voiceover are in the centre channel. Just something to be aware of,

cheers,

Jon.
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28th February 2013
Old 28th February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
Tom Fleischman, who is a great mixer...said this in another thread and I think it pertains to your question as well....

"Keep the music in stereo and bleed it to the surround using plugins, panning, and/or reverb."
Umm..slight problem there...

And now follows my Dolby Surround Phase Parameter rant. Hugh Healy is excused, as he has heard this before. Here is the description of the parameter, courtesy of Dolby.

Surround Phase Shift
This setting applies the 90 degree phase shift to the surround channels, which is necessary for proper decoding when a Dolby Surround Pro Logic or Pro Logic II decoder is used. Failure to turn the surround phase shift on will result in signals that won’t properly decode and will usually be louder in one channel. The only circumstance in which you would not want to use the surround phase shift is when you are encoding test tone signals because the phase shift would cause problems with the steady-state tones when summed, leading to false measurements.


This particular parameter defaults to ON despite the the fact that standalone Pro Logic decoders are rarer than dodos. What it means is that if you bleed whatever is in the L/R into the Ls/Rs by panning, the phase will be smeared by the shift on any L/R downmix that does not subsequently hit a Pro Logic decoder.

In a 5.1 I really like pulling music to halfway between middle and front (75% front) while leaving the L/R intact. Unfortunately, unless I can convince the network to turn off the Surround Phase parameter, this will cause the downmix to be screwed up. So I'm limited to using this method only when I am able to force the parameter OFF in the metadata (DVD mixes, etc.).

Keep this little gem in mind if you deliver to networks who will not let you specify changes to the metadata. Which would effectively be all of them.

Peter

PS--I really only get into this pitchforks and torches routine when matrix technology (which was brilliant in its time) is forced into the digital delivery stream. If a legacy 4-2-4 mix must be the broadcast product, it should be decoded into a usable 5.1 first and then the LtRt discarded (this is the only way the downmix will be stable). And by the way, a matrix mix is the only permissible use of the term LtRt--a 5.1 downmix is an LoRo.
#16
1st March 2013
Old 1st March 2013
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Moved to a new / more appropriate thread
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3rd March 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Baird View Post
Umm..slight problem there...

And now follows my Dolby Surround Phase Parameter rant. Hugh Healy is excused, as he has heard this before. Here is the description of the parameter, courtesy of Dolby.

Surround Phase Shift
This setting applies the 90 degree phase shift to the surround channels, which is necessary for proper decoding when a Dolby Surround Pro Logic or Pro Logic II decoder is used. Failure to turn the surround phase shift on will result in signals that won’t properly decode and will usually be louder in one channel. The only circumstance in which you would not want to use the surround phase shift is when you are encoding test tone signals because the phase shift would cause problems with the steady-state tones when summed, leading to false measurements.


This particular parameter defaults to ON despite the the fact that standalone Pro Logic decoders are rarer than dodos. What it means is that if you bleed whatever is in the L/R into the Ls/Rs by panning, the phase will be smeared by the shift on any L/R downmix that does not subsequently hit a Pro Logic decoder.

In a 5.1 I really like pulling music to halfway between middle and front (75% front) while leaving the L/R intact. Unfortunately, unless I can convince the network to turn off the Surround Phase parameter, this will cause the downmix to be screwed up. So I'm limited to using this method only when I am able to force the parameter OFF in the metadata (DVD mixes, etc.).

Keep this little gem in mind if you deliver to networks who will not let you specify changes to the metadata. Which would effectively be all of them.

Peter

PS--I really only get into this pitchforks and torches routine when matrix technology (which was brilliant in its time) is forced into the digital delivery stream. If a legacy 4-2-4 mix must be the broadcast product, it should be decoded into a usable 5.1 first and then the LtRt discarded (this is the only way the downmix will be stable). And by the way, a matrix mix is the only permissible use of the term LtRt--a 5.1 downmix is an LoRo.

Good point.. Since this is a default setting you really have to assume that somewhere down the line the AC3 encoding/transcoding will have this set to "on"
The stereo downmix by the dolby chip really is what most people listen to.

For film mixing this might not be as relevant although for DVD and broadcast basically the film mix is used right? I do not think there is a whole lot of remixing for DVD?
#18
29th March 2013
Old 29th March 2013
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Great Info!
#19
19th May 2013
Old 19th May 2013
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For audio in games I use the center as a "in your face channel".
When making sci-fi-fly-bys from rear to front, the center gets only a small amount of reverb tail at the end of the fly-by.

Do you mix ambiences (weather, roomtones, ambient noise) to the center?
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1st July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olaf B. View Post
For audio in games I use the center as a "in your face channel".
When making sci-fi-fly-bys from rear to front, the center gets only a small amount of reverb tail at the end of the fly-by.

Do you mix ambiences (weather, roomtones, ambient noise) to the center?
I don't, I'll generally write a center % of zero to my BGs before I start -- it just eats up dynamic range. The exception would by a spotted BG, like a dog bark that needs to be up front for a character's eyeline, however it's arguable that such a sound would actually be an effect and not a BG.
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1st July 2013
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dirty air would be a center channel component in most cases. actually, pretty much most "air" type bg's would benefit from some center channel assignment.
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#22
2nd July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles maynes View Post
dirty air would be a center channel component in most cases. actually, pretty much most "air" type bg's would benefit from some center channel assignment.
+1


cheers
geo
#23
4th July 2013
Old 4th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles maynes View Post
dirty air would be a center channel component in most cases. actually, pretty much most "air" type bg's would benefit from some center channel assignment.
Yeah I agree. By contrast, some things, like crickets, we hard assign to rear surrounds, because no matter where you send them they'll appear to come out of the center
#24
15th July 2013
Old 15th July 2013
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I mostly mix music for surround and I find that using the discrete center as opposed to the phantom one makes mono information more punchy and clear. I generally try to do all the panning before applying EQ since it directly affects the perception of the timbre. Obviously this depends on how much dialogue is in the center but I try to use as much of the center as possible since spreading the mix over 3 speakers makes it that much clearer, in particular for drums. Cautious use of the LFE helps also on the low end, which I usually filter out at 50hz so it stays under control. As usual YMMV
#25
21st July 2013
Old 21st July 2013
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What kind of signals do you send to the LFE when you mix surround music? I would only send very very specials effects to the LFE.
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1st August 2013
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#27
26th August 2013
Old 26th August 2013
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is it ok to put things like hit stingers or drone in the center channel?
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27th August 2013
Old 27th August 2013
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It's OK to do anything you want to do if it works to tell the story.
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23rd September 2013
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#30
25th October 2013
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What goes to the center? EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT TIED DOWN.
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